Cleaning your incubator is incredibly important to the success of hatching eggs. Even if you washed you incubator out the last time you used it or if it is brand new. Dirt dust and germs can find their way in and contaminate your eggs. Your should clean your incubator before you use it, each time you use it.
There are a number of disinfecting solutions that would work just fine. Many people use bleach. It is a viable option, however if you use bleach I would recommend cleaning your incubator several days before use, because bleach fumes tend to linger. There are also other concerns with using bleach (Reference 1)
If you use bleach, it needs to be mixed with water 1:4 ratio is strong enough to do the job. Spray on the bleach solution, avoiding electrical parts. It needs to stay wet for 10 minutes to do its job. Stubborn stains can be scrubbed with a brush.
If you are using a Styrofoam incubator (like me) harsh chemicals should be avoided, they can cause the Styrofoam to begin to breakdown, besides I prefer a more organic method.
Natural Ways to Sanitize an incubator
It’s really very simple. I wash the incubator with dish soap, which is mild and doesn’t leave residue. Then I spray with pure white vinegar and let dry in the sunlight.
Vinegar is great natural disinfectant, it contains 5% acetic acid which does have antimicrobial properties and prohibits the growth of mold. It is also a deodorizer. (Reference 2)
Sunlight can be used to kill some pathogens. I like to leave my incubator in direct sunlight for 6 hours; in combination with the vinegar, this can also lighten stains on your incubator.
Between the dish soap, the vinegar and the sunlight, your incubator should be pretty clean and safe.
Post Hatch Incubator Cleaning
After your eggs hatch. your incubator is going to be a smelly mess. Start by removing unhatched eggs and egg shells and other “stuff”. Then dump out any water that remains in the trays and clean as described above. Remember to clean other things you used such as thermometers and egg trays as well.
Once its clean and dry, I store mine in a trash bag and seal the opening with duct tape and store it on a shelf where is wont get knocked off and damaged.
Incubators are the perfect place for harboring and growing bacteria. They are warm and moist and can cause a multitude of problems with your hatches. With the proper care and cleaning, you can eliminate some of the unknown issues with hatching eggs in an incubator.
- Is It Safe to Clean with Bleach? Steve Graham; February 2011
- Disinfectants: A guide to killing germs the right way Laura Dimugno; 2013