Ah … there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of resting your feet after a thorough spring clean. If only for a fleeting week or so, you can enjoy your home’s righteous return to its pristine condition — one that is free from bird-generated dust and dander. Check out these easy “Spring Clean” tips and tricks every pet bird enthusiast should try.
1. Window Coverings
The problem: Many pet birds prefer a room with a view and appreciate being housed near a window. This can offer your bird visual enrichment, but you might not notice the slow buildup of birdie-dust on your window screen. If you share your home with a cockatiel, cockatoo or African grey parrot, all three of which are high-dust generating parrots, your window screen might be especially in need of a deep cleaning.
The fix: Take the window screen off the window, and bring it outside to hose it down. For stubborn debris, dip a soft-bristled brush in dishwashing liquid and scrub both sides of the screen, then rinse with the hose. Leave the screen out to air dry, which will give you time to grab a hand-vac or extended vacuum hose to suck up seed hulls, flung food crumbs and feather dander from the window’s nooks and crannies. Before you re-hang the screen, inspect it for wear and tear, as a gap or hole in the screen can potentially lead to a lost bird.
The problem: Blinds, whether opened or closed, can be dust catchers, especially those within the vicinity of cage fallout.
The fix: Mix equal parts vinegar with water in a bowl, put an old sock on your hand, dip it into the bowl, and then slide your wetted “sock puppet” hand across each slat of the blind. If the blind slats are really dirty, you might have to rinse out the sock a few times or have a backup sock (good thing they come in pairs!), and change out the water in the bowl so you aren’t just smearing dirty water across the blinds.
The problem: The upside of curtains is that they can give your bird some visual respite from things outside that might startle him/her (like the neighbor’s cat lingering outside). The downside to curtains is that they are real dust magnets. In addition to dust, dander, fine molted feathers and seed hulls, curtains can also trap pollen and dust mites. Home experts recommend cleaning curtains at least once a year, if not quarterly, which means a trip to the dry cleaner or a drop in the washing machine if you know for certain that your curtains are machine washable. [Note: Bird enthusiasts especially might want to opt for a “green” or “organic” dry cleaner, one who uses water and nontoxic detergents in specialized machines instead of perchloroethylene (PERC), which has been linked to health problems. Remove dry-cleaned curtains, and any other dry-cleaned garments, from the plastic bag and hang outdoors or in the garage to air-dry air before re-hanging them.]
The problem: The go-to item for anyone who shares their home with the feathered kind is a broom for tile and wood floors, or a good vacuum for carpet. Carpet usually gets frequent vacuuming, but what about washing it? Home experts suggest that homes with pets should have carpets cleaned at least once a year. Yet, just like some household cleaners can be irritants to pet birds, so can some carpet cleaners.
The fix: The safest way to go is to clean carpet with a steam cleaner that uses hot water only, as in totally chemical-free. And for good caution, locate your bird to another area of the home while the carpet dries.
4. Shelves & Bookcases
The problem: Unless you are a true minimalist, a place to store things is must-have for most homes. But while shelves and bookcases accumulate your stuff, they also accumulate dust. Add to this the fact that many of us store our birds’ food and accessories on shelves near their cages, and we have a layer of cage fallout to boot.
The fix: Spring cleaning is a time to roll up the sleeves and take everything off the shelf, bookcase or mantle, and clean from the top down. While you’re at it, wipe down the items you remove. Once everything is sparkly and back in its place, vacuum or sweep the floor.
The problem: Wondering why your hi-def TV is so cloudy? If you can write on the screen using your finger, chances are your bird’s cage is in the vicinity, especially if you have one of the dusty three — African grey, cockatoo or cockatiel. Your TV or computer screen doesn’t have to wait until spring for a clean though; you can typically complete this task in 5 minutes.
The fix: First, turn off the TV or computer, as a dark screen makes dust and dirt more visible. Most gadget geeks recommend using a soft cloth like a microfiber cloth (one tech guru even says a dry eraser will do the job). If the dirt/smudge is still there, wet the cloth with distilled water or use some of that vinegar you used to clean the blinds to create an equal ratio of distilled water to vinegar. While it’s tempting to just use a paper towel, napkin or the edge of your shirt, these materials can potentially scratch the screen. And using an ammonia-based product like Windex can react with the screen’s coating and then you’re left with a cloudy screen — that simply won’t fly with your movie-loving parrot.