How to Wash a Pet Garden Snail's Shell

Two Parts:Washing Your Snail’s ShellTaking Necessary Precautions with Your Snail

Garden snails make great pets because they are low maintenance, easy to care for, and inexpensive to maintain. You do need to change your snail’s food daily and clean their shell regularly to remove dirt and small pests. If you're caring for a garden snail, part of your cleaning routine will include making sure that your snail's shell is clean, undamaged, and that it stays in top shape.

Part 1
Washing Your Snail’s Shell

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    Choose whether you’ll use a soft cloth, a cotton swab, or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Each of these tools has their own merits, and which tool you choose depends on what kind of cleaning your snail’s shell needs. No matter what tool you use, make sure that it’s unused and free of any chemicals or detergents.[1]
    • If you need to do more specific, detailed work, the cotton swab is the best choice.
    • If you want need to do a more genera wipe-down of the snail’s entire shell, a soft cloth or thick tissue will be best.
    • If your snail’s shell has algae or other material that you need to scrub off, a soft-bristled toothbrush might be your best choice.
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    Hold your snail in the palm of your hand. You’ll hold your garden snail in the palm of your non-dominant, and then you’ll use your cloth, soft-bristled toothbrush, or cotton swab with your dominant hand. Make sure to hold your snail in the palm of your hand and in a good position so that no water gets inside the shell.[2]
    • You can entice your snail to walk on to your hand by putting your finger flat near its head or by placing a small bit of food in the palm of your hand.
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    Don’t apply too much pressure. A snail is a mollusk, which means that your garden snail is a delicate invertebrate that relies on its shell for protection. And while snail shells have firm outer layers, the inner layers have varying softness, porousness, and flexibility, and the shell is not one solid, thick, indestructible structure. Take care to handle your snail gently, never pressing down on their shell, because the shell can easily crack.[3]
    • It’s a good idea to never pick your snail up with your fingers, instead just let them walk on to your hand.
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    Wash your snail’s shell. Cleaning algae and other debris from your snail’s shell will likely improve its health and overall quality of life. Consider that snails like to eat decaying food, which is full of bacteria, which you’ll need to remove regularly. Use the cloth, tissue, cotton swab, or soft-bristled toothbrush to wipe the shell and remove dirt and droppings off of it.[4]
    • Don’t use soap or detergents.
    • Make sure you get everything off, including cleaning the underside of the shell.
    • Hold your snail in the palm of your hand non-dominant hand while cleaning with the dominant hand.[5]
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    Rinse your snail off. You need to rinse your snail off, possibly more than once, to make sure that the shell is clean and to remove any debris that you dislodged. Pour water on the shell while holding the snail over a bowl. Or, if you’re uncomfortable with pouring water over your snail’s shell, simply fill a new, clean spray bottle with purified water and spray the shell.[6]
    • Garden snails are land snails, meaning they aren’t able to breathe under water. Take care that you don’t pour water over your snail’s head. Remember, you’re only cleaning the shell.
    • Do not put water in the snail’s shell as your snail could drown.
    • Let the shell air dry.
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    Reward your snail with a snack. Garden snails love to eat plants, vegetables, fruits, and algae, and any of these make a great snack. Whichever snack you choose to reward your snail, keep the treat small so that you don’t overfeed your pet. Occasionally, garden snails even like a small drop of beer, and the yeast is good for them.[7]
    • Snails are naturally attracted to foods that are high in calcium, because they need the mineral to build their shells.
    • Collard greens, kale, spinach, leeks, butternut squash, broccoli, and artichokes are all great sources of calcium.[8]

Part 2
Taking Necessary Precautions with Your Snail

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    Give them a soft landing. You’ll clean your snail over a bowl so that you can catch the water that falls off of them, and, more importantly, so that they have a specific space in which to land should you accidentally drop the snail. Protect the snail’s fall by filling the bowl with dry substrate, the same that you use in their tank, which will give a soft landing if your snail should fall.[9]
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    Don’t drown your snail. You will need to rinse your snail with water several times in the cleaning process – twice at the minimum, but likely more. Land snails, such as garden snails, can drown fairly easily, and you cannot under any circumstances put them under water. A great way to avoid any risks of drowning is to use a spray bottle to apply water to your snail’s shell rather than pouring water over them.[10]
    • A spray bottle filled with warm, not hot, water will give you better precision when applying water to your snail’s shell.
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    Don’t pull on your snail. When you pick up your snail, use a spray bottle filled with warm water to gently mist the snail. Your goal isn’t to lubricate the snail, but simply to encourage it to move. More domesticated snails may not need this stimulation. Put your finger down in front of the snail’s path so that it climbs on to your finger or hand.[11]
    • Never pull a snail up by its shell. Snail’s create suction and you could seriously injure the animal by pulling on it.
    • You also want to avoid handling snails by their shells because you run the risk of applying too much pressure and cracking their protective shell.
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    Wash your hands or wear gloves. Any time you touch your snail, wash your hands afterward, and consider wearing gloves when you bathe your snail. Never let a child touch a snail unattended, either, as they may forget to wash their hands before touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth. Snails can pass along a host of potentially threatening issues, such as salmonella, parasites, like those that cause meningitis, and other bacteria.[12]
    • Snails make great pets, but you do need to take necessary sanitary precautions when handling your pet.
    • If you handle your snail without gloves, make sure that you don’t have lotion or perfume on your hands, which could be harmful to the animal.


  • Use purified water, which has been dechlorinated and is free from which any metallic elements.[13]
  • Don’t use bath tissue, because it will crumble when it gets wet.
  • Sometimes when snails crawl back in their shells, slime covers up entrance to their shells. Get rid of it with your finger carefully.
  • Make sure not to pour big loads of water. It may get all over the snail and make them crawl back into their shells.
  • Be very careful not to drown your snail.


  • Touching the snail anywhere except for its shell with the soft-bristled toothbrush may be harmful to it.
  • Do not use soap on the snail, because soap can kill the snail. In fact, soapy water is a way people get rid of garden snails munching on the lettuces.

Things You'll Need

  • A new soft-bristled toothbrush, a cotton swab, or a thick tissue or soft cloth
  • A sink or beaker/cup with water in it
  • A pet garden snail

Article Info

Categories: Snails and Slugs