reminder: All articles and posts on my website are written by me and from my own perspective (Sophie The Pigeon) and often I'm typing it aimed at other birds 😉

Pigeon & Bird Articles – Cleaning Toys

When it comes to hygiene, it’s not only important that we pigeons bathe, that you keep our cage(s) clean and that you practice proper hygiene yourself when handling us, but that you also keep our toys clean and as free as possible from bacteria and such.

Our toys will get dirty and get bacteria on them, which can (obviously) make us sick. Therefor it is very important that you also (properly) clean (or even replace) the toys of your pigeon(s) regularly.

How efficiently or easy you will be able to clean the toys depends on the material(s) of the toy(s). Wooden toys for example can be a lot more difficult to (properly) clean and disinfect than solid plastic toys.

I will give some basic tips and information about cleaning toys which are based on how me and my pet humans do it for my toys.

For all toys

I will first give some tips for cleaning all types of toys (including perches for example).

Chlorine and/or Bleach
There are several websites which recommend using a (diluted) chlorine solution to clean your bird toys, me and my pet humans however would like to advice against this. In our opinion there are (much) better alternatives to using chlorine like vinegar or just replacing the toys. Simply because chlorine can and will compromise our (very) sensitive respiratory system. Bleach is also an often mentioned cleaning agent, but this has the same problem as chlorine, plus it can be extremely corrosive to/on certain materials.

Perfumed Soaps and such
You should never use scented/perfumed soaps or cleaning agents when cleaning your bird toys, these perfumes can cause distress to your bird’s respiratory system.

When possible only use hot (or boiling) water, vinegar and/or bird-safe soaps
Just like the title of this paragraph states, you should (whenever possible) only use hot or boiling water and vinegar or bird-safe (natural) soaps when cleaning our toys. If you need (or better: think you need) other extreme cleaning agents/chemicals like bleach, chlorine, alcohol, ammonia or anything alike to clean our toys: You are just ‘dead wrong’, and could potentially even end up with a dead (or very sick) bird! Just don’t do it! If it is just for a toy, then don’t take any risks with using dangerous chemicals and just replace the toy instead, no toy is worth the life of a bird.

Don’t be lazy, don’t use your dishwasher for our toys!
Yes, this might (well: will definitely) ‘offend’ some people, but me and my pet humans don’t care, we do not consider your dishwasher as suitable for cleaning your bird toys. Simply because lots of you humans use ‘dishwasher soap’ or ‘shine tablets’ and lots of other ‘cleaning agents’ meant for your dishes (and thus not for bird toys), and left behind residue of those ‘cleaning agents’ inside your dishwasher might end up on/in your bird’s toys. In our personal opinion you should just manually clean your bird’s toy’s and just ‘make time for it’, instead of choosing the ‘easy way’ of the dishwasher, it is just part of taking care of your bird(s) 😉

We recommend vinegar to clean bird toys

Vinegar is one of the best natural and non toxic ‘cleaning agents’ when it comes to cleaning bird toys (and cages). Obviously you should always thoroughly rinse all bird toys after cleaning them to ensure that no ‘cleaning agent’ is left behind, however if accidentally some vinegar is ‘left behind’ on your bird toys, it will not harm your bird(s) (if diluted properly).

What vinegar to use
We (and many other websites) recommend to use either apple cider vinegar (often abbreviated as ACV on bird forums) or white vinegar.

How to use/dilute the vinegar
We would like to recommend to dilute the vinegar (white or ACV) as following: one part vinegar to three parts (warm) water.
Which basically means: 100ml vinegar and 300ml water.
Or: 750ml water and 250ml vinegar (to get 1 liter of ‘cleaning agent’) etc.

Make sure to thoroughly rinse the toys after cleaning them with vinegar
Even though the vinegar is non-toxic to us birds, you should still make sure that you thoroughly rinse the toys with “plain water” to remove any vinegar residue after cleaning our toys. Also make sure that the bird toys are completely dry before you return them to your birds.

Vinegar is not a true disinfectant
Please do keep in mind that despite the fact that vinegar is a very good cleaning agent for our toys, perches and cages, it is not a true disinfectant. So if you really need a true (medical grade) disinfectant (due to an infection, virus etc), we recommend you to contact your avian veterinarian and ask what they recommend you to use for your situation. Simply because the severity of the infection, virus etc might require different (or even more extreme) solutions.

Always make sure your bird is in another room when cleaning
Even when using diluted vinegar, you should always ensure that your bird is not around you and the cleaning solution when cleaning their toys, perches or cage. Simply because (any) cleaning agents can irritate the bird’s respiratory system.

Cleaning plastic or Acrylic toys

When cleaning plastic (non porous) plastic toys, we would like to recommend to use warm/hot water and a brush to scrub them clean. If required you can also use vinegar to clean them. Soaking plastic toys for a while can also be done (just make sure that you don’t accidentally leave any water and/or cleaning solution behind inside the toy for example). IF the toy is ‘heat resistant’ you might even be able to use boiling (or close to boiling temperature) water. Do keep in mind however, that many plastic toys will soften or even melt if the temperature is too high!

SOME plastic toys might be able to withstand cleaning with ‘aggressive chemicals’ like (rubbing) alcohol, but personally we would advice against using such chemicals for your bird toys. Like mentioned before: If you think it’s required to clean them with such ‘aggressive chemicals’, it might actually be better to just replace them.

WARNING: Using abrasive chemicals like (rubbing) alcohol on acrylic toys can (and will) cause damage to the toys!

Wooden Toys and Perches

It is not recommended to soak wooden toys or perches if you want or need to clean them. It is best to just scrape off bird droppings and such and then cleaning them with a damp cloth or sponge using (diluted) vinegar for example. You can also ‘sand down’ the ‘contaminated’/dirty area until it’s clean if needed. Always make sure that you let wooden toys or perches dry completely before returning them to your bird(s). If the toy or perch got ‘too wet’ you can also dry it in a oven at low temperature (around 250°C).

Even if you clean the wooden toys of your bird(s) regularly, it is still recommended to replace them every now and then, this because wood can be quite susceptible to bacterial growth.

Cloth, Rope etc

Items like (or containing) cloth, rope, leather or other fabrics should (generally) not be soaked in cleaning agents (like vinegar) for for extended periods. You can clean these toys by using a brush, a damp cloth or hand washing them with either (diluted) vinegar, warm water or (bird-safe) soap.

You should yet again make sure that no ‘cleaning agent’ is left behind on (or in) the toy after cleaning it, and that the toy is completely dry before returning it to your bird(s).

Stuffed Animals

Lots of us pet pigeons have stuffed animals, and obviously also our stuffed animals can get dirty overtime. Therefor it is very important that you also clean our stuffed animal(s) from time to time. Some people/websites claim they wash the stuffed animals (of their dog for example) in the washing machine. We personally would strongly advice against doing this! Because laundry detergent can and often will be toxic to us birds! And if it turns out not to be toxic for us birds, the (often strong) smell of the laundry detergent can and will irritate the respiratory system of us birds.

I for example have Miss Bubbles (my pink fish, which can be seen laying on my back in this photo), and it is absolutely my favorite toy above all others. I do love many of my other toys, but Miss Bubbles is definitely one I can’t go without (seriously).

That however also means that I’m always ‘dragging’ it around, taking it with me where ever I go, laying on top of it and more of the alike, and thus it will eventually get dirty. My pet humans have a VERY mild (bird-safe) soap of which they will put just a few drops in boiling water and then soak miss bubbles in it. Once the water starts cooling down a bit, they will then hand clean/wash Miss Bubbles more thoroughly with this water.

After they are done cleaning Miss Bubbles, they will then rinse her several times (to get the soap out of Miss bubbles completely) and then let her dry completely before she is returned to me. To ensure that I don’t “have to be without Miss Bubbles”, they have bought multiple of them. So when one is getting washed, I have another one so I can resume playing while the ‘original one’ is getting cleaned 🙂

Silicone Toys/Perches

It is a “bit debatable” if silicone toys are even safe for birds which might (accidentally) ingest small parts of it when chewing on the toy, buy I myself for example do have a custom bike perch which has a silicone bar for better grip during our travels (which I do not ever chew/bite on!). And I also have a silicone mat which I can use for perching on slippery (or dirty) surfaces when I’m traveling with my humans. Obviously both these ‘objects’ also need to be cleaned from time to time.

But because silicone if very heat resistant, you can easily clean it with boiling water and even let it soak in boiling water for a prolonged time without damaging the silicone.

WARNING: If the silicone item also contains other materials like plastic, it might actually damage these materials if they are not resistant to the temperature of boiling water!

3D Printed Toys

Some people are against using 3D printed toys, items or objects for their birds, but my pet humans often create the coolest things for me with their 3D Printers. For me (and because pigeons generally don’t “chew to destroy”) 3D printed toys are however not a problem at all, I don’t chew on them and my pet humans take lots of precautions in designing my toys, in what type of plastic they use and much more. But more about 3D Printing toys for your bird(s) (or not) can by found on my 3D Printed Toys page, this section is just about cleaning your 3D printed bird toys (if you use them).

3D Printed toys or items can be great (or very handy) for us pigeons, but there is an additional risk when it comes to 3D Printed toys compared to regular plastic toys from a factory, and that is the fact that 3D printed objects consist out of layers (because 3D Printers print layers of plastic on top of each other in order to create the 3D objects).

These layers in 3D printed objects is where the ‘hygiene problem’ hides, because even if you print at a very high resolution (which means very thin layers on top of each other), you will still have very small ‘cracks’ (called layer lines) between each layer, and between these layers it is very easy for bacteria to grow.

Because 3D printed plastic can’t withstand the extreme heat of boiled water, it can be a bit more difficult to clean these objects, therefor my pet humans use a (dedicated for this purpose) toothbrush, hot water (around 45-50 degrees Celsius maximum) and bird-safe soap to thoroughly clean my 3D printed toys and objects.

If one of my 3D printed objects would become “too dirty to clean” or pose any other “health risk” due to either aging or damage, my pet humans just replace it by reprinting it for me.

NOTE: It is not recommended to soak/submerge 3D printed toys in for example vinegar or soap solutions, because due to the printing layers it might be possible for water (and thus also the cleaning solution) to get inside of the toy.