Help-rat snake hurt from soapwater

I recently found a few snake mites on my juvenile
42gram rat snake. I watched this YouTube video on soaking ball pythons:

I followed this video exactly for my rat snake, adding dawn soap to water in a tub, had the thermostat set to 84deg with heat mat. Rat snake seemed ok the first day. On the second day the snake thrashed trying to escape when I checked on it and also musked me, both are uncharacteristic of this well mannered snake.
This morning is the third day of soaking my snake. I open the container and scales are floating in the water and my rat snake is musking, twitching its head very fast and eratically. part of the snake is limp like a pasta noodle, mouth open wide for long periods. I immediately removed the snake, washed it off with clean water to remove the soap, and put it in a small dry enclosure with paper towels. After 30minutes, the snake is still twitching and musking in its enclosure.
Any suggestions on why this procedure hurt the snake, and what I can do at this point?

How long did you soak it for?

Can you clarify a few things, did you leave it in there for 3 days straight or did you soak for three days in row, how much soap did you use and was it plain dawn dish soap or did have any scents or aloe?

I would never suggest anyone leave a snake soaking in a tub for days, you can cause upper respiratory and scale rot that way. You did the right thing by taking it out rinsing it off and putting in dry container. I would watch very closely for signs off upper respiratory.

Along with what @wreckroomsnakes has said and asked, I would like to add something. If you did soak for 3 days straight, then there could be a lot of problems that even I don’t know about and I would highly recommend a vet visit ASAP. Even if the dawn used was normal dawn soap, there is still a scent and I don’t know what longterm exposure would do. I am aware that longterm exposure to other scents and cleaners can lead to neurological issues, along with respiratory infections. On top of if the snake ingested some, which if it was in there for 3 days it likely did, I have no clue what kind of effect that could have on it, but it probably won’t be good especially if it isn’t plain dawn. What kind of twitching is it doing? Is it twitching and musking uncontrollably, or just in response to you bothering it?

I soaked my rat snake for about 2.3 days straight. I checked it every 4-8 hours, like the video recommended switching water over the whole snake each time.

I used dawn ultra platinum dish foam,I think that’s the original formula it says fresh rapids scent though. At first I felt I used to little, couldn’t see foaming, then after a day thought the water might be dirty from urates so changed the water and added more soap so the water felt soapier than the first time.

The guy in the video said the ball pythons could be soaked 7 days straight. Maybe this doesn’t apply to colubrids?

“Is it twitching and musking uncontrollably, or just in response to you bothering it?”
I do think the snake realizing I’m opening the container and handling it exacerbates the twitching, but even half an hour after I put it in its own dry enclosure its still twitching like it’s having a seizure though not as badly.

Now this is purely conjecture here but because the ultra platinum has 4x the detergent it may have been to harsh for him.
Ball pythons or boas are probably able to take longer periods of time soaking in a tub than a colubrid for sure, i still do not suggest it be over a period of longer than 45 min for any species of snake.

I would leave him alone in a dark room away from noise for a couple of hrs to minimize any added stress to see if that calms him down. If the twitching continues you may want to take to the vet for possible neurological issue although i am not sure the vet will be able to due anything for that.

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I would never suggest soaking a snake in water for more than an hour at a time unless it is a fully aquatic snake. Most rat snakes don’t need more than 50% humidity and don’t like water, so not only is it highly stressed but there could be some harm done by long exposure to the detergent. You said there were scales in the water right? That either means it shed because of stress and the strong detergent, or the scales fell off due to the detergent.

It sounds like a seizure, and due to the long exposure to detergent and whatever dawn has in it, it is possible. I don’t recommend ever doing this with any snake, and I don’t recommend you listen to the guy on the video for a boa or python. Even if it is a semiaquatic snake like an anaconda.

Thanks for for the comments everyone! They are helpful as I’m going through this and still unsure if my snake will survive or not.

The publisher of the video, NERD, is reputable and knowledgeable best I can tell, and I did try to follow the tips and be as careful as I could. However, I obviously messed up, there most clear mistake was to apply ball python care to my rat snake. Secondly, I believe I used too much soap, not at first, but the second time I changed the water. Perhaps the snake ingested soap water as well… The scales coming off in the water was like nothing I’ve ever seen. sheds come off as a complete (or partial) skin, but this was different-each piece in the water was a perfect individual scale, reminding me of leaves that fell from a tree.

My rat snake has been in a dark closet all day and I just took a peek and it appeared to have a seizure when it saw me, tail rattling, muscles convulsing. Makes me feel like I’m a terrible keeper, though in this case it wasn’t neglect, but an honest mistake.

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I still recommend a vet visit, because the vet may know more of what is going on than any of us. However, it may have been the fact that the dawn has a lot of detergent in it vs normal dawn. Your snake is also very small and that makes them sensitive even to something like detergent that a larger snake wouldn’t be bothered by. Here is a better way to treat mites by Snake Discovery without soaking a snake for days at a time, which I still don’t recommend.
I am sure there are other videos that show ways that again, won’t involve leaving a snake in water for way longer than needed. And if you do use the soaking method later, make sure you only give a bath for around 45 minutes and then put them in an enclosure like what this video describes. Also, what kind of rat snake do you have? Texas rat snake or something else?

Update: this morning my grey rat snake was coiled in it’s enclosure, resting. It noticed me and its head twitched appearing like it still had neurological issues. Scales were in the enclosure falling off like leaves from a tree, each scale was individual.
This afternoon the rat snake passed away. I’m upset as I cared a lot about my snake. I had researched every mite video I could find (including the snake discovery video from the above post). I have prevent a mite and Permectrin II, but I chose to use this soap water method thinking it would be the safest. I never would have thought soap and water could kill a snake.

Let this thread be a warning to others. Here’s a recap of things:

-42 gram rat snake, colubrid. I soaked it for 2.3 days straight in 83deg dawn dish soap solution. Despite checking the snake often I did not notice major problems beforehand. When snake showed signs of terrible neurological trauma and scales were found in the water I immediately removed the snake, washing off the snake and placing it in a dry enclosure. Roughly 24 hours later the snake passed away.

Lessons learned- small snakes like this are fragile and highly sensitive to long soaking and/or ultra platinum dish soap.


I am so very sorry for your loss. This is a very sad situation and very hard lesson for all and i hope this does not deter you from your love of reptiles.


This happened to me too I followed the NERD video instructions and 1 snake died 75% of the rest are lethargic with mouth open…DO NOT LEAVE SNAKES IN DETERGENT WATER