Take a good look at your bird's cage. Does it look rusted and dirty? That "rust” might not be rust at all, but simply a coating of stuck-on food, dust and droppings. Give the cage a thorough cleaning. Use a scrub brush, steamer, pressure washer, steel-wool pads or whatever tools are necessary to remove the grime from cage bars. Don’t use abrasive cleaning products or tools on painted surfaces. Instead, use a nylon sponge or brush. Wash the grating and tray.
I’ve put decrepit-looking small metal cages, trays and gratings in the dishwasher to have them come out looking practically new! Remove perches, dishes and accessories and clean them up, too. Once you’ve done this, evaluate the real condition of the cage. Check the tray for rust or holes. If there are no loose bars or missing parts, the cage might be worth salvaging.
I’ve refurbished cages my birds have used for years using the following steps:
Scour the dry cage with steel wool or a wire brush; use nylon brushes on painted cages. Do not use rust remover, as the chemicals can be toxic.
Wash the cage using a power washer, hose, shower, steam cleaner, dishwasher or other effective means. Use liquid dish soap and bird-safe disinfectant if necessary.
Allow the cage to air dry overnight.
Inspect for residual dirt, and repeat the above steps if necessary.
Rinse the cage and allow to dry.
Make repairs. If welding is necessary, take the cage to a professional welder, one who uses and certifies lead-free materials. Make sure all resulting welds are smooth and unobtrusive.
If the manufacturer is still in business, replacement cage parts might be available. If not, check with a well-stocked bird store for dishes and parts that can be adapted to the cage.
If necessary, paint metal cage trays, cage aprons and other smooth parts with a "nursery-safe-when-dry” paint, intended for use on metal. Read label instructions prior to use. Do not use paint in proximity to your bird. Wait for nice weather to paint in a well-ventilated garage or outdoors. Be sure fumes do not drift into your bird’s living area. Although nontoxic-when-dry, such paints can be harmful if inhaled.
Do not paint surfaces your bird will come in direct contact with, such as cage bars. A good cleaning is usually sufficient to get cage bars looking good again. Allow the paint to dry for 48 hours or more, in an area away from your bird before moving your pet into the cage. Do not cover the cage for at least several weeks after painting, as the paint might still be releasing fumes. Some cage companies will re-powdercoat your painted cage for you. Call the manufacturer to inquire.
Paint intended for household use, even though certified "nontoxic when dry” or "nursery safe,” is not tested on birds so there is no way for a manufacturer to guarantee its safety for avian use.
Want to learn more about bird cages? Check out these articles:
Why Won't My Parrot Come Out Of The Bird
How Clean Is Your Pet Bird Cage?