Cleaning Your Guinea Pig’s Fleece Bedding

Fleece BrushesImage courtesy of Sally

Tools of the fleece trade: rubber mitt, curry brush, whisk brush and fingernail brush.

Using fleece as guinea pig bedding, in theory, is dead simple:  you buy a few yards of fleece, put it in the cage for several days, take it out, wash it, and put it in again. It’s wonderfully economic, it’s not dusty nor will it get tracked around the house like shavings or Carefresh. There is a great overview of the stuff on the GuineaPigCages.com forum, called The Fleece Project: The Study.  It covers purchasing, preparing and using fleece.

In practice, you’ll discover that using fleece is not quite as simplistic as it sounds. 

Everyone uses and works with fleece a little differently. Most of my fleece is in upper levels of my cage, so it stays relatively clean. The bottom level fleece is normally covered in wood chips, hay, poo and hair. So even in a single cage, I am faced with different cleaning requirements.

The Fleece Project recommends a Vacuum-Shake-Brush-Beat routine. I prefer a Brush-Brush-Dustbust-Shake routine for cleaning fleece. You probably have (or will have) your own favored routine.

As I pull the fleece out of the cage, I sweep much of the debris into the cage with the whisk brush. Then I lay out the fleece and brush it with the fingernail brush, followed by the rubber brush/mitt. I have found that the fingernail brush is great for getting out surface hair. It works pretty well on the wood chips, too. The rubber curry brush is good for hay and embedded hair. If the weather is good, I do this outdoors, because the hair will just blow away. Plus, I don’t have to sweep up the floor when I’m done. Less dust in the house, too.

All of this brushing  often crushes some of the hay, so I find running the dust buster over it briefly can pull off the crumbs and any of the loosened hair. Lastly, I give it a gentle shake, just to get out any of the last bits of hair and dust that has been loosened up (sometimes I wait until the fleece is totally dry for this step).

Cleaning FleeceImages courtesy of Sally

Willow's fleece: before and after

It takes some time and effort, but the results are impressive. You can see the difference with Willow’s fleece.

The prep-work makes my washing machine (and me) a whole lot happier. It doesn’t need to be wiped down after a load of pig bedding. As an added bonus, if I dry the fleece in the dryer, the lint trap doesn’t look I shaved half a guinea pig into it.

Pretty much everyone agrees that vinegar is great for removing urine and odor from fleece. Beyond that, laundering techniques can vary as much as the prep-work. I pour in about 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar, a scoop of OxiClean and maybe a drop of detergent with a large load of pig bedding. Our new washer has an extra rinse options, so I use that and run with warm/cold water (instead of hot). Fleece doesn’t hold onto the water, so I usually hang the fleece up to dry.

That’s my basic cleaning routine. Nothing complicated. I sweep daily with a whisk brush or the lightly with the rubber mitt. I do the Brush-Brush-Dustbust-Shake thing every week. Fleece that is dry, clean and doesn’t smell may go back in the cage; stuff that needs washing goes in the pig hamper. I run a load whenever the hamper is full or when I’m on my last set of clean fleece for the cage.  Your mileage will vary, based on number of pigs, their habits, humidity, cage setup (including what you use under the fleece) and your personal sense of what’s clean or not.

Clean fleece is a wonderful thing! My girls all have the clean cage happy-dances to prove it.


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Sally

Sally has owned guinea pigs for over 20 years and has organized the Boston Pignics since 2003. She is the CavyMadness "guinea guru" and assists guinea pig beginners on other cavy forums. Sally currently cares for a pair of sows.

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Comments
14 Responses to “Cleaning Your Guinea Pig’s Fleece Bedding”
  1. Chana Meddin says:

    Thank you, Sally, for I would never have thought of the items you use and now feel confident
    that cleaning fleece and giving my piggies a sweeter bedding will make us all much happier.
    Please continue to share your “tricks of the trade.”

  2. Diane R says:

    Thanks for the tips. My washing machine and dryer will thank you to no end.

  3. Veronica says:

    I have a dedicated ShopVac for our piggies! We take out the boys – usually someone plays with them in another room – and vacuum out the fleece daily, plus before washing. Underneath is a layer of white “pig towels” that we shake out, then bleach. Replacement towels rotate in and out. Once a week we run all the white pig towels as bleach laundry; just like yours, we wash the fleece with laundry soap and vinegar.

    Yes, this is definitely cost effective and our two boys seem very happy about it! Both levels of our C&C cage are this way. The upstairs is the food loft – unlimited hay plus Oxbow Cavy Cuisine. Downstairs are the pigloos and an Oxbow Timothy Hay Bungalow. There are two water bottles – one upstairs, one down.

  4. nalomeli says:

    Aloha! Why are there no posts (on any site) about what I would think is obvious bedding – shredded newspaper and clay litter? I have used clay, but it is heavy and my daughter didn’t like the look of it. It worked great, my cavys still have a shallow pan of it that they use for potty (or something). I have found micro-fleece to be no good as everything sticks to it. Is shredded newspaper as bad as wood shavings? Wood shavings are a nightmare for me, but my daughter uses them for her solitary male. My next try is going to be sheets of newspaper on the bottom and regular baby diapers on top. I can change the diapers daily and wash them with hot water and a little bleach. I’ll leave my girls the pan of litter – they seem to like it.
    Thank you for your help,
    Nalomeli

    • Sally says:

      Shredded newspaper is not very absorbent and can get wet and smell pretty quickly. Clay litter can be downright dangerous, especially the clumping type, because guinea pigs tend to eat stuff, or will clean it off their fur, and hurt their digestive tract. I understand that wood-based pellet bedding is safe to use.

      I can imagine micro-fleece would be terribly frustrating. The fleece that is often used for bedding is not micro-fleece, but just regular polyester fleece used for blankets and clothing.

      You can try puppy pads, and I’ve heard good things about using uhaul blankets. Have you had a chance to read over The Fleece Project? (http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum/bedding/21568-fleece-project-study.html)

  5. Jo says:

    Is there any way to discourage pottying in certain areas and incouraging it in another?

    • Sally says:

      Pretty much any guinea pig will tell you that poo happens anywhere, at any time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. As for training them where to pee, it depends on the pig. If you can find out what their favorite spot is, and encourage them just to go there, you have some chance at somewhat potty training them. But generally speaking, either the pig will want to do it on their own, or there’s no hope in training them.

    • A trick that I’ve found helps, but doesn’t always work, is to use different levels. I put low platforms (I use the mats from under the dish drying racks) under corners that I don’t want them to pee in and put the fleece over top. If they like to corner pee, they might move to the sides of the platform instead of the corner of the coroplast. This makes cleaning easier because the pee won’t leak out of the corner and get trapped in the flaps. This is just a suggestion as it doesn’t always work. Something to try though.

  6. tobiekoda says:

    I have just recently switched to fleece …how is it best to set up the fleece. bedding? ( I just rescued these piggiest and they are not litter box trained yet)

    • Sally says:

      Some pigs never litter box train themselves. So you cannot expect them to only go in a designated area. As far as setup – I think it’s something that everyone struggles with to find a good fit for them and their pigs. The Fleece Project links gives an overview of all of the basics. Beyond that, I think you have to experiment.

  7. Kerri says:

    I’m sorry if this is a silly question (we’re new to the cavy world): I bought a Dustbuster-type-thing to sweep out the blanket, but it’s so powerful that it just sucks up the blanket itself. It’s totally useless. Right now I’m shaking everything down to the Coroplast and then vacuuming from there, but I’d love to figure out how to spot-vacuum the fleece itself. Do you do something to weight down the fleece? Or is our single layer of fleece just too light? (If it helps to know, we’re doing a layer of cardboard in the pee corners (all four because why would they make it easy?!), a beach towel, and a single layer of fleece.)

    Thanks for any advice!
    Kerri

    • Sally says:

      Most of my fleece is binder-clipped to the edges, and some of it is tucked under pieces of 1/2″ pvc pipe to keep it in place. I also tend to sweep it out with a rubber hair mitt rather than using a dusbuster. You could try weighing down the edges with bricks when you try to vacuum it. It may be your dustbuster is just too strong! :-)

    • Darrin says:

      I have used an old tablespoon, works great for daily poop pick up. I can go around and scoop
      up into a bag all in a matter of minutes. it was an oddball spoon I found and only have the one so everyone
      in the house knows what its for. don’t mix it with your own!

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