Common Shed Issues – How to Safely Offer Your Gecko a Helping Hand

It may happen from time to time that your gecko’s shed will not be complete.  Don’t beat yourself up over it…it happens even to the best of us!  If your gecko has tiny bits of shed stuck to his toes, tail tip, or other parts of their body, they may need your help to remove it.  While not immediately life threatening, if these bits are left alone, they could lead to some nasty problems.  When your gecko has their next shed, chances are they’ll get some stuck again in the very same spot.  And then again with the next shed.  And again with the shed after that.  Eventually, the stuck shed will start to cut off circulation to your gecko’s toe or tail (or wherever it is stuck), much like a tourniquet.  The result can be a loss of toenail, toes, or portions of the tail.  Retained shed on the toe pads will make your gecko unable to stick to the surfaces in their tank.  In other words, leaving the stuck shed on your gecko is not a good idea.  So, if you see stuck shed you should just pluck it off…right?  Wrong!  Pulling dry shed off of your gecko could tear their delicate skin underneath.  You’ll need to soften it up first.  Luckily, with about 15 minutes & a few common household supplies, you can have your gecko looking like new again!

*This method will also work to remove any food stuck to your gecko’s skin.  Sometimes geckos walk through or splash in their gecko pudding…which may be fun in the moment, but once it dries it becomes rock hard!  Never pick dry bits of food off of your gecko.  You could tear the skin underneath.  Always soften the stuck food using the method outlined below & then wipe it off with a damp cotton swab.*


So the first thing you need to do is identify the stuck shed.  The most common areas are the toes & tail.  The stuck shed will appear white or grayish and usually will feel a bit crispy to the touch.  *If the retained shed is damp or goopy, this is an indicator that your gecko’s environment is too wet.  You likely will not need to go through the moistening step outlined below, but you do want to address the issue of wetness in your enclosure immediately, as its incredibly dangerous to keep your gecko too wet and you’ll want to correct it right away.  Please see our blog on Humidity vs Wetness for more info.*

Once you have confirmed that your gecko has stuck shed, you’ll need to gather a few items to help you remove it.  You’ll need:

1. A deli cup or tupperware container large enough for your gecko to comfortably fit inside of.  Be sure the container has a tight-fitting lid & poke a few small vent holes in the container so your gecko can breathe.

2. Clean paper towels

3. Warm water (not hot!)

4. Cotton swabs

5. Needle-point tweezers

Wet the paper towels with the warm water & place them inside of the deli cup

Place your gecko on top of the wet towels & close the lid of the deli cup firmly, being careful that his toes and/or tail do not get pinched.  Double check that your gecko has room to move comfortably around the container, but not so much room that he could avoid coming in contact with the moistened towels.  Now, I’ll be honest with you here…your gecko is not going to like this…not one bit!  He feels trapped and stressed and it is very important not to agitate him any further.  Place him in a quiet spot away from bright lights & loud noises & just let him soak in his little “gecko sauna” for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove your gecko from the deli cup & using a cotton swab, gently brush against the stuck shed.  The skin should have softened by now, and it should pull away fairly easily (If the skin still seems dry, place your gecko back into the deli cup & let him soak for another 10-15 minutes).  Continue gently brushing the stuck shed with your cotton swab until all bits are removed.  You can also dip the tip of your cotton swab in warm water which may provide a bit more control & will help keep the skin moist throughout the process.  For some of the tough areas (around the toenails for example) you can use needle-point tweezers to assist in shed removal.  Be careful not to poke your gecko with the sharp tip or to pinch his toenails or “fresh” skin between the prongs.  When using the tweezers, resist the urge to tug or pull at the stuck shed.  Instead, use the tweezers to grab ahold of the shed firmly but gently.  Allow your gecko to pull away from you.  As he does, he will pull himself free of his shed, leaving him with a fresh new feeling…and you with a tweezer-full of old dead skin!

For particularly stubborn shed or to remove several layers of stuck shed, you may need to repeat this process a few times.  Remember that this can be very stressful to your gecko, so monitor him closely, and if he shows signs of being overly stressed, just pack up for the day & try again tomorrow.


And there you have it!  Keeping your gecko free of stuck shed not only helps to keep him looking his best, but it also helps him to lead a long happy life.  Good Job!


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