How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder in 5 Easy Steps

A clean feeder ensures the hummingbirds in your garden stay happy and healthy.

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Hummingbirds are colorful and exciting to see in your garden, and these tiny creatures are also important pollinators. According to the U.S. Forest Service, "Pollination is not just fascinating natural history. It is an essential ecological survival function." Putting out a hummingbird feeder is an excellent way to attract and support these winged wonders, as long as you commit to properly caring for the equipment. "The rule of thumb is to discard the nectar, clean, and refill the feeder every two days. Otherwise, there's a risk of poisoning the birds," warns Ronnie Collins, a botanist and founder of the blog Electro Garden Tools.

Daniel McCurry, owner of Father Nature Landscapes in Birmingham, Alabama, says you should discard the nectar and clean the feeder anytime the liquid in it appears cloudy or milky. "The higher the humidity, the faster [the nectar] goes bad for them," McCurry explains. "When it becomes milky, it makes it taste funky for the birds, and they'll move on to someone else's garden." Plus, "the mold that can grow in the hummingbird's water can cause them to get a fungal infection," he adds. However, you can keep the birds safe and well-fed by following these simple steps for cleaning your hummingbird feeder.

hummingbird with feeder
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How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

Step 1: Empty the Feeder. "It's prohibited to reuse nectar as it spoils quite quickly, especially when it's warm outside," Collins says. "Flush the container with hot water after emptying it to remove the spoiled leftovers."

Step 2: Take Apart the Feeder. Collins says it's easier to cleanse the contraption once it's dissembled. Plus, your feeder will get a much more thorough cleaning this way.

Step 3: Cleanse the Feeder. Soak your feeder parts to help loosen the residue. "If you have a glass feeder, use hot water and dish soap ($15, The Home Depot) and swirl," McCurry says. "If you have a plastic (or unknown) feeder, use white vinegar ($3, Walmart) and rinse with cool water."

Step 4: Scrub All Parts. Using a bottle brush ($3, Walmart) or dish sponge ($3, The Home Depot), remove the residue and mold from each part of the feeder. Then, rinse the feeder well with cold water. "If you clean it like this every two days, every next cleanup will be simpler than the previous," Collins adds.

Step 5: Dry Thoroughly. Use a microfiber towel ($15, Walmart) to soak up all of the excess moisture from cleaning. "When the feeder is dry, reassemble, refill, put it back, and enjoy the company of the happy hummingbirds in your garden!" Collins says.

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