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Bird baths are a great way to attract birds to our backyard! However, they can be really tricky to keep clean and safe for birds to use. So I did lots of research on how to keep bird bath water clean and listed it out! Here’s what I found:
How To Keep Bird Bath Water Clean:
- Pour Out The Residual Water
- Scrub The Basin
- Refill The Basin With Water
- Add Chlorin Bleach
- Cover Up The Bird Bath With A Trash Bag
- Leave The Bird Bath To Soak
- Rinse The Treated Basin
- Refill The Cleaned Basin
- Change Bird Bath Water 2 -3 Times A Week
- Move Bird Bath Away From Trees And Bird Feeders
So now you know the simple steps to keep a bird bath water clean. But the difficult part is in the details! I’ll cover everything you need to know in this article. Read on for more!
Materials To Clean Bird Bath Water
Here are the materials needed for the cleanup process:
- Scrub Brush / Pressure washer
- Rubber gloves
- Chlorine bleach
- Black plastic trash bag
10 Steps To Keep Your Bird Bath Water Clean
1. Pour Out All The Residual Water
Before we begin with any cleaning, you’ll want to start with removing the contaminated water.
The water may contain all sorts of organic contaminants like those mentioned above, so it's best you dispose of it responsibly!
A suggestion would be to pour it out in an area to be recycled in your backyard.
If your basin is attached to the entire bird bath, then you can choose to tilt and let the water flow. If the bird bath basin contains any physical items, do remove them before proceeding to the next few steps!
2. Scrub The Basin
Next, you’ll need to add water to your basin and use your scrub brush to scrub the basin.
Do be careful NOT to use any sharp metal objects to scrub, because it may cause the paint on the bottom of your basin to peel and that can spell trouble as some paint can be toxic to birds.
If you happen to have any pressure washers or a water jet of any kind, this will be a perfect time to use it to dislodge any large debris stuck to the bottom of the bird bath.
The aim is to remove surface materials so they can be cleaned more thoroughly later on.
3. Refill The Basin With Water
Next, you’ll need to remove the chemically resistant stains that do not belong on the bird bath basin surface. These include stubborn dirt or algae.
Be sure to add enough water for it to have a higher water level than algae growing on the sides of the basin. (If any!)
Here’s a small tip on managing algae growth: Add a copper coin in the water to inhibit the algae growth.
Make sure the copper coin isn’t tainted with rust or anything like that first!
4. Add Chlorine Bleach
Next, we’ll use some chemicals to remove the stains.
Add a generous amount of chlorine bleach to the water. I would suggest adding about 10% of the amount of water you have added.
5. Cover Up Bird Bath With Black Plastic Trash Bag
This step is extremely important so please don’t skip it or miss it!
You must cover the bird bath with a black plastic trash bag.
This is to discourage birds from being led to believe the bird bath is ready for use.
You do NOT want any birds to be bathing in your chlorine bleach water!!
The black color will allow the sun to heat the water and dry the bath more quickly. Also, secure the plastic bag firmly so it will not fly off.
6. Leave The Bird Bath To Soak
You’ll then need to leave the bird bath to soak for about 10 to 15 minutes.
For bird baths that have not been cleaned for months or more, you’ll need to soak longer for them to be fully clean.
My personal recommendation would be to soak it for an entire day if you can’t remember when you last cleaned it!
7. Rinse The Treated Basin
Remove the trash bag and begin to rinse the treated bird bath basin.
Check if there are still algae stains on the basin. If there are, then repeat steps 3 – 6 and wait for a longer duration before removing the trash bag.
Be sure to give the bird bath a thorough cleansing with your water hose or water pressure washer.
It is important not to leave the bird bath unattended at this point until you have done the thorough cleansing.
That’s so that no birds come around and use the bird bath!
A good way to gauging if the basin is thoroughly rinsed is to sniff the basin.
If the basin still smells of chlorine, you need to rinse and repeat multiple times to get rid of the residual chlorine water.
If the basin doesn’t smell of chlorine, move to the next step!
You do not want to be stingy with the number of washes here, as chlorine in the water of your bird bath can cause harm to the birds if used.
8. Refill The Cleaned Basin
You can now proceed to refill the cleaned basin with your clean water.
You want to fill a depth of no more than 2 inches as this is the right depth for smaller birds to easily drink and bathe.
If you want more information on how deep a bird bath water level should be, check out another article I wrote here all about it here!
It details all the information you need depending on the birds that frequent your basin!
9. Change The Bird Bath Water 2 – 3 Times A Week
Now, in order to maintain the good hygiene and cleanliness of your bird bath, you’ll need to change the bird bath water 2 – 3 times a week.
However, depending on the amount of debris that enters the bird bath and the seasons, you need to adjust that according to your needs.
In fact, I write more about how often to change your bird bath water in another article here! Do check it out!
10. Move Bird Bath Away From Trees And Bird Feeders
The location of your bird bath actually makes a lot of difference to how often you have to replace the water or clean it totally!
As much as possible, position your bird baths away from any trees and bird feeders!
Trees can produce lots of debris that will naturally drop into the bird bath and clog it up with dirt.
Bird feeders, on the other hand, attract lots of birds to feed. When birds feed, they are really messy and may drop their seed, feathers, or droppings into the bird bath accidentally.
So be careful!
Basically, try NOT to mix up the ‘lunch table’ and the ‘bathroom’, in our human terms!
The Importance Of Cleaning Your Bird Bath Water
Before we even talk about the steps required to keep bird bath water clean, it’s important to learn why we should do it!
In preparing water for birds, we should be responsible for keeping it clean for 2 reasons:
1. Birdbaths Are Subjected To Outdoor Elements
Bird baths are always subjected to outdoor elements which will cause a build-up of debris, leaves, and twigs in the bird bath water. This can be harmful to birds if they drink it.
2. Repeated Avian Usage
When birds repeatedly use bird baths, they contaminate the water with their droppings, feathers, and other contaminants, this can cause great harm to birds!
“If you don’t take good care of your birdbath, either it will dry out completely, which is no use for birds, or it’ll get fetid. That’s when mosquitoes might become a problem.”Geoffrey LeBaron, director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count program
Dirty and stagnant water attracts mosquitoes and can become a potential breeding ground for them. This can cause harm to both birds and people in the area.
How Often Should You Clean Bird Bath Water?
You might then ask the question: “how often should I clean my bird bath water?”
Well, you should aim to clean your bird bath water around 2 to 3 times a week.
Of course, if you wash your bird bath so often, washing it every time will not be as difficult as washing it after months of not doing so!
Do observe the cleanliness level of your bird bath though.
If you feel like your bird bath needs cleaning more often than the recommended frequency above, then by all means please do so!
I wrote another article on how often you should change bird bath water here, so please do check it out!
What Is Contaminating Your Bird Bath Water?
In order to figure out how to clean your own bird bath water, you’ll first need to understand the problem. Basically, we need to know our enemies in order to get rid of them.
Common Sources of Contamination:
- Bird feces
- Grass fragments, leaves, or other debris
- Dust and dirt
Though keeping our bird bath waters clean may be a tiresome process, I would say that keeping a clean bird bath for the birds to bathe in is worth every ounce of effort.
Just seeing the birds using the baths that you set out will definitely instill a sense of pride and ownership of the backyard birds that frequent your backyard ever so often.
Here’s to cleaner bird bath waters and healthy backyard birds!
My Recommended Birding Resources:
Hey there, Justin here!
Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and brands I trust and love.
Safe Paint for Bird Baths Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting bird baths.
Safe Sealers for Bird Baths Guide: Learn which sealers are safe for bird baths.
Safe Paint for Bird Feeders Guide: Learn what special care needs to be taken to paint bird feeders with the right paint.
Safe Paint for Birdhouses Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting birdhouses. (Not the same as bird baths!)
Bird Identification Apps Guide: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great for tracking the birds sighted when birding.
Check out my resources page for the full list of resources I recommend!
Justin is the founder and author of Birding Outdoors. He is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences and a former data analyst.
Now, Justin runs the Birding Outdoors blog full-time, hoping to share his deep love for birds, birding, and nature with others.
To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.