How To Bathe A Tortoise

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how to bathe a tortoise

Cleaning a tortoise is a necessary part of keeping it healthy and happy. A good bath will remove any dirt or debris that may be clinging to its shell, as well as help keep its skin healthy.

Most people think that tortoises are very low-maintenance pets, but the truth is that they require a lot of care and attention.

Without proper care, your tortoise may become sick or unhappy. If you want to know how to bathe a tortoise properly, then keep reading!

There are many reasons why it’s important to clean your tortoise. For one, it helps to keep their shell clean and free of dirt and parasites.

You may also use this to inspect your tortoise’s shell for any problems or injuries. Bathing your turtle can also help to cleanse any accumulated oils or dirt from their skin, which can also assist with defecation.

RELATED READ: Types of Pet Turtles

Supplies For Bathing A Tortoise

Make sure you have the following items on-hand to clean a tortoise, such as a box turtle:

  • A container to bathe the tortoise in is necessary. You’ll need something big enough to make the tortoise fit in.
  • You’ll need lukewarm water that has been boiled or conditioned and has a temperature of 85-95 degrees F.
  • A thermometer to check the water temperature.
  • A water conditioner in case the water is not clean.
  • An unused soft-bristled toothbrush that’s dedicated for just cleaning the tortoise, or an unused cleaning cloth.
  • A cup or scoop to be able to rinse the tortoise.
  • Cotton swabs, balls and towels (that are not used anymore).
  • Some gloves in case you have some kind of open wound or cut.

Water and a gentle brush should be enough to clean your tortoise shell. If you feel like you need to use something more, your local veterinarian may prescribe a tortoise shell cleaner specific to your pet’s needs.

Is Soap Safe For Tortoises?

There is a lot of debate about whether or not you should use soap on a tortoise because it is too drying for the turtle. It’s somewhat safe to use soap on a tortoise as long as you avoid his head and rinse it immediately with water after scrubbing.

Cleaning a tortoise is straightforward and it shouldn’t be complicated, provided you have access to warm water and a toothbrush.

If you soak your turtle for at least 30 minutes in warm water that goes up over the gap between his plastron and shell, he should be clean enough without any need for soap.

RELATED READ: How To Care For A Tortoise

Handling The Tortoise While Bathing

handling tortoise while bathing

When it comes to washing tortoises, they don’t enjoy it. When you try and scrub the grime out of them, they will certainly show signs of protest.

Try holding the tortoise at a 45-degree angle while brushing underneath it in order to reduce tension.

If you have a large tortoise you might need another person to assist you if you completely want to wash them.

When brushing the tortoise try and be gentle while doing so since tortoises can feel everything on their shells just as humans feel when they get touched.

Be sure to hold him above the cleaning container since they tend to defecate more often when it comes to bathing in the water.

Unlike an aquatic turtle, a tortoise is not as naturally at ease in the water. To allow a tortoise to keep his feet on the ground in the container, fill it only up to his plastron (the bottom of the shell).

Avoid splashing water all over their face and eyes.

RELATED READ: Can Box Turtles Swim?

Steps To Clean Your Tortoise Shell

The process should be straightforward by following the next steps:

  1. Pour some water onto the tortoise’s shell of your water container with a cup slowly.
  2. Use a brush to softly stroke his shell and then, at an angle, clean the plastron.
  3. Take a few mouthfuls of water to rinse off the shell after it is clean.

Steps To Clean Your Tortoise Legs and Head

Steps To Clean Your Tortoise Legs and Head

When cleaning a tortoise’s skin, remember to be gentle.

  1. To clean the tortoise limbs, use a damp cotton swab or ball. For small gaps, use a wet cotton swab or ball.
  2. When cleaning the tortoise’s face, keep water away from its eyes and avoid touching its chin, mouth, nose, and under its head regions. Clean the top of their head and neck with a damp cotton ball. To rinse those regions, use a clean wet cotton ball. You don’t want to pour water near the tortoise’s head.
  3. Place him on a cotton towel to dry off, and gather some towels to soak up any extra water on his shell and skin. Do not rub him with the cloth; instead, use gentle patting motions to remove the excess water.

It’s critical that the tortoise is completely dried up after the bath, as this can cause shell rot; the easiest method to ensure that he is dried up is to place him in the basking area once he has bathed.

RELATED READ: The Best Tortoise Substrate

Cleaning Up After The Bathing

After you’ve returned your tortoise into its enclosure and has been dried off, you need to make sure that you clean properly after you.

  • Pour the water you used to clean your turtle down the toilet, flush it, and then wash the toilet just to be safe. Never put any of the water in a sink or bathtub since this may expose you to harmful germs like Salmonella.
  • Clean the dedicated bathing container with a disinfectant or bleach solution, then rinse it thoroughly. Don’t use the container for anything other than cleaning your tortoise.
  • To prevent spreading germs, sanitize or boil the toothbrush before using it for future cleanings. In your washing, you can use a sanitizing cycle on the towels used for cleaning the tortoise.
  • After you are finished, wash your hands thoroughly.

How Often To Bathe A Tortoise?

How often you will need to bathe your tortoise really depends on his lifestyle and in what environment he lives.

If he is mainly inactive and doesn’t get dirty, then you may not need to bathe him more than once every few months. If he is a messy eater and loves to play in the dirt, then you will likely need to bathe him more often, such as once a week.

This should not be confused with tortoises’ caring involving soaking. Soaking is especially important when caring for a hatchling tortoise.

When your tortoise weighs about 100 grams, you may start skipping a day or two of soaking and gradually reduce it down as they grow.

RELATED READ: Best Tortoise Water Dishes

Can I Soak My Tortoise Every Day?

You can’t soak for too long or too much. Soaking has no harmful side effects.

It doesn’t cause them to poop excessively and fail to digest their food, it doesn’t upset their “water balance,” whatever that is, it doesn’t cause shell rot or respiratory infections, and it isn’t unnatural in any way.

As a matter of fact, wild tortoises and turtles soak in ponds and puddles all the time.

The only caution is that if you have an adult tortoise, and he is used to being dry, then a sudden change in his environment by adding water can stress him out.

How Long Should You Bathe A Tortoise?

Well before you start the cleaning procedure you should leave your tortoise to soak for at least 15 minutes. Coupled with that a bathing session should last for no more than 5 minutes depending on the size of the tortoise so that the tortoise isn’t overwhelmed and stressed.

Any bath time that exceeds these durations is likely too long and may cause stress to your tortoise.

RELATED READ: How To Take Care Of A Baby Box Turtle


Bathing a tortoise is important to keep it healthy and clean. As you can see from the cleaning process, simply drying off your pet after bathing is not enough.

Proper hygiene requires following a few simple steps to clean both your tortoise and the environment in which it lives.

With a little bit of care, you can ensure that your tortoise stays healthy and happy for years to come.