You may have heard that fleece needs to be “wicked” before being used in your guinea pig’s cage. Now you might be wondering, what is “wicking” exactly, and how do you do it? Wicking fleece sounds like a complicated process, but it is actually quite simple. I’ll walk you through it in a few easy steps below.
What Does it Mean to Wick Fleece?
New fleece naturally has an invisible water-repellent layer. This causes water or other liquids to pool on top of the fleece rather than soak through.
Wicking fleece is the process of stripping this protective outer later off the fleece so that liquids will wick through to an absorbent layer underneath.
This is essential if you want to use fleece in your guinea pig’s cage. Otherwise, guinea pigs will end up standing and laying in puddles of pee all over the cage.
This can cause health conditions like UTIs and bumblefoot. In addition, it makes the cage smell really bad, really fast.
9 Easy Tips to Wick Fleece
Wicking fleece is a repetitive process, but it is very simple! All you need to do is wash, rinse, and repeat! I’ve included a few easy tips in the steps below to make your fleece wicking a breeze.
1. Choose an Appropriate Detergent
Laundry detergent is essential for wicking fleece. It helps break down the waterproof barriers quicker and more efficiently than water alone. However, it’s important to choose the right detergent.
Choose something fragrance-free, as strong smells can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs. Tide Free and Gentle, Arm and Hammer Free and Clear, and similar types of detergents do the trick. Eco Eggs are another safe and environmentally friendly option. You can use either liquid or powdered detergent. Avoid using dish soap.
The most important factor is to choose a detergent that does not include fabric softener. Avoid any kind of fabric softener when washing your guinea pig’s fleece. Fabric softener actually strengthens the waterproof barrier on the fleece, completely offsetting the wicking process.
2. Soak Your Fleece in Hot Water
This step is optional, but it can help the wicking process go faster. Simply soak your new fleece in very hot water for an hour or so before putting it in the washer.
You can add a bit of vinegar in if you want. Vinegar’s biggest asset is its ability to remove smells, but some people claim that vinegar speeds up the wicking process.
3. Load the Washer Properly
When it comes time to put your fleece in the washer, be sure to balance it evenly and avoid overloading it. This is even more important if you’re washing all-in-one fleece liners that are sewn together as opposed to just blankets. Fleece liners get very heavy when wet, and they can easily throw a washer off balance.
It’s important not to overload the washer because rinsing is important for the wicking process. Detergent can leave a fine residue that impedes the wicking process if it’s not rinsed off properly.
4. Add Vinegar
This is another optional step. Some people add vinegar to the wash to help with the wicking process. Vinegar has a bit of acidity that may help break down the protective barriers in the fleece.
About half a cup of vinegar is a good amount to use; however more or less won’t hurt. You can put the vinegar into the fabric softener slot in your washer or simply pour it over the fleece before starting the wash cycle.
You may be concerned about the vinegar leaving a funny smell on the fleece or the washer afterward. However, there is nothing to worry about here. Vinegar rinses out well and doesn’t leave any smell behind. In fact, it’s very good at removing odors from used fleece bedding.
5. Wash Your Fleece in Hot Water
Wash your fleece on a high spin cycle on the hottest water setting your washer has. The heat helps immensely with wicking, so it’s best to wash in hot water if possible. Washing on warm or cool can still be effective at wicking, but it will likely take more washes to work.
6. Rinse Thoroughly
Check your load when it’s rinsing and make sure there are no suds left in the water. Any residue from the detergent can prevent the fleece from wicking. I often like to put fleece on an extra rinse cycle to be sure that everything has been thoroughly rinsed of soap.
7. Dry on High Heat
As I mentioned above, heat is essential for fast wicking. Drying on high heat can also help break down the waterproof barriers on the fleece faster.
Keep in mind that your fleece will shrink the first time you dry it on high heat. This is good if you haven’t yet made liners because you’ll know exactly what size to make your liners. However, if you have fleece liners that already fit perfectly in your cage, you may want to be more cautious. Drying on high heat will likely shrink the fleece up to a couple of inches.
When drying, it is important not to use dryer sheets. Just like the fabric softener, dryer sheets help reinforce the waterproof barriers on your fleece, effectively nixing your wicking efforts. To prevent static, you can use wool dryer balls. These are an effective and eco-friendly alternative to sheets.
8. Test Your Fleece to See if it Wicks
After your fleece is completely washed and dried, it’s time for the moment of truth! The wicking test. To conduct this test, you’ll need your fleece, a towel, and a small amount of water. Place your towel down first, then smooth out the fleece on top. Pour a little puddle of water on the fleece and observe.
If your fleece is wicked, the water should soak through the fleece within a few seconds. The fleece will be a little damp for a few minutes, but it should dry completely after that. If water sits on top or takes a long time to soak through, you’ll need to repeat the wicking process again. Don’t be discouraged by this though. Fleece often takes several times to wash and dry before it will properly wick.
This video below shows what fleece should look like before and after it has been wicked. You can see a perfect example of wicked and unwicked fleece at the 0:48 mark in the video.
9. Repeat as Necessary
Wicking usually takes an average of 3-5 wash and dry cycles. However, depending on the material and how new the fleece is, wicking can take even longer. If you’re only wicking 1 or 2 blankets, you may want to combine them with some dirty laundry to save on water and detergent. This won’t impede the wicking process, as long as the washer isn’t stuffed too full.
If your fleece still isn’t wicking after 7 or 8 washes, try reading through the troubleshooting section near the bottom of this page.
How Long Does it Take for Fleece to Wick?
Brand new fleece blankets or fleece fabric by the yard usually takes the longest to wick. If you are purchasing used blankets or using some old fleece blankets from your closet, this may speed up or even eliminate the wicking process.
This is because they have already been washed at least a few times in the past. The protective barrier on the outside of the fleece may have already been broken down or weakened.
Handmade fleece liners from Etsy typically take about the same amount of time to wick as regular fleece fabric.
However, sellers usually wash fleece before sewing liners together, so they may wick a little faster than straight fleece fabric.
Some commercially made fleece liners such as GuineaDad, even wick straight away or after just 1 wash.
What is the Fastest Way to Wick Fleece?
The fastest way to wick fleece is with heat exposure. Soak the fleece in hot water, wash in hot water, and dry on high heat to maximize heat usage. Fleece will also wick faster with stronger detergents and bleach. I don’t personally do this, as I’m concerned about smells around my guinea pigs.
However, some people endorse this method and find it very effective for wicking. If you decide to use bleach, make sure your fleece is thoroughly rinsed out afterward. You may also want to wash the fleece again without bleach before using it with your piggies.
In addition, be sure to never use vinegar and bleach together. The two create toxic fumes when combined. Detergent can safely be combined with either bleach or vinegar. Just make sure the bleach and vinegar don’t cross paths.
How to Wick Fleece by Hand Without a Washing Machine
A washing machine is highly recommended for wicking because of the repetitive wash and dry cycles it requires. If possible, it’s best to use a laundromat or borrow a friend’s or family member’s washer. However, in theory, you should be able to wick fleece by hand if you’re willing to put in the extra effort.
First, you’ll want to soak the fleece in very hot water. Adding some vinegar to the mix may help a little as well. Wash it thoroughly with hot water and fragrance-free detergent. Try to hang the fleece somewhere warm to dry, such as out in the sun outside. Heat is important for the wicking process, so it’s important to expose it to as much heat as possible.
Can You Wick Fleece Without Detergent?
Perhaps you don’t have detergent on hand, or you may be concerned about the smell or chemicals of detergent around your guinea pigs. Is it possible to wick your fleece without using any detergent at all? The answer is maybe, but it will take many more washes. Use hot water and vinegar to wash your fleece, and then dry it on high heat. Repeat until it wicks.
If you’re concerned about chemicals or scents, it may be best to use a fragrance-free detergent and put the fleece on an extra rinse cycle to thoroughly remove any chemical residue. You can also wash it with detergent until it wicks, then wash it one final time with plain vinegar and water before using it with your guinea pigs.
Detergent helps break down the protective barriers in the fleece much more quickly, so you will likely have a hard time getting your fleece to wick without using it at all. Eco eggs are also another environmentally friendly option without fragrances and chemicals. This can be a less abrasive alternative to using regular detergents to wash fleece.
What Fleece is Best for a Guinea Pig Cage?
Anti-pill and blizzard fleece are 2 of the best types of fleece to use in your guinea pig’s cage. These fleeces are soft, durable, and made of 100% polyester.
In addition, they are fast drying and can withstand many wash and dry cycles while still looking vibrant and strong. These types of fleece usually wick well after a few washes, but they can take longer in some cases.
Maintaining Your Fleece Bedding
Once your fleece is wicked, maintaining it is easy. Once it has wicked, you only need to wash it once whenever it gets dirty. Repeated washings are only necessary for brand new fleece.
Simply wash your fleece with unscented detergent as needed. You can also add half a cup of vinegar to remove odors if you want. However, it’s best to continue to avoid using fabric softener or dryer sheets. These add unnecessary chemicals and they can make the fleece less absorbent.
What to Do If Your Fleece Isn’t Wicking
If you’ve washed and dried your fleece repetitively 7 or 8 times and you’re still struggling to get your fleece to wick, there may be something wrong. I’ll give you a few possible reasons and solutions below.
Make Sure You’re Testing the Fleece Properly
First of all, it is essential that you have something absorbent, like a towel, underneath your fleece when you test its wicking ability. Without something absorbent under the fleece to draw the liquid through, water may pool on top of the wicked fleece and lead you to believe it’s not wicked yet.
If you do have something underneath, double-check that the fleece is lying flat against the towel with no space in between the 2 layers.
Check or Change Your Detergent
Another thing you can do is try another type of detergent. If you were using liquid detergent, try switching to powder, or vice versa. Perhaps the fabric you have will work better with a different type of detergent.
Also, double-check that your detergent doesn’t have fabric softener built in, as this can constantly reset the wicking process.
Check Your Washer and Dryer Settings
Make sure your washer and dryer are set on high heat. Washing in cold water can increase the time it takes for your fleece to wick. In addition, make sure you are not using any dryer sheets as these also prevent your fleece from wicking.
Use Less Detergent
Contrary to what you may think, less detergent can actually be more effective than using more. This is because extra residue can stick to the material, impeding its wicking ability. Often the manufacturer’s directions for detergents are too much. Try using a smaller amount of detergent for a while and see if it makes a difference.
Another thing you can do is put your wash on an extra rinse cycle when you do the fleece. This helps to ensure all detergent residue is completely removed and not going to impact the fleece from wicking.
Avoid Overfilling Your Washer
Filling your washer up too much can also coat the fleece with extra soap residue. The washer can get out of balance and be unable to swish things around properly, causing the fleece to not be washed or rinsed thoroughly enough. This can easily happen with big fleece liners in particular, as they can get very heavy when wet.
Soak Overnight in Vinegar and Water
Soaking your fleece overnight in vinegar and water before washing may also help your fleece wick. Vinegar is a bit acidic, which can help break down waterproof layers in the fleece, especially when left to soak for an extended time.
Hard Water Can Affect Wicking
If you have pretty hard water, this can also be causing your fleece not to wick. If this is the case, you may need to do extra washes, possibly with stronger detergents.
You can also possibly make an arrangement with a friend or family member with a water softener to use their washing machine in order to get your fleece wicked.
As frustrating as it can be, sometimes you just need to keep washing and drying over and over again. If you don’t want to dedicate any more washes to the fleece exclusively, try adding the fleece blanket every time you do a regular load of laundry. Over time, it should start wicking due to the repeated exposure and wash cycles.
Wicking fleece is a simple process, but it can sometimes take time and repeated washings to get the fleece to wick as it should. However, once you’ve got your fleece wicking properly, maintaining your fleece bedding is quick and inexpensive. Your guinea pigs will surely thank you with lots of happy popcorning as they run around on their comfy new flooring!
I hope you found this article helpful. For tips on how to save money with guinea pigs, be sure to also check out this page on 8 ways you can save money as a guinea pig owner.