Best Way to Clean Hummingbird Feeders

The best way to clean hummingbird feeders!  Actually, there’s several. You’re enjoying the view form your window. But remember how important it is for them to have fresh nectar and a clean environment. It’s more complex that other wild birds feeding stations….for them, I’ll empty out the remains and refill. But if you’re dealing with sugar water, it’s different. It’s a pest magnet if you aren’t on top of all that sweet sticky nectar.

So here’s how you take it on. In this article are scrubbing tools that work best, products that are most effective, and how to best use them…

Pin Me, Nature Lovers…

keeping your hummer feeders cleanWhat kind of tools work best?

Tiny brushes. Lots of them. I’ve seen micro brushes that resemble mascara applicators. (May want to save adn reuse those if you wear makeup.) Also old toothbrushes. I always save those for household cleaning that involves a lot of nooks and crannies, and nothing has more of these than one of these feeders.

Good tools that are low cost (or free!) include:

  • Bottle brushes
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Q-tips/cotton swabs
  • Toothpicks

I’ve heard of dry rice being used – sounds weird but more on that in a moment.

Liquid Solutions to use

On its own, hot water is good to use if you’ve got crystallized sugar on the feeder somewhere…soak it for awhile, then get a toothpick to see if it can be loosened up and then proceed with the rest of the feeder.

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are the best liquid solutions to use. They need to be diluted. – a good ratio is a quart of water and a fourth a cup of distilled white vinegar. I save empty juice containers which are all quart sized and great for mixing products together. Shake it up real well and fill the bottle compartment (if your feeder has one) you can also pour what’s left into the base, let it soak for awhile.

At least half an hour is adequate. Use your micro brushes dip them into the solution and go around the feeder ports, and other openings. Remove outer small parts like nectar guards if you have them You could put them in the base with the solution and soak them too.

One product I would NOT use is liquid dishwashing soap (e.g Ajax, Dawn, etc.) They can leave a residue behind that hummingbirds find distasteful, even if you do a good job cleaning them. The famous Audubon Society (foremost experts on all thing avian) also cautions against this.

Should you use bleach?

It depends. If we’re talking about a basic cleaning, removing residue and buildup, the above products should suffice, but if you see signs of that icky black mold, time to take action a different way. Or if you just wanted to do general maintenance once a month.

In which case you CAN use a solution of water and bleach. Dilute a gallon of water with one fourth a cup of Clorox and soak the inverted bottle part in it for about an hour then rinse thoroughly. You could also use your micro brushes to go around the small parts that may be showing mold spots. Rinse well.

best way to clean hummingbird feeders

Other Methods…

If you’re grappling with the inverted style and how to reach all those places on the inside, I heard a trick form somewhere…. The soda bottle design is the most difficult to clean for sure, if you don’t have chenille pipe cleaners, and brushes do not always reach well. Fill the bottle with the solution of vinegar or peroxide, and take a napkin or paper towel and tear it into pieces and let it float around, it will pick up the residue left on by friction.

When you rinse out all the paper particles will just float out with it. Great hack! Another thing I’ve heard going around is the use of dry rice. Put some in the bottle and add water and shake, Dry rice is a good desiccant but it also has abrasive action that can reach all angles.

Are these feeders dishwasher safe?

This one is kind of debateable. I don’t think I would do this UNLESS you’re talking about one part of the feeder that is composed of hard plastic (in my case, the detachable base would qualify) and only in the top rack if you do this. I say use caution because I have had a few of those plastic tumbler glasses develop stress cracks in them after just a few cycles. Also, the sanitizer and hot water could leave detergent spots behind.

Any part of the feeder made of “soft” plastic – you;ll know as it will flex easily or have a spongy feel, probably should be left out. Yeah, it’s tempting to go this route when you have a bunch of these to tackle and you just want to save time. Be careful, though, maybe run one of them as a test to see how it holds up before you proceed.

Are some types of feeders easier to clean than others?

Yes, without a doubt some are easier by design. The popular inverted bottle design is the most difficult esepcially if there are little decorative objects to tackle as well like nectar guards or flower shapes. The flat saucer style is by far the easiest so if you’re looking for more feeders to add to your collection (it’s always a good idea to have multiples around) this is the type to get.

How to minimize the time you spend cleaning

It will depend on the time of year how often you will have to be on top of cleaning duties – one big factor is the weather. The more hot and humid it gets, the greater likelihood of the nectar quality degrading. So in the summertime, make sure to allot at least two times per week . Other times of the year once a week may work fine. Hopefully you performed due diligence when you hung up your feeders and made sure to place them in spots aways from direct sunlight which is one way to minimize the chance of the nectar spoiling too soon.

Check the feeders, irregardless of where you have them placed. If you see cloudy nectar in any of them, it ‘s time to change it. Also, keep in mind you don’t have to fill all of your feeders all the way to the top. It is a good idea to have multiple feeders around to minimize territorial behavior, but keep tabs on the population – there may be a bunch gathered around one day and only a few the next. So it’is okay to fill them half full. Less spoilage, less waste.


Well, that should cover all the ways you can clean your hummingbird feeders, I think the vinegar solution is the best way, second is peroxide. and the most common if you have any other ways that have worked for you please let me know by dropping a comment below on what you’ve used. Enjoy your hummingbirding!




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