Parrots are slobs. When they aren’t flinging food at the walls, they’re pooping on the floor. Wood chips and toy parts are everywhere.The dust and dander alone is enough to make you cry. Literally. It is very difficult to keep your house in pristine condition when you live with parrots, but we do have to try.The result of an unclean home will be sick birds (and humans), insects, rodents, and perhaps an unwanted relationship with the Board of Health.
For birds that have the power to make a mess resembling a construction site, they are fragile little flowers when it comes to the products that we can safely use around them. There are a few things you must keep in mind whether you are cleaning your bird’s cage and accessories or cleaning the house around your bird:
- A birds respiratory system is a delicate and intricate machine. Any product that comes in an aerosol spray bottle is automatically out of the question for use in a home that is shared with a bird. The contents of an aerosol bottle are under extreme pressure. When released, they come out with force in a fine mist that looms in the air. The mist can flow freely from room to room with natural air currents or with the help of your home’s air system. They are dangerous as are any products that produce fumes. Oven cleaning products (and ovens with self cleaning features) are often cited as the cause of death for many birds.
- Everything in your bird’s path will wind up in its mouth.This includes its own feet after they have walked on your newly washed floor. Your bird must never come in contact with chemicals or its residue..
- When using products that are safe for your bird, which I will list below, use them sparingly. A little goes a long way. Manufacturers will recommend that you use more than is really necessary because they want you to run out of it sooner so you have to buy more. Further, the more of a product you use, even the safe ones, the more difficult it will be to rinse clean.
- When washing things that have food matter on them, remember to rinse your cleaning cloths and brushes often. Food gathers bacteria which can be transferred from one item to the next during the course of cleaning.
- Never introduce chemicals into anything that you use in conjunction with your birds, such as spray bottles, steamers or cleaning tools.
- Elbow grease is an effective cleaner.
- Mild dish washing liquid: Sometimes I feel things needs a good, old fashioned scrub down with soap and water. I wash cages, toys and perches safely with a small amount of Dawn.
- White distilled vinegar and water: I use a cup or two per gallon of water. This cleans everything from cages to mirrors. I use this solution and soapy water, as above, as my main general house cleaners.
- Steam: If you have a bird that manages to get food into toy and cage crevices, this is a great method of cleaning. The hot steam gets into places that can’t always be reached with cleaning tools. It’s perfect for cleaning play gyms and porous perches. It kills mold and fungus too. There are hand held models available at some online bird stores. Never use anything but water in your steamer.
- Laundry detergent: I know a lot of you have birds that play with towels, under sheets or are always in contact with your clothes. Some even help do the laundry. I use Tide, but in lesser amounts that is suggested because I want to be sure that any residue is removed in the rinse cycle. I clean my bird’s cage covers with this, and if you read my last post, you know that the cage cover spends a lot of time in Linus’ mouth. Don’t use fabric softener sheets, like Bounce, with fabrics your bird will come in contact with.
- GSE (grapefruit seed extract) – This is a very effective antibacterial cleaner and great to have around for cleaning things like cutting boards, kitchen counters, and other places where food has been or will be.
- Baking soda – On its own, it is great for absorbing oils and greasy messes. It also lifts stains when mixed with a bit of water to make a paste. It cleans effectively when diluted in hot water (about 1/4 cup per gallon of water), but leaves a residue behind that has to be cleaned or rinsed.
That’s my list. These are the ONLY products I use that my birds might have ANY contact with wherever they might be.
I want to add that, in addition to aerosols and chemical cleaners DO NOT use freshening products like FaBreeze or Carpet Fresh. They are directly responsible for the deaths of a number of birds. If something stinks, it needs to be cleaned, not covered with a prettier smell. Further, beware of solutions used in carpet cleaners and keep your birds well away from freshly shampooed carpet. No Scotch Guard type products on your furniture upholstery, either. Sorry. I know birds enjoy pooping on couches.
I want to impress upon you that many off-the-shelf products that claim to be “pet friendly” are not necessarily created with birds in mind. There are many bird specific cleaning products on the market. I have tried many of them, and find none to be more effective than ones you can make cheaply yourself from products you have in your kitchen. I advise you to stick with the tried and true methods of keeping your bird’s environments clean and safe.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
thank you so much for this article. for years i’ve wanted a much better/healthier approach to cleaning agents. because of the heating system my house has i’ve always just vented until i can’t smell the cleaning agent used (wildly diluted spray9). i’m changing that because of the obvious: they feed with their feet. if the feet are on that floor regardless of cleansers their will always be some residue. dumping current practice and adopting new. again – thanks so much. you truly are changing the world one person at a time.
The thing is that vinegar has zero sanitizing or disinfecting properties. Yes, it can be a good cleaning companion with baking soda. With the Avian Flu seeming to be ramping up, I personally think it’s important to have sanitizing properties as part of the cleaning equation. 1. Buy a good quality steamer and use it frequently. A MINIMUM OF 50 PSI is required in order to fill that bill. The higher the PSI, the higher the pressure of the steam coming out — so beware of full pressure on painted surfaces or your paint might bubble off! IMHO, a good quality steamer is worth is weight in gold — and it’s going to va probably cost in the range of $700 – $2000 or even more, depending on the bells and whistles. Handheld steamers would be great to help in tight quarters, but unless they get to 50 PSI, no steamer will effectively sanitize. 2. There’s a cleaner used by avian vets called ResCue. It comes in a liquid and in wipes. It’s based on hydrogen peroxide and as long as it’s NOT put into aerosolized form, it’s safe to be used around birds. 3. Chlorhexadine gluconate is a cleanser and sanitizer that’s known to be safe and is frequently used by vets as well as human medical professionals. It’s so safe that it can be used to make a mouth rinse (as long as you’re not using a scented kind!). There are different kinds of it available. You can find it in vet supply stores as well as medical supplies. As with ResCue, it’s best not to put in aerosolized form. Just throwing out some other options for discussion. Thanks for any other insight on these topics you might have. I haven’t tried ResCue but am going to order it vm unless further research shows I shouldn’t. Thanks.
I didn’t think tide was a good laundry soap, I thought it was full of toxic chemicals?
I like to use f-10 they use it. In avian clinics
Can I use Palmolive dish soap ?
Someone left a comment about if Lysol is safe if the birds are in the other room. I would guess not. Both Lysol wipes and FaBreeze have dimethyl ammonium chloride…which gives my mom migraines when the neighbor sprays FaBreeze in the common area (there is a door between that area and our LV). Also, yes, this place is old, but we can smell if the neighbor is cooking, especially if it is oily, or has bacon or potatoes. Air cycles EVERYWHERE! If humans can smell it in thus place, a better sealed place prevents human detection…but you’ll have a “canary in the coalmine” with the Lysol. He’ll suddenly stop singing one day, and you’ll look to find him unable to breathe.
Thank you, Patty, for compiling definitive information on safe bird cleaning. These ingredients are sensible. It’s a shame birds are casually ignored by big brand “pet safe” guarantees. They’re ignored until it’s too late.
What should I use for a vacuum?
2 things. 1. Can I get my carpet steamed cleaned 2. Can I use lysol if I put my parrot in the other room
Can you give me information about the Shark hand held vacuumed with tiny nozzle. Haven’t seen that one and it would be perfect.
What about dusting the furniture .. what can be used for that ?
Does anyone know about HOST carpet cleaning system, which is supposed to be completely natural and environmentally friendly and safe for pets? It is done with some type of sponges that go into the carpet to absorb the dirt.I am wondering if anyone has researched whether it is safe for birds. I have a very dirty carpet and live in a small flat. I am housebound and my budgie can’t leave the flat as we have no other place to stay. I need a good way to get carpets really clean as they are stained and a lot of ground in dirt.
I use vinegar for cleaning cages and their accessories also other things can work like dettol for washing/cleaning cages/utensils. At the other end we can use Azadirachta indica (Neem tree) leaves boiled water as natural solution.
Anna, everything is chemicals. Water? H2O, a chemical. Defined, a chemical is a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially, BUT BY NO MEANS EXCLUSIVELY, artificially. Lavender oil and tee tree oil still count. Also, air fresheners like lavender can cause respiratory problems in parrots. Finally, lavender and tea tree oil have absolutely 0 disinfecting properties, so while you may be removing visible dirt and muck with your mixtures, you aren’t actually creating a clean environment. Your parrots should be taken from you, you’re worse than Hitler.
What if your furniture has scotch guard on it. Is it harmful even if the bird doesn’t get near it? Does it rub off on clothing that could harm the bird? I just purchased a piece of furniture that has been scotchguarded. I can’t return it.????????
Definitely agree that using vinegar is the smart option for safe cleaning. We use it for cleaning in our business and its not only cost affective but it doesn’t harm the environment.
Thanks Patty for all the great info. I really like the Grapefruit seed ex, I also use it on my counter tops and such. I also use it to rinse my sprouts, it does a great job removing any possible mold or fungi.
Hi, the cleaning products i use in my house are all chemical free for our own health, my favourite being lavender oil and tee tree oil diluted in water which i use for almost everything, this includes cleaning practically all surfaces, hands, cages, as an air freshener and a shild against colds (and stress). I would assume that these natural oils in the small quantities used would be safe for birds aswell?
White vinegar works well as a fabric softener, too. Quarter of a cup will do the job plus you get the benefits of it as a sanitiser. That, with sunlight when drying, ensures my clothes and fabrics are safe for our cheeky galah.
just vinegar and H2O….the best of the best :)
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