Healthy, Shiny Shells!

cleaning turtle shell belly with toothbrush

This image has been making its way around the internet this week, so I thought I would take a minute to clarify what you are seeing.

Many turtle and tortoise guardians think that because turtles are “wild” animals, they don’t need to be cleaned, but they sometimes do! Crusted mud, dirt, algae, or other debris on the plastron and carapace (the bottom and top shell) can hide a lot of shell health problems.

Using a washcloth with warm water can clear away a lot of mud, debris, or algae so you can clearly see their shell to make sure it’s healthy. A soft toothbrush can work for the areas that don’t get clean with a washcloth.


  • Never put anything on a turtle or tortoise shell except water (unless it has been prescribed by an experienced reptile veterinarian).
  • Only use tepid water; hot water (and even water that is too warm) can harm reptiles!
  • Remember to be gentle and make sure they are not stressed! 
“Little David” The Red-eared slider drying off in the sun in the habitat I designed for him in our backyard. David loved having his shell and skin cleaned with a soft toothbrush. D

Another misconception is that turtles and tortoises need commercial products to make their shell shiny. However, most of these products are potentially harmful to them. Water is the best way to clean their shell!  Learn how to keep their shells naturally healthy and shiny here.

Do you have turtles at home? How do you keep their shells shiny and clean?

One thought on “Healthy, Shiny Shells!

  1. Pingback: Why Is My Turtle's Shell Shiny?

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