Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 09:40 pm
Hamsters clean themselves regularly, so you should rarely find that they have dirty or messy fur. Occasionally, a hamster may need assistance with its cleaning and grooming.
Plain water, baby wipes, and sand baths are preferable to soap.
If you must use soap products, find an entirely natural brand. Off-the-shelf soap bars and dish soaps contain chemicals that dry out and harm the skin, causing dryness and flaking.
Trust the hamster to manage its cleanliness, only stepping in if there’s no other option.
Can I Bathe My Hamster with Soap?
Ideally, hamsters should never have a wet bath as they dislike water.
Hamsters take care of almost all their grooming and cleaning needs. However, there are occasions when you need to assist a hamster with bathing. Examples include:
- Old or injured hamsters without the mobility to self-groom.
- Hamster running through a messy or sticky substance.
- Trouble getting clean after eliminating due to diarrhea.
You must choose carefully if you use soap on a hamster’s fur.
Hamsters have sensitive skin, with different pH and acidity levels to humans. This means that an everyday beauty product we use daily, such as soap, can cause an allergic reaction or dry skin.
What Soap Is Safe for Hamsters?
Soap is a broad term, so it’s important to know exactly what you use when bathing a hamster.
Asking if you can wash a hamster with Dawn dish soap is a different question from whether you can clean a hamster with heavily perfumed soap.
You’ll find many soap bars when you wander through the aisles of a supermarket. These vary in price and complexity, from basic and no-frills soaps to elaborate, scented luxury goods.
These soap bars are marketed to human consumers and designed with human skin in mind.
There are three main ingredients in any bar of soap:
- Water: This is of no concern.
- Oil or fat: This can leave a greasy residue on the fur
- Lye: This creates a chemical reaction upon contact with fat or oil, creating soap.
A bar of soap will always contain these ingredients. These are the closest soap bars to hamster-friendly, but they still risk leaving residue on the fur and causing dry skin.
Scented soaps must never be used on hamsters. No soap bar naturally carries a smell – it must be chemically treated to achieve this aim. Unless you can be sure that the process is 100% organic and animal-friendly, the soap will likely irritate a hamster’s skin.
Novelty, scented, and beauty products must be avoided.
Glycerin is a compound that arises as a natural byproduct of soap-making. Glycerin is non-toxic and unscented; it’s often removed from commercial soaps as glycerin shortens the shelf-life of soap.
Glycerin soap is a bar where the glycerin is removed during production.
This is good for human consumers, as glycerin naturally maintains moisture within the skin. Cheaper soap bars replace glycerin with long-life artificial ingredients.
As glycerin soap is rarely scented, it’s better than most soaps for hamsters. However, it’s not ideal, as glycerin can cling to the fur, so you’d need to wash it more than once to thoroughly clean a hamster.
Medicated soaps are usually created with skin conditions in mind. These products contain additional ingredients to ease dry or itchy skin conditions like eczema.
Many medicated soaps are marketed as antibacterial. Again, these antibacterial elements don’t arise in soap naturally, so they need to be added.
This means that medicated soap will have additional ingredients applied during production, which are unlikely to be hamster-approved.
Protect a hamster from bacteria by cleaning its cage regularly, not washing it with soap.
Liquid soap is essentially just a bar of melted soap that’s put into a bottle. Some people find liquid soap easier to use and store than bars of soap.
While solid soap products use sodium hydroxide to gain shape, liquid soap replaces this ingredient with potassium hydroxide. This lye is just as caustic and is likely to harm a hamster’s skin.
This means liquid soap is as bad as a lathered bar of solid soap. It’ll sting if it gets into the eyes or ears of a hamster and is likely to dry out the skin and leave residue on the fur.
Dish soap is considered a less harsh cleaning solution than traditional soap. While this is true to an extent, dish soap should only be used to clean a hamster’s cage and not the hamster itself.
We previously suggested you ask, “Can you wash a hamster with Dawn dish soap?” but didn’t give a definitive answer. Unfortunately, you can’t.
Dawn contains methylisothiazolinone, a compound deemed toxic when consumed or inhaled and likely to cause skin irritation.
What Else Can You Use to Clean a Hamster?
As established, soap shouldn’t be your first choice for cleaning a hamster, as the risks of aggravating the skin are too great to ignore. Thankfully, soap isn’t the only option.
If you need to clean a hamster’s coat, consider using plain water and a soft cloth, an unscented baby wipe, or putting a sand bath in the hamster’s cage.
Never overlook the simple but effective qualities of water on a soft washcloth.
Ensure the water is room temperature and avoid submerging the hamster completely—just dab at any part of the hamster that requires a clean-up while keeping it warm.
Even the gentlest baby wipes may contain chemicals that could aggravate the hamster’s skin, so check the packaging. Baby wipes can also leave a residue on the hamster’s fur.
So, purchase specialist small animal wipes from a pet store. These will be designed with the delicate pH of hamster skin in mind; a wipe intended for dogs or cats may not be suitable for a hamster.
Hamsters would rather take a dry bath than anything involving water.
Get some chinchilla sand from a pet store and leave it in a suitable receptacle. The hamster will roll around in the sand and emerge considerably cleaner than when it went in.
Dwarf breeds gain the most from sand baths. If you have a long-haired Syrian, you may need to provide more assistance, as this breed is usually shaggier.
If you can avoid bathing a hamster with soap, do so. Soap products are made with the needs and skin of humans in mind, not small animals.