Last Updated: August 31, 2020
Guinea pigs are fastidious little creatures that groom themselves and their family every day. But there might come the occasional time when your little pigger friend needs a bit more help.
But if you’re out of guinea pig shampoo or the ones you’ve tried don’t agree with your furry buddy, you could be in a tight spot. Have no fear! We’ve compiled a list of 7 safe and effective alternatives that will help you keep your guinea pig clean and healthy.
1. Warm water
Most of the time, the simplest solution is the best.
There are very few situations in which your guinea pig cannot be cleaned perfectly well using clean, warm water. In fact, even if you piggy looks a bit grimy, it is often better to eschew soaps altogether because of its tendency to over-dry and strip oils from skin and hair.
2. Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo
Earthbath is a respected company in pet shampoos, and even makes a hypo-allergenic formula that is actually soap-free shampoo. No soap means no harsh, drying chemicals and no irritated guinea pig skin! Plus, it is cruelty-free and ecofriendly.
This shampoo is recommended for a variety of animals, small and otherwise, so you can even use it on most of your other pets.
3. Cloudstar Buddy Wash
Cloudstar’s dog shampoo is lightly scented and made from natural ingredients that won’t dry out your guinea pig’s skin. It is still highly advisable to dilute this shampoo and test it cautiously on your guinea pig’s skin before fully bathing them with it.
And, if you have dogs or cats, you can pull double duty for this shampoo and not worry about buying multiple brands!
4. Aveeno Oatmeal Bath
If you’ve ever fallen in a patch of poison ivy or had the chicken pox, you might have some oatmeal bath laying around the house. Aveeno’s 100% colloidal oatmeal is also a super-safe bath for guinea pigs, if used in small amounts.
That’s really all that it is, too, oatmeal! And oatmeal is completely non-toxic and edible, though you should not let your pigs chow down as it isn’t especially healthy for them, either.
5. All-Natural Apple Cider Vinegar (Diluted)
While it is true that apple cider vinegar has many health benefits for internal and external use, it is inadvisable to use as a sole cleaning solution. It is highly acidic and strongly scented, and undiluted it could hurt your guinea pig.
However, you can use it sparingly. A small amount of apple cider vinegar that is diluted in plenty of clean water has antimicrobial properties that can help break down even tough urine stains and smells on fur.
6. Unscented Baby Shampoo (Diluted)
Some baby shampoos diluted in clean water may be a decent stand in for guinea pig wash.
The idea of baby shampoo is that it is safe for highly sensitive skin, but even some that claim gentle ingredients could be too drying for a guinea pig. If using baby shampoo, go for an unscented kind and dilute it in large amounts of water before testing it on your furry buddy.
7. Unscented Dish Soap (Heavily Diluted)
This one comes with a serious caveat: you should only use dish soap for cleaning your guinea pig if it is free of harmful chemicals, unscented, and preferably formulated for sensitive skin.
And even with that being said, you should never use concentrated dish soap. Dilute a gentle dish soap in a large amount of clean water to lower the risk of stripping necessary oils from skin and irritating your pigger.
What to Avoid
Have you looked at the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle lately? There are just so many chemical compounds and artificial scents! And for a creature as sensitive and small as a guinea pig, you simply should not take the chance
Parabens, phthalates, and sulfates
It is of utmost importance to avoid any chemicals that could be detrimental to your guinea pig’s health. Parabens, phthalates, and sulfates are examples of chemicals found in many beauty products and soaps that can be quite irritating and harmful to human skin – so just imagine how unhappy your guinea pig could be!
Some soaps even contain things like formaldehyde, so never take a product at its word that it is safe. Check the ingredient list of any product you plan to wash your guinea pig with and look up every one that you don’t recognize.
Fragrances in soaps are often made from harsh chemicals that could irritate your sensitive little piggy’s skin or strip their natural oils out. And heavy, artificial scents may have the added danger of harming your guinea pig’s lungs.
Better to stick to unscented soaps, though naturally scented products that are not overwhelming may also be appropriate.
Some animal shampoos use cedar oil as a natural flea and tick repellent. However, cedar and pine oils can cause respiratory issues for guinea pigs and many other small animals. Though it sometimes takes chronic exposure to do serious damage, it is better to avoid cedar entirely for your furry friend.
Undiluted, scented dish soaps
You may have seen helpers cleaning oily penguins and sea creatures with dish soap, and thought that meant it is a safe and gentle option. However, for guinea pigs, undiluted dish soap is simply too harsh.
Guinea pigs have a certain oil balance on their skin and hair that keeps them healthy, and most dish soaps will strip all that away and leave skin dry and irritated.
How to Bathe a Guinea Pig
First things first, does your guinea pig need a bath? Guinea pigs are excellent at grooming themselves and their family, and rarely need a bath if their cages are kept clean and litter is replaced regularly.
With a clean environment guinea pigs should not need to be bathed more than once every 2-3 months. If you notice your piggy is a little dirty, try spot cleaning them with a damp, warm cloth before a full-on bath.
However, if you guinea pig has a medical condition that requires bathing, or just got really really dirty, here are some tips on how to give your guinea pig a bath that will make it easy and stress-free for your little friend.
Pick a clean, enclosed space for bathing your guinea pig. A bathtub might be so big that it causes anxiety for your little buddy, but a large bowl or clean kitchen sink might be just the right size.
You will need a tub, small cup, cleaning solution of choice, warm or tepid water, a dry towel, and perhaps a hand towel for gently cleaning any problem areas.
Do not leave your guinea pig in a bath alone for any amount of time. Gather everything ahead of time and have all your piggy cleaning tools within easy reach. That way you won’t be fumbling around and worrying about your pigger at the same time!
The temperature of the water you use to bath your guinea pig should be neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right.
Fill the bath with a shallow amount of water, low enough that your guinea pig can stand in it without struggling to breath. You can gently drizzle water over them, making sure to keep water out of their eyes and ears. Never dunk your little pig friend!
After their short bath, immediately transfer your piggy to a dry towel. A wet guinea pig is a chilly guinea pig, so gently towel dry them before you release them into their cage.
Since guinea pigs rarely need baths, it is entirely possible that when you need a good guinea pig shampoo there won’t be any convenient options. Luckily there are several safe and effective guinea pig shampoo alternatives – a few may already be laying around your house!
We hope that this list, the tips on what to avoid, and the basics of guinea pig baths will help you keep your piggy friend happy, healthy, and sparkling clean.
Featured Image: Shchus, Shutterstock
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.
- What to Avoid
- How to Bathe a Guinea Pig