Mar 3, 2021 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2019

Is It Safe to Clean Bird Feeders with Bleach?

Bleach is a super-effective, affordable, and easily available biocide. Use a dilute bleach solution to clean bird feeders, then rinse well.

Dear Birdsquatch,

You've recommended cleaning bird feeders with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. But isn't bleach bad for the environment?

—Colleen S., Tallahassee, Florida

Dear Colleen,

This is a touchy subject. Manufacturers of chlorine bleach and most chemists say that bleach isn't harmful to the environment when used as directed. But open a jug of bleach, and you'll feel a burning in your eyes and nose and on your skin. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant and corrosive to skin and tissue. When mixed with other common household products, it can give off toxic fumes. Exposure to chlorine can cause irritation and nausea, and it can have long-term health effects.

But most municipal water supplies use a form of bleach for purification. The active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, rapidly breaks down into salt and water. Environmental protection agencies throughout the world have tested the effects of bleach over time and maintain that it's safe for bleach to go into the environment through appropriate use and safe disposal. Bleach is a super-effective, affordable, and easily available biocide, and for the health of the birds, I stand by my recommendation to use a dilute bleach solution to clean bird feeders, then rinse well. Just protect your skin and eyes, and consider the ventilation of your cleaning area.

When was the last time you washed your feeders, Colleen? Maybe today would be a good day for that.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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