Keeping Birds Healthy – What and how to clean!

It is truly rewarding to offer food and water to help our birds, but it is also important that feeders and birdbaths are kept clean to avoid causing them harm.

When selecting feeders and baths look for products made with easy-to-clean materials. Recycled plastic, acrylic, metal, glass, or glazed ceramic are good choices. Also look for easy-to-clean designs. Having the proper tools can also turn a difficult cleaning task into a much simpler one.

Here are guidelines and tips to help keep birds healthy.


Clean seed feeders about once every two weeks and more often during times of heavy use, during wet weather, or when you see a sick bird at the feeder.


Many feeders are designed to come apart for optimal cleaning. This includes hopper feeders, most tube feeders, and all squirrel-busters. If your feeders have visible moldy or clumped seed, be sure to remove that debris before washing them.


Dishwasher-safe feeders can be run through a hot setting cleaning cycle. To handwash use either, soap and boiling water or a dilute bleach solution (1-part bleach to 9-parts water).  Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before refilling.


Keeping the ground below your feeders clean is also important, which includes preventing build-up of hulls, uneaten seed, and other waste. Moldy or spoiled food is unhealthy both for birds and outside pets. Also, when food accumulates below, it can attract unwanted guests.


  • Freshen up the area under your feeders by raking away old seed and discarded hulls. This will prevent any buildup of spoiled food or droppings under your feeders.
  • Place a few patio pavers below the feeder to make regular sweeping a lot easier.
  • Consider moving or rotating your feeders once a month to a new location.  Allow each prior location to naturally decompose before it is used again.


  • Add a seed catch tray or seed hoop to capture falling seed and hulls. These make it easy to transport materials to your yard debris bin while also giving birds another place to feed.
  • Avoid offering an in-the-shell seed mix in a tube feeder or in a feeder having minimal space for selection. Birds push seeds over the edge as they sort through the mix for their favorite –leaving you a mess of seed below.
  • Want to minimize chores while enjoying your hobby? Switch to seeds without a shell! Our Pacific No-Waste blend and our Sunflower Chips are hull-free, making everything consumable and leaving no waste.


Clean suet feeders using boiling hot water and a degreasing dish soap to cut through the film and stickiness. Let feeders soak for at least 15 minutes—longer if really dirty. Use a scrub brush or non-scratching scouring pad to clean. Rinse well and allow to dry thoroughly before reloading and rehanging it.


Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every time they are refilled. In cool, mild weather, once to twice a week is usually enough. In hot weather, daily cleaning may be necessary. Solutions that are either cloudy, have black mold deposits, or a beery odor are all dangerous to hummingbirds and are signs that the feeder needs more frequent cleaning.

Hot tap water and a bottle brush or special feeder brush are usually all you need to clean feeders, but white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are safe and effective too. If your feeder has hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, avoid using soap or detergents as it can leave harmful residues. Saucer-style feeders do not have that issue and are often dishwasher safe.


Water in still birdbaths should be changed every three days and more often in warm weather. Regular refreshing helps keep algae from growing and, more importantly, it keeps mosquitoes (harmful to birds and humans) from breeding.

If you have algae in your cement birdbath, do a hot water scrub with a scouring brush to remove it.  Tepid water and a soft cloth or non-scratch cleaning pad is best for smooth surface materials such as glass, glazed ceramic or soft metals.

Moving water from a slow dripper adds fresh water regularly.  A dripper and an aerator will keep mosquitoes from breeding and will help attract more birds to your birdbath.



Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All about Birds

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Feeder Watch

Southeast Arizona Bird Observatory – Hummingbird FAQ