How to Sterilize Wood for Your Reptiles

Branches play an important part in your reptiles life. Snakes use them, for climbing, iguanas like to lay on them. Even bearded dragons use them to wear down their femoral pores.

While there is plenty of store-bought sticks to choose from. Most of them look like grandmas fake plant, next to her Christmas candy dish in July. Luckily Sterilizing wood is a relatively easy process, So no more overpriced fake sticks.

Wood That’s Toxic for Reptiles

Before you prepare the branch for your snake or the log for your iguana, not all wood created is equal. Unfortunately, some types of wood are harmful to reptiles. And it’s best to avoid exposing your reptile to certain types.


Cedar is extremely toxic and contains a number of aromatic compounds including hydrocarbons, cedrene, and cadrol. It can cause liver disease/failure as well as respiratory distress in reptiles, and is oftentimes fatal.

You also want to avoid buying prey that has been raised or housed on cedar or pine.


Pine is similar to cedar and produces aromatic phenols. While there are no studies linking pine to health problems. The chemicals that pine releases are irritants for snakes. Also, they kill the cells in the respiratory tract. Often times Increasing the chances of catching diseases or viruses, that can result in death. While It’s mostly chipped or shaved form of pine that is harmful to reptiles. you’ll want to avoid pine altogether.


Eucalyptus Is similar to pine. Also the same problem. It releases aromatic chemicals. Therefore I would advise avoiding Eucalyptus branches.

Safe Wood for Reptiles

There are plenty of choices. I personally like to use fruit tree branches. During pruning, it gives me a chance to put my apple tree branches to use. Also, any hardwood will work, maple, mahogany, oak are just a few of the choices.

If you are unable to identify the wood, do not use it. Even dead wood can harbor toxins.

Sterilizing Wood

It’s absolutely necessary for all wood you’ll collect outside to be sterilized before use in your reptiles enclosure. Sterilizing will kill any bacteria and parasites that it might harbor.

First, start by removing any leaves from the branch. Followed by giving it a good scrub. This will remove any loose debris and bark. Now you’re ready for the sterilizing process.

Sterilizing Wood Using an Oven

Smaller branches and pieces of wood can be baked at 250° for 2 hours, this will kill any bacteria. Also, increasing the temperature does not speed up the process. But it will increase the chances of the wood catching on fire.

While your branch is baking, do not leave it unattended. The ignition point of wood is around 500°, hot spots can occur causing combustion. While it’s highly unlikely to catch fire. This is one of them cases better safe than sorry.

Sterilizing Wood Using Water and Bleach

Sometimes larger pieces of wood will not fit in the oven, so you will need to use bleach and water for sterilizing.

You’ll need a few supplies to get started:

List of Ingredients

  • Tote
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves
  • A measuring cup
  • Household bleach (found at any supermarket)

After you gathered the supplies, fill the tote with a mixture of 1/2 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Place the wood in the tote and let it soak for 24 hours. The bleach will seep into the wood killing any parasites.

After 24 hours have passed, remove the wood and rinse it thoroughly.

Next, fill the tote with fresh water. Over the course of the day dump the water out every 2 hours replacing with fresh water. Doing so will remove any bleach that leached inside the wood.

The last step is to let it dry before adding to your reptiles enclosure. Leaving under the sun to dry out works best.


Using wood from outdoors is a great way to save money. However, never use wood from outdoors without sterilizing first. The money you saved could be paying a vet bill. Keep your reptiles safe and don’t introduce outside bacteria to there enclosure.

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions in the comments below.

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