Snake Terrariums 101: Your Guide to Safe Cleaners

Snake Terrariums 101: Your Guide to Safe Cleaners

The good, the bad, and the ugly ... is your cleaner safe to use around snakes? Read and find out ...
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Knowing how to properly clean a snake tank will go a long way in keeping your snake happy and healthy. Because unlike dogs who whine when they need something, or cats who may just swat us in the face, snakes are a lot more subtle. And, they can actually be a lot dirtier too!

Germs and bacteria thrive in humid conditions like you’ll find in a snake terrarium. That’s why it’s so important to know how to clean a snake tank, how often to do it, and then stick to the cleaning schedule.

So keep reading and we’ll give you the full scoop on snake tank cleaning and how to keep it ssssuper simple and safe.

Snake Tank Cleaners: The Good, The Okay & The Ugly

The Ugly: Bleach

Is it time to shelf the bleach? We think so!

Many of us grew up in homes where bleach was the cleaner of choice, and while it’s a tried-and-true germ killer, it comes at the cost of fumes and irritation to the skin, lungs and eyes. (Snakes don’t like the smell either, btw, and unpleasant smells can make a snake stressed out.)

Still, some people (you know who you are!) just won’t quit the bleach habit. In that case, it’s important to dilute it before tackling the tank cleaning – 1 part bleach to 9 parts water – and thoroughly rinse it away. Bleach is also not great for spot-cleaning because you really have to let the area air out before your snake goes back to its home.

Also Ugly: Scented Cleaning Products

Fragrances are a big no-no for snakes, yet they still wiggle their way into many cleaning products. Why? As consumers, we’ve been conditioned to associate "clean" with certain smells instead of "plain nothing." In particular, pine oils, cedar and phenols (used in many fragrances) can cause respiratory problems or upset snakes' skin.

The Okay: Vinegar

If you don’t mind the smell, you can use a 50/50 combo of vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle to clean your snake’s tank. It’s cost-effective and natural, but the downside is it’s not as powerful at neutralizing harmful bacteria as other options.

Also Okay: Chlorhexidine Cleaners

Many commercial reptile cleaners are formulated with the disinfectant chlorhexidine because it’s a great antiseptic and not harsh like bleach. It can cause skin irritation, however, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping.

The Good: Oxyfresh Terrarium Cleaner

Oxyfresh Terrarium Cleaner makes snake tank cleaning a whole lot easier because you don’t have to do any scrubbing. (It’s that powerful at removing stuck-on gunk!) You just spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it away. Done!

Rather than fragrance coverups, this groundbreaking, scent-free formula uses the power of Oxygene® to neutralize bacteria and odors. You won’t find this proprietary ingredient in any other tank cleaner! (Learn more about the science of non-toxic Oxygene®.)

Oxygene® is just as effective as chlorhexidine at disinfecting, yet it’s a gentler option on your hands if you’re a messy cleaner and don't like to wear gloves.

What about quick spot cleans or cleaning the outside of glass tanks? For those situations, you can just spray Oxyfresh Terrarium Cleaner and wipe it away with a cloth. No rinsing needed, and no worries about harmful fumes like with bleach or strong odors like with vinegar. Just fresh and clean, plain and simple, exactly how snakes like it!

How Often Do You Need to Clean a Snake Tank?

What do you get when you combine a humid environment, one cool-looking snake, a sprinkle of urate, and a dash of feces? The recipe for a really dirty snake terrarium, that’s what!

A buildup of yuck will make the terrarium smell bad, which can make your snake stressed, not to mention, sick! That’s why a little bit of care each day, along with a monthly deep clean, will go a long way in keeping your snake healthy.

Daily Snake Tank Cleaning

Each day, you’ll want to clean up any feces, urate, dirty substrate, water spills, or old skin. This will help keep bacteria levels under control. Your snake can stay in the tank while you do this.

You’ll also want to wash your snake’s water bowl daily, using a scrub brush, hot water and an unscented dish soap. If you’re an overachiever, bust out a hard-bristled toothbrush to get all the cracks and crevices. Rinse thoroughly, refill, and repeat tomorrow. Oh, and be sure to keep your snake’s scrub brush in a designated spot, preferably with a label, so no one else in the home unwittingly uses it on their own dishes!

Monthly Snake Tank Cleaning

Once a month is a good guideline for how often to clean a snake tank. This can be pushed up a bit or pushed back a bit, depending on the cleanliness of your snake and what type of snake substrate you use.

    1. Put Your Snake Somewhere Safe: You’ll need to find a safe spot for your snake to hang out while you do the deep clean. A plastic storage container with a lid and air holes will work brilliantly.

    1. Remove All Objects from Terrarium: Having a large plastic bin that’s designated just for cleaning tank accessories is the most sanitary cleaning measure. Some people prefer the bathtub to pile all their dirty accessories in, but if you have family members who take baths, there’s a certain eww factor to that. But to each their own. A large utility sink also works great.

      Shoulda-"Wooda" – If you have wood branches in your snake’s tank, the easiest way to sanitize them (and not have to wait days for them to dry) is to bake them in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees, checking them every 10 minutes to ensure there’s no charring.

    1. Unplug: All electrical devices should be unplugged before you go about cleaning the terrarium.

    1. Remove Old Substrate: Depending on the type of substrate you use, you’ll need either a trash bag and/or vacuum for the job.

    1. Spray Oxyfresh Terrarium Cleaner: Spray your cleaner throughout the empty tank, as well as the outside surfaces. Spray the accessories in your cleaning bin too. Let spray sit on tank and décor for 2–3 minutes. (No worries if it stays on longer.)

    1. Rinse: Remember – there's no scrubbing needed when you use Oxyfresh Terrarium Cleaner because it’s so powerful at removing stuck-on grime. Just rinse it away with water.

    1. Dry: All objects (and terrarium itself) should be completely dry before snake is returned. Air drying is best, but you can also bust out your hair dryer if you’re in a hurry.

    1. Set It Up: Add objects and new substrate to the tank, then return snake to its home and plug in your electrical devices.

  1. Clean Up: Wash out your accessories bin, the bin that housed your snake, and the sink you used with hot soapy water. And don’t forget your hands.

Happy (and Healthy) Cleaning! Now that you know how to clean a snake tank, let Oxyfresh help you do your dirty work. You’ll love how quick and easy we make tank cleaning, and your snake will love that you’re ditching the fragrances and bleach!

Terrarium Cleaner for snake tanks streak free

Meet the Author

Melissa Gulbranson is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Oxyfresh. A recipient of the Pet Age's "Women of Influence" Award, she’s passionate about educating pet parents in ways that really resonate with them. Melissa loves days on the lake and hiking with her fur kid, Parker, and husband, Doug. Parker (a total ham) can be spotted running laps through the office each morning, greeting every team member. You can find Parker near the treats, and Melissa on Linkedin.