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Cleaning A Hamster Cage with Vinegar (in 7 Easy Steps)

Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 11:19 am

Hamsters aren’t as high-maintenance as some pets, but you must sanitize their living quarters. White vinegar is an effective and budget-friendly household product for cage cleaning.

Mixing white vinegar with water in a spray bottle creates a DIY cleaning solution that rivals most products.

Hamsters loathe the smell of vinegar and can become unwell if they ingest it, so remove them from the room before starting cleaning.

Once your hamster is safely out of the way, empty its cage of all food and water, toys, decorations, exercise equipment, bedding, and substrate.

The bedding can be thrown away, and all other additions to a cage should be cleaned with white vinegar.

Once these smaller items have been sanitized, focus on the cage itself.

Use your spray bottle to coat the walls, floor, and roof with white vinegar, allowing it to sink in and break down stains. You can then wipe the surfaces with a soft, damp cloth.

Don’t rush the cleaning of a hamster cage. Apply vinegar directly to cage bars or corners with a toothbrush or cloth.

Once the cleaning is complete, everything must be thoroughly rinsed to remove remnants of the scent, which may otherwise distress a hamster.

The cage must also be completely dry before you return everything. Start by toweling down the surfaces. If possible, allow the cage to sun dry for several hours.

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean a Hamster Cage?

While a hamster’s cage requires daily spot-cleaning, you must deep clean your small pet’s habitat. Hamster-safe cleaning products can be purchased, or you can create a DIY hamster cage cleaner.

Some hamster owners use bleach for deep-cleaning a hamster cage. However, if you’re wondering how to disinfect a hamster’s cage without this toxic chemical, consider using white vinegar instead.

vinegar solution for cleaning hamster cage

Is White Vinegar Safe for Hamsters?

White vinegar is the ideal alternative to bleach if you want a gentle disinfectant to clean a hamster’s cage.

This condiment is only mildly acidic and boasts antimicrobial properties that will effortlessly cut through a build-up of urine or dried feces.

Do Hamsters Like the Smell of Vinegar?

Hamsters loathe the smell of vinegar, so remove your pet from the vicinity of its cage during cleaning – and ensure that any trace of the product is removed before your hamster returns.

Vinegar consumption can lead to stomach upset or liver damage in rodents.

The smell warns hamsters because ingesting it in substantial quantities can be fatal. If you use a white vinegar cleaning solution appropriately, your hamster will never need to interact with it.

How to Use White Vinegar to Clean a Hamster Cage

Follow these hamster cage cleaning tips to ensure your pet remains safe while sanitizing their habitat. If you keep on top of cleaning, your hamster will enjoy a longer and healthier life.

Create A Cleaning Solution

Create your DIY hamster cage cleaning solution. All you’ll need is a bottle of white vinegar (not malt vinegar – the brown coloring may stain), water, and a clean, empty spray bottle.

Some people recommend not diluting the white vinegar to maximize its efficacy, but adding at least a little water is safer. Combining 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water will still meet your sanitation needs without becoming overwhelming. 

Mix the vinegar and water and stir or shake the bottle. Then, gather some soft cleaning cloths to wipe down the surfaces of the cage, and you’re ready to make a start.

Temporarily Rehome The Hamster

Your hamster can’t use its cage during cleaning, so it must be temporarily rehomed.

Planning and knowing where to put a hamster when cleaning a cage is vital, as it may be in this location for some time.

Under no circumstances can the hamster run free around the house during cleaning or place it in a ball and leave it to explore.

Hamster balls are controversial, and you will be busy and distracted. The risk of losing your hamster is pronounced if you don’t rehome it appropriately.

The best solution is to purchase a second cage our hamster can stay in during cleaning.

You could leave the animal in a playpen, but it’ll likely need to be supervised during this time, especially if your pet is a keen escapologist.

Prepare the hamster’s temporary accommodation before removing it from the cage and provide recreation in this second home.

Many hamsters will be happy with an exercise wheel but offer snacks, water, and hiding places.

Empty The Cage

Once your hamster is safely rehomed, you can remove everything from the cage. The best order to do this is as follows:

  • Remove and empty any food bowls or water dispensers.
  • Disassemble and remove plastic tunnels and running wheels.
  • Remove additional toys and decorations.
  • Locate and remove bedding.
  • Empty the substrate into the trash.

Once you’ve completed these tasks, you’ll have an empty hamster cage ready for cleaning.

Clean the Cage, Toys, and Peripherals

The time has come to start cleaning your hamster’s cage and contents.

Start with food dishes, water bowls, toys, and exercise equipment. Add 1-2 drops of white vinegar to these items, then wipe them with a soft, damp cloth.

Always try to clean peripherals from a hamster cage, even if they look sanitary and don’t smell. Bacteria can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Now, you can focus on the cage’s walls, floor, and roof.

Take your spray bottle of white vinegar and generously apply this to every surface. Leave the solution to soak for 1-2 minutes, as this will break down stubborn urine stains.

Once the vinegar has sunk into the surfaces of the cage, take a soft cloth and work it into the material.

You may also wish to apply white vinegar to an old toothbrush to access corners and hard-to-reach areas or run it over each bar.

Rinse Everything Clean

Once all parts of the hamster cage have been cleaned, they must be rinsed off. Tap water is usually okay, but use bottled or filtered water if your home is in a hard water area.

The impact of chlorine on hamsters is a source of debate, but Fundamental and Applied Toxicology claims that they tolerate this chemical much better than other rodents.

Rinse peripherals under the tap, and use a clean cloth to wipe down surfaces coated with white vinegar. You may also wish to fill a spray bottle with water to ensure maximum coverage.

It’s vital that all traces of white vinegar – and any other chemical you may have used for cleaning – are removed from a hamster’s cage before drying.

As well as promoting safety, this will ensure that no distressing scents remain in your pet’s habitat.

Air Dry the Cage

A hamster cage must be completely dry before you repopulate it, either with items or the animal itself.

If the cage is still damp, your hamster may struggle with a low body temperature, and the substrate may grow moldy and attract fungi or bacteria.

Towel-drying the cage with a soft, absorbent material is acceptable as a first step, but if possible, allow the cage and its contents to dry outside.

According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the sun’s UV rays have antimicrobial, sterilizing properties.

Using a hairdryer, you can dry the cage and contents on a cold or rainy day. Ensure the heat isn’t too intense and won’t cause damage.

Return The Hamster

Once the cage is clean and dry, you can return everything to its rightful place and return your hamster. Watch your pet’s behavior to ensure it doesn’t adversely react to the cleaning materials.

A hamster may initially seem bewildered and start rolling around and rubbing on everything in the cage. Your pet is attempting to mark its territory again, as all pre-established scents will be gone.

Be mindful of any untoward changes in your hamster’s behavior after cleaning.

Ensure the hamster can breathe easily and seems comfortable interacting with the cage, such as climbing or monkey-barring, if these were regular habits before cleaning.

If your hamster starts wheezing, becomes withdrawn or lethargic, or refuses to eat or drink, remove it from the cage immediately and consider seeking veterinary advice.

white vinegar to clean hamster cage

How Long Does it Take to Clean a Hamster Cage?

Don’t attempt to rush the process of cleaning a hamster’s cage.

It could take up to 1 hour to ensure that every surface is scrubbed and every item within the habitat is sanitized, depending on how large the cage is and what is housed within it.

Allowing the cage to dry is just as important as cleaning and is the longest part of the process. Be patient and never return a hamster to a damp cage or one that still contains traces of white vinegar.

How Often Should A Hamster Cage Be Cleaned Out?

Hamster cages require daily spot cleaning, which involves reviewing the cage and removing any uneaten food, feces on the substrate’s surface, and urine-stained bedding.

You may also wish to replace the top layer of substrate each day.

If your hamster cage smells unpleasant, arrange an immediate deep clean. Hamster urine can have a pungent smell reminiscent of ammonia. If you can smell urine, your hamster can.

As per the Cherkasy University Bulletin, hamsters have an excellent sense of smell and rely on this to negotiate the world. While hamsters take comfort from familiar scents in their environment, strong and unsanitary aromas can lead to stress.

Don’t wait for a cage to start to smell before sanitization – schedule a preventative deep clean at least once a month. Smaller cages may require more cleaning, as urine will be spread over less space.

Knowing what to use to clean a hamster cage is essential to small pet ownership, and white vinegar is an excellent DIY solution. Don’t allow your hamster to consume vinegar.