How To Sanitize Branches For Reptiles

November 5, 2020

Chameleon on a tree branch

How To Sanitize Branches

Branches sold in pet stores and online are oftentimes ridiculously overpriced. Who wants to spend $20 or more on a stick? It can be very tempting to pick up a cool stick from your backyard or driftwood off the beach and put it into your reptile’s enclosure. However, you may be bringing home more than a new decoration. Parasites can live on the branches in your yard, and these parasites can be transferred to your reptile. It is important to thoroughly sanitize branches (or anything else) you bring in from your yard before putting it anywhere near your reptile. Make sure that the branch you have chosen comes from a pesticide free area too, so you don’t put any unwanted chemicals into your reptile’s enclosure. Depending on the size of the branch you can choose to bake it, boil it, or chemically sterilize it. Let’s talk about how to safely sanitize branches for your reptiles.


driftwood on a beach


How Do I Choose The Right Stick For My Reptile’s Enclosure?

When looking at sticks, make sure the kind you have picked out is non-toxic to reptiles. Pine and cedar sticks should never be used because they can be deadly for reptiles. Most hardwoods are safe — oak and aspen are always a safe choice for your pet.


How To Prepare The Branches

Before starting the sanitation process, you will need to thoroughly clean your branches with hot water. Do this outside if possible to prevent dirt and debris from going down your drain. Strip the leaves off and cut the branches to the desired size. Remove any unnecessary bark. Always double check that there are no sharp edges on the branches that could harm your reptile. 




Sanitizing Branches With Heat

There are two options you can choose from when disinfecting branches with heat: you can boil them, or you can bake them. Both are equally efficient at killing parasites.


Boiling Branches: Boiling is an effective way to kill bacteria and parasites, but it can be a long process. Keep in mind, you can only boil sticks that will fit in your pot, so this is not ideal for large branches. You will need to boil the sticks at 212°F for a minimum of 6 hours. Boiling them for any less than this will not ensure that the sticks are disinfected. Make sure to keep an eye on them so that they don’t boil over.

Baking Branches: You can easily bake small to medium sized branches in your oven. Set the oven to 250°F. Place the sticks on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 30 minutes. Never leave wood in the oven unattended, as it is a fire hazard. 


Chemically Sanitizing Branches

The easiest way to sanitize large branches is with a chemical like bleach. If the branch will fit in your bathtub, you should have no problem disinfecting it. This can be a lengthy process though, so make sure you won’t need to use your bathtub for at least 48 hours. Fill the bathtub with enough hot water to fully submerge the branches. Use half a cup of bleach for each gallon of water. After the branches are submerged with your bleach water solution, leave them to sit for 24 hours. Make sure to keep children and pets away from the bleach water. 

After 24 hours has passed, thoroughly rinse the branches. Fill your bathtub up with hot water again and submerge the branches. You are going to want to dump and refill the water about 3 times over the next 24 hours, to ensure that all of the bleach has been filtered out. After this, rinse the branches one more time and let them air dry. Once they are completely dry you can move them into your reptile’s enclosure.


wet sticks



Natural branches can be a wonderful addition to your reptile’s enclosure when the proper precautions have been taken to ensure your pet’s safety. Branches will improve the quality of your reptile’s life by providing them with new smells and textures. Sticks and branches are also beneficial because they encourage exercise, which will help to keep your reptile happy and healthy.