Maintaining your chinchilla's wire cage can be quite simple and rather effortless if it is routinely done, even those with wire flooring! Follow these instructions to extend the life of your chin's cage as well as making it a pleasant place for your chin to live and for you to be around.
Instructions for cleaning Martin's Highrise/Skyscraper cages with slide-out pans
The first step in cleaning, is to prepare the cage for that cleaning. Remove the chinchilla to a carrier or have someone watch the chin while it is out for a playtime. Vacuum off all the shelves and remove the food dish, water bottle, hay and all toys and loose items. Remove the litter tray and empty the litter from it.
Place an old bath towel folded lengthwise in quarters so it is several thicknesses, long and narrow. Lay the cage on its back (doors up). Position the folded towel under the bottom of the cage just beneath the flooring of the cage. This will catch the inevitable drips of vinegar and protect your floor. If you have a floor that will scratch, such as wood or vinyl, it would be a good idea to put something under the entire cage to protect the floor from scratches. Fill a container with a bit of straight regular household white or apple cider vinegar, preferably with 5% acidity (it will say on the bottle). Take an old washcloth or similar rag (do NOT use your good linens for this job!) and soak it in the vinegar and wring it out just slightly. You want a considerable amount of vinegar in the rag. Pull gently on the bottom of the cage so that it bows out a bit so you can get your arm in between the bottom and the underside of the flooring fairly easily and wipe the bottom of the flooring gently with the vinegar-soaked rag. Repeat dipping the rag into the container of vinegar frequently so you are getting plenty of vinegar on the wire. Do the same to the upper side of the flooring on the inside of the cage as well. This will require a little bit of contortion since the cage is on its back on the floor. Usually the underside of the wire is much worse than the top since that is where the drips of urine hang until they dry up. After your first application of vinegar, you can begin cleaning other parts of the cage in between dousing the flooring, but come back to swab the flooring inside and out every few minutes, not giving the vinegar enough time to dry out.
In between dousing the flooring with vinegar, do each of the following steps to make the process go faster:
1) Rinse out the litter tray and wipe away (do not scrape!) any stuck litter. Pour some vinegar onto the spots where there is crusted urine and allow to sit for a while. You will likely see this start to bubble up, that's the vinegar eating away at the crusted urine and this is a good thing! Come back to the litter tray periodically and use a scrub brush to remove loose debris from the crusted spots. Once you see the tray is clean, you can dump the vinegar (it can be used again if it's not too dirty. The reaction of the vinegar and urine tends to reduce the effectiveness of the vinegar). Rinse the tray and dry with a clean cloth. Refill with litter so it's ready to reinstall in the cage when it's clean. If you are using a "potty pan", use the same steps to clean it as the cage litter tray.
2) Fill a small bucket with a solution of 1 part bleach to 20 parts water. Get a second rag and use this to wash down the wooden shelving, top of the house, and anything that the chin could sit on. Wipe down, let it sit a minute or so, and then come back and scrub a bit to get any stubborn spots off. Dry with a clean dry rag. The bleach will oxidize into a gas. If you prefer, you may use straight water, or a mixture of vinegar and water. Do a couple shelves, then work on the wire flooring again until all the shelves are cleaned.
3) Empty the food dish and use the bleach solution to wash the dish. Rinse the dish with clean water and dry thoroughly. Let air dry for a few minutes before refilling to place back into the cage.
4) Clean the wheel
After you have doused the wire flooring several times, you will likely see that it looks a bit better. Now is the time to take your vinegar soaked rag and do a little rubbing on the wire. Use a good flashlight to inspect where the wire is still dirty. It will have a yellow look to it. If the wire looks dark gray or silver, it's clean. The dark gray is the wire after the galvanizing has been eaten off by the urine. Continue to work on spots that are still dirty, inside the cage and underneath.
Once the wire is clean to your satisfaction, take your bucket of bleach solution (or fresh water, do not use vinegar and water) and rinse the wire that has been in contact with the vinegar to neutralize it. Dry the wire with the drying rag. Set the cage back up on it's bottom and wipe down the outside of the cage in the area that was laying on the towel. Do not set the cage on that towel at this point, since it has a lot of vinegar in it.
Replace the litter tray, food dish, water bottle and all the chin's belongings and the chin can move back into a nice clean, sanitary home.
If you have an area on the outside of the cage that urine has run down or if the flooring wire is really badly soiled from lack of upkeep, this is an alternative method for cleaning:
place clean litter tray on floor under area that is soiled. Use turkey baster to slowly pour straight vinegar onto the area continuously. The vinegar will run down into the litter tray and can be used over and over by filling the baster from the litter tray. You may need to put something under the other edges of the cage so it's level and doesn't tip the litter tray.