Fleece bedding, for those who don’t know, is a reusable bedding system using fleece on top of towels or other absorbent fabric instead of costly and wasteful disposable bedding. The fleece, when prepared properly, will wick urine and moisture through the fleece and down to the absorbent fabric beneath. The surface of the bedding stays dry and odor-free, providing a more hygienic environment for your guinea pigs. Cleaning is also easier because the waste is on top and easier to remove. With proper preparation and maintenance, fleece bedding can last years and can save thousands of dollars over the life of your guinea pig. Here’s how to get started:
1. Buy Your Fleece Fabric: Go to your favorite fabric store or go online (I like YourFleece) to purchase an anti-pill or blizzard fleece pattern or solid that you like. I like to use patterns, since hair and poop aren’t as obviously visible as with solid colors. To determine how much fleece you’ll need for your cage, simply find the inner dimensions of your cage base, and add about six inches to the length and width so you have a little extra to work with. The average yard of fabric is 36″ x 60″.
2. Prepare Your Fleece Fabric: Your fleece has a waterproof coating that must be removed before you can use it in your cage. To strip the fleece of this coating, simply wash and dry it at least four times on hot settings in your washing machine and dryer.
3. Choose/Buy Your Absorbent Fabric: Underneath your fleece, you’ll need to use some sort of absorbent material to absorb the moisture. Popular options include UHaul furniture pads, bath towels, mattress pads, and puppy pads. One to two layers is usually sufficient. Using disposable bedding underneath fleece usually does not work because the bedding sticks to the back of the fleece.
4. Install the Fleece Bedding in Cage: To install the fleece bedding in your cage, lay down the absorbent fabric to cover your cage bottom. Next, lay down the fleece on top of the absorbent layer, and fold the edges under the absorbent layer for a clean appearance. Your fleece is now ready for your guinea pigs to enjoy! Trust me, they will!
To clean the fleece:
1. Daily Care: Remove feces and any food debris (including uneaten vegetables, dirty hay, and uneaten pellets) every day. I use a small broom and dustpan which works quite well and takes only minutes from my day. Other options for removal include handheld vacuums and plastic scoops/spoons.
2. Full Clean: Every five to seven days, or as needed to maintain a hygienic environment, you will need to wash your fleece. This includes both the fleece and the absorbent fabric you use.
- To prepare for the wash, remove as much hay, feces, and other debris as possible from the fleece. You can do this by sweeping up as much as possible, shaking out the fleece and towels outside in your yard, or using a handheld vacuum. Be sure to shake out and brush off the fleece and towels vigorously outside to remove as much hair as possible. Your washing machine will appreciate it! I use the “Fur-Be-Gone” cat grooming brush to brush off hair: http://www.amazon.com/Pet-Buddies-PB5578-FurBeGone-Brush-TPR/dp/B0006346TM.
- Wash the absorbent material and fleece in a washing machine with hot water and with laundry detergent. You should add either vinegar or bleach to kill bacteria as well. I like to wash my towels and fleece in separate washes. For the towels, I add 1/4 cup bleach to the wash to sanitize them; and for the fleece I add 1/2 cup white vinegar.
- Once the towels and fleece have been washed, dry them in your dryer on low to medium heat or put them outside in the sunshine to air dry.
- Replace in the cage and watch your piggies discover their “new” cage!
3. When Washing, Do Not Use:
- Fabric softener
- Dryer sheets
4. For Best Performance:
- Change your fleece every five to seven days for optimal odor control, performance, and hygiene.
- You may want to put small towels or pads in the most frequented areas of the cage (i.e. under hiding houses, in eating areas, favorite corners, etc.) to help your fleece work more efficiently and contain the mess where it is most concentrated. Remember to change these towels frequently.
More questions? Just ask in the comments!