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Bird feeders are there for a reason – to keep our feathered friends well-fed and entertained.

However, if you neglect to clean your bird feeder properly or for a long period of time, you will garner unwanted attention. If you don’t keep up with the cleaning and maintenance of your bird feeder, it can attract pests like fruit flies, ants, and even rats.

We all love our garden birds, but when the time comes to clean up their messes, it can be a daunting task. However, cleaning bird feeders (and bird baths) doesn’t have to be a chore and is much easier than you may think.

Top 5 Easy Methods Of Cleaning a Bird Feeder

There are a few different ways to do this, so we’ve listed some of the easiest and most effective methods of how to clean a bird feeder below:

Soap, Bucket and Water

The first way is just good ol’ fashion scrubbing — use a bucket and some soap and scrub away at your feeder until it shines (and if you have children with you, let them help!). The downside of this method is that your hands get really dirty and wet, so be sure to wear rubber gloves.

Bird Feeder Solution

Some feeding stations are sold with a cleaning solution already with it, and if not, you can buy them from your pet store or online. They are safe and effective cleaners that work to remove dirt, grime, and weather stains without any harm to the bird.

Spray it on the bird feeder, leave for a short period as instructed (usually two minutes or so), then wipe off and rinse thoroughly.

Use The Dishwasher

If you have a bird feeder that’s made of metal, you can stick it in the dishwasher, just like your regular dishes. Take the feeders apart and wash everything else separately so that all of your other dishes aren’t washed with bird gunk at the same time. Just make sure that the pieces are thoroughly rinsed before putting them back together, or you may end up with a water-logged mess.

Soak With Boiling Water

Now, if your feeder isn’t dishwasher safe, here’s an idea: Pour boiling hot water directly onto the grime in your feeder. This is an excellent way of cleaning and disinfecting bird feeders — just be careful not to burn yourself. Let it sit for about five minutes, and then scrub with a brush. If the feeder is very dirty, you may need to repeat this solution a few times.

Use a Steam Cleaner

You can also use steam as a cleaner on metal bird feeders. All you have to do is blast the feeder with some steam and then rinse under some warm water. Once the dirt is loose, use a damp cloth to wipe the grime away.

House Finch balancing on a hanging bird feeder

Cleaning Different Types Of Bird Feeder

Plastic Feeders

You can take your plastic feeder apart by loosening the screws or fixings as per your feeder’s instructions. Once you have it apart, use a sharp object to scrape off any leftover food and grease from all of the pieces.

Then put them in the dishwasher on an empty cycle (no soap) or pour hot water (not boiling) over them and let it sit for about 5–10 minutes before scrubbing off any gunk that hasn’t already come loose. You can also use a spray bottle of vinegar and water or a cleaning solution made for plastic. Either one should help take off any stains you have on your feeder. When you’re done, put the pieces back together and hang it back up in your yard.

Wooden Feeders

To clean a natural wood bird feeder, you’ll want to disassemble it. Once the pieces are taken out of the feeder, scrub everything down with a good-quality detergent and warm water. Inspect for any splinters or rough spots (they’re usually on the inside). Then, give all of the pieces a good rinse or two and use a towel to wipe off any excess soapy water.

Allow the parts to air dry completely before reassembling them. Also, be sure not to put these bird feeders in the dishwasher (or anywhere else that they’ll get blasted with very hot water) because they’re made of natural materials and will warp if you expose them to high temperatures or moisture.

Metal Feeders

Cleaning metal feeders may seem like it would be the hardest part about keeping a bird feeder, but it’s actually very simple.

First, disassemble your metal bird feeder by loosening the fixings as described in the user manual. Next, use a non-bleach based household cleaner like liquid and a stiff brush (like a bottle brush) or scrubber to remove any leftover food particles from all of the pieces. Then, rinse the lather with warm water until all of the gunk is washed off. Let your metal feeder dry, and then put it back together. Copper feeders are standard and can be cleaned in the same way.

Glass Feeders

A vinegar solution mixed with water will make it easier to clean bird feeders made of glass; just let the feeder sit in the mixture for about an hour or so while the dirt peels off. Next, use a damp rag or paper towel (such as the ones used for windows) and wipe down all glass surfaces to completely dry before filling it back up with some quality wild bird food.

If your feeder is made of other materials, don’t use the boiling hot water method or the dishwasher. The only safe way to clean is by using a special glass-cleaning product and a delicate approach.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) perched on hanging peanut feeder.

Benefits Of Cleaning Feeders Regularly

Apart from having a shiny new looking contraption in your garden, have you ever wondered what benefits of bird feeder cleaning? If so, here are some brief points:

  • Cleanliness will deter rats from your feeder and other unwanted pests
  • Also, if you clean your feeders of old food and bird droppings, you’re more likely to enjoy the aesthetics of the bird feeder too
  • Your bird feeder will last longer, especially if it’s made of wood
  • It will prevent mould and bacteria from growing and making your birds sick
  • Sick birds can spread disease to other animals and affect the local eco-system
  • Having healthy and happy birds visit your feeders will naturally attract more birds
A clean bird feeder

The Final Word

Maintaining clean feeders is a must if you want to enjoy feeding birds in your garden on a regular basis.

Make sure you clean your bird feeder every couple of weeks, so that you don’t attract unwanted fruit flies or other insects. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned more regularly, up to 3 times a week in hot weather. Don’t forget to clean the ground of fallen bird seed, as that can rot and aid in spreading diseases.

Also, make sure never to use undiluted bleach or ammonia-based cleaning products to clean your bird feeders. These are both harmful to birds, so be careful when using them. Diluted bleach solution is OK, but dish soap and water are still recommended as our favourite for cleaning your bird feeders with your everyday household products.

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