spray bottles for cleaning

How to Clean your Bearded Dragons House and Furnishings

We often use the term cleaning to cover cleaning, disinfection, sanitisation and sterilisation and yet they are distinctively different.

Cleaning is the removal of visible soil (organic and inorganic matter) off surfaces and objects. Disinfecting and sanitisation reduces pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses to a minimal load. On the other hand sterilization will kill all life. Effective and regular cleaning is vital to prevent disease and support good health. See the end of this post for more detail on these terms.

How Often Should I Clean my Bearded Dragon House?

The two routines to clean your bearded dragons house are daily and weekly. The daily cleaning is typically maintenance cleaning, removing large waste and spot cleaning. This will help manage the concentration of pathogens, keep it nice to look at and help control odours. The weekly cleaning is more in depth and requires the removal of all furnishings, disinfecting all the surfaces of the enclosure and furnishings.

The choice of substrate will make a major difference in the effectiveness of cleaning. Solid substrates such as tiles being far easier to clean than loose substrates.

How Do I Clean My Bearded Dragons House?

To clean your bearded dragons house on a daily schedule:

  1. Remove any waste including feces and uneaten food.
  2. Remove and sanitise/disinfect bowls.
  3. Spot clean marks on walls, floors and furnishings.
  4. Disinfect handles and surfaces touched by humans.

To clean your bearded dragons house on a weekly schedule:

  1. Remove and sanitise/disinfect bowls.
  2. Remove any waste including feces and uneaten food.
  3. Remove easily detached furnishings and disinfect or sanitise. Wood and other porous materials cannot be disinfected or sanitised effectively.
  4. Remove loose substrate including paper or sand. New and clean substrate should be added to the housing post cleaning.
  5. Sweep the enclosure.
  6. Scrub off any organic waste such as feces and food. Scrub off any stubborn soiling until the entire housing is free of debris.
  7. Disinfect walls and floors in their entirety.
  8. Disinfect or sanitise furnishings.

Cleaning Tips

  • Clean before disinfecting or sanitising. Some products become ineffective in contact with organic matter (California Childcare Health Program, 2013) and germs can hide underneath the material.
  • Use warm or hot water.
  • Scrub using the microfiber cloth or scrubbing brush.
  • Clean from top to bottom to prevent recontamination of surfaces already cleaned.
  • Spray any products to be used on the microfiber cloth rather than directly to the surface it will be applied to. This will reduce splash back, contaminating you and minimise the amount of mist that occurs when the product is sprayed on a hard surface (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).
  • All cleaning products leave a residue and must be cleaned off even if the manufacturer claims it is not necessary. “Residues contribute to particulate matter in the air over time.” (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).
  • Keep the equipment used for cleaning separate to household cleaning equipment.
  • Clean cloths separately to other household items.
  • If chemicals are used on plastics or other materials that can retain chemicals ensuring they are thoroughly rinsed to prevent leaching back to your bearded dragons housing (Divers and Mader, 2005).

What Do I Clean my Bearded Dragons House With?

A clean house for your bearded dragon is fundamental to preventing disease and infection. However, cleaning products can be toxic and care must be taken for both you and your pet to be safe.

Clean your bearded dragon house with disinfectants such as F10 Veterinary Disinfectant and a hand held steam cleaner. Use broad spectrum disinfectant which is fast acting and the known risks are acceptable (Divers and Mader, 2005).

Do not use phenol or quaternary ammonium based disinfectants (Kohler as cited in Pasmans, 2006).

Disinfectants

F10 Veterinary Disinfectant

F10 Veterinary Disinfectant is a well known broad spectrum veterinary grade disinfectant targeted to specifically to deal animals. F10 is bactericidal, virucidal, fungicidal and sporicidal. It is biodegradable, non toxic and doesn’t irritate. When used in the correct ratio F10 is economical. This makes it an excellent all round cleaner within the budget of anyone who can afford to keep a reptile.

Cleaning habitat with F10
Bleach

Another disinfectant is bleach. Bleach can be used at a strength of 50 mL to 1 L of water (Divers and Mader, 2005). When using household bleach the solution must be in contact with the surfaces for between 10 to 60 minutes (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2014). Once the time is up, rinse off thoroughly. Bleach is ineffective when organic material is present so ensure the cleaning was thorough prior to applying.

Bleach is corrosive and will damage metal and paint. Ensure it is washed thoroughly off all surfaces.

The fumes are toxic and can be overwhelming. Ensure neither yourself or the animals breathe in the fumes. Full strength bleach has been associated with death of birds and reptiles in their cages (Divers and Mader, 2005).

The chlorine in bleach can be deactivated by using a dechlorinator or exposing to direct sunlight for a few hours (Divers and Mader, 2005). Note that full strength bleach lets off a toxic gas in sunlight (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2014).

Bleach is a cheap cleaner and can be used against a number of threats with some notable exceptions such as coccidia (Divers and Mader, 2005).

Warning, do not mix bleach with other chemicals, this is extremely dangerous or may simply reduce its effectiveness (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2014).

Ammonia

A 5% ammonia solution kills coccidia and Cryptosporidium (Divers and Mader, 2005).

Vinegar

Can I use vinegar on my bearded dragons house? Using vinegar to clean your bearded dragons house is not as effective as chemical disinfectants (Johnston and Gaas, 2006). However, it can be a good cleaner such as for removing mineral deposits.

Steam

steam cleaner
Hand held steam cleaner

Can I use steam to clean my bearded dragons house? You can use steam to clean your bearded dragons house to control pathogens and parasites. Steam is clearly chemical free and use useful for controlling coccidia and some other difficult to eradicate pathogens and parasites.

Steam cleaning is highly effective when done in a methodical manner. The wand must be moved horizontally moving it from the top down covering every inch of space. The steam should not bound back up on areas already cleaned to reduce anything becoming airborne recontaminated already cleaned areas. Repeating the action twice will assist in covering all areas.

Warning on Fragrances

Fragrances put a more appealing scent over more offensive odours. Cleaning products with appealing fragrances are great marketing but do not clean, they simply add more chemicals to the cleaning product. Fragrances in air fresheners and cleaning products use phthalates to carry the scent and have been linked to multiple health issues from headaches to reproductive problems and even cancer (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). Unfortunately purchasing unscented products does not make them hazard free either (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).

Don’t use air fresheners. “Air fresheners are particularly concentrated sources of fragrances that are full of toxic chemicals.” (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).

How do I Clean the Inside of the Glass of my Bearded Dragons House?

Clean the inside of the glass of your bearded dragons house using a microfiber cloth with water. The microfiber cloth will clean and remove streaks (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). If the glass is soiled, wash it with water first then use a window wiper. Finish it off with a microfiber cloth. Now that is environmentally friendly!

microfiber cloths do a great job cleaning solid surfaces
Microfiber cloths do a great job on all solid surfaces.

What Do I Need to Clean my Bearded Dragon House?

Equipment needed to clean your bearded dragons house and furnishings includes:

  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Spray bottle with cleaning solution
  • Paper towels to clean up spills
  • Window wiper
  • Microfiber – one cloth for cleaning and one for polishing glass
  • Bucket for disinfectant solution
  • Hand held steam cleaner (useful optional equipment)
Window wiper for cleaning glass
Window wiper makes a quick job of cleaning glass.

Benefits of Microfiber Cloths

Microfiber cloths are extraordinarily good at removing large number of microbes and can absorb seven times its own weight in water (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). Microfiber cloths can get into cracks that other cloths can’t due to its make up of tiny split fibers. The fibers generate a static electric charge as it is wiped across objects and surfaces that attracts dust and particles (Field Research and Consultation Group, 2011).

Microfiber cloths have been shown to have a significant impact on reducing bacteria left behind (Field Research and Consultation Group, 2011).

Clean microfiber cloths separately to all other laundry. Their ability to attract dirt and other undesirables is also effective in the wash so its effectiveness would be reduced (California Childcare Health Program, 2013). Clean the cloths using hot water and detergent. Do not use bleach on the microfiber clothes, this shortens their life (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).

Cleaning Equipment not to Use

  • Cotton cloths do not capture germs well and can spread germs (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).
  • Sponges are hard to clean and can grow bacteria (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).

Cleaning Terms

Cleaning is the removal of visible soil (organic and inorganic matter) off surfaces and objects. For example, feces and food splatters. Removal of soil may be achieved by scrubbing, the chemical action of a detergent or surfactant, or both methods together. As organic matter will obstruct the surface area it is in contact with, cleaning must be completed before disinfecting can occur. Cleaning does not kill germs (bacteria, viruses or fungi) but the detergent or surfactant will aid in separating the germs from the surfaces which can then be washed down the drain.

Cleaning physically removes infectious agents and the organic matter on which they thrive, but does not necessarily destroy them.

Veerabadran and Parkinson, 2010

Disinfecting requires chemicals or steam to kill germs. Disinfecting chemicals are antimicrobial pesticides and they kill germs on contact. Examples of disinfectants include steam and hydrogen peroxide. The benefits of steam include being non toxic and it can penetrate surfaces that disinfectants cannot such as reptile carpets.

Disinfectants will have a contact time requirement and will not be effective if they are wiped off earlier than that given time. Following the manufacturers recommended concentration is important to eliminate the targeted germs.

There are three levels of disinfectants, low level, intermediate level and high level. Low level disinfection kills most bacteria and some viruses and fungi. Intermediate level (isopropyl alcohol (70-90%), sodium hypochlorite (5.25% household bleach 1:50 dilution)…. High level kills all microorganisms with the exception of bacterial spores..wet pasteurization at 70c for 30 minutes, sodium hypochlorite (5.25% household bleach 1:50 dilution). .

Because disinfectants are pesticides designed to kill or inactivate germs, you should make sure you need them for the specific task. The overuse and misuse of these products is a growing public health and environmental concern (California Childcare Health Program, 2013).

Some ways disinfectants can be applied are by drenching an item, soaking, spraying or wiping on using a cloth impregnated with the disinfectant solution.

Disinfecting is suitable for floors, walls, furnishings and other housing elements.

Disinfection is a process of inactivating pathogenic organisms except for bacterial spores.

Veerabadran and Parkinson, 2010

Sanitising

Sanitising reduces the microorganisms. The safe level is 99.9% reduction. Methods to sanitise include heat, radiation and chemicals. Chemicals include chlorine and iodine both which leave a toxic residue and must be rinsed off (Gov W.A. Dept of Health). Sanitisation can be achieved in hot water (75°C plus) soaking items for 2 minutes (Gov W.A. Dept of Health).

Sterilizing

Sterilising destroys all microbial life and may be done by using chemicals, dry heat or devices such as a steamer.

Germicides

Disinfectants are germicides. The three types of germicides are antiseptics, disinfectants and sterilants. Germicides kill all pathogenic microorganisms with the exception of bacterial spores, however sterilants will kill bacterial spores.

Antiseptics are used to kill pathogenic microorganisms on skin and tissue, with the exception of bacterial spores. Antiseptics are not suitable for cleaning inanimate objects.

Disinfectants are used to kill pathogenic microorganisms on inanimate objects (CDC, 2008) with the exception of bacterial spores.

Sterilants will kill pathogenic microorganisms including bacterial spores.

References and Further Reading

  1. California Childcare Health Program. 2013. UCSF School of Nursing. Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A Toolkit for Early Care and Education. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/schools/green-cleaning-sanitizing-and-disinfecting-toolkit-early-care-and-education.
  2. CDC. 2008. Introduction, Methods, Definition of Terms. Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities. Accessed July 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/introduction.html
  3. Department of Health. Government of Western Australia. Cleaning and sanitising food premises and food equipment. Accessed July 2019. https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Cleaning-and-sanitising-food-premises-and-food-equipment
  4. Divers, S. J., and Mader, D. R. 2005. Reptile Medicine and Surgery E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  5. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014. Infection Prevention and Control of Epidemic- and Pandemic-Prone Acute Respiratory Infections in Health Care. Annex G, Use of disinfectants: alcohol and bleach. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK214356/
  6. Johnston, C.S. and Gaas, C.A. 2006. Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect. 8(2): 61. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/vinegar/
  7. Pasmans, F., Blahak, S., Martel A., and Pantchev, N. Introducing reptiles into a captive collection: The role of the veterinarian. The Veterinary Journal 175 (2008) p53–68. www.elsevier.com/locate/tvjl
  8. Veerabadran, S., and Parkinson, I. M. Cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of equipment. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine. Volume 11. Issue 11. 2010. Pages 451-454. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mpaic.2010.08.005
  9. Field Research and Consultation Group. 2011. Microfiber. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. University of Washington. Accessed July 2019 https://deohs.washington.edu/sites/default/files/brochures/microfiber-factsheet.pdf

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