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How to Clean A Hummingbird Feeder + Maintenance Tips ~ Homestead and Chill

I’ll admit, deep cleaning our hummingbird feeders isn’t my favorite chore in the world… but it’s an important one! And the reward of having happy, healthy little bird friends in our garden makes the simple task very worthwhile. Come learn how to clean a hummingbird feeder with vinegar or bleach, including tips on how often to change and sanitize feeders, our favorite easy-to-clean hummingbird feeders, and more.

Using the right kind of sugar water in a hummingbird feeder is just as crucial to their health as regular cleaning! Follow our easy no-boil homemade hummingbird food recipe, which uses the approved 1:4 sugar-to-water ratio and refined white sugar ONLY.

A toothbrush is being used to clean the fake flowers of a feeder. Below it a tub with feeders that are submerged in liquid. A toothbrush is being used to clean the fake flowers of a feeder. Below it a tub with feeders that are submerged in liquid.

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What happens if you don’t change a hummingbird feeder?

Warm sugar water is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. When a hummingbird feeder isn’t changed often enough, the nectar quick spoils and becomes moldy. Without routine deep cleaning, fungus, mold and bacteria can also fester inside the small parts of the feeder, including the fake flowers the birds drink from.

Drinking from old contaminated feeders, hummingbirds can contract a fungal disease called Hummer’s Candidiasis also known as “hummingbird’s tongue”. The condition causes their tongue and throat to swell, making it impossible to eat. It is almost always fatal to hummingbirds and can even be passed from a mama bird to her babies while feeding them in the nest!

Therefore, you can see just how important it is to regularly clean a hummingbird feeder. If you can’t keep up with cleaning, it’s better for the birds to not hang one at all.

How often should I change my hummingbird feeder?

To maintain a safe level of freshness, change out the nectar in a feeder at least once per week. Every 4 to 5 days is ideal. In hot weather (over 90 degrees) plan to change it even more frequently – every couple of days. In addition to the routine wash and refill, plan to do a deeper sanitizing soak at least monthly, explained more to follow.

Never “top off” hummingbird feeders. Always completely empty and rinse the feeder before adding fresh sugar water. If a hummingbird feeder becomes visibly cloudy, moldy, or goopy-looking, take it down immediately and thoroughly clean and sanitize the feeder.

A blue glass jar is being cleaned with a bottle brush while a cleaned blue jar is being filled with a clear liquid to change the food. A blue glass jar is being cleaned with a bottle brush while a cleaned blue jar is being filled with a clear liquid to change the food.
Always clean and rinse the feeder before adding new nectar!

How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

  • Routinely rinse your hummingbird feeder with very hot water between weekly nectar refills (at minimum). I prefer to do this in our laundry sink instead of the kitchen sink – otherwise just use good sanitation and common sense.
  • Completely disassemble the feeder and use a designated bottle-brush or old toothbrush to scrub around the fake flowers, inside the bottle, and other nooks and crannies. My favorite scrub brush fits well inside our wide-mouth feeders.
  • You can also use a mild detergent or soap to clean your hummingbird feeder if needed. However, be sure to thoroughly rinse it afterwards to remove any leftover soap residue, which can be off-putting or harmful to the birds. We use a natural fragrance-free dish soap (if any).
  • At least once per month, sanitize the feeder by soaking it in a stronger disinfectant such as dilute white vinegar or bleach. See instructions below.
  • Allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling, which will help minimize any residual contamination.
A scrub brush is being used to clean out the inside of a blue glass jar of a hummingbird feeder. A scrub brush is being used to clean out the inside of a blue glass jar of a hummingbird feeder.

Cleaning with bleach

Chlorine bleach is a strong disinfectant and will kill any residual mold, bacteria, or fungal spores present on a hummingbird feeder. However, too much bleach can also leave lingering smells and flavors on the feeder, or even discolor it. A little bleach goes a long way!

To sanitize a hummingbird feeder with bleach, fill a tub or bucket with 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water – or about 1/4 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water. Take the feeder completely apart and soak all the parts in the dilute bleach water for at least 15 minutes.

Use a bottle brush or old toothbrush to scrub the bottles, flowers, and crevices. Be sure to rinse everything well with hot water to remove all bleach residual after, and allow it to fully air dry.

A storage tote contains two hummingbird feeders that have been disassembled and are submerged in water. A scrub brush and a toothbrush for cleaning are sitting just outside of the tub.A storage tote contains two hummingbird feeders that have been disassembled and are submerged in water. A scrub brush and a toothbrush for cleaning are sitting just outside of the tub.

Cleaning with vinegar

White vinegar is another effective disinfectant, and is more natural and gentle than bleach. However, vinegar requires a stronger concentration and a longer contact time in order to work its magic on bacteria and grime.

Combine 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water in a bucket or tub, and allow the disassembled feeder to soak for at least one hour. Clean all the nooks and crannies with a scrub brush, and rinse thoroughly after. Remember, never mix vinegar and bleach!

A gallon jug of vinegar is resting in front of a tub that contains two, disassembled hummingbird feeders submerged in water. A toothbrush and a scrub brush are sitting just outside of the tub. A gallon jug of vinegar is resting in front of a tub that contains two, disassembled hummingbird feeders submerged in water. A toothbrush and a scrub brush are sitting just outside of the tub.

Best Easy-to-Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Not all feeders are created equal. Some hummingbird feeders are much easier to clean than others. I prefer feeders with as few parts as possible, a good size bottle opening that easily fits a scrub brush inside, and very simple flower parts.

Of all the feeders I’ve tried over the years, this is my favorite easy-to-clean hummingbird feeder. I also just ordered this similar wide-mouth feeder that gets fantastic reviews. Both come in several beautiful colors and include an ant moat too! This easy-clean feeder also includes bee guards on the flowers, which can be handy if needed but do require a little extra scrubbing.

Two hummingbirds are hovering around a feeder while one is perched near one of the feeder flowers and is drinking from the flower. Two hummingbirds are hovering around a feeder while one is perched near one of the feeder flowers and is drinking from the flower.

Final Tips

  • Hanging your hummingbird feeder in a shady, protected location (such as under a porch awning or tree) can also help prevent mold and bacteria that thrives in the warm sun.
  • To reduce waste associated with frequent feeder changes, make hummingbird food in small batches and avoid completely filling large feeders.
  • Some hummingbird feeders are also dishwasher-safe, though you may want to wash them separately from your own dishes for sanitary purposes. 
  • Be sure to also plant plenty of flowers that attract hummingbirds to offer them a natural food source too! Focus on nectar-rich native plants that bloom in various times of the year.

And that’s all folks! Thank you for your interest in helping our hummingbird friends by properly taking care of their feeders. We all appreciate your service! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and leave a review or share this article if you found it to be interesting and informative.

How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

Learn how to clean a hummingbird feeder with vinegar or bleach, including how often to change it, the best easy-to-clean feeders, and more.

Prep Time10 minutes

Active Time10 minutes

Total Time20 minutes

Keyword: Clean hummingbird feeder, Hummingbird feeder, sanitize hummingbird feeder

  • 1 Tub or bucket

  • 1 Bottle-brush and or toothbrush

  • Dish soap (optional, unscented preferred)

  • Household bleach or white vinegar

How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

  • At least weekly (every 2-3 days during hot weather) disassemble the feeder and thoroughly rinse it with hot water.

  • Use designated brush to scrub around the fake flowers, inside the bottle, and other nooks and crannies.

  • Use soap if needed, unscented soap is preferred (leftover soap residue can be off-putting or harmful to hummingbirds)

  • Throughly rinse the feeder with hot water until all of the soap residue is gone.

  • Allow the feeder to air dry completely before refilling with hummingbird food.

  • At least monthly, disinfect the feeder with a deeper sanitizer soak in either dilute vinegar or bleach – explained below.

How to Sanitize with Bleach

  • Disassemble the feeder and thoroughly rinse it with hot water.

  • Place the disassemble feeder in a tub or sink with 10 parts water to 1 part bleach (1/4 cup bleach per 1 gallon water) until all of the feeder parts are fully submerged in the liquid.

  • Allow the feeder to soak for at least 15 minutes.

  • Use designated brush to scrub around the fake flowers, inside the bottle, and other crevices.

  • Throughly rinse the feeder with hot water until all of the bleach residue is gone.

  • Allow the feeder to air dry completely before refilling with hummingbird food.

How to Sanitize with Vinegar

  • Disassemble the feeder and thoroughly rinse it with hot water.

  • Place the disassembled feeder in a tub or sink with 2 parts water to 1 part white vinegar.

  • Allow the feeder to soak for at least 1 hour.

  • Use designated brush to thoroughly scrub all parts.

  • Rinse thoroughly.

  • Air dry before refilling.

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing.DeannaCat signature, keep on growing.

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