Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Bird Feeder? ( Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Yes you can use vinegar to clean your bird feeders.

Backyard bird feeding can be quite the messy activity and it is important to be ready to disinfect the feeders regularly when you wash them to avoid disease outbreak. 

Cleaning and disinfecting the feeders regularly is important for the health and hygiene of your birds and if you have been confused on the choice of disinfectant to use, then vinegar is a good option.

Today we will discuss how to clean your feeders with vinegar, what exactly vinegar is, whether it is harmful to hummingbirds and what other disinfectant is safe to clean your bird feeder. 

What Is Vinegar?

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Bird Feeder

Vinegar is a transparent solution made from acetic acid and water. It is a sour liquid that is made by a double fermentation process.

Vinegar produced from ethanol is the most common type of vinegar and it is produced from fermenting the sugars in yeast.

Yeast is often used to convert simple sugars into ethanol and the ethanol is then converted to acetic acid using acetic acid bacteria.

Vinegar most often has about 5 – 8% of acetic acid and 92 – 95% water. 

Vinegar has various uses and can be used for food processing, cooking, disinfecting, cleaning, industrial activities, killing weeds and pests and a whole of other uses.

There are various types of vinegar such as white vinegar, apple cider, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar to mention a few.  

Related: Here is an article I wrote on are bird feeders messy

What Are The Benefits Of Cleaning With Vinegar?

Apart from cooking, a lot of people use vinegar for cleaning in and around their households and the popularity has not dimmed with time.

Let us look at some of the benefits of cleaning your household with vinegar:

  • Nontoxic and environmentally friendly

One of the major benefits of using vinegar to clean is the fact that it is naturally distilled and environmentally friendly.

It is safe to use around children and pets and doesn’t leave any harmful residue on objects. 

  • Antimicrobial properties

Due to the acidic properties in vinegar it can serve as a bleach for disinfecting.

The antimicrobial properties in vinegar help inhibit the growth of bacteria and they can also kill off any already formed growth in surfaces cleaned.

  • Less expensive 

Vinegar is definitely cheap and easy to come by. It is not as expensive as industrially produced bleach and disinfectants found in stores.

The cheapness does not in any way make it less effective as vinegar is one of the world’s oldest and potent disinfectants.

  • Easy stain removal

Vinegar easily removes old and stubborn stains from surfaces and clothes. It can serve as bleach for your clothes without having to worry about color fading.

  • Multipurpose cleaner

The uses of vinegar within the household are wide and varied. You can use one vinegar solution to clean a number of appliances and surfaces.

You can also use it to cook and still use as a safe pesticide. It indeed has multipurpose uses and it’s quite handy to have around the house. 

What Else Can I Use To Clean My Bird Feeders?

Apart from vinegar, to clean your bird feeders you can make use of a bleach solution using nine parts hot water with one part bleach.

It is important to not add so much bleach into the solution to avoid the smell after and also for the feeder to remain safe for your birds. 

You can also purchase commercial bird feeder cleaning solutions.

They are prepared to be effective while also environmentally safe for your birds. Follow the instructions on the bird cleaning solution.

Mild soap and water solution can also do the job. It is more effective when you use hot water, mix the soap with the water and scrub all parts of the feeder thoroughly before rinsing. 

Also check out this article I wrote on keeping bird feeders in the sun or shade

What Disinfectant Is Safe For Bird Feeders?

Although it is good to use disinfectants while cleaning your bird feeders, it is important to use one that is safe and non-toxic to your birds.

Disinfectant use in bird feeder cleaning has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of bacteria present on the bird feeder.

When purchasing disinfectant, ensure you pick an environmentally disinfectant which is bird safe.

There are disinfectant solutions that have been designed specifically for bird feeder cleaning which has also been found to be effective. 

If you do not have access to bird friendly disinfectant, then your safest bet is vinegar though you might have to soak the bird feeder for a longer period for more effectiveness.

However it is safe because it is non toxic to the birds and quite a natural product. 

Is Vinegar Harmful To Hummingbirds?

Vinegar is not at all harmful to hummingbirds in fact it is a preferable method for most backyard bird feeders. 

Vinegar is preferable to bleach and soap water for cleaning hummingbird feeders.

Bleach is quite harsh and even when it is very diluted it can still leave an unpleasant odor after the bird feeder is cleaned.

Soap is designed for quite a number of uses and there are different chemicals in the makeup of the soap.

This can leave a residue on the birdfeeder which causes it to be quite distasteful to the humming birds and they end up not eating it and this causes a waste.

Vinegar is quite safe for cleaning hummingbird feeders; it doesn’t leave any residue and by soaking the feeder parts in 100% vinegar solution or mixing with water, the feeder is effectively disinfected and safe for use again.

Can I Use White Vinegar To Clean Birdbaths?

Yes you can use white vinegar in fact if you have some white vinegar handy at home then it is a good option for you to clean your birdbaths.

Not only is it non toxic it is totally safe for your birds and leaves no residue.

Unlike commercially processed bleach or even soap, it doesn’t leave any chemical residue that can contaminate your bird’s water.

It is important to clean your bird baths because a dirty one can easily aid the transfer of diseases among the avian population.

To clean your birdbaths with white vinegar simply follow the steps below:

  • Remove the old water from the birdbath and sweep out any shed feathers, seed or feces that might have deposited at the bottom.
  • Prepare your cleaning materials – white vinegar solution i.e. one part white vinegar to nine parts water, gloves and scrubbing brush.
  • Scrub every part of your birdbath thoroughly including the lip, basin and outer parts.
  • If the bird bath is extremely dirty, leave the vinegar for some time to soak and penetrate every part of the bath. Make sure you cover the bath during that period to prevent any bird drinking from it.
  • After cleaning thoroughly, rinse the birdbath. Take your time to keep on rinsing the bath till there is no foaminess or slime left.
  • Leave the bird bath to dry before refilling with clean and fresh water.

Can I Clean My Bird Feeder With Bleach?

You can clean your bird feeder with bleach if it is made of metal, recycled plastic or poly and acrylic.

You shouldn’t use bleach to clean a wooden feather as the harsh smell tends to linger on the feeder and can be a turn off for the birds.

Bleach is a good option for deep cleaning of the feeder as it destroys and eliminates any bacteria growing on the feeder.

Dirty feeders are an incubation ground for bacteria growth and disease transmission. 

When cleaning with bleach, keep the ratio to one part bleach and nine parts water to reduce the harshness of the chemicals.

Soak the feeder parts for about 30 minutes before bringing out and rinsing thoroughly.

Rinse the feeder and keep rinsing till you are sure there is no bleach solution left on the feeder parts.

As effective as bleach is, it is quite harsh and the chemicals in it could be quite harmful to the birds if it is not well rinsed out.

A safer alternative is vinegar, it is also quite as effective and it is more bird safe.


It is important to keep clean feeders to avoid bacteria growth and disease outbreak.

Vinegar is a solution that is made from double fermentation of simple sugars with yeast.

It is used for various things such as cooking, cleaning and disinfecting. Vinegar is good for cleaning because it is less expensive and also environmentally friendly.

Vinegar is safe for cleaning and disinfecting bird feeders and birdbaths as it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that can harm the birds.

Although bleach and soap are very effective in disinfecting, it is better to use vinegar or buy a bird feeder cleaner or disinfectant. 

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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