How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Placing Hummingbird feeders in your garden are a great way to contribute and support nature. The types of feeders range from small tubes to intricate multi-port feeders. Using a hummingbird feeder is simple, all you do is mix one part sugar to 4 parts water for the hummingbird food, and pour the cooled sugar water mix into your feeder. Hang it outside, and voila, you are done! Your tasks are still only partway complete, you still need to monitor the health of the sugar water, and know how to clean hummingbird feeders.

Time marches on, and the sugar water nectar is enjoyed by hummingbirds and more. Bees also appreciate sugar water, as do ants. There’s more: over time your feeder will become a host to bacteria and mold.

Ruby-throated_hummingbird_on_feeder_02Can I bleach my hummingbird feeder?

To bleach or not to bleach: my answer is no.

I’ve researched the topic of the safety of bleach for years, in my quest for greater knowledge on health and the environment. I’ve read about bleach in relation to chronic illness and cancer. Then there is the topic of how to clean fresh fruits and vegetables of any residue, fungus, or bacteria that could cause illness. What about drinking water, how do you make stream or lake water safe to drink, in an emergency?

The long version of my story delves into the arena of demystifying half-truths. Yes, chlorine is a powerful disinfectant, and chlorine does evaporate. What is left out of the story is that the bleach you can buy most anywhere has other chemicals added, such as “whiteners”. Those chemicals do not evaporate and are not safe for human or animal consumption. My short version of the story: just say no to bleach. I try my best not give to another living creature (including plants) anything that could cause harm today or tomorrow. Our food chain, including water, is already so severely compromised. Let’s not add to the damage.

What are the alternatives for cleaning hummingbird feeders? First, can I please strip the last of the illusion from this whole bleach topic? To imply that any other method is an alternative is to allude that bleach is the right, best, approved, or most frequently used method. The term “alternative medicine” is another of the misdirections we’ve been offered for many years. Herbal medicine has been around since the beginning of time, and Chinese medicine has been around for 5000+ years. “Traditional” medicine is a half truth, meaning western medicine endorsed as the correct method, by a highly controlling, power-hungry organization.

Allude: to suggest or call attention to something indirectly. (a well known trick used in magic, now commonly used in advertising and politics.) 

How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders

The greatest piece of advice I received from my college work in database design is this: start at the end, with the results you want to see, and then design whatever will achieve those results. In choosing a hummingbird feeder, what is the end result? Healthy happy hummingbirds. To achieve this the feeder must be attractive (to the hummingbirds), cleanable, filled with the right blend of sugar water, and placed out of direct sun.

What are the options for cleaning a hummingbird feeder?

First, it is good to have the right tools. There are simple brushes for cleaning hummingbird feeders. Use these brushes to clean in the feeding openings and in tube feeders.

Don’t use soap on hummingbird feeders, it does not rinse out completely and can harm hummingbirds. If you insist then choose castile soap, do not use commercial soaps, they contain chemicals that are questionable for us, let alone a tiny hummingbird.

While we’re on the topic of “don’t” let’s finish off the list. Don’t use the dishwasher to clean your hummingbird feeders unless you make your own non-toxic dishwasher cleaner. Don’t add food coloring to your sugar water, and don’t buy colored pre-mixed. The dye is harmful to hummingbirds.

Now for the “can do’s!”

Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar is one of my choices. It helps remove the black mold that forms around the opening. Rinse well, even allow the feeder to dry. If you want to see a fizzle-fest, then soak your feeder in diluted vinegar and add a little baking soda.

Hooked on the idea of bleach, still? Do not use the stuff made for laundry. This type of bleach has other chemicals added that do not evaporate. Read about bleach in Hulda Clark’s books. If you want the proper bleach then you should use the grade used for swimming pools, but keep in mind this is a hazardous material. In my opinion, hazmat and hummingbirds don’t mix.

MMS or chlorine dioxide

What other options do we have? You can buy sodium chloride and mix your own cleaning solution. This is the MMS formula, used to treat malaria. You can mix as you need it, with citric acid, to create a pure chlorine dioxide, aka bleach. Rinse thoroughly, and allow feeders a day for the chlorine dioxide to evaporate completely. I’ve used this for cleaning countertops and purifying water bottles that I use for pure water from our local artesian well. The by-product of chlorine dioxide, by the way, is salt.

Easy To Clean Hummingbird Feeders

I’ve tried several styles of hummingbird feeders, and have come to the conclusion that I am impressed by the hummingbirds far more than the feeder. My preference is design and function, and ease of cleaning.

Here are the feeder types that I like and use.  I’ve added links to Amazon. Yes, HummingbirdShaman will get a small commission if you choose to buy, at no additional cost to you. These little bits help pay for the hosting and maintenance of the website, along with bird food for our gifts from nature.

hummzinger hummingbird feederAspects 429 Hummzinger Highview Feeder

Here’s what I like about this feeder: it has a great perch, often used by visiting hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds perch. The entire red lid pops off, making it easy to clean in every little crevice. I hang one of these feeders outside my home office window.

hummingbird feeder tubeSongbird Essentials Window Wonder One Tube Feeder

I have a double tube feeder attached to my living room window so I can see our hummingbirds up close. Mounted well above cat-reach. These tubes can empty in hours, but it’s easy enough to clean, fill, and store extra tubes in the fridge, keeping the sugar water fresh.

Tip: if your sugar water gets at all cloudy it’s time to toss that batch, clean the feeder, and refill with freshly made sugar water. Skip the mix with food coloring, it is unnecessary and harmful. Cloudy sugar water means it’s going rancid, meaning its time to change out with fresh sugar water. One final thought: don’t worry about your hummingbirds “sugar habit”. This food is for energy. Hummingbirds also eat small bugs, providing their protein.

Good luck with your hummingbird feeders!


Hummingbird Shaman

Kavi's greatest love is facilitating the shift from questions into greater joy and understanding. This energy of joyful expression transfers into her many interests: photography, organic, symbiotic gardening, long dog-lead walks, and, of course, bird watching. Ready for a change within your own world? Seeking your own multi-dimensional support and alliance? Healing sessions and transitional support are available by appointment.

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