Bearded dragons can harbor unsanitary odors, especially if they accidentally run through their own feces. Sometimes simply letting them soak in water doesn’t get rid of the smell.
But can I wash my bearded dragon using soap? Unfortunately, it is not safe to use any soaps or disinfectants that you have laying around the house on your bearded dragon. Soap often contains harmful chemicals that can hurt your bearded dragon both internally and externally.
Fortunately, there are other ways to clean your bearded dragon and prevent them from harboring any unwanted smells.
Why you shouldn’t use soap on a bearded dragon
Soaps contain harsh chemicals that could damage their skin
Bearded dragons have very sensitive skin. Using any type of soap such as dish soap, body wash, or shampoo can hurt your bearded dragon due to the chemicals within the products. Ingredients like sulfates are especially harmful to your bearded dragon’s skin.
There’s also the risk of the soap getting into their eyes and ingested. Then there’s also the possibility of death from toxic chemicals.
They could ingest it
If you’re bathing your bearded dragon, cleaning your dragon with soap will end up in the water where your bearded dragon may be drinking from.
They like to hydrate themselves when they’re in the water. Therefore, whatever remnants of soap lingering in the bathwater (including different oils) may get ingested.
Many soap products and their ingredients are toxic to bearded dragons and will make them sick. Essential oils are also harmful to bearded dragons ingested or not. Even the most organic products can potentially be harmful to your dragon.
Soaps contain chemicals that are also highly toxic to bearded dragons. If you find that your bearded dragon has ingested soap at any given time, take them to the vet right away.
It isn’t necessary
It’s risky to experiment with different soaps on a bearded dragon because you don’t know what potential health problems could come from using them. Bearded dragons don’t need soap to keep them clean.
Cleaning the enclosure and giving them frequent baths will prevent them from smelling bad and will be less stressful for you and them in the long run.
All they need is a twenty-minute soak in an inch of water (or more depending on your dragon’s size and preference), maybe a light scrub with a toothbrush, and lightly rinse to remove the dirt.
Even if your dragon still has a foul odor after keeping the enclosure clean and bathing them regularly, soap likely wouldn’t solve the problem. The smells that linger after you’ve kept everything clean can be an indicator of another issue that can’t be resolved without a vet.
Alternative ways to clean your bearded dragon
Use a wet toothbrush to scrub any unwanted debris on your bearded dragon lightly. They have sensitive skin that could easily be damaged if you’re not careful. If you’re struggling to scrub off the debris, you can let your bearded dragon soak in a warm bath beforehand to loosen up any stubborn substances.
Certain areas of your bearded dragon’s body will be more sensitive than others, such as their tail and feet. You may have to be extra gentle when scrubbing those parts of their bodies.
It’s also important to avoid scrubbing in the opposite direction of their scales to avoid hurting them.
A soft cloth
If you don’t have any extra toothbrushes laying around, a soft cloth will do. Make sure to wipe in the direction of their scales to avoid hurting them, i.e., if they have dried food on their tail, wipe towards the end of their tail in the same direction the scales are facing.
If your bearded dragon refuses to let you scrub or wipe off the grime on them, you can try bathing them more frequently.
Some bearded dragons also do not like baths. It is possible to help your dragon get more used to the water and associate baths in a positive way by letting them go in the water on their own and always providing a way to escape.
Bathe your bearded dragon more frequently
Some bearded dragons are messier than others and require more effort to keep clean. One bearded dragon may only need a bath once a week, while another dragon will run through its feces and need to be bathed a few times a week.
In addition, younger dragons may need to be bathed more regularly simply because they tend to be messier and are still growing, therefore shedding more often. Older dragons shed much less and may only need to be bathed once per week at most.
Clean the tank regularly
Spot cleaning the tank every day to remove any leftover food or stool to prevent the tank from having a terrible smell. Leaving food and stool in the tank will attract bacteria, making the tank smell worse.
Keeping the enclosure clean will not only keep the tank from releasing a bad odor into the room but will also help keep your beardie from smelling just as bad. You may also use the cleaning time to let your bearded dragon out of his cage for some roaming time.
It’s very common for bearded dragons to smell bad when their tanks aren’t regularly maintained. Therefore, if your dragon still smells bad, there may be an underlying issue, such as an infection that must be treated at the vet right away.
Don’t leave food or stool in the cage
When feeding your dragon, don’t leave any food lying around. Some dragons will run through leftover food and their stool; some are also exceptionally messy eaters. If you notice your bearded dragon defecating, remove the stool right away.
Not only does this prevent unwanted smells, but it also helps prevent your dragon from getting any infections.
Can I use soap to clean the enclosure?
After removing your bearded dragon from the enclosure, it is safe to use soap and cleaning products to clean it as long as you take everything out first and rinse the enclosure until the soap smell is gone. If you use certain chemicals like bleach or Lysol, you will need to be extra careful about leaving any remnants behind.
Clean out any water dishes daily, even if you don’t notice your dragon drinking or laying in it. Dirt, food, and bacteria can still be present in the object even when it isn’t in use. Additionally, make sure that there isn’t too much water and try to keep the tank as dry as possible.
If you decide to spot clean the tank and after cleaning up leftover food and any other unwanted debris, you may find that some of the substances are stuck to the glass.
An easy and safe way to remove this is to use one part vinegar and one part water. This will remove the unwanted debris, though it will leave a scent behind that should be gone within a day. It’s still a great way to clean the enclosure as it’s non-toxic and inexpensive.
This works well to remove unwanted debris on glass and other objects within the enclosure. This is also helpful for those who have tile or another hard surface on the bottom of the enclosure. You can use the mixture on a microfiber towel as well. It will help remove any streaks or leftover debris.
Certain objects within the enclosure, such as wooden items, will require soap and water to clean and can be scrubbed with a brush or cloth. To disinfect the objects, some can be steamed or baked in an oven to eliminate any bacteria or parasites. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the items cleaned with soap and any other chemicals.
What you use at the bottom of the enclosure will also determine how often the tank will need to be cleaned and also dictate how it needs to be cleaned. Some tanks will simply need to be wiped down, while others will need to have the bedding replaced.
There are products online that are advertised as soap for bearded dragons, but there isn’t much evidence supporting their claims. If you decide to use them, talk to a vet before using any of the products to bathe your bearded dragon.
Be safe when cleaning and disinfecting the enclosure. Don’t leave any remnants of chemicals behind. A way to ensure that the tank is rid of chemicals after using disinfectants is to continue to rinse the enclosure until you can no longer smell that chemical. Spot cleaning will also make deep cleans much easier when you have to disinfect everything.
Always keep an eye on your bearded dragon when giving them baths, and avoid using soaps or other products unless approved by a vet. Soaps often contain harmful chemicals that are toxic to bearded dragons and hurt their skin.
It’s also important to be aware that if your bearded dragon still stinks after taking steps to keep them clean, there may be a different underlying issue and should be taken to the vet.