How (and How Often) to Clean Bird Feeders

Follow these tips for maintaining seed and suet feeders to keep your backyard birds healthy in every season. Here's how to clean bird feeders.

downy woodpecker on peanut feederCourtesy Sarah Wood
Downy woodpecker on a clean peanut feeder

A clean bird feeder is essential, and it’s definitely something to keep in mind when you’re buying or building a new one. In addition to how attractive the feeder looks, how sturdy it feels, and how much seed it holds, consider how to clean bird feeders.

When birds eating at feeders come in close proximity, the spread of bird disease is more likely. Summer heat and rains can cause seed and suet to spoil or mold much quicker, especially if your feeders are in the sun. Accumulated bird droppings also create an unhealthy environment. These are the best bird feeders and birdseed for cardinals.

how to clean bird feedersAlex Potemkin/Getty Images
Take your feeders down regularly for cleaning and maintenance.

How to Clean Bird Feeders

It’s important to keep feeders and the surrounding area clean to avoid spreading illness. Clean your seed and suet feeders thoroughly every few weeks (and even more often in hot and humid weather). Remove and discard any leftover seed. Spray and wipe feeders with a 10 percent bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) and a stiff brush. Rinse well with clean water. Allow feeders to dry completely before filling and putting them back up. Check out the 10 types of feeders you need in your backyard.

Mild days in early spring are the perfect time to assess the condition of feeders that have been outside all winter. Check for cracks, broken perches or damaged baffles. Repair or replace them if necessary. It’s also the perfect time to give feeders a deep cleaning. Once or twice a season, take them down and give them a full wash with hot water and soap. Or run them through the dishwasher. Many birds feed on the ground, so be sure to sweep up the husks and dropped seeds under and around feeders.

Next, follow these tips to learn how to clean hummingbird feeders.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her backyard gardens. She also is an avid bird-watcher.