Fleece liners make for a nice and comfortable base layer in a guinea pig cage, and most guinea pigs love to hide in a tunnel or sleeping bag made from a soft fleece fabric.
However, new fleece fabrics do not absorb liquids well, which means that your guinea pig’s pee could form a pool on top of the fabric instead of passing through.
Ultimately, this means that your guinea pigs end up sitting in their own urine, which is bad for multiple reasons.
In this guide you’ll learn how to wick fleece, in order to prepare it for being used in your guinea pig cage.
How to wick fleece in 7 steps
Preparing your fleece for a guinea pig cage is easy. All you need to do is follow these simple steps.
Be aware that wicking your fleece is an irreversible process, as the properties of the fabric are slightly altered.
1. Load your fleece into the washing machine
If you’re the slightest in doubt whether your fleece gets damaged from washing or not, we recommend that you start with a small piece of fleece to see how it works. You could also try reaching out to the manufacturer for advice.
2. Add detergent
Remember; detergent should be fragrant-free with no conditioner applied. If no fragrant-free detergents are available, we recommend one for sensitive skin.
3. Add white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment (optional)
White vinegar has disinfectant and descaling properties, and works well as a replacement for fabric softeners.
For new fleece fabrics this isn’t really necessary, but it works well for removal of bad odors and disinfection.
4. Wash in hot water
This is important. If you want to break your fleece and allow it to gain the right wicking capabilities, you have to wash it with hot water. Otherwise the process might not work properly.
5. Dry the fleece
It’s perfectly fine to dry your fleece in a tumble dryer, but we recommend air drying because fleece dries very fast anyway.
6. Repeat 2-3 times
You may not obtain the desired results after just one washing cycle, so we recommend that you repeat the steps above for at least two or three times.
7. Test your fleece
Remember to test your fleece once it’s dry, by pouring a bit of water on top of it. If the water forms a puddle, your fleece needs to be broken down further. If the water is absorbed quickly, your fleece is ready.
If you want to know more and understand why wicking is necessary, we’ve gathered some useful information along with some tips and advice below.
What does ‘wicking’ mean and why is it necessary?
‘Moisture wicking’ is a common property for outdoor/sports clothing, indicating that a piece of clothing is capable of moving sweat away from your body while allowing for rapid drying of the fabric itself. With this capability you’ll stay dry and comfortable, and your body is able to easily regulate its own temperature while giving you a dry, non-sticky feel.
Because your fleece acts as a top layer in direct contact with your guinea pig, you want it to mimic the same absorbent capabilities so their urine doesn’t form puddles on top and make them wet.
‘Wicking’ is a process that makes your fleece absorbent
When you’re preparing your fleece liners and hideys for a guinea pig cage, ‘wicking’ describes the process of making your fabrics able to pass liquids through instead of forming puddles on top of them.
Because new fleece fabrics have a “protective” barrier, you need to break it down in order to enhance the wicking properties. It’s best carried out with hot water, and it’s necessary if you want your fleece to work as intended.
What fabrics need wicking?
Fabrics made of synthetic fibers, such as fleece and velvet, would most likely need wicking if they’re completely new.
Normally, these fabrics are made from very thin synthetic fibers that are woven closely together, which effectively create a temporary barrier against liquids.
For a guinea pig cage, a top layer made from fleece is recommended because it doesn’t spoil as easily as cotton – and it dries quicker. So if you’re making your own washable cage liners, you’d almost always have to go through this preparation before using it.
All you need to wick fleece
Wicking fleece is an easy process, and you don’t need a lot of things to do so.
All you need is laundry detergent, preferably one with no fragrance, and distilled white vinegar.
Vinegar is optional, but recommended due to its disinfectant as well as descaling properties.
Do NOT use fabric softener or dryer sheets
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets could reset the wicking as they form an invisible layer on top of your fleece, working against the absorbent capabilities. As the name suggests, fabric softeners are designed to soften your fabrics. It does so by encapsulating the fibers in a lubricating agent, which reduces friction and adds a soft feel.
This is the opposite of what you want, and at the same time you wouldn’t want any chemical residue on your fleece liners either.
CNET discusses the use of fabric softener in this article from 2018:
The coating may make your towels feel nice, but it also makes them less absorbent.Alina Bradford, CNET / Source
They also mention dryer sheets, which add a similar effect as fabric softeners do, hence they should be avoided if you want to create an absorbent layer in your guinea pig cage.
Should you use detergent and fabric softeners?
Regular detergent is perfectly fine due to the cleaning capabilities, but fabric softeners and dryer sheets must be avoided at all cost.
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets add a “sealing” layer to your fleece, which resets the wicking properties.
They aren’t healthy for guinea pigs either.
If you want to add anything with softening capabilities, try adding a bit of white vinegar. White vinegar has disinfectant properties, and at the same time it’s mildly acidic which means that deposits of scale are effectively broken down and removed.