Cleaning Up After Pet Birds: Safe Cleaners, Disinfectants and HEPA Air Purifiers

Birds make messes. Big ones. Constantly. It is our job as their caregivers to clean up after them. However, it is important to do so using only cleaning supplies that are safe for our birds.

Safe surface cleaners to use around birds

A bird’s respiratory system is very different from ours. Their lungs are connected to a series of air sacs that run throughout their bodies, even into their bones. For this reason, they absorb many more of the molecules they breathe in than mammals do. While humans only absorb about 30 percent of what we breathe in, birds absorb more than 90 percent. For this reason, it is very important to never use harsh chemical cleaners around birds, especially aerosolized ones.

Safe cleaners to use around birds include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Grapefruit seed extract or grapefruit essential oil mixed with water at 7 drops per quart
  • Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with water at a 1:1 ratio
  • Chlorhexidine solution in water (Be advised that once chlorhexidine is mixed with water, it is only good for 72 hours, so be sure to mix a new solution every time you clean rather than mixing it up all at once)
  • Detergent-free soap in water

You can choose to wash your bird’s dishes with dish soap that contains detergents, but if you do so be sure to rinse thoroughly, as detergents can be toxic to birds if ingested. Be vigilant to make sure no soap residue remains on the dishes, especially water dishes.

If you have a bird with a contagious disease such as psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) or avian bornavirus (ABV), you may wish to use a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) disinfectant cleaner or a new cleaning product called Accel in order to reduce the spread of harmful viruses and other pathogens to other birds.

HEPA air purifiers

Because birds have highly efficient respiratory systems, as discussed above, keeping their air clean is as important as, if not more so, keeping their cage and other supplies clean. You can do this by making sure that their environment is well-ventilated in the first place, and by placing a HEPA filtration system in every room where they live and play.

A good HEPA filtration system can cost a few hundred dollars, so if you need a cheaper solution in the meantime, you can make your own. Here’s how: Go to a hardware store and purchase a box fan and a HEPA filter that is designed to go in an air-conditioning unit, and tape the filter to the intake side of the box fan. The whole setup costs around $40. For maximum efficacy, HEPA filtration systems should be kept running constantly. Change out the filters as frequently as the manufacturer recommends.

Cleaning used bird toys and supplies

Many people like to trade toys with other bird owners, repurpose household items or items purchased at thrift stores, or bring in pieces of wood, plants and other objects from the outdoors to enrich their birds’ lives. All of these are excellent ideas, but care must be taken to properly clean and disinfect products before introducing them to birds. Toys made with paper and/or other organic matter should not be reused, as they are impossible to properly disinfect. Fabrics should be washed in hot water with bleach or Accel. Less porous objects should be disinfected with the products listed above and set out in the sun for 48 hours.

For more information and helpful tips about cleaning, read this article: “Bird-Safe Spring Cleaning.”