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Does My Hamster Need a Sand Bath?

Hamsters don’t like water baths, but if they begin to look a bit grubby, they may enjoy cleaning themselves in a sand bath. This is what they would do in the wild. A water bath would wash away the special oils on the hamster’s coat, and these help keep the animal healthy. Removing them could result in skin problems. Water should therefore only be used if there is something toxic on the animal’s fur, which would damage the hamster when it tries to lick it off.

So, a sand bath will be appreciated – even if there’s no immediate reason why the hamster needs to have a clean up. They simply enjoy it (well – most of them do!) If the hamster is dirty, ask yourself why. Is he not grooming himself properly, and is that down to some other issue? Is his skin scabby or crusty? Is he losing hair anywhere? Is it his rear end or genitals that are looking dirty?

If any of these are the issue, it’s probably not a bath that’s needed. The root cause of the grubbiness may be a more serious health problem. Talk to a vet for advice.

untidiness may mean poor health
Hamsters enjoy grooming themselves, but a sand bath may also be appreciated

Is Your Hamster Unable To Clean Itself?

Watch your hamster for a while to check that it’s carrying out normal grooming behaviors.

  • If your pet is not cleaning its face with its paws, it may be a leg injury preventing it.

  • If the hamster is not licking itself or reaching round to groom its back legs then it may have overgrown teeth.

  • If your hamster is grooming as normal but still looking grubby, it may have a skin condition.

  • Matted hair and thinning/balding could mean your pet has skin mites or sarcoptic mange.

  • An unclean rear end is sometimes a symptom of the life-threatening condition wet tail.

Check our Hamster Illnesses section for more information. If there are any worrying symptoms, you should always take your pet to a vet.

How To Prepare A Hamster Sand Bath

If you’re sure your pet is in good health, and merely requires a ‘dry shower’, you can prepare the sand bath. You will need a small container, big enough for the animals to wriggle around in without spilling over the sides. This needs to be half-filled with sand. If you can’t find a sand specially prepared for hamsters in the pet store, look for Chinchilla sand – this will do just as well.

Put your hamster in the sand container, and it will very probably sort itself out by squirming around in the sand. Most hamsters like these baths, but some don’t, so be prepared for your hamster to refuse to ‘bathe’! Sometimes he’s just not in the mood, but if you leave the sand bath in the enclosure over the next hour, he might get round to it when the mood takes him.

Customer Images


Kash, 22 August 2021

Here’s a solution: don’t use silica sand with harmful particles. There are sands on the market packaged for hamsters and small rodents that are softer without dusty silica particles.

Yeahidontthinkso, 29 May 2021

Are sand baths NECESSARY? I'm reading on message boards and YouTube that it is "ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!!" But I'm reading on supply lists where sand bath isn't even mentioned. Even PETA and ASPCA don't mention sand baths. I understand water is a big NO. Their suggestion is let them bathe themselves. I keep his cage clean, I clean it twice a week and perform spot cleanings every day. He has a large containment and he isn't dirty. I wash my hands with Dawn before and after I pick him up to prevent from spreading diseases to the other animals (in fact, I handwash before and after picking up any of my pets). I do have sand. I got child's play sand and saw that it was very dusty. So donned with a mask, I went outside and held a personal fan in one hand blowing on sand as I poured it from four foot distance to another container. This blew out the dusty sand. I repeated this until the sand no longer blew particles away. Then I stuck the sand in a preheated oven and baked for 15 minutes and turned off the oven. I left the sand in the oven to cool. "They" recommend baking an hour, but my microscope didn't show signs of bacteria after 15 minutes. So, I DO have the sand and have danced the recommended steps to prepare the sand. It's ready to go and I'd love to be able to use it. But herin lies my concerns: sand has quarts that consists of silica. Silica is a carcinogen that can cause cancer if inhaled. Like asbestos, once silica enters the lungs, it lodges itself and never goes away. While in the lung, it can cause COPD and lung cancer. Silica is fine, if touched or eaten (I take it as a supplement, actually). But inhaling silica is very dangerous. I am not sure how much silica can cause pulmonary illness, but why take a chance, just because people online require it? Yes. I was about to join one Facebook hamster group until I read the rules. Failure to heed to their recommendations results in exmembership. If you're thinking, "Its kids harmful can it be?", that's what I thought, too. Yet OSHA requires complete outfitting of protective equipment for all workers, when preparing and packaging the sand. On the child's play sand package is a California carcinogen warning (this is what prompted my research). Along side the warning is a recommendation of use: "best used when damp". My husband worked for an asbestos abatement company. One way to contain the asbestos from flying through the air is to wet it down. By moistening the sand, it is no longer airborne and is safe to remove, use or work with. But sand dries. Furthermore, hamsters are supposed to use dry sand. They do not like to be wet. If they enjoyed wet sand, it would eliminate the need for sand, altogether. Another thing to consider is if this is bad for OUR lungs, imagine how much worse it is for the hamster's tiny lungs! They would be rolling in it and digging in it, and their respiration rate is much faster than ours is. Is sand really best for hamsters? Wouldn't a clean habitat be enough? There are some sands without quartz silica, but it contains calcium, which I understand to be another big "NO!!" On the message boards. I'm not trying to cause issues. I'm trying to raise awareness of the dangers of sand. It's not safe. And if it isn't safe, it shouldn't be used...should it? I've been doing a lot of research on the subject, and I don't feel comfortable using sand. What do you think?