How to Clean a Bird Bath

Dirty Bird Bath

Luz/Flickr/CC by 2.0

A clean bird bath filled with fresh water will be the most attractive to birds, and knowing how to clean a bird bath safely and thoroughly will allow birders to maintain backyard water sources easily.

Why Cleaning Is Necessary

No one wants to drink dirty, polluted water, including birds, but clean water is more important than just for taste. Dirty water can spread different diseases to flocks of backyard birds and encourages gnat, mosquito and other insect populations that can, in turn, infect humans and other animals. Dirty water can have odors that may attract other pests, and algae and dirt accumulation can stain a bird bath so it can never be restored to its original beauty. Clean water, on the other hand, is more attractive to the birds, safer for all wildlife and will bring a wider variety of birds to your yard.

Minimizing Dirty Bird Baths

The easiest way to clean a bird bath is to ensure it doesn’t get dirty. While all baths will eventually need to be cleaned, there are steps that can minimize the need for more frequent cleanings.

  • When refilling the bath, dump out old, stagnant water instead of just adding more to the basin.
  • Rinse the bath briefly with a pressure hose at every refill to remove sticky debris and feces.
  • Position the bath away from feeders so spilled seed or hulls will not land in the water.
  • Keep the bath out of the reach of pets and do not allow children to play with the water.
  • Choose a shady spot for the bath to minimize algae growth and slow evaporation.
  • Position the bath where it will not be clogged by grass clippings, falling leaves and other debris.

No matter how carefully a bird bath is maintained, however, it will still need regular cleanings.

Easy Steps to Clean a Bird Bath

Cleaning a bird bath is not difficult if you have the proper tools to keep the bath sparkling and take the time to be sure it is thoroughly cleaned.

Materials needed…

  • Water - A nearby hose is best for easy rinsing and filling, but a bucket or tub will work
  • Scrub Brush - Appropriate for bird bath construction to avoid damage or scratching
  • Rubber Gloves - To protect hands from contamination either from dirty water or cleaners
  • Chlorine Bleach - To thoroughly disinfect the bath and kill any algae or bacteria

Note: Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning a bird bath to avoid contamination from fecal matter in the water or on the surface of the bath.

To clean a bird bath...

  1. Dump out any old, stagnant water. This water can be dumped on the grass or nearby flowerbeds, but should not puddle where birds can use it before it evaporates.
  2. Use a disposable rag or the scrub brush to remove any large deposits of spilled seed, feces, debris or other contaminants. The pressure attachment of a hose can also be effective, but be mindful about wasting water.
  3. Use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water to scrub the bath thoroughly. Scrub the basin, lip and any area of the bath where birds land, perch, drink or bathe. For extremely dirty bird baths, it may be necessary to allow the bleach solution to soak for several minutes. While soaking, monitor or securely cover the bath to be sure no birds approach the bleach-filled water.
  4. Rinse the bird bath thoroughly with running water until there is no persistent chemical foaming. A very slight chlorine smell may remain, but it should not be a strong or pungent odor (it should not smell as strong as a public pool, for example).
  1. Allow the bath to dry completely in bright sunlight, which will break down any remaining chlorine so it does not contaminate the refilled water or birds that use the bath. This is a good opportunity to clean the area around the bird bath, refill feeders or do other bird-related chores.
  2. Refill the bath with fresh, clean water, ensuring the basin is balanced and stable so it will not spill.

Tips for Cleaning Birdbaths

A clean, filled bird bath can be an oasis for many species of birds. For the best results when cleaning the bird bath…

  • Thoroughly clean the bath 2-3 times per week depending on how many birds are using it.
  • Use a jet or pressure hose setting to rinse the bird bath between regular cleanings.
  • Clean the entire bird bath fixture and surrounding area at regular intervals.
  • Keep the bird bath full to avoid concentrating pollutants in smaller amounts of water.
  • Add a copper source to the water to inhibit algae and keep the bath cleaner.
  • Consider adding enzymes approved for wildlife consumption (found at pet and bird supply stores) to a clean bird bath to minimize algae growth.

Cleaning a bird bath is not a difficult chore, but it is an essential one to protect the health of backyard birds and keep them supplied with fresh, safe water.