9 Foolproof Fleece Wicking Tips (You Need This Now)

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Wicking fleece is a hot topic. There are many people who want to know what it means to wick fleece and how to do it, so that it works properly in their guinea pigs’ cages.

Here are 9 vital tips for wicking fleece:

  • Keep the process simple
  • Use the right detergents
  • Nix the dryer sheets
  • Pick the right fleece
  • Use correct temperatures
  • Test your fleece properly
  • Moderation is your friend
  • Load the washer properly
  • Have realistic expectations
how to wick fleece and fleece wicking tips

These tips are key to making the fleece wicking process as easy and stress-free as possible. Before we explore each one in detail, let’s explore what wicking fleece means and why it’s necessary to do it.

What Does It Mean To Wick Fleece?

Wicking is when liquid (guinea pig urine) goes through fleece fabrics to an absorbent layer underneath. This leaves the surface marginally damp and easy to air dry.

Brand new fleece isn’t naturally absorbent. It has a layer of water-repellent on it. This invisible layer keeps liquids from passing through the fabric. It’s designed to repel water (and other liquids).

What pet owners actually do is to break down the waterproof layers from the material. That way it’s able to properly wick.

Wicking Fleece: Why Is It Necessary?

Fleece is a popular material for making guinea pig cages because it’s soft and comfortable. It’s also affordable and easy to work with.

However, it’s important to wick fleece for two vital reasons:

Bacterial Infections: If the fabric doesn’t wick, then guinea pigs will stand (or lie) in pools of urine – which would be a disaster. Guinea pigs are susceptible to bacterial infections (like bumblefoot and urinary tract infections) when they get wet-especially their feet. So, it’s important to keep them dry at all times.

Avoid Stink: Puddles of urine will also cause the fleece (and your guinea pig’s room) to smell. The ammonia in urine is also bad for guinea pigs because it can cause respiratory problems. So, wicking the material will keep both the puddles of urine and ammonia at bay.

how to wick fleece

1. Keep the Process Simple

It’s a common misconception that wicking fleece is a complicated process. It’s not!

  1. Wash the fabric in warm or hot water.
  2. Dry it. Repeat the process 3-5 times to strip the water repellant layer.

Really that’s it. Some people use dish soap, vinegar, or other “secret sauce” items. But, it’s important to understand this those items are not essential.

All you really need is a few helpful tips (included in this article), hot water and the right type of detergent…

Which brings us to tip…

2. Use The Right Detergents

It’s important to choose the right detergent before your first wash

Picking a laundry detergent for your guinea pigs can be tough with so many options on the market. Whether it’s a liquid detergent or power, doesn’t really matter.

However, there are some things you should consider before buying one:

  • Avoid detergents with fabric softeners and conditioners. These make it more difficult for the fleece to wick. It adds (or strengthens) the waterproof layer in fleece.
  • Detergents with harsh chemicals are a no-go. These are horrible for guinea pigs because they have sensitive skin.
  • Use fragrance-free detergents. Strong smells can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.
  • Ideally, choose a detergent that you’ll use on both on your laundry AND on your guinea pig’s fleece – it’ll save some money because it’s doing double duty! 

Tide Free and Clear or Eco Egg are great options that’ll get the job done.

3. Nix The Dryer Sheets

When it’s time to dry your fabric, avoid the temptation to use dryer sheets. This will leave a layer of residue on fabric. Like the fabric softener in detergents, it will hinder the wicking process.

If wrinkles are a concern, try using all wool laundry balls. Wool laundry balls won’t block the wicking process of your fleece.

Plus, they’re eco friendly, affordable, and help fabrics dry faster – which means a smaller electricity bill. And can’t we all stand to save a little money?

4. Pick The Right Fleece

Buying fleece blankets is an important thing to do, and you need to make sure you get the right type.

So, what kind do you need to buy for your guinea pigs’ bedding?

There are two main types of fabrics that are suitable for guinea pigs:

  • anti-pill( use a type made of polyester)
  • blizzard (or polar)

However, I recommend you use the anti-pill fabric. Hay and fur clean easier out of it than the blizzard.

Anti pill costs a bit more than blizzard. Even so, it’s worth the investment.

Pilling is when threads come up and make little balls (or pills) on the fleece. This happens when you wash it or rub it too much.

To stop this, manufacturers make fleece that does not pill (or anti pill). They pack the fiber together tightly. That way there’ll be shorter fibers instead of longer ones that are more likely to pill after washing or rubbing.

There are a few reasons why you should never use fleece that regularly produces pills or balls in your guinea pig’s cage:

  1. Your little friends could try and eat the pill-covered cloth, which could be dangerous to their digestive system.
  2. If your piggies start chewing on the pills, their teeth can puncture holes in the fabric – ruining it
  3. Your guinea pig’s nails to get caught in the fabric balls. That’s an injury waiting to happen.

5. Use The Correct Temperatures

To ensure that your fabric has the right wicking capabilities, be sure to use at least hot water for the first wash.

I surveyed several guinea pig owners across many forums and all of them used hot (or warm) water for their first washing session. A few used cold water at some part of the wicking process, but everyone used hot water.

6. Test Your Fleece Properly

If you’re a new fleece user, your expectation about what wicked fabric can do and how it should to work tend to be skewed.

That’s just because you don’t understand what to do and what to look for. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure that your fabrics are completely dry before you test. It seems obvious, but can sometimes be overlooked.
  • Put the fleece on top of an absorbent layer. You can use a towel, washable puppy pad, uhaul moving pad, etc.
  • Pour a tablespoon (or two) of water on the fabric. You want the amount to parallel what a guinea pig would produce when urinating. Do not saturate the fabric with water.
  • You’ll know you’re doing something right when the water passes through the fleece and the absorbent layer is wet underneath.

I’ve included a video below that shows you what to look for:

7. Moderation Is Your Friend

Some pet parents dump extra detergent in the wash to attempt to get the fleece extra clean and to eliminate any stinky smells.

That might get rid of the smell, but it can have a negative effect.

When you use too much of a detergent, it may not rinse off during the washing cycle. This can leave residue on the material. This can impact it’s ability to let water pass through it, thereby preventing proper wicking.

Truth be told:

You typically need less detergent than the manufacturer’s recommendation.

If smell and cleanliness are a concern…

Distilled white vinegar does an excellent job of neutralizing smells. Plus it has reliable disinfectant properties. Just pour half a cup into the fabric softener compartment of your washer and run a full cycle.

8. Load The Washer Properly

Loading the washer correctly will save you a few headaches.

  • Don’t overload the washing machine. Oversized loads make it more difficult for the agitator to move and may prevent the rinse cycle from completing properly. The result? Wet, stinky fabric. Not only that, the residue left can block wicking.
  • Load the washing machine evenly. Make sure that the washing machine is properly balanced. Otherwise, when the machine spins, it’ll start to violently shake which is extra wear and tear on the appliance. This is even more important when you have fleece liners – because they get so heavy.

The time you save in cramming every last piece of fabric n your washing machine will not make up for the time you waste in repairing or replacing the machine. Or the time you waste having to rewick everything.

9. Have Realistic Expectations

If you see a Youtube video of someone claiming to wick fleece after one wash, please note that those results are not common.

On average, it takes 3 to 5 washes for fleece to achieve wicking abilities – and that’s if the pet owner is doing everything right.

If you use the wrong type of fleece, use a detergent with a fabric, or overload the machine with too many blankets, then it might take more washes than that

Because you’ll have to undue the damage from making mistakes with the process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wicking Fleece

Why Isn’t My Fleece Wicking?

As a general rule, fleece won’t wick because the wrong detergent was used or the fleece hasn’t been washed enough times in hot water. Most new fleece has a waterproof layer on it that prevents wicking – the detergent and washing is what strips it from the fleece, so that it can wick.

How Do You Get Hay Out of Fleece?

On the whole, there are four common ways to get hay out of fleece.

  • Take it outside and shake all the hay off.
  • Pick it up the hay with your hands
  • Use a shop vacuum or hand held vacuum.
  • Use a small broom and dustpan

If there is an excessive amount or you don’t (or can’t) spend a lot of time cleaning a guinea pig cage, use a shop vac to remove the hay from all of the fleece at once.

Just make sure that the shop vac has at least a 2 or 3 inch diameter. Shop vacs that have hoses that big will be powerful and wide enough to suck up all the hay.

Final Thoughts On Wicking Fleece

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when wicking fleece, but that doesn’t mean it’s too difficult to achieve.

The best way to ensure success is by approaching the process with perseverance, patience, and care.

Gather all necessary materials like the correct detergent. Consistently use washing methods that won’t hinder the wicking process in these fleece. And keep your expectations realistic.

Whatever you do, avoid putting unwicked fabric in a guinea pig cage. That would be a distaster.

Instead, use the tips and techniques to help you jumpstart your fleece wicking process.

And soon you’ll find yourself (and your piggies) with a lovely, colorful assortment of fleece with amazing wicking capabilities.

Good luck!

The 8 best eco-friendly laundry detergents of 2021. (n.d.). Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/best-eco-friendly-laundry-detergents-5115628

Everyday tips : Use white vinegar as a fabric softener. (2020, February 8). Clean Mama. https://cleanmama.com/everyday-tips-use-white-vinegar-fabric-softener/

Ferguson, S. (n.d.). Vinegar in laundry: 8 earth-friendly uses and benefits. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/vinegar-in-laundry

Guinea pig market. (n.d.). Guinea Pig Market: Fleece Bedding, Liners, Cage Accessories, Cozies, Toys, Supplies. https://www.guineapigmarket.com/washing-fleece

How do I keep towels soft? (2019, May 3). The Turkish Towel Company. https://turkishtowelcompany.com/how-do-i-keep-towels-soft/?sscid=41k5_pix3h

How to get soft, fluffy towels without fabric softener. (n.d.). Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/how-get-soft-fluffy-towels-without-fabric-softener-4858553

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