Feather Care: A Guide for Humans

Feathers can be used in decoration, jewelry or just collected.  However, they can quickly lose their shape and color if not cared for.  Birds spend a lot of time grooming and preening their feathers to keep them intact.  In addition bird secrete oils which protect their feathers from water and other environmental conditions.  Once a feather is separated from a bird, it can be hard to keep the feather intact.  In addition feathers can carry mites and disease.  There are various methods of disinfecting feathers and how to properly store them. Feathers must be kept out of direct sunlight and in a dry place.  Dust that accumulates on feathers can absorb the protective oils.  The best way to remove dust is to use a baby brush or soft tooth brush.  Gently brush with the grain of the feather.  If there are insects, such as moths or feather mites, living on the feather, you can try to brush them away or try to disinfect the feather.   But it is usually best to dispose of the feather as the insects could spread if not completely removed.

Feathers may be home to various pathogens and parasites, making it very important that feathers are sterilized.  Although there are many opinions on how to sanitize feathers, there is little public information on which is best.  Pandemonium's interns will be running an experiment to determine the most effective way of disinfecting feathers while keeping the shape and color.  To  test various methods, they will clean each feather by swab.  Then they will attempt to grow a bacterial culture from the swab to determine which method is best. Techniques we will be testing are:

  • Bleach diluted in water
  • White vinegar diluted in water
  • Freezing for 24 hours, then spray with tea tree oil
  • Soapy water
  • Untreated

We will update you next month on our findings.

By Ian Glascock