How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder
Disassembling Your Hummingbird Feeder, Cleaning, and Preventing Leaks
Cleaning a hummingbird feeder is easy if you take it one step at a time. All it requires is a quick disassembly and a good scrubbing with warm soapy water. You don't need harsh chemicals or any special tools, other than a bottle brush for the nectar reservoir and a small bristle brush (like a toothbrush) that fits into the feeding ports.
The type of hummingbird feeder you purchase will dictate your cleaning technique. The best saucer hummingbird feeders on the market require very little scrubbing and can easily be rinsed clean. Reservoir feeders, however, are prone to leakage and can attract insects, making them harder to clean. So if you choose this style, make sure to purchase the best hummingbird feeder that doesn't leak.
Types of Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders come in different sizes and shapes and are made out of different materials. They also come in two very distinct styles: inverted feeders and saucer feeders. Inverted feeders tend to hold more nectar and make it easier to check nectar levels, but they can be difficult to clean and fill. On the other hand, saucer feeders are easy to clean and fill, but have a smaller capacity and need to be filled more often. Hummingbirds prefer any feeder that makes the nectar easily accessible, but the best window hummingbird feeders are of the saucer variety, which offers an unobstructed view of the birds.
How Often to Clean Hummingbird Feeders
You will know your feeder needs cleaning when the nectar (a recommended combination of sugar and water) becomes cloudy, discolored, or contains floating insects and debris. It also requires cleaning if the feeding ports are clogged or if mold is growing on the feeder. You can clean one feeder at a time or multiple feeders at once.
Ideally, hummingbird feeders should be cleaned once a week during the heat of the summer. In cooler weather, you can go up to two weeks. Depending on the size of your feeder, hummingbirds may drain the nectar sooner than later, so cleaning it every time you replace the food is recommended. In hot weather, you should change the nectar every two to three days to avoid fermentation. If you use tap water to make your nectar (most tap water is safe for hummingbirds), a deep clean once a month may be required to remove the calcified minerals clogging the ports.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Bottle brush
- Small bristle brush
- Soft, clean cloth or paper towels (optional)
- Dish soap
- Hummingbird nectar
How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder
Disassemble the Feeder
Carefully remove the base and detach all connected parts to disassemble the feeder as much as possible. If the nectar has crystallized and the base cannot be unscrewed, soak it in hot water for 10-15 minutes to loosen it. Detach insect guards, perches, ant moats, and any other removable parts so the feeder can be thoroughly cleaned. Do not, however, force any parts to separate that may not be meant to be disassembled.
Drain the Old Nectar
Pour out the old nectar from the reservoir and discard it. If preferred, this step can be done outside, but do not spill nectar on pathways, patios, or decks where it may leave a sticky stain that will attract insects or other pests.
Scrub the Reservoir
Scrub the feeder's reservoir thoroughly using a mild dish soap solution. Both the inside and outside of the feeder should be thoroughly clean. A bottle brush can be useful to get inside the reservoir to remove any stuck-on residue or mold, while the soft cloth or sponge can clean the outside to keep the feeder sparkling.
Drain the Feeding Ports
Drain any remaining nectar from the feeding ports and base, checking for buildup, mold, or clogs. You can run clean water through the base to check the flow of liquid and ensure there is nothing blocking the nectar. This will also help rinse any built-up sugar or debris out of the narrow feeding ports.
Scrub the Feeding Ports
Scrub inside the ports thoroughly with a small bristle brush or toothbrush. If possible, clean the ports from both ends. Even if it seems as though the ports are clear and clean, this step is essential to remove any particles of mold or fungus that could quickly contaminate a clean feeder or new batch of nectar.
Rinse the reservoir, base, and ports thoroughly with clear, clean water for at least 10 seconds to remove all soap residue. Rinse both the inside and outside of the feeder until there is no feeling or odor of soap remaining.
Allow the feeder to air-dry thoroughly so nectar is not diluted when it is refilled. You can put the feeder parts in a dish drying rack or lay them out on a dry cloth or paper towels. To help the feeder dry more quickly, wipe each piece down with a dry cloth before allowing it to air dry the rest of the way.
Do not reuse the same cloth on any dishes for cooking or eating, to prevent contamination from mold or feces.
Reassemble the Feeder
Reassemble the feeder by reattaching all the different parts, ensuring each one has a snug, secure fit to minimize feeder leaks. If any parts are broken, they should be repaired or replaced.
Hang the Feeder
Refill the feeder with fresh, clean nectar and hang it in an area visible to hummingbirds. Very soon, it will once again be a popular feeding spot as a charm of hummingbirds takes advantage of this great food source!
Should a hummingbird feeder be in the sun or shade?
Place your hummingbird feeder in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. If your feeder receives direct sun all day long, the nectar may ferment and go bad.
Is glass or plastic better for hummingbird feeders?
Many bird watchers prefer glass hummingbird feeders over plastic due to the material's durability. Plastic can contain harmful BPAs and can also warp, fade, or crack over time and with exposure to the elements.
Do hummingbirds prefer homemade nectar or store-bought?
There is no way to tell if hummingbirds prefer homemade to store-bought nectar, however, homemade products without the harmful red food dye are healthier for the birds.