You wouldn't want to take a bath in a gunky tub, so you clean it regularly. And while birds may not be quite as picky as humans when it comes to bathing, that doesn't mean a clean bird bath isn't essential for their health and well-being. Knowing how to clean a bird bath and what cleaners to use helps keep birds safe and healthy and prevents the spread of disease.
Easy Ways to Clean a Bird Bath
Whether you've got a concrete bird bath or any other common type, the methods we're discussing should do the trick. First, dump out any water that's in the bath. Take a moment to look over how dirty it is. If it's just a bit mucky, a quick clean with a natural cleaner like vinegar or baking soda may be all you need. But if you see some hardcore stains, it's time to bring out stronger cleaners.
Clean It Naturally With Water
You don't need a cleanser for the majority of bird bath cleanings, as long as you keep it relatively clean and well-maintained. According to The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), you can clean a bird bath with water and a stiff-bristle brush.
Another option is to use a power washer with water and a jet nozzle, which is a fast, safe cleaning process with some serious pressure to get rid of the ick. The NWF also recommends changing the water regularly to prevent it from becoming stagnant, as this creates conditions for bacteria and algae to grow in your bird bath.
The National Audubon Society warns against using detergents to clean a bird bath. Detergent can strip the bird's natural oils excreted from the preen gland (uropygial gland). The oils from this gland coat the feathers to give them protection from bacteria, ectoparasites, and fungi. This oil also waterproofs the feathers. When the oil is stripped from the feathers, the bird becomes vulnerable to tons of germs, and disease can set in.
If possible, empty and refill the bird bath every day to prevent any buildup of sludge.
Clean the Bird Bath With Vinegar
The National Audubon Society suggests using distilled white vinegar to clean a bird bath safely. This is a simple and safe method that won't harm birds or other wildlife. The recommended mix is 9:1 of water: distilled white vinegar. However, some birding organizations, like the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, say cleaning a bird bath with vinegar works best when using a 1:1 ratio of water and distilled white vinegar.
- Clean water via garden hose or water bucket
- Distilled white vinegar
- Bottle or bowl
- Stiff-bristle scrub brush
Any scrub brush will work, but brushes made specifically for cleaning bird baths can be helpful.
- Pour out any water in the bird bath.
- Mix nine parts of water to one part distilled white vinegar in a bottle or bowl.
- Pour mixed water and vinegar into the bird bath.
- Scrub the bird bath with the brush until all debris is loosened.
- Pour out the vinegar (works great as a weed killer).
- Rinse with clean water using a garden hose or water bucket.
- Rinse the scrub brush.
- Scrub the brush over bird bath to ensure all dirt is removed.
- Rinse the bird bath and brush.
- Allow the bird bath to dry and then fill it with fresh, clean water.
- Keep the scrub brush handy and only use it for cleaning the bird bath.
Remove Stains With Baking Soda
You can use another harmless ingredient to remove stubborn stains from your bird bath. Common baking soda can lift the darkest and ugliest stains, and it won't hurt the birds. Here is what you'll need to clean a bird bath the baking soda way.
- Stiff-bristle scrub brush
- Baking soda
- Clean water from a garden hose or bucket
- Empty the current water in the bird bath.
- Rinse with a garden hose or bucket of clean water.
- Empty rinse water.
- Sprinkle baking soda over the bird bath basin.
- Sprinkle a little water over the baking soda, enough to form a paste.
- Use the scrub brush and work in circular motions.
- Scrub the entire basin.
- Rinse the bird bath and scrub brush.
- Empty the water and baking soda solution.
- Rinse the bird bath a second time.
- Empty the water and check to make sure all the baking soda is gone.
- Rinse again if necessary.
- Refill the bird bath with clean water.
Fight Stains With Hydrogen Peroxide
You can also use hydrogen peroxide to clean your bird bath. Use a 1:1 ratio of water and hydrogen peroxide. Once you have the mixture ready, follow the same instructions as the vinegar method, using the proper scrubbing technique and making sure you rinse it well. To get rid of any rough-looking stains, let the peroxide mixture sit in the bird bath before scrubbing and rinsing.
It Isn't Safe to Use Bleach to Clean a Bird Bath
You can use bleach safely in laundry, so what about a bird bath? According to the National Audubon Society, you don't need to use bleach to clean a bird bath since options like distilled white vinegar will do the job. Rinsing all chemical residue requires multiple rinses, and you can still leave harmful bleach behind.
Some people report finding a dead bird or two after using bleach to clean their bird baths, and we definitely don't want that. Using bleach isn't worth the risk when you can clean a bird bath with distilled white vinegar without harming or potentially killing birds and other wildlife. Any of the methods above are suitable alternatives for cleaning a bird bath without bleach.
Other Cleaners to Never Use
There are a bunch of cleaners that should never get close to your bird bath. Not only could they hurt the beautiful birds that come to visit, but they can harm the environment surrounding it, too. Cleaners to steer clear of include:
- Ammonia: It's toxic to birds and can be harmful if inhaled.
- Essential oils: Essential oils can strip the natural oils from the birds' feathers. Others, like pine oil, are toxic.
- Petroleum-based solvents: Acetone, paint thinners, and other petroleum-based solvents can be harmful to wildlife.
- Cleansers that contain phenols: These are toxic.
Any cleaner that leaves a residue can be harmful if ingested or if it sticks to the birds' feathers.
Maintain the Clean With Maintenance and Algae Control
You can create less work for yourself by incorporating regular bird bath maintenance. If you don't find a remedy for the circumstances responsible for algae, scum, or bugs, you'll have to repeat your deep cleaning efforts more often. Here are some helpful tips for how to keep algae out of your bird bath and maintain its cleanliness for your feathered friends.
- Put copper pennies that were minted before 1982 in your bird bath. The chemical reaction with copper will stunt the growth of algae without harming the birds.
- Most types of algae tend to grow faster in the sun. Keep your bird bath in a shady area for better algae control and to keep it from turning green.
- Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per 1 gallon of water in your bird bath. This creates a more acidic environment that makes it harder for algae and bacteria to thrive, while still being safe to birds.
- Keep the bird bath water clean by changing it at least once a week. This will reduce the risk of disease, algae, and mosquitoes from taking over the bird bath. If your bird bath attracts a lot of birds, you may need to empty out old water and replace it with clean fresh water every two to three days.
- Make sure you pay special attention to your bird bath's cleaning schedule during the warm time of year when birds are most likely to use it.
- Consistently scrub away bird droppings to prevent buildup in your bird bath. Seeds and bird droppings can carry various bird diseases that can be transmitted to other birds.
Adding enzymes can help keep your bird bath clean.
How to Clean a Bird Bath Easily
Choose a method for cleaning a dirty bird bath that best fits your preferences. You only need a brush and water for regular cleanings to prevent the dirt and scum buildup from returning, so you can tackle this outdoor cleaning chore with ease. Natural methods are best when cleaning your bird bath. But with proper technique and effective rinsing, you can use any of these methods safely. You'll love observing the different birds as they visit your bird bath, and they'll be grateful for a clean place to freshen up and cool down.