Learning how to clean a hummingbird feeder is important, especially if you live in a part of the country that experiences harsh summer heat. Keeping your feeders clean is important for the health of your hummingbird visitors since nectar can quickly spoil, or black mold can grow. Here, I’ll cover what you need to do to keep your feeders clean, how often you should change the nectar, and what you can do to prevent mold growth.
Signs of a Dirty Feeder
Cleaning out a hummingbird feeder is simple. The signs of a dirty feeder are pretty obvious. If you look at the feeder and the nectar looks cloudy, or you notice floating debris or dead insects, then the feeder should be cleaned out immediately. You can easily clean multiple feeders at the same time if you have a variety hummingbird feeders set up in your yard.
You’ll need to use an assortment of small and large brushes. I recommend using a toothbrush, which will come in handy for scrubbing out the many crevices. A bottle brush will be the perfect tool to use to clean out the nectar reservoir. Using a small bristle brush will be essential in order to thoroughly clean out the nectar ports. You can substitute a small bristle brush with a pipe cleaner, which works just as well.
Use a soft cloth to wipe down the exterior of the feeder to remove feces, dirt, debris, and dead insects. You can use paper towels, a soft sponge, rags, or a dishcloth for this task. Whatever works for you. You’ll want to avoid using the same cloth or sponge that you use on your dishes in order to prevent any contamination.
Most birders don’t recommend using any chemicals to clean out the feeder, but if you’re dealing with a serious mold problem, then you may need to. If you do use chemicals, first try a gentle dish soap.
If you don’t want to use chemicals, then use very hot water instead and allow the feeders to soak for at least an hour to ensure they’re fully clean and any stuck on nectar, dirt, debris, dead bugs, or mold is loosened up and can easily be rinsed out.
Buy the best hummingbird feeder, one with a high user rating, since these are the models that are durable, designed to attract hummingbirds, and best of all, they’re usually easier to clean out compared to low-quality hummingbird feeders. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance model, I recommend the BOLITE 18005 Hummingbird Feeder.
The first step is taking the feeder apart. Start by removing the base and carefully detaching all of the pieces in order to disassemble the feeder as much as possible. You may run into issues with taking the feeder apart if the nectar has crystalized, which can prevent you from unscrewing the base. You can try soaking the feeder in hot water for a period of fifteen to twenty minutes, in order to loosen it. Make sure you also detach any ant moats, perches, and insect guards, prior to washing, or any other type of removable parts, which will allow you to thoroughly clean out the feeder. Avoid forcing any parts that are not meant to be removed.
Drain any remaining nectar out of the reservoir. You may want to do this step outside, however, you should be careful to avoid spilling any nectar outdoors since this will attract pests. When you’re draining the feeder make sure you check for clogged feeding ports that are caused by crystallized sugar.
Next, you’ll pay attention to the reservoir and scrub it out using mild dish soap. The reservoir should be scrubbed both inside and out. You can use a bottle brush for this step in order to remove any mold or stuck-on residue. Use a sponge or cloth to clean the outside of the feeder to make it nice and shiny, thus highly visible to birds flying over your yard.
Drain any remaining nectar from the base and feeding ports and inspect them closely to search for clogs, mold, and residue. Run clean water through the base and check out the flow of liquid so you can easily identify any clogs and remove any blockages. This will also help to rinse out any built-up debris or remaining sugar, both of which can narrow the feeding ports. The nectar ports should be thoroughly scrubbed out with a toothbrush or a bristle brush. I recommend cleaning the ports from both sides, if possible. However, you’ll need to be careful with this step in order to avoid breaking off any bristles, which can easily clog the ports. Even if it looks like the ports are clean and clear, this is an important step that you don’t want to skip, since it will remove any particles of fungi or mold, both of which can quickly contaminate a clean feeder and new nectar.
Now, it’s time to rinse out the ports, base, and the nectar reservoir, using clean water. Rinse out the parts for at least twenty seconds in order to remove any residue. This will be especially important if you’ve used any type of chemical to clean out the feeder. Rinsing the parts for this length of time will remove any traces of chemicals and residue, which will keep the hummingbirds safe. Rinse out both the outside and the inside of the feeder, until there’s no remaining odor.
The feeder or feeders should be allowed to air dry, thoroughly, otherwise, you’ll risk diluting the nectar once you refill the feeders. You can place the parts of the feeder in a dish drying rack or place them flat on a paper towel or dry cloth. In order to help the feeder dry faster, try wiping down each piece using a dry cloth before you allow the feeder to air dry fully.
Now it’s time to put your feeder or feeders back together. Reassemble the feeder by reattaching all of the pieces and ensure that each one has a secure, snug fit to minimize any leaks. If you notice that any of the parts or pieces are broken, then they will need to be repaired or replaced before you can hang the feeder.
Fill up the feeder with clean fresh nectar. You can use commercial nectar or make your own. Often, making your own is a safer, healthier option for the birds since homemade nectar doesn’t contain preservatives, additives, or harmful dyes. To learn more, click here to read my article on how to make sugar water for hummingbirds.
Once your feeders are refilled and ready to go, you’ll need to determine if you want to hang your feeders in the same spot or relocate them to an area that will make the feeders more attractive and visible to birds that are flying overhead. The best place to put your hummingbird feeder is an area that’s visible to birds flying overhead, and one that doesn’t have foliage or brush surrounding it, which will give cats and other predators a place to hide.
If possible, hang the feeder in an area that receives both sunshine and shade throughout the day. This will prevent the nectar from quickly spoiling. Avoid placing it in a spot that either has all-day shade or will be in direct sunlight at all times. You can try experimenting and placing the feeder in different areas of your yard to determine which area seems to be attracting more visitors each day.
How Often Should I Clean a Hummingbird Feeder?
A feeder should be cleaned out every two to three days in the summer since the nectar can spoil faster in higher temperatures. In mild weather, you can change the nectar and clean out the feeder once every five days or so. Since you’ll have more hummingbirds in your yard during the summer months, you’ll find that you need to refill your feeders fairly often. During this time, you can inspect the feeder and if it looks fairly clean, you can simply rinse it out and allow it to dry thoroughly before you refill it with more nectar.
If you’re not sure whether or not a feeder should be cleaned out, look for signs of spoilage, such as cloudy looking nectar. If you’re having a hard time remembering to clean out your feeders, be sure to keep track of this task by writing it on your calendar. These simple tips on bird feeder maintenance will be very important to the health of your local birds.
Learning how to clean out a hummingbird feeder will prevent your backyard visitors from drinking spoiled nectar or nectar that’s tainted with harmful mold. If a hummingbird drinks spoiled nectar, they will likely never return to your yard. So, to increase your chances of repeat visitors, stay on top of keeping your feeders clean at all times and filled with fresh nectar.