How to Clean your Guinea Pig Cage
C&C cages are meant to be cleaned in place. There's no need to lift the base out of the grid perimeter to take it outside to hose it down. That's unnecessary and impractical. After removing the bedding, spray the inside of the coroplast base with a mixture of half water/half white vinegar and wipe clean with a rag, paper towels, or a soft brush. Rinse with a clean, damp rag and replace the bedding.
A clean cage = happy, healthy piggies! They rely on you to make that happen.
Cleaning the Cage Basics
Spot clean your cage daily or as needed.
- Remove any excess food and waste.
- Remove any loose hay piles and replace with fresh hay (if outside a hay rack).
- Pick up any stray poos from fleece with a stiff brush and mini dust pan or a mini-vac.
- Scoop out and remove any wet, soiled sections in the Kitchen area -- stir it up or add more fresh, dry bedding as appropriate.
- Replace any wet Potty Pads, if needed.
- Top up the hay rack -- always keep it full to overflowing.
- Keep fresh water in the water bottles.
Your mileage may vary. It depends on a lot of factors with your bedding system, your cage setup and your guinea pigs.
Full cage cleaning at least weekly or as needed.
- Clean the Coroplast with a spray bottle of half water/half white vinegar.
- Empty the Kitchen or litter pan area, remove it and clean it thoroughly with the vinegar solution.
- Remove all fleece bedding. Remove the poos either in the cage or shake/brush them off after you remove the fleece liner, depending on what works for you. Brush off the fleece with a stiff brush to remove hair, hay and poos. Some people find a lint roller works for them on the hair.
- Launder the fleece with a clean and clear detergent. Add a half to a full cup of vinegar for odor control and help disinfecting. Dry on hot. NO dryer sheets or fabric conditioners. The point is to keep the fleece as porous as possible; additives clog its pores.
- Always clean your dryer's lint trap out after every load.
- In the Kitchen area, replace with whatever fresh bedding you are using.
- Wash the water bottles and their snouts well with a bottle brush.
- Replace the hay rack with fresh hay.
- Clean any cozies as necessary and make sure any inside potty pads are clean and dry.
How often should you clean your cage?
Timing of Refreshes (Spot Cleanings) vs Full Cleanings
Timing is a challenge given our odd 7-day weeks. The need for refreshes may not work out well for scheduling. You almost always want to do a full cage cleaning at least once a week, typically on your weekend when you've got more time and attention to devote to being thorough. That makes refreshing the cage every 2, 3 or 4 days somewhat of a challenge. You'll need to work that out. Under the best of bedding circumstances, you'll need to refresh midweek and full clean once a week. Sometimes, you need to refresh or clean every other day. Sometimes every 3 days. Some people clean every single day. Everyone is different. But, "once a week" attention is NOT good enough.
Dirty cages can be a life-threatening health hazard
The bottomline on how often to clean the cage is -- as often as needed. Guinea pigs should never be sitting in wet bedding or wet fleece. You wouldn't want your child walking around in a wet, dirty diaper for very long. Same goes for the caged animals in our care. It's not just smelly and disgusting, it's unhealthy for them. Their faces are right in it. Ammonia build up is a far, far worse health hazard than any pine shaving phenols (smell) will ever be. URIs (upper respiratory infections) and hard-to-treat bumblefoot are life-threatening illnesses that can be brought on by dirty cages. Not to mention they become a breeding ground for bug infestations, bacteria, molds, and fungal infections like ringworm. Keeping a clean cage is very important.
Ideally? Spot clean every day.
Cleaning the Cage Details
Vinegar is a great cleaning solution
- Repurpose a spray bottle and fill with half water, half white vinegar. It works GREAT for cleaning the Coroplast floors and walls of the cage.
Not only is vinegar anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and super cheap by the gallon, it is an acid. Urine is a base. Acids neutralize bases. Vinegar does a great job of cutting through and cleaning up urine. And of course, it is food and guinea pig safe. No need to spend money on other cleaners in more plastic bottles, polluting the environment.
- Add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to bedding laundry
Not only does vinegar work great on Coroplast, adding it to your fleece laundry helps sanitize and deodorize your fleece. You can soak heavily soiled fabrics in vinegar to help bring them back to normal as well. Vinegar helps keep your fleece porous and wicking properly.
Really tough stains on the plastic?
Soak it in pure vinegar for a few hours. Scrub. Rinse, repeat as necessary. It WILL come up from Coroplast. Note to self though -- if you have super tough stains on your plastic, you aren't doing the bedding right. You either need to change your bedding system, clean it more often, or a combination of both. Bad stains are usually a sign that the guinea pigs aren't getting proper caging care.
Cleaning the Canvas of a Midwest Cage?
Not so easy. This is why we recommend replacing the canvas bottom of the Midwest cage with a walled, Coroplast insert. Or use our Fleece Flippers as bedding which contain a Coroplast insert to help prevent urine from seeping into the fabric of the canvas. Unfortunately, the more you scrub and clean the canvas, the more you scrub off its 'water-resistant' coating, leaving it all the more susceptible to retaining stains, odors and debris. While our Coroplast insert solves the cleaning issue entirely, any other flat, plastic-backed or water-resistant-backed cage liners will not protect the canvas walls from direct urine hits or from urine seeping under it from the corners and walls. You just have to do the best you can.
If you are using our recommended bedding approach, our Hybrid System -- a combination of a kitchen area and fleece bedding -- then hopefully, you are using a disposable bedding of your choice in the kitchen area. All of our Kitchens can be slid forward from the end of the cage for better access for refreshes and full cleanings. Our Cavy Cafe can pretty easily be lifted out of the cage, and the used bedding can be dumped into a wide-mouth garbage bag/bin in front of you or outdoors. Just be careful if it's really messy. However, most people clean the kitchens in place. It's pretty easy.
Some people use fleece in the kitchen area, although honestly, that rather defeats the purpose other than providing a more contained area for loose hay. The point of putting disposable bedding in the kitchen area is that a) that should be the area where the majority of guinea pig excrement ends up and b) the poos can be mixed into the loose bedding and dried out better, so that the guinea pigs aren't walking around in mushy poos.