How to Clean a Bird Bath

If you want the birds to keep coming to your yard, and not hightail it to the neighbor’s, it’s in your best interest to keep that bird bath clean.

Assemble your Materials

Obviously, you will need one or more dirty bird baths. You’ll also need a garden hose or other source of clean water, a bottle of bleach, a bucket or large mixing bowl and a scrub brush. You can use any type of scrub or kitchen brush. The size you will need depends on how large your bird bath is, or if it has intricate details you will have to clean with a smaller brush head.

Cleaning the Bird Bath

1. Empty the bird bath

First of all, make sure all of the birds have made themselves scarce. Then, either tip the bird bath on its side or pull the plug out of it if it has one to remove all of the old water. Once that’s done, pick out any large pieces of debris that may remain inside it.

2. Hose the bird bath down

Using your garden hose, or a bucket of water if you don’t have a hose available, give the bird bath a good rinse with lukewarm water. If you have a sprayer nozzle on your hose, put it on its most powerful setting. Hopefully, this will get most of the gunk off of the bottom of the tub. Use the scrub brush to remove any dirt or debris that you can’t get out of the tub by just using the water. You can also use the brush to clean the pedestal of your bird bath if you wish.

3. Mix a bleach solution to kill algae or mildew

Note that this says a bleach solution, not pure bleach. You want to be sure to heavily dilute the bleach, since any bleach residue could be harmful to future bird bathers. Birds tend to be very sensitive to chemicals. Use a measuring cup to make sure you get the ratio right.
You will only need three fourths of a cup of bleach for each gallon of water that you use. Mix the solution in the bucket or bowl using your hands or a spoon. To prevent skin irritation, you may want to wear rubber gloves when handling bleach, and be careful not to splash it on your clothing.

If you’re uncomfortable using bleach and your bird bath doesn’t have any algae or mildew in it, you are more than welcome to skip this step.

4. Let the bleach solution set

Pour the bleach solution into the bird bath so that the entire surface of the tub is covered. Be especially sure to cover any areas of mildew growth or algae. Then let the solution set for 10 to 15 minutes.

*It’s crucial that you cover the bird bath during this step so that no birds attempt to sit in it. Use plastic, foil or wood, or keep a very diligent watch.

5. Give your bird bath a good rinse

Make sure to do a dynamite job of rinsing your bird bath with water so that you get all of the bleach solution out of it. Again, use the jet sprayer on the hose or use a clean bucket filled with water and your scrub brush. If you’re using the bucket method, you will want to fill and pour out the bird bath a couple times.

6. Let the bird bath dry

To be certain you’ve gotten all of the bleach out, let your bird bath sit out in the yard empty to dry. Depending on the weather, it may take an hour or more.

7. Refill the bath

That’s it. Now just refill your newly clean bird bath with water. And, if you want, you can throw a couple pennies in it to prevent algae in the future.

Keeping your Bird Bath Clean

The best way to keep your bird bath clean, and to keep the birdie tenants happy, is to change the water on a regular basis (say, at least once every two weeks). You can also add a commercial bird bath cleaner, available at most home improvement stores. This should minimize the need for bleaching and scrubbing in the future.

Also, try to place your bird bath in an open area of the yard so it doesn’t get clogged with leaves and branches, unless you don’t mind pulling them out daily.


  1. Dan says:

    A cap (not cup) full of bleach once or twice a week in the bird bath will keep the algae away and does not harm the birds in the least!

  2. Stephen says:

    Only pennies made before 1982 are 95% copper. Newer ones are 97.5% zinc. Use a piece of copper pipe instead.

  3. Val says:

    I had only a half cup of bleach, but tried this method anyway. We were amazed how the algae literally washed off of the birdbath after a 1/2 hour of soaking. I will try this again with more bleach, but we are happy with the results already. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

  4. Carol says:

    Is Dan saying to put a cap full of bleach into the water the birds are drinking from??? Or is he saying to use a cap full of bleach in water and scrub the birdbath, then rinse? Please let me know which he meant. Thanks.

  5. Cary says:

    Can any of you give me an idea on how to clean off the hard water stains in my bird bath. I thought about vinegar. If you have a vinegar solution let me know.

  6. Sheila says:

    I would like to know the answer to Carol’s question above? Does Dan mean to leave a cap full of bleach in the bird bath or use a cap full to clean the bath and then rinse out?

  7. Julie says:

    While cleaning your bird bath, keep in mind that a strong bleach solution may harm your plants. A few years ago, I used bleach for cleaning in the garden and ended up with brown spots on some leaves. Not attractive.

  8. Mark says:

    Is it really necessary to explain that one needs to “make sure the birds have made themselves scarce”? I’ve not seen too many wild birds that would hang around as I approached.

    Step six is even more ridiculous. Putting chlorine bleach solution on a surface, and then letting it dry, does not get rid of the chlorine. It simply makes the water evaporate. The chlorine will be left behind. It is necessary to rinse the birdbath well–that’s all.

  9. MP says:

    I would not want to take a chance of harming the birds. DO NOT LEAVE any bleach or any other cleaning solution in the water or on the bird bath. Clean and rinse thoroughly.

  10. Claudine says:

    Super easy, very effective, and completely safe:
    Empty and rinse the dirty water from the birdbath.
    Fill it completely with water.
    Add one capful of bleach.
    Cover the birdbath with anything, so the birds don’t get into it, for ten minutes.
    Pour it out.
    Rinse it well.
    (If there was algae in it, scrub and then rinse again.)
    The remaining trace amounts of bleach will break down within minutes, especially if it’s in the sun.
    I rinse my birdbath everyday, mostly to rid it of any bird droppings. I bleach it this way once a week.

  11. Marianna says:

    My heavy metal is growing a whitish color. What is this? How do I clean it? I have used a toilet bowl cleaner, dishwashing detergent, (hand) and it didn’t do a thing. I just rinsed thoroughly with a strong spray garden hose. How do I clean this crusty looking whitish stuff off my bird bath?

  12. Andrew says:

    I’ve been putting a concentrated amount of bleach in my porcelain bird baths (at least I think they’re porcelain), and letting them soak for a minute (I do this, at least with current spring conditions, every other day). Brown spots disappear. I then hose down the bath extensively. In the future, I will dilute the bleach with water and let it soak, and see how long it takes for the stains to dissipate. I’ll even try putting copper in the baths. Thanks for all your suggestions.

  13. Karen says:

    I am very happy for the advice. My fountain/birdbath is black with algae, so I am anxious to try this solution. Again, thanks so much!

  14. Bob says:

    Pressure washer works great, and no chemicals.

  15. Jerry says:

    A cap full of bleach is not well defined. I took the info to mean continuous bleach treating after cleaning…
    1. Volume [size] of the cap? Assume from a gallon of bleach.
    2. Bleach strength? Assume standard.
    3. Volume of bird bath is not stated. Rules of thumbs are great, but final bleach strength would be best and less confusing.

  16. Jan says:

    Does anyone have ideas about sanitizing under a hanging birdfeeder during severe winter months? Can’t use anything liquid and can’t be raked or swept! Any ideas welcomed.

  17. Alfred says:

    To remove algae from my birdbath, I covered the algae with an Oxyclean paste and let it set overnight.

    The next day , I hosed off the paste and was pleased how algae- free clean the birdbath was.

    I keep two “Healthy Ponds” square water cleaners in the birdbath to keep the water clear and change the water every other day. The birds love taking a bath in clear water.

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