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Talkback: How to clean bird feeders

I was hoping that this item would show how to clean plastic seed containers which I find much more difficult to clean than the peanut mesh o...

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I was hoping that this item would show how to clean plastic seed containers which I find much more difficult to clean than the peanut mesh ones.
I clean mine at every refill but it's always hard to get the base clean. I use a metal skewer, soak it in warm soapy water etc but it's not easy, particularly if it's been raining a lot.
In spite of keeping my own containers clean I had a dunnock in my garden which clearly had avian pox. I live in Merseyside which the RSPB said was the most northerly report they'd received. I only recognised the disease because of national publicity last year.

Any more tips on cleaning plastic containers would be very welcome. Thanks.
I was hoping to see how to clean a bird table,my neighbour gave me one but it is very dirty and I have tried scrubbing it with hot water but it does not look any cleaner to me.Any suggestions please?
Hi Kater1
I find the best way to clean seed feeders is to dismantle them as much as possible and wash the components in a bucket of hot soapy water (soak them overnight if you can) I know this is time consuming but you should try to do this at least every month. Otherwise clean them as much as possible with a brush and cloth and then rinse with the garden hose fitted with a high pressure nozzle,(be sure to wear eye protection) paying attention to the hard to reach parts of the feeder.
I hope this advice was helpful to you
Hi deemac,
Thanks very much.
I do try to dismantle them but the bases are the problem. I've got one soaking in a bucket of soapy water at the moment. I intend to get a longer, sturdier bottle-brush too. The high pressure nozzle is a good idea as I've only tried a full-on sink tap so far.
I think it's possible to buy feeders that the bases come off but they might be expensive - will have to look. I have 7 hooks but about 10 feeders so that I can put a clean fresh one up each time I take an empty one down. The 'square' Gardman(?) ones are easy to clean but the seeds get wet as soon as it rains.
Mostly I feed sunflower hearts which are particularly popular with the goldfinches - even when there are niger seeds available. I've been pleased to see them eating from my teasels too.
Where is the best place to get the Veterinary disinfectant?

I haven't had my feeders out for a while - mainly because they need a good clean and I haven't had the time but I really should get my act together now the weather is finally getting colder.

I've always used Detox or diluted bleach - is this not good enough?


It would be much easier to clean feeders if they opened at the bottom rather than the top.
andrew taylor

soak in jays fluid or bleach watered down over night this kills viruses bactiria that travel about on birds and gets all the muck off much easier its good

andrew taylor

you dont need vetinerary disinfectant just use the old fashioned jays fluid spray this is a multi purpose disinfectant and once rinsed off its harmless to plants animals

The area beneath my bird feeding station is strewn with sunflower seed cases, dropped niger seeds etc. can I dig this into the ground before I sow and plant suitable subjects for the birds this summer?
Kate Bradbury

kater1 -  I'm having problems getting to the bottom of my plastic feeder too, and have just resolved to buy a new one that dismantles better so I can clean it more easily. If I find a cheap one I'll let you know!

full-time-mum - diluted bleach is fine, but make sure you rinse it well afterwards. Otherwise veterinary disinfectant is available from the RSPB shop

Birdie2 - if you have seen birds looking ill, it would be better to remove all the debris beneath your feeding station to avoid contamination of healthy birds.


I think you may be worrying too much. All this cleaning and disinfecting will harm the birds and the environment more in that you reduce their natural ability to fight diseases and infections. The same rule applies to households. Of course, if you do actually genuinely see an ill bird, do clean but otherwise I wouldn't even think about it. We've been putting sunflower seeds out on simple bird tables hanging from trees and our balconies, for years, and it's a sight to behold! Can't recall the last time we cleaned them. Birds are not that dirty, its the holders. I'd recommend sticking to simple bird tables with a low roof cover if you want, and hang them in places away from trees if you have a problem with squirrels...

Have just found a ceramic-topped plastic bird feeder in Aldi that has a wing-nut at the bottom for filling & cleaning - I think it was £3.99 but not sure.

 I thought I'd be able to dismantle it completely but the top is fixed.

In spite of this I think it will be easier to clean because it's at the base that the seeds usually stick - the top should be clear - I hope!

JAG - I find that wood pigeons have been able to take most of the food put out on a low roof covered bird table, as they do with food I put on the ground for blackbirds etc.

Kate Bradbury

JAG - I don't think we're worrying too much. By feeding the birds we are attracting large numbers of them to our gardens - very small spaces compared to woodland, for example. If they're all concentrated in a small space, interacting with each other, spitting food on to each other and - in some cases - defecating on each other, then we need to make sure our bird feeding stations are clean, as diseases can quickly build up.

kater1 - that sounds good, can you post a photo?


Hi Kate,

I'm sorry that I can't post a photo but I've just looked on the UK Aldi Special buys' site & the feeders & other bird things are on it. The feeders are £3.99, as I thought. They tend to sell these things quite quickly so they might not be available for long.


Cleaning is important!! i do mine about once a month, hot soapy water a bottle brush, and dry properly, because if you don't! the seed will stick and sprout. My problem is PIGEONS and how,!!!! only had them for about a year,the damage they cause is very visible, also taking the smaller birds feed ,The mess really does need to be cleaned up often. So i am asking ,how to persuade them to go elsewhere???


Ms Bradbury - fair point. But you'd be surprised how well they cope. And it does not necessarily mean, that all the birds that come to your table, actually live in the close surroundings. Animals adapt, and birds are extremely clever. Living in close surroundings hasn't harmed them for decades yet.

Of course, I see the point that some of the larger birds get at the food that was destined for the smaller ones, but who is to say that the larger ones are well fed anyway? Maybe they are just as hungry as the small ones?? I cannot say. As with the cleaning, do they actually poop all over the feeder? I cannot believe that. Cleaning detergents are unnatural, and definitely contribute to the diseases that exist today. Use plain water and soda crystals and a good scrubbing brush. What dirt stays, stays. Birds don't complain. They just want/need the food.

Holedigger - how on earth do the seeds sprout?! i have never heard of that before... if you put away the tables over the summer months when they are not needed, thus closing them off from sunlight ... crikey, why don't you just pull out the sprouting seeds when it happens?!

Kate Bradbury

@JAG, I agree that cleaning detergents are unnatural and may contribute to some human diseases that exist today. But I would say that bird diseases are on the rise and some are now passing between species when they previously didn't (avian pox in great tits and trichomonas in finches for example). The advice of the RSPB and other wildlife groups is to keep our feeders clean, so I'm sticking with that.


I live in the country and have never seen a dead bird unless having been run over by traffic. Has anyone else seen many ?   A good soaking with warm water and using a stiff brush will shift any dirt in seed containers I find.


I wash my feeders at least every two months.  They are a pain to dismantle and getting harder as they get older- they must be about 5 years old now but still ok to use!  I usually wash them in hot soapy water with bleach in using a long brush that I bought from the RSPB.  I make sure that they are rinsed well and perfectly dry before filling them with seed.......