How to clean a hamster cage

How to clean a hamster cage
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not sure how to clean a hamster cage? Maybe you’re not sure how often you need to do it, or what kind of products you can use. Then you have come to the right place.

Many people think small pets, such as rodents, will be easy to care for. While they don’t come with the same level of responsibility as dogs and cats, there’s still plenty you’ll need to do to keep them happy and healthy.

Getting into a regular cleaning routine is important for hamsters, but the good news is that it’s pretty straightforward, as long as you keep on top of it. If you’re not entirely sure how to go about it, we’ve got some excellent tips right here for you.

How often do you need to clean a hamster cage?

It's a good idea to follow a daily, weekly, or monthly routine that involves light, medium and deep cleaning. 

Every day, make sure you take out any soiled bedding, replacing it with fresh, clean, and dry bedding. This will usually be a pretty easy job since hamsters tend to favor one spot for going about their business (generally in a corner). Investing in a small animal scoop to quickly remove the dirty matter is a wise idea, or alternatively, you could use disposable gloves and grab it with your hand.

You should also be cleaning any water bottles or food bowls daily ideally too, especially as this is a sure-fire place for bacteria to breed.

Once a week, it’s advisable to remove all bedding – whether it’s obviously dirty or not. Simply tip it all out, remove anything that has gotten stuck to the cage, and replace everything with clean, fresh, and dry bedding. At this point, removing objects in your hamster’s cage, such as wheels, food bowls, tubes, and so on is a good idea to make sure all the bedding is definitely removed.

Further to that, doing a deep clean once every month to six weeks will keep the cage in tip-top condition. With this, not only will you remove all the old bedding, but you will also give the cage and any associated accessories and toys a proper clean, either in a basin or with a damp cloth and cleaning agent.

hamster in cage

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Where do you put a hamster when cleaning the cage?

You might find that you can get away with leaving the hamster in the cage when doing the simple daily removal of soiled bedding. However, if your hamster is particularly cautious or anxious, they may not appreciate the intrusion into their home. In that case, placing them somewhere safe is a good idea. You’ll definitely want to take them out of the cage when performing the weekly or monthly clean.

A simple solution is to invest in a small portable hamster cage specifically for this purpose. Place some bedding (you can use bedding from their main cage to make them really feel at home) and a small amount of food in the small cage for them to enjoy while you’re cleaning their main home. A portable cage is useful if you ever need to take your hamster to the vet, so it’s a handy investment too.

If you don’t have such a cage, an alternative is to use a high-sided box that the hamster can’t escape from or jump out of. Something made of plastic is ideal since they are unlikely to chew through it quickly. Again, place some bedding and food inside the box to make them feel at home.

What can I use to clean my hamster’s cage?

It can be tempting to use strong cleaning solutions when you’re cleaning out anything that an animal has dirtied. However, you need to remember that lots of cleaning solutions can be potentially toxic to small animals. 

The best bet is to use something mild, such as dish soap, for the weekly clean, along with lukewarm water to get rid of any stubborn stains and smells. Alternatively, you can get cleaning products that have been specifically formulated for use when cleaning small animal cages and habitats. These will give you peace of mind that they are safe for your furry little friends. 

Avoid cleaning products that are particularly strong, such as bleach or anything containing ammonia.

How to clean a hamster cage

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to clean a hamster cage 

Once you’re ready for the big monthly hamster cage clean, here’s a straightforward guide on how to do it.

  1. Make sure your hamster is placed somewhere safe and secure away from the cage.
  2. Remove any heavily soiled bedding first. Using your pet scoop or a gloved hand, remove the worst of the soiled bedding and place it in a bag or box to be disposed of.
  3. Remove any non-fixed items in the cage such as food bowls, toys, chew sticks, tubes, and so on. 
  4. Next, empty out the rest of the bedding. If you have a cage that can be taken apart, or the end or top can be removed, an easy way to do this is to simply tip the contents of the cage into a bag or box. 
  5. If your cage doesn't come apart, then you may need to use a scoop or hand to remove the rest of the bedding. If you have an anxious hamster, it can be wise to keep some of the old bedding to mix with the new bedding to help them settle in quicker.
  6. If you have a cage that can be dismantled, wash each part in warm, soapy water in a basin or a bucket. If your cage can’t be dismantled, use spray solution (such as dedicated small pet cleaner or dish soap diluted into warm water) and a cloth, rags, or kitchen towel. 
  7. Rinse off the cage’s components to make sure you remove any residue. If you’re using a spray, use a separate cloth with clean water to achieve the same goal. 
  8. Make sure you give any toys and accessories a similar clean too. Reconstruct the hamster cage if you’ve taken it apart.
  9. Ensure that the cage and accessories are thoroughly dry before moving on to the next step. Either leave them to air dry or use a clean, dry towel.
  10. Place fresh sawdust bedding into your hamster’s cage, plus any extra that they use in their sleeping area. Refill your hamster’s food bowl, and refresh the water in their bottle. Place any reserved bedding back into the cage at this point. 
  11. Once the cage is secured again, gently place your hamster back into the cage.

How to clean a hamster cage after one dies

Although it is incredibly sad when any pet dies, of course, with small animals such as rodents, this is a natural part of ownership. Many people find that they want to get another hamster after their hamster has died, but for those that don’t, donating the cage and accessories to another family is a good thing to do. 

You’ll want to make sure you give the cage a super-deep clean. This is to ensure both that anything that may have contributed to the hamster’s death is completely removed, and also so that any new hamster doesn’t feel intimidated by the smell of a previous occupant. 

In these cases, it is wise to invest in some dedicated small pet cage cleaner, as the simple soap and water solution listed above may not be quite enough. Giving a cage a couple of washes before it is used again won’t do any harm and will give you peace of mind that the job has been done correctly.

For the best results, try to clean the hamster cage as soon as possible after your hamster dies.

How to clean a hamster cage

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to clean your hamster

Although this article is primarily about cleaning your hamster’s habitat, you might occasionally need to clean the hamster itself. 

Hamsters are generally clean animals and they do an excellent job of cleaning themselves. If they have something particularly dirty on them that they can’t seem to remove, you can step in with a piece of soft tissue or even a cotton bud. Use simple lukewarm water as this will remove most problems and will ensure you don’t introduce any problematic chemicals to your hamster. 

Having a bottle of small animal shampoo at home is a wise idea in case your pet gets particularly dirty. If you do need to clean them more thoroughly, always ensure that you do it in a warm room and try to dry them as quickly as you can after the wash with a clean, dry and warm towel. Never be tempted to use a hairdryer on your hamster.

Amy Davies

Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.