How Do You Prepare Wood For A Reptile Cage (By Baking)

Do you want to add some wood to your reptile’s cage?

Pieces of wood, such as sticks, make great additions to any reptile habitat.

Lizards, turtles, and snakes use wood for climbing and hiding.

While you have the option of purchasing sticks from a local pet store, you can also collect wood from outside for free.

Once you have obtained the wood, you may ask, “how do I prepare it for my reptile’s cage?”

Before putting wood into your reptile’s cage, you must ensure it isn’t toxic, free of harmful microbes, disinfected, and dried thoroughly.

In this comprehensive guide to a reptile’s cage, we have discussed everything from how to prepare and how to clean reptile wood for its cage.

how do you prepare wood for a reptile cage

Why Do I Need to Clean Wood for My Reptile’s Cage?

Wood, especially wood from nature, will enhance your animal’s environment.

However, since your reptile lives in an enclosed space, you need to make sure you do not add anything toxic or potentially harmful to their habitat. You can check out these DIY enclosures to get an idea of how to add safe items to your pet’s home.

If you do, they do not have anywhere to escape to.

Wood from the outside is full of bacteria and microbes.

Some are full of mites which will easily infect your reptile.

Read our post on reptile mites to learn what kind of damage this can cause your pet.

The easiest way to avoid this is to properly clean any wood (including store-bought) before placing it into the animal’s cage.

What woods are safe reptiles?

You should not put just any stick or piece of wood you find into your reptile’s home.

As a general rule, you want to AVOID using the following types of wood:

  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Eucalyptus
  • Any wood infected with pesticides or other harmful chemicals

These woods are known to cause various health problems in reptiles, including skin lesions and respiratory issues.

It is also recommended to avoid putting in conifers, any pieces of wood with thorns, or any wood exposed to harsh chemicals.

We suggest you do not look for wood for your reptile in places with a high risk of chemical exposure, such as near a farm.

The following types of wood are considered safe and healthy to use in your reptile’s cage:

  • Oak
  • Dogwood
  • Maple

If you purchase wood furniture at a pet store, be sure to read the label to see what kind of wood it is made of.

All wood should be clear of thorns and sharp ends.

We suggest sanding wood pieces before cleaning to remove potentially hazardous rough edges.

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How Do I Clean Wood to Put in My Reptile’s Cage?

Before placing any wood or furniture in your reptile’s terrarium, be sure to clean and disinfect it to avoid exposing your reptile to harmful microbes. But, how to clean driftwood for reptiles?

If you find the wood outside, knock it against the ground several times.

This will remove dirt and any loose bark.

Next, you will need to remove any remaining dirt and debris.

removing dirt from wood

To do so, use a stiff bristle steel brush and water.

If possible, use hot water to do this.

Wait to cut the wood into smaller pieces until after you have washed it.

Once you have made sure the wood is free of surface dirt, it is time to sterilize.


Sterilizing the wood kills any insects, arthropods, bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

These are potentially harmful to your reptile.

Wood is porous, so we recommend using heat to sterilize before using any harsh chemicals such as disinfectants.

There are several options when it comes to applying heat to sterilize the wood for your reptile:

Using a Handheld Steamer

First, you may choose to use a handheld steam cleaner.

This is the easiest way to clean wood pieces of all sizes.

After steaming, let the wood dry completely before placing it into your reptile’s cage.

With an Oven

You are also able to use appliances already in your home to sterilize with heat.

Using your oven to bake the wood is another easy option, but it only accommodates wood pieces of a certain size.

baking wood in oven

Preheat your oven to 250° – 300° degrees Fahrenheit, place your wood pieces inside and bake for 60 minutes.

We suggest setting a recurring timer every 10 minutes to check for charring.

Baking wood is a potential fire hazard, so you should never leave the oven unattended.


The last option using heat is to boil the wood in a pot.

Boiling water only reaches 212° degrees Fahrenheit, so if you decide to take this route, you will need to boil the wood for at least six hours to disinfect it thoroughly.

boiling wood

Always let the wood dry completely before placing it into your reptile’s cage because damp wood will potentially start to grow mold or decompose.

Bleach Water Soak

If using heat is not an option, you may also use chemical disinfectants.

We suggest using a bleach-water mixture.

Soak the wood pieces in the bleach-water solution (½ cup of bleach for every gallon of water) for 24 hours.

soak wood in bleach water

Make sure you use regular bleach without additional additives for laundry.

After 24 hours, remove the wood from the bleach-water solution.

You may notice your pieces are a lighter color, which is normal.

You will need to thoroughly rinse off the bleach before placing it into your reptile’s cage.

To do so, soak the wood pieces in fresh water for at least 48 hours.

We recommend you change the water every 8 hours to leach out the bleach thoroughly. 

Drying Wood

Finally, you must dry the wood completely.

This may take anywhere from 3-5 days, depending on the size of the wood and the climate you live in.

drying wood in the sun

We suggest utilizing the sun to help dry but avoid laying the wood on the ground and potentially re-contaminating it.


Adding wood to your reptile’s cage is an excellent way to enhance their environment and increase their quality of life.

However, you want to make sure you are not introducing anything harmful to their habitats.

To make sure your reptile stays happy and healthy, make sure you choose the correct type of wood and adequately disinfect it.

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