Cleaning Out

Hutches and cages need cleaning frequently for the comfort of your guinea pigs. A dirty hutch or cage is a perfect breeding ground for maggots (especially during the summer), hay goes mouldy, the risk of bacterial and fungal skin infection increases, and urine soaked bedding can burn paws and stain belly fur.

Water bottles and bowls accumulate mildew and mucky paw prints. You also need to regularly wash plastic toys and soft furnishings, and occasionally throw out wooden toys and replace them with new ones.

Dirty hutches and cages also smell rather pungent and your pet will not enjoy living in a smelly environment. Guinea pigs are very clean creatures that spend a lot of time washing and tidying themselves and they appreciate a clean home to live in too.

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United Kingdom council waste disposal rules

As most of us in the United Kingdom are now aware, our individual councils require us by law to now recycle much of our household waste in a variety of different recepticles.

I recommend that you review the recycling literature provided by your local council, or visit the Government's list of county and borough councils to find yours before you acquire your guinea pigs (or even if you already have them and want to stay updated on the rules) to confirm how they would prefer you to dispose of their bedding waste.

Alternatively, you can still compost some of your bedding waste. Please see this really useful guide to composting by forum member Eppingstrider, or visit Composting 101 for an in-depth fanatic's guide!

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Cleaning fleece, towels and Vetbed

Before you start cleaning out, you will need the following:

  • Small animal disinfectant (purchased from pet shops and pet suppliers).

  • Biodegradable black bin bags (they're better for the environment) or whatever receptacle your local council has provided for soiled newspaper waste (ask them for more information if you're not sure).

  • Rubber gloves (try the local supermarket). Latex free gloves, if you have an allergy to latex, can be purchased from your local chemist.

  • Some newspaper and your fleece, towels or Vetbed.


Fleece, towels and Vetbed should have a spot clean every other day to remove poo and debris, and then be changed completely for fresh every other day, and should have a layer of newspaper underneath. Shake the fleece, towel or Vetbed out vigorously in the garden to remove as much debris as you can before putting it to one side and removing the layer of newspaper.

You can easily wash these beddings in your washing machine using one of these handy wash bags to catch debris and stop it clogging up the machine. The bag should be shaken out after each wash to keep it fresh.

Set your washing machine to a 40 degree cycle and use non-biological detergent liquid, sachets or powder - some people say that fabric softener reduces the ability for fleece to wick away moisture, however I personally have not noticed this. Never put fleece or Vetbed in the tumble dryer, but do allow it to dry naturally by hanging it out. Towels may be tumble dried.

Check out the bedding section for more information on the pros and cons of using fleece, towels and Vetbed.

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Cleaning out disposable beddings

Before you start cleaning out, you will need the following:

  • Small animal disinfectant (purchased from pet shops and pet suppliers).

  • Biodegradable black bin bags (they're better for the environment) or whatever receptacle your local council has provided for animal bedding waste (ask them for more information if you're not sure).

  • Dustpan and brush (DIY stores sell these).

  • Rubber gloves (try the local supermarket). Latex free gloves, if you have an allergy to latex, can be purchased from your local chemist.

  • Some newspaper and your preferred bedding.

Once you have the things you need to hand, you can start cleaning your hutch or cage.

  • If your guinea pigs aren't particularly tame or are upset by the cleaning out process they should be removed into a box or play area. Some very tame guinea pigs can be gently herded from one side of the hutch or cage to the other as you remove and replace the bedding.

  • Take out all toys, hidey holes, bowls and bottles.

  • Roll up the newspaper and bedding. This makes it easier to remove in (hopefully!) one go and carefully dispose of. Hold the rolled up bedding tightly to try and keep as much debris in as possible and to stop it all from unrolling and going all over the place. Place it in your dustbin bag or other receptacle for disposal.

  • Use your dustpan and brush to sweep out any debris and then spray the hutch or cage floor with small animal disinfectant.

  • Put a fresh layer of newspaper down before adding your preferred bedding. Add fresh hay, put toys and hidey holes back in, top up feed bowls, and refill water bottles.

  • Add pigs!

Considerations

If you use a disposable bedding such as newspaper, hay, straw, woodshavings or a paper by-product then you may need to recycle this according to the instructions issued to you by your local council.

Alternatively, most old guinea pig bedding can be composted. You can read this really helpful guide to composting your bedding and feed waste by forum member Eppingstrider for more information on how to compost.

If your guinea pigs live in a shed it's good practice to sweep down and remove debris from the floor after each cleaning session. This will keep your shed fresh and reduce the risk of flies and unwanted furry intruders.

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Cleaning bowls and water bottles

You must clean your guinea pig's bottles and bowls at least once a week to remove mildew, old bits of food and hay, poo, and the mucky paw prints they leave around the rims of bowls!

Cleaning bowls

Bowls are quite straightforward to clean. For very mucky bowls, soak them in hot water in the sink with some washing up liquid and then give them a good clean with a sponge. Remember not to use the sponge for your own dishes afterwards!

Cleaning water bottles

Firstly, put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands and fingers while cleaning. To clean the metal spouts, use a wet scouring pad to rub the spout and remove the green mucky stuff (old chewed bits of food they leave behind!). Rinse the bottle several times with warm water until the spout is clean. Remember to also rinse the scourer every so often to keep it clean. This method can be used for both the traditional ball bearing bottles and the valve system bottles.

Take a bottle brush, which you can buy in all good supermarkets, shove it into the bottle and give it a good swish around with warm water to clean away residue. Rinse the bottle in warm water. Don't be tempted to put them in the dishwasher because the standard plastic bottles will become crumpled with the heat. Instead, wash them by hand in the sink with warm water and washing up liquid and rinse them through before leaving them to dry.

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