Hamster Sand Baths: Everything You Wanted to Know

Hamster with food

Hamsters are quite clean animals as they constantly groom themselves. But if your hamster is looking a bit dirty or oily, a sand bath is a great option.

Sand baths provide a way of keeping your hamster clean and odor-free without damaging its health. The abrasive sand keeps your hamster clean by removing excess particles from its coat and absorbing excess oil and moisture from its skin. Safe options include children’s play sand, reptile sand, or dust-free chinchilla bath sand.

Why do hamsters need sand baths?

Hamsters cannot be bathed in water like other animals because being bathed in soap and water removes important oils from their coat. Additionally, most hamsters hate being immersed in water and can catch colds quite easily. A safer way to keep your hamster clean and remove excess oil from its coat is with a sand bath.

Some hamsters like rolling and digging in the sand, so it is a great way to keep them entertained and clean.

What kind of sand do I use in a hamster sand bath?

You should use sand that is pet-safe, clean, and dust-free. Hamster safe sand you can use includes:

  • Children’s play sand (can get from hardware store and is cheaper than other options). If it’s been heat treated you don’t need to sanitize it (check on the label). It is also recommended to sift this sand to get rid of larger particles that may be too rough for your hamster.
  • Reptile sand (needs to be un-dyed, all-natural and with no minerals or calcium added). You don’t need to sift this sand or sanitize it.
  • Hamster sand bath (make sure the it is not dusty as some brands have a bad reputation for being too fine-grained)
  • Chincilla bath sand (most expensive option, can be very dusty, other better options available)

Avoid any sand that is labeled dust or powder. Sand should be dust-free as fine particles can cause respiratory problems in hamsters. You should also never use sand from outdoors, such as from the beach, as it cannot be properly sanitized.

As well as dust-free, sand should be free from added dyes, fragrances, minerals, calcium, or chemicals.

There are many different types of sand available to buy online. Therefore it is important to read reviews carefully to avoid buying unsuitable dusty sand.

It’s okay if your hamster tries to eat some of the sand at first due to curiosity. They should stop doing this after a few times.

What container should I use for a hamster sand bath?

Sand baths are simple to make as you can use store-bought dishes or containers you already have in your home. Large acrylic dishes or glass baking dishes work well. Do not use containers made of materials that are easily chewed, such as wood. The container should also be shallow enough that your hamster can get in and out of.

Hamsters like to have a large sand bath so that they can dig and roll in different areas. It should be heavy enough that it can’t be tipped over. It is also recommended that you put a hideout in the sand bath so that they have somewhere to hide if they feel vulnerable.

Before preparing the sand bath, thoroughly wash and dry the container. Then, depending on the size of the container, fill it halfway with sand and place it in the corner of the enclosure. Placing the sand bath in a corner minimizes the amount of sand that gets kicked around.

How do I sanitize sand for my hamsters sand bath?

You can sanitize sand, for your hamster’s sand bath, by spreading the sand on a baking tray and baking it in the oven at 350F for about 20 minutes. Baking the sand should get rid of any bacteria or fungus growing in it.

Keep in mind that this technique will not work on sand taken from the outdoors. This sand cannot be properly sanitized and is therefore unsafe for your hamster.

Can I leave the sand bath in their cage all the time?

It is safe to leave the sand bath in a hamster’s enclosure all the time. But, you need to make sure you spot clean it – remove any debris, droppings, or urine. You need to change dirty sand as it will not keep your hamster clean as it should.

If your hamster starts using the sand bath as a toilet, do not leave it in the enclosure all the time.

When it comes to sand baths, the two most important things are keeping it clean and using dust-free sanitized sand.


Not all hamsters require a sand bath to remain clean and odor-free. However, if you decide to treat your hamster to a sand bath, make sure the sand is dust-free, sanitized, and free from added dyes, fragrances, minerals, calcium, or chemicals. You should also provide your hamster with a sand bath big enough for them to roll and dig in.

Water bottle or Water dish: Which is Best for your Hamster?

Hamster drinking water

You should provide your pet hamster with fresh water every day. Hamsters are vulnerable to dehydration and will not survive for more than a day or two without water. Two ways to provide water for your hamster are with a water bottle that attaches to the side of their cage or a shallow water dish. While both are great options, each option has its pros and cons.

Hamster Water Bottle

Most hamster owners provide their pets with an inverted water bottle that only releases water when they drink from it. It should be attached to the side of the cage at a height that a hamster can drink from, at a natural angle, on two or four legs. However, if not positioned correctly, it can cause an awkward angle for hamsters to drink from.

If you have multiple hamsters in one cage, a water bottle is preferred so that you don’t have to constantly refill their water every time the water bowl gets tipped over.


  • Holds more water
  • Cleanliness – more sterile when properly maintained
  • Avoids spillage
  • Hamsters cannot tip it over
  • Better choice if you have multiple hamsters in the same cage
  • It cannot be polluted by bedding, leftover food, etc.


  • Hamsters can chew through the mouthpiece if it’s made of plastic (check the water bottle regularly for damage)
  • Can break, leading to leaks
  • Prone to clogging
  • Harder to clean

A water bottle that is not cleaned properly can cause just as much bacteria as a water bowl. Because water bottles are more difficult to clean, bacteria can build up. Owners may also be less likely to change water bottles as they can hold more water. This is not good as the water will not be fresh, allowing bacteria to build up. Water bottles can also get clogged, which can result in your hamster getting dehydrated. Therefore, you need to check that the water bottle is properly clean and working every time you change the water, which should be daily. As long as a water bottle is properly cleaned and working, it is a good option to provide water for your hamster.

Hamster Water Bowl

Another option is to provide your hamster with a water bowl. It should be a bit heavy and shallow so that your hamster is less likely to tip it over or get wet by walking through it. It should be smaller than your hamster in size and placed on a solid surface.


  • Easier to clean than water bottles
  • It limits bacteria build-up if cleaned regularly
  • Less noisy than a water bottle
  • More natural angle to drink from


  • Hamsters can tip water bowls over, depriving them of water
  • Water can get contaminated with dirt, bedding, leftover food, urine, or fecal matter
  • Hamsters can chew through plastic water bowls/dishes. Get a ceramic one instead.

It would be best if you cleaned your hamster’s water bowl every time you refresh the water. An advantage of changing the water more often in a water bowl is that the water is fresh, which is good for your hamster.

Final Thoughts

Hamster drinking water

Whether you provide your hamster water in a water bottle or a shallow dish (or both), it should be checked and refreshed daily, even if water remains. Water bottles can malfunction and leak, while hamsters can tip over water dishes. Water can also become contaminated if it is not changed regularly. Therefore, it is essential to provide your hamster with a continuous water supply to maintain its health and prevent dehydration.

Whatever option you choose, the characteristics to look for in a hamster water bottle or water bowl are:

  • large water capacity
  • easy to clean
  • high-quality materials

If your hamster is not drinking, you will need to take it to a veterinarian.