Red eared sliders, unlike dogs, don’t have as large a margin of error when it comes to cleaning. Most dog owners will tell you that they’ve used shampoo meant for people to clean their pet when they ran out of dog shampoo. Though this is definitely not good in the long run, it works once or twice in a pinch. Sliders, on the other hand, can get very ill if exposed to harsh detergents and soaps after just one exposure. In fact, you are better off just using a scrub brush, some warm water, and a little elbow grease than using soap or detergent to clean your slider’s tank.
One great product that you probably already have in your pantry that works wonders as a turtle tank cleaner is good old white vinegar. Vinegar is a naturally occurring acidic compound that helps break down any algae or other stuff that has built up on your tank, heater or filter. If you need any proof that it’s harmless, consider all the recipes it’s used in! Because vinegar is an acid, it’s best to apply it, let it sit and dissolve any build-up for a few minutes, then get to work with your scrub brush. You’ll still have to put some work into it, but not nearly as much if you hadn’t used the vinegar.
A couple of other great, but more obscure, products to have on hand for turtle red eared slider tank cleaning are betadine and methylene blue. Betadine is a brand of povidone-iodine that is usually recognized for its use in surgical procedures. It is a mild disinfectant that is great for getting rid of any unseen, microscopic bacteria that may be lingering in your tank’s crevices. Methylene blue, likewise, makes a great fungi killer. Both methylene blue and betadine stain skin and clothes very easily, so always make sure you wear gloves and maybe even an old shirt) when using them. Regardless, you should always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning your turtle tank due to a risk of salmonella exposure.
Always remove your red eared slider and drain his tank before cleaning it. Before you refill the tank and put your turtle back in, make sure you thoroughly rinse the tank to get rid of any lingering cleaning product or any gunk it may have dislodged. Use only the recommended products and/or warm water and a scrub brush when cleaning your turtle tank; one misstep could be disastrous.