how to keep parrot dust down

How To Deal With Parrot Dust (And Why It Matters!)

Parrot dust is a common issue for all owners. Although most types of bird species can produce dust, some are more prone to it than others. For example, parrots that have an oil-based coating on their feathers will produce very little dust. Those with power-based coatings will produce far more. The key to dealing with parrot dust is maintenance.

To reduce parrot dust, you need to regularly bathe your parrot and wipe down any dust around the home. A cleaning routine should be performed every 1-2 weeks with a damp cloth and disinfectant. You can also help your parrot shower, wipe it down with a towel, or use a spray bottle. This contains the dust and encourages the parrot to preen itself more often. If you have allergies, asthma, or a very dusty parrot, be sure to invest in a HEPA air filter.

Parrot dust can’t be avoided, but it can be managed. If left unchecked, it can eventually cause you to develop allergies, bird fancier’s lung, or other breathing issues. For people with asthma, you may have symptoms triggered or, in very extreme cases, have a full-scale asthma attack. This can all be avoided by keeping the air free of this natural dust.

Why Is My Parrot So Dusty?

All parrots naturally create a powder-like substance known as “parrot dust.” This comes from the feathers, which are coated in a film to protect them from:

  • Outside damage
  • Water
  • Normal wear and tear

To be exact, this is a layer of fine keratin known as barbules, which protect the barb of the feathers. As time goes on, this naturally sheds off. It will do so excessively during molting season, but can happen at any time. It’s renewed into a fresh layer that protects the feathers. When the first layer disintegrates, it will resemble a powder or dust.

To some extent, all birds create “feather dust.” For some types, they even have what is known as “powder downs.” This is a collection of specialized feathers that are located underneath the ordinary feathers. They are a very fine layer that sits very close to the skin. When combined with the tougher exterior feathers, this down works as insulation to keep the bird warm.

Powder downs create a heavy amount of feather dust as they renew themselves. Your parrot might be very dusty because that’s natural for it. In the wild, this dust would be carried away by the wind or naturally get lost in the flora around the parrot. In the home, it’s more of an issue.

Can You Stop A Parrot From Being Dusty?

Parrot dust is produced through a natural process that continues for the bird’s entire life cycle. As a result, there is no way to stop it from happening. In fact, for the parrot itself, this is a good thing. The dust keeps its feathers protected while shedding away old, worn-out keratin film that isn’t needed. The process is crucial to making the feathers healthy, vibrant, and light.

However, parrot dust is much like animal hair; it gets everywhere in a home. Since it’s white or grey in appearance, it will stick out on dark surfaces. This may include:

  • Wooden flooring
  • Dark countertops
  • Black clothing

Parrot dust isn’t believed to change with the seasons. In fact, there is no method of reducing how much dust your parrot makes directly. There’s no medication or ointment you can apply to your parrot to reduce it.

With that said, you can try to contain the dust and clean it up more effectively. For example, the dust may scatter each time your pet flaps its wings. Of course, you can’t stop your parrot from displaying this important body language. However, you can keep the bird in a single room and stop the dust from spreading everywhere in your home.

is parrot dust dangerous?

Is Parrot Dust Dangerous?

Parrot dust isn’t toxic or poisonous. However, it is similar to dander. It’s a collection of fine particles that can be inhaled and may begin to accumulate over time. If you have any respiratory issues, this could make those worse. Over time, it may even create new issues.

Parrot Dust Allergy

It is estimated that up to 40% of the population is sensitive to foreign proteins in the environment, according to Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. Parrot dust counts as a type of protein. That means that if you’re exposed to a great deal of it, you may develop an allergy to it. This could have a more serious impact on your health over time.

For the average household, it’s just an annoyance. It won’t require you to visit a doctor or take any drastic measures. If you do react, it will probably be limited to:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Watery eyes

Parrot owners who are sensitive to airborne particles may deal with these symptoms regularly. The best approach is to try and reduce how much parrot dust is in your home.

Triggering Asthma

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25 million people in the United States suffer from asthma.

Individuals with this condition are also sensitive to foreign particles, such as parrot dust. Even short-term exposure to these particles can trigger your asthma. This includes symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

This reaction is rarely deadly. However, prolonged exposure may trigger a dangerous asthma attack. At the very least, it will be uncomfortable. Someone with asthma may be unable to stay in the same room as a dusty parrot that isn’t properly cared for. If you have a history of asthma, it’s smart for you to avoid:

  • Buying a parrot that’s known to be dusty
  • Buying any bird with a powder down
  • Letting parrot dust stack up or continue without an air purifier

Bird Fancier’s Lung

Bird fancier’s lung is a disease unique to bird owners. It is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is caused by exposure to proteins present in:

  • Bird droppings
  • Bird feathers
  • Parrot dust

This won’t be a problem for owners who keep their parrot cages well-maintained and cleaned. However, if it gets messy and out of control, your parrot won’t be the only one who suffers. Your lungs will be so exposed to these contagents that it will develop into a full disease. Symptoms of bird fancier’s lung include:

  • Inflammation of the alveoli or air sacs in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Chills
  • Fever

It is possible to treat this with medication. That will provide temporary relief as you work to limit how much you’re exposed to the parrot’s waste, be it dust or otherwise. In the long-term, your doctor will likely recommend that you either:

  • Stop interacting with the bird
  • Take heavy measures to keep the area clean

After all, you’ll be more vulnerable to parrot dust once you’ve developed bird fancier’s lung.

Reducing Your Parrot’s Lifespan

Aside from impacting your health, parrot dust can also harm the bird itself. If its cage isn’t properly cleaned and the dust isn’t removed, it’s not uncommon for parrots to fall ill.

After all, parrots are meant to exist in wide-open spaces. Placing them in a small, confined area can lead to them being exposed to a higher concentration of parrot dust than is natural.

Excessive quantities of parrot dust can build up in your parrot’s airways and clog them. This can then create breathing problems and the onset of certain diseases.

How To Keep Parrot Dust Down

Despite the health concerns, this doesn’t mean parrots are inherently bundles of disease and sickness waiting to happen. The key will be to limit how much parrot dust stacks up in your home and the air.

You should perform a regular cleaning routine. This will remove the dust and keep the environment tidy for you and your parrot.

Wiping Down Surfaces

Parrot dust is aptly named, since it gathers in your home just like regular dust. Even if you don’t need to clean up dirt often, you should add a thorough dusting routine to your weekly schedule if you own a parrot.

The dust will be heaviest around your birdcage or anywhere that your parrot plays. Take careful note of any perches, shelves, or even clothing you’ve worn while your parrot sat on you.

You’ll probably notice parrot dust easily on dark-colored surfaces, like tables, clothing, or the floor. Use a damp cloth or a mop to wipe down any surfaces. You can follow this up with a disinfectant wipe to be extra safe.

If your parrot isn’t very dusty, and you don’t have allergies, this could be done every 2 weeks. During molting season for your parrot, you may need to do this every 3-4 days.

Rethink Your Cage

The dustiest area will always be your parrot’s cage. After all, the bird sleeps, eats, poops, and plays here. If you leave the bird in its cage while you’re at work, the majority of its ‘dusting’ will be isolated to this spot. Unfortunately, running a damp cloth over the bars and perches won’t be enough.

A parrot cage should be cleaned at least once a week. However, if you notice your parrot is creating a lot of dust, or you’re reacting to the airborne particles, do this more often. You will need to change out the newspaper at the bottom of the cage regularly. Since parrot dust is white or grey, you may not see the dust easily, but it’s there.

Likewise, be sure to wipe down toys, ropes, and perches when you clean. This should be done with a damp cloth. If you want to disinfect the area, make sure the cage can air out before your parrot returns to it. Otherwise, it may be harmed by the chemical fumes of bleach or other cleaning products.

Get an Air Purifier

It’s wise to get an air purifier if there’s an excess of parrot dust. After all, since these particles are so light and airy, only some of them will drift down and rest on surfaces.

If your parrot isn’t very dusty, this won’t necessarily be harmful. With that said, children are more susceptible to developing a respiratory infection when exposed to dust long-term. Likewise, you may still notice the dust affecting the air quality and smell of the home.

Owners can reduce the concentration of airborne dust with the help of an air purifier. You will need a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This can remove 99.97% of airborne particles that are 0.3 micrometers or 0.0003 millimeters in size.

Parrot dust is large enough to be trapped by these devices. Be sure to place one near your parrot’s cage or in the main room it plays in.

Best Air Purifier for Parrot Dust

Choosing the right purifier for parrot dust can be tricky. There are many different factors to keep in mind when choosing the right device. These are:

Size

Air purifiers come in different sizes. You should get one that can accommodate your home, or at least the room your parrot spends the most time in.

  • Small purifiers are best for rooms 300 square feet or smaller in size.
  • Medium purifiers work for spaces that are between 300 and 600 square feet in size.
  • Large purifiers can filter the air in rooms that are 700 to 1900 square feet in size.

You should avoid using a purifier that is too small, as it can get overwhelmed by the amount of parrot dust. Even if you change the filters often, it will still leave many of the particles in the air, negating its entire purpose.

Air Changes Per Hour

Many purifiers list the device’s ACH on the packaging. This abbreviation stands for “air changes per hour.” That covers how many times the purifier filters the air in the room in a single hour.

To remove a significant quantity of parrot dust, owners should look for a purifier with a 4x ACH rating or higher. This will help keep up with your parrot’s natural dust production.

Filter

The filter is arguably one of the most important components of an air purifier. It is what catches fine particles and prevents them from being released into the air again.

As mentioned earlier, air purifiers with a HEPA filter can filter out parrot dust from the air. Be sure to get one that comes with this special filter.

How To Reduce Parrot Dust

You may not be able to stop your parrot from creating dust, but you can limit its spread. Alongside a cleaning routine and an air filter, here are ways to contain the dust to your parrot itself:

Showering

Some owners allow their parrots to perch near their shower when they are bathing. This allows the bird to rinse off excess dust and dirt themselves. Your parrot doesn’t want to be coated in dust any more than you. If you give it a cleaner option, it won’t shake it free into the air.

You can also let your parrot shower in your kitchen or bathroom sink. Just turn on the faucet, set your parrot in the sink, and lightly splash it with water. As long as you don’t rush your parrot, it should begin playing with the water itself.

Towel Method

Owners can also bathe their parrots themselves by using a towel and warm water. You can simply:

  • Dip the towel in the water
  • Wring out any excess
  • Gently wipe down the parrot

This will be the most straightforward way to limit the dust. If you do it once every 1-2 days, you might be able to clean your home of parrot dust only once a month.

However, keep in mind that parrots need to be closely bonded and very trusting to accept this wipe-down. If your parrot isn’t extremely comfortable with being touched all over its body, it may fight you, bite you, or become very agitated. If you’re still working on your bond, or the parrot prefers a hands-off approach, you can use the next method.

Spray Bottle

You can bathe your parrot with the help of a spray bottle. This works best for parrots that don’t like showering on their own, or dislike heavier water pressure. You can:

  1. Fill up a spray bottle with lukewarm water.
  2. Turn the nozzle to the “mist” setting.
  3. Spritz your parrot’s body several times.

When you first do this, make sure to treat it like a game. You don’t want your parrot to interpret this shower as a punishment. Be sure to:

  • Keep your voice light and friendly.
  • Smile and move like you do when it’s playtime.
  • Spritz the parrot once and give it a chance to adjust.
  • If it seems confused, praise it and offer it a treat.
  • If it seems happy, encourage it and respray it.

The water will dampen the feathers and keep the dust from flying into the air. Your parrot will then shake off the extra water and preen its feathers. This removes the dust in a more contained fashion.

how to reduce parrot dust

Most Dusty Parrots And Least Dusty Parrots

The amount of parrot dust that each species creates will vary. There are no studies to conclusively state which type of parrot creates the most or least amount of dust.

Even still, we can deduce that certain factors may lead to particular species creating more dust. These are:

  • Size: The larger your parrot is, the greater the surface area of its down feathers. Large species, such as African greys and cockatoos, are more likely to produce a significant amount of dust.
  • Region: It is believed that the region a parrot is from can also influence its level of dustiness.  Each breed develops feathers that help them in their environment, so they may produce more or less dust as a result.  
  • Feather Type:  For example, Macaws live in wet climates and have oil-based feathers that produce little to no dust. These birds have little need for the thermal insulation that powder down feathers provide.

Are Amazon Parrots Dusty?

Amazon parrots live in warm, humid regions. This makes their feathers oil-based, and less likely to produce dust. Owners with asthma or dust allergies will be better off acquiring an Amazon parrot, rather than another variety.

Are Quaker Least Dusty Parrots?

Quaker parrots are indigenous to South America. As such, their feathers are likely to be oil-based rather than dust-based. These birds are medium-sized, and grow to be up to 12 inches in height. As a result, they may not produce a large quantity of dust.

Are Senegal Parrots Dusty?

Senegal parrots are native to Western Africa. They do not have dust-based feathers, and grow to be only around 9 inches in height. For these reasons, Senegal parrots are believed to produce a minimal amount of dust.

Are Pionus Least Dusty Parrots?

Pionus parrots are native to Central and South America. These birds do not have the preen gland that produces oil secretions, so their feathers are powder-based. These birds can grow to 10-12 inches in size.

This makes them dustier than parrots with oil-based feathers. However, they’re not as dusty as many other powder-based species, such as African greys and cockatoos.

Are Eclectus Least Dusty Parrots?

Eclectus parrots are native to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. These areas have warm climates, so these birds have oil-based feathers. Eclectus parrots are known to produce very little dust, and are often recommended for those concerned about allergies.

Are African Greys Least Dusty Parrots?

These parrots have powder-based feathers, despite originating from Africa. This fact, coupled with their medium to large size, means they’re one of the dustiest parrot species around. If you have a dust allergy, an African grey is the last bird you would want in your home.

Are Alexandrine Least Parrots Dusty?

These colorful parrots are native to India and Sri Lanka. Since they have power-based feathers, you can count on them producing more dust than other types of parrots. However, because they’re rather small, they’ll still create less dust than African greys.

The best way to handle parrot dust is with a thorough cleaning and bathing ritual. If you pair this to an air purifier, there’s no need to suffer from bird dust. Your parrot will feel happier, and your lungs will be safe.