Shell & Skin Cleaning: How to Clean Your Pet Turtle & Tortoise?

 If you've never kept a turtle, you might not be aware of how important routine cleaning is to maintaining their health. Even turtles that spend a lot of time in the water need their shells cleaned to prevent algae buildup. A good cleaning will help your turtle live longer and healthier.

Shell & Skin Cleaning: How to Clean Your Pet Turtle & Tortoise?
Shell & Skin Cleaning: How to Clean Your Pet Turtle & Tortoise?

How to Clean a Turtle?

 Procedures for cleaning a turtle differ depending on whether you are cleaning a tortoise or a tortoise. You shouldn't need to clean your turtle or turtle often, and your cleaning schedule will depend on your individual turtle. The best time to clean a tortoise or tortoise is if you notice algae forming on its shell, if it molts, or if you notice a buildup of dirt and debris on its shell or limbs.

Supplies for cleaning a turtle

You will require the following equipment to clean an aquatic turtle, such as a red-eared slider:

  • A bucket or bathtub to bathe the turtle in (do not clean the turtle in your sink or bathtub due to the risk of salmonella transmission).
  • A lukewarm water supply (not hot or cold) that has either been boiled and cooled or treated 24 hours previously with a water conditioner.
  • Water conditioners for reptiles, such as ZooMed Reptisafe Reptile Water Conditioner.
  • A small, soft, unused brush, such as a toothbrush.
  • A cup or spoon to rinse with water.

Is Dawn dish soap safe for turtles?

 Your turtle shouldn't be cleaned with any form of soap. Your turtle's skin may become inflamed from the soap's chemicals. All that should be needed to clean your turtle is a soft brush and some water. In some cases, your vet may prescribe shampoo if your turtle has a health problem, but otherwise, don't use anything on your turtle other than chlorine-free water.

Handling your turtle to reduce stress

 When cleaning your turtle, always support it with one hand while cleaning with the other. When you need to reach areas under the turtle by the plastron (the shell on its belly), do not turn the turtle over. The turtle will likely be quite upset by this and risk suffocating. It's best if the turtle tilts them at an angle of about 45 degrees with its head pointing up so it's still upright while you clean under its body.

How to Safely Clean a Turtle Shell?

 Another important fact to remember when cleaning turtle shell with your brush is that while it may feel rough and tough, a turtle's shell is sensitive to it. Since their skin is so sensitive, they can literally feel the brushing against their shell. Always press down with the brush as gently as possible and do not apply more pressure than necessary to loosen dirt and algae. Likewise, their skin is also sensitive, so be sure to use your brush carefully to avoid irritating their skin.

The turtle bathing process step by step

 Once you have your treated or boiled water ready and a suitable container, fill it with water and slowly add your turtle.

  1. Take the brush and run it gently over the back of their shell until you have loosened any dirt or algae.
  2. Rinse with a little water in the tub using a cup or spoon to pour water over the turtle.
  3. Brush the turtle's legs and the crevices between the shell and the legs, tail and head. Rinse with water.
  4. Check your turtle for any remaining algae or dirt. If they still have debris spots, repeat the process.
  5. Return your cleaned and rinsed turtle to its tank when you are finished.

A good cleaning after bathing is important!

These last steps are essential to prevent salmonella.

  1. Empty the dirty bath water into your toilet. Do not pour it anywhere you prepare food or wash your hands, such as your kitchen or bathroom sink, or your tub.
  2. Thoroughly clean the container with a disinfectant cleaner or a solution of water and bleach and store it. It is safest to use this container only for turtle cleaning and nothing else.
  3. You should also throw away the toothbrush or boil it to disinfect it.
  4. Finish by giving your hands a good wash.

Clean a Tortoise

 Tortoises are more likely to have dirt and debris on their shells since they live on land and not in and around water like aquatic turtles. Bathing them once a month or every two months when you notice a buildup of dirt on their shell can help improve their shell health, and a bath can prevent them from becoming dehydrated. It is also known to help stimulate defecation.

Supplies for cleaning a Tortoise

 You will need a few supplies to clean your Tortoise and, as with bathing turtles, you want to devote these supplies solely to cleaning your Tortoise to prevent the spread of salmonella to yourself or other members of your household. :

  • A bucket or tub for bathing the tortoise. Depending on the size of your tortoise, you may need something the size of a kiddie pool or a dog or waterer used for farm animals.
  • A lukewarm water supply (not hot or cold) that has been boiled or treated with a conditioner.
  • Water conditioners for reptiles.
  • A small, soft, unused brush, such as a toothbrush or an unused cleaning cloth.
  • A cup or a spoon.
  • Q-tips and balls.
  • Unused cotton towels.

Is Dawn dish soap safe for tortoises?

 You can use a very mild soap on a tortoise, although this is usually not necessary and should be avoided. In the event that your tortoise might have hard-to-remove debris, such as oil, using a mild dish soap may help, but you should be sure to rinse off the soap residue. Soap should never be used near his head and use the smallest amount possible. It's important to clean your tortoise before it needs anything other than dechlorinated water to avoid having to cause more stress than necessary.

Keeping your tortoise safe and stress-free while cleaning

As with cleaning an aquatic tortoise, you should reduce stress when bathing a tortoise by keeping it upright.

  • If the tortoise is smaller, lift it up at a 45-degree angle to clean underneath.
  • With a much larger tortoise, you may need more than one person to help you due to their weight.
  • Tortoises will also feel discomfort if you brush their shell and skin too hard, so always apply as little pressure as possible.

Bathing and defecating tortoises

 It is very common for a tortoise to produce droppings when entering the swimming area, as the water temperature will stimulate them to eliminate. It's a good idea to let them roam around in the water for a few minutes before you start bathing them to see if they defecate first. If so, simply clean the feces from the water, then start the bath.

Water level for a tortoise bath

 Unlike an aquatic turtle, a tortoise is not naturally comfortable in water. A tortoise will need to be able to keep its feet on the ground in the container, so fill it only up to its breastplate and no higher. Additionally, refrain from sprinkling water near their face and eyes.

Steps to Clean a Tortoise Shell

Cleaning a tortoise is very similar to cleaning an aquatic turtle.

  • Put the tortoise in your water container and use a cup to slowly pour water over its shell.
  • Take the brush and run it gently over their shell. Then, slowly lift them at an angle to clean the breastplate.
  • Take a few spoonfuls of water to rinse the hull after cleaning it.

Clean the tortoise's legs and head

Remember to be gentle when using any type of cleaning product on a tortoise's skin.

  1. Use a rag or brush to clean their limbs. Use a wet cotton swab or ball for small crevices.
  2. When cleaning the tortoise's face, do not put water near its eyes and avoid its chin, mouth, nose, and areas under its head, as rubbing them will be very irritating to the tortoise. You can take a damp cotton ball and clean the top of their head and neck. Use a freshly damp cotton ball to rinse these areas as you don't want to get water near your head.
  3. To dry the tortoise, place it on a cotton towel and take a few towels to soak up any extra water on its shell and skin. Do not rub them with the towel, but use gentle patting motions to remove excess water.

Avoid shell rot

 It is important to ensure that the tortoise is 100% dry before returning it to its enclosure. They are at risk of developing shell rot if their shells still have moisture on them. You can wipe them gently with a microfiber towel to help the drying process.

Clean up after bath

 Empty the water into the toilet or a yard away from your main house. Thoroughly clean the tub with a disinfectant cleaner or a solution of bleach and water. You can wash towels on a sanitize setting in your laundry detergent and either throw the brush away or boil it to sanitize it for future use. To avoid damage from disinfectants used in the cleaning process, rinse the container even if it appears clean before giving your tortoise or tortoise another bath.

Keeping your tortoise clean and safe

 Cleaning your tortoise or its shell is an integral part of being a responsible pet tortoise owner. It is important to use supplies only intended for bathing your tortoise to protect you and your family from the risk of salmonella. Once you get used to it you will find that giving them a bath is not very difficult and avoid using soaps, brushes or rough clothes that will irritate their sensitive shells and skin.

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