In this post I will tell you how you can thoroughly clean your ScoopFree Litterbox. Results may vary, follow my steps at your own risk. This worked for me, if you somehow short out your box I can’t help you. Skip ahead to the steps at the end of this post if you don’t want to read the prelude explaining how I developed my process for this.
Last summer we decided to adopt a kitten we had been fostering, Callie. She seemed lonely so we fostered more kittens and then adopted another, Ida. Then there was a Labor Day sale on the ScoopFree Automatic Litter Box and everyone had told me it was super fantastic so I grabbed one.
I am not as enthusiastic a fan of the product as I would have liked to be, but it does help somewhat with the downsides of an indoor litter box. This post is about how to clean the unit. “ScoopFree” is… an aspirational moniker, in my personal experience. If I did not remove waste daily it would be rank in about 3 days. The waste area would be more than full of chunks, and the remaining crystals would be saturated in the spots where the cats favor peeing. I consulted the internet so I could try to figure out what I might be doing wrong. I found blog posts that emphasized that regardless of the product name, you still need to scoop it daily and rake the crystals around manually so that moisture absorbed into the crystals can get a chance to evaporate. That all made sense to me, so I carried on with it.
Then it came time to discard a tray of crystals and switch to a fresh tray of brand new crystals. I looked at re-usable trays and mathed out expense of litter + tray versus disposable pre-filled trays. You break even after about 6 changes (from what I recall) which was good enough for me. So I got started with chucking out the old crystals and putting in the new Forever Tray. According to all the instructions for the box and for the tray that I have read everywhere, this is all you have to do — discard the old crystals, maybe wipe out the tray, pour in fresh. Maybe I have unusual cats or an unusual situation, but I did not find this to be adequately hygienic. The top part of the unit, with the side rails and the rake, was not clean. There were visible deposits of waste stuck to the rake, smeared onto the plastic behind the rake, etc. I tried to carefully use a small scrub brush on the rake to get it clean, but this is not an easy task. It also was not very easy to get into the side rails or behind where the rake sits near the top of the unit.
In desperation, I completely disassembled the top cover of the unit from the side rails piece. I took a lot of pictures along the way to make sure I would be able to re-assemble it afterwards. I found that the top piece that “sits” on the crystal tray is two separate pieces. The bottom piece is completely free of any electronics and you can clean it as aggressively as you might like to.
Next I carefully unscrewed the two screws fastening the metal rake to the gear area at the top end of the unit. I took the rake off and soaked it in a bucket of water and cleaning solution (Simple Green for lyfe y’all, get it by the gallon at an auto parts store or a big box home improvement store).
I sprayed and wiped everything down being very careful not to get any moisture near the electronics and wiring. I put everything back together and held my breath and plugged the unit back in. And it worked!
Now obviously going through disassembly and re-assembly every few weeks is a total pain and fairly time–consuming — there are a lot of screws, and with them all going into plastic there’s a risk of wearing down the plastic over time. There had to be a better way. I had a lightbulb moment in noticing that all of the electronics and wiring are at the “head” end of the unit, whereas the “foot” end of the unit has only plastic parts (gears and a cable for moving the rake).
Cleaning the Rake Unit
This is the part of the post that is hopefully useful. You can get nearly all of the benefits of disassembly and soaking in cleaning solution by following these steps:
Steps in Pictures
Click through this gallery to see pictures of the entire process:
- Press the button at the top right of the unit (the “head”) to manually start the rake cycle.
- When the rake reaches the opposite end (at the “foot” of the unit) press the rake button again to manually stop it.
- Unplug the unit.
- Lift the unit off the crystal tray.
- Prepare water and cleaning solution about 2/3 high in an 18-gallon plastic tote (or 16-liter tote if that’s what you’re into). I do this outside on my patio in warm weather, or in a bathtub inside when it’s cold (but still use the tote even if you’re doing this in a bathtub!)
- Place the unit into the soapy water with the “foot” end down — the metal rake should be completely submerged. The tote is just the right size to keep the unit upright and keep the head end with the electronics well away from the water.
- Leave all that for a while and dump out the old litter into a trash bag, do any other cleaning tasks in the area where the box sits.
- Going back to the tote full of soapy water now, use a rag or scrub brush or whatever suits you to scrub the rake.
- Use spray cleaner and a rag to carefully wipe down the sides and head of the unit.
- Take the unit out of the cleaning solution. Water (and yuck) will have pooled in the little wells at the foot of the unit. I use my hose sprayer or the tub faucet to carefully clean these out.
- Put the unit out to dry in sunlight when possible for a bit of UV disinfection, or set aside inside to dry.
- Put the Forever tray, litter scooper, waste cover and anything else into the cleaning solution and let that soak for a bit.
- Wipe down whatever you need to with cleaning solution and allow it all to air dry in the sun if possible.
- When everything is dry, refill the Forever tray with fresh litter. Put the ScoopFree unit on top and plug it in!
I have two cats so I change the litter about every 10-14 days; I go through this full sanitizing process about every other change, or roughly once a month.
Oh I almost forgot! Here are the cats, Ida and Callie: