Reptiles do very well living in terrariums, but it is important to their health to maintain a clean and safe environment. Even tarantulas and insects like to have a clean home!
Please always remember that reptiles can carry salmonella and bacteria. You need to take proper precautions when handling your pet or their belongings. Always wash your hands after touching anything related to your pet or the pet themselves. Wearing gloves specifically for cleaning their home is a great idea to avoid contamination. With tarantulas and insects, you do not need to worry about this.
Terrarium Cleaning Checklist:
- 2 Clean sponges (no chemical cleaning additives, so avoid using things like Magic Erasers)
- Paper towel or an old towel
- Cleaning brush – toothbrushes work great
- Terrarium cleaner or bleach (Please note: if using bleach you MUST ensure your wash the terrarium out completely. Cleaners can harm your pet, even many “green” cleaners will contain elements that can cause health and skin issues with your pet, so we recommend always using a terrarium specific cleaner.)
- Bucket filled with hot water
- Dish Soap
- New substrate (the material used in the bottom)
Remove your pet and put them somewhere safe, a box with cover will work fine for this just ensure they have holes to breathe. Take out their belongings and immediately put them into the hot water bucket with dish soap. Dishes and hard items can be put in the dishwasher if you want (just remember they need to stand up to heat). If you are replacing their substrate then it can be thrown out in a tied bag, avoid just putting it into an open garbage. To clean their substrate, sift it to get rid of debris.
To start, clean out the majority of residue and debris using the sponge and hot water with some dish soap. Scrub down the floor and walls thoroughly. If needed, use a putty knife or razor blade to get anything that may be stuck. Make sure to give it a good rinse when you are done. Doing this in your bathtub is a good idea, or take it outside and rise with your hose.
Now we need to disinfect the terrarium. Use your terrarium cleaner to fully coat the floor and walls of the terrarium. If you are going the bleach route, use 1 cup bleach to every gallon of water. Do not use straight bleach. Let this sit for a few minutes. It is imperative to use a CLEAN sponge or paper towel to wipe down the terrarium once the cleaner has been applied. If you use the same sponge as step 2, you will just be wiping the bacteria back on the surfaces.
Rinse the terrarium once again VERY thoroughly to ensure all cleaner is removed. It can harm your pet to put them back into a home that still has cleaner residue in it. After this, wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
Now it is time to clean their belongings. Rubber gloves work well for this as you are sticking your hands into hot water. Use the brush and scrub down each item in the bucket. Follow this with a quick spay/dip in your disinfection solution, scrub and rise completely (basically repeat steps 2 to 4).
Dry everything, all of your pet’s belonging and the inside of the terrarium completely. Items made of wood will need to be left out to dry as they tend to soak up a lot of water. When everything is completely dry add your new (or sifted) substrate and re-build their home. You can now return your pet to their clean home.
Clean any sponges, brushes or buckets that you used to wash the terrarium following the same steps as above, or run them through the dishwasher. Then wash your hands or use sanitizer again.
By Michelle Edmundson