There are two ways to offer your gerbil a bath - sand baths, and water baths. Unlike humans, when it comes to gerbils water baths are really only to be used in emergencies, because water can strip a gerbil’s fur of important molecules and cause skin problems. Instead, sand can be offered to a gerbil, and it will use this material to clean itself.
If your gerbil is a bit dirty we recommend offering them a sand bath, but if there is a serious hygiene problem then a water bath may be required. Although it can be harmful, water should be used in some emergency situations, such as when the gerbil is in danger of suffering digestive problems if it attempts to clean its own fur, such as if your gerbil manages to get human food on them.
The best way for your pets to clean themselves is with a sand bath
The second method, one which gerbils are much better suited to, is the sand bath. Gerbils are a desert species, and so in the wild they would only very rarely come across bodies of water large enough to bathe themselves in. Instead, they have evolved the ability to clean themselves using one of the most abundant resources around them - sand. Gerbils can use sand to clean themselves of dirt. Although to us humans this might seem very uncomfortable and strange, it’s perfectly natural for these little animals, who roll around in the sand to clean themselves all the time. For instructions for giving gerbils sand baths, have a look in our How To Bathe Gerbils section.