Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fleece Cleaning Routine

Using fleece as guinea pig bedding, in theory, is dead simple:  you buy a few yards of fleece, put it in the cage for several days, take it out, wash it, and put it in again.  It's wonderfully economic, it's not dusty nor will it get tracked around the house like shavings or Carefresh.  There is a great overview of the stuff on the GuineaPigCages.com forum, called The Fleece Project: The Study.  It covers purchasing, preparing and using fleece.

In practice, you'll discover that using fleece is not quite as simplistic as it sounds. 

Tools of the fleece trade:
rubber mitt, curry brush, whisk brush and fingernail brush
Everyone uses and works with fleece a little differently.  Most of my fleece is in upper levels of my cage, so it stays relatively clean.  The bottom level fleece is normally covered in wood chips, hay, poo and hair.  So even in a single cage, I am faced with different cleaning requirements.

The Fleece Project recommends a Vacuum-Shake-Brush-Beat routine.  I prefer a Brush-Brush-Dustbust-Shake routine for cleaning fleece.  You probably have (or will have) your own favored routine.

As I pull the fleece out of the cage, I sweep much of the debris into the cage with the whisk brush.  Then I lay out the fleece and brush it with the fingernail brush, followed by the rubber brush/mitt.  I have found that the fingernail brush is great for getting out surface hair.  It works pretty well on the wood chips, too.  The rubber curry brush is good for hay and embedded hair.  If the weather is good, I do this outdoors, because the hair will just blow away.  Plus, I don't have to sweep up the floor when I'm done.  Less dust in the house, too.

All of this brushing  often crushes some of the hay, so I find running the dust buster over it briefly can pull off the crumbs and any of the loosened hair.  Lastly, I give it a gentle shake, just to get out any of the last bits of hair and dust that has been loosened up (sometimes I wait until the fleece is totally dry for this step). 

Willow's fleece: before and after
It takes some time and effort, but the results are impressive.  You can see the difference with Willow's fleece.

The prep-work makes my washing machine (and me) a whole lot happier.  It doesn't need to be wiped down after a load of pig bedding.  As an added bonus, if I dry the fleece in the dryer, the lint trap doesn't look I shaved half a guinea pig into it.

Pretty much everyone agrees that vinegar is great for removing urine and odor from fleece.  Beyond that, laundering techniques can vary as much as the prep-work.  I pour in about 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar, a scoop of OxiClean and maybe a drop of detergent with a large load of pig bedding.  Our new washer has an extra rinse options, so I use that and run with warm/cold water (instead of hot).  Fleece doesn't hold onto the water, so I usually hang the fleece up to dry.

That's my basic cleaning routine. Nothing complicated.  I sweep daily with a whisk brush or the lightly with the rubber mitt.  I do the Brush-Brush-Dustbust-Shake thing every week.  Fleece that is dry, clean and doesn't smell may go back in the cage; stuff that needs washing goes in the pig hamper.  I run a load whenever the hamper is full or when I'm on my last set of clean fleece for the cage.  Your mileage will vary, based on number of pigs, their habits, humidity, cage setup (including what you use under the fleece) and your personal sense of what's clean or not. 

Clean fleece is a wonderful thing!  WillowBertie and Pinni all have the clean cage happy-dances to prove it.


3 comments :

  1. It is funny to think that we all use this same thing, but we all do it differently! As a point of reference, I have two boys in an all fleece, 3x3 cage with a 1x2 addition that has a second level.

    Every night, I use the dustbuster to get up all the poops and pick up any large, loose pieces of hay by hand (this is also when I refresh their hay rack, change out their water, and give them pellets). On cage cleaning day (Wednesday), I use a hand broom that has a rubber piece down the center to sweep all the fleece. I tried a lot of different things, and this for me results in getting almost all the hay and hair off with the least amount of work. All the fleece then gets a good shake before it's put in the wash. The wash is a cup of free and clear detergent filled to the top line and a generous amount of vinegar (probably between 1/2 and 1 cup, but I don't measure). It get's washed on warm, then thrown into the dryer on medium. After 20-30 minutes, the fleece and beds come out, and the towels dry on high to the end of the cycle.

    The weekly change takes about 2 hours (during which time I usually clean other parts of the house too), but it's so worth it to me! The cage looks so much better and it is way more economical for me than Carefresh every was. And besides, the boys seem to like it. :)

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  2. Very cute videos! We currently use the Fleece Project's vacuum approach but this method sounds effective for removing those stubborn hairs. I've already added fingernail brush, rubber mitt and curry brush to my shopping list.

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  3. I pick up loose hay and poos daily. I'll admit it, I use my hands! I have no less than 6 cages at a time, sometimes up to 10. It's just faster for me to brush it into a pile and pick up.

    When it comes to total cleaning, I shake out the fleece and brush the hair off best I can. It goes in wash with the beds - I use my regular detergent (Gain) and vinegar, hot water, extra rinse cycle, heavy duty cycle. Towels go in separately and I use bleach instead of vinegar.

    My oldest fleece from 8 years ago is still in use. It's the best wicking stuff! The more it's washed the better it gets.

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