How to Clean a Bird Bath and Keep It Fresh

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
Jennifer L. Betts Jennifer L. Betts

Jennifer worked for five years as a housekeeper in a large hotel chain. In that capacity, she learned how to clean just about anything.

robin on bird bath

Clean a bird bath using one of several methods and keep it fresh. You can use common household products to clean that nasty bird bath so it's fresh for the birds to enjoy.

Easy Ways to Clean a Dirty Bird Bath

The first thing you must do is remove the water that fills the bird bath. You can then choose which method you prefer to use to clean it.

No Cleanser Needed

A cleanser isn't needed for the majority of bird bath cleanings as long as you regularly clean it. Most daily bird bath dirt and grime only requires a stiff bristle scrub brush and water.

How to Clean a Bird Bath With Vinegar

The National Audubon Society suggests using distilled white vinegar to clean your 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 people report a preference of using a 1:1 ratio of water and distilled white vinegar.

Supplies Needed

  • Clean water via garden hose or water bucket
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bottle or bowl
  • Stiff bristle scrub brush


  1. Pour out any water in the bird bath.
  2. Mix nine parts of water to one part distilled white vinegar in a bottle or bowl.
  3. Pour mixed water and vinegar into the bird bath.
  4. Scrub the bird bath with the brush until all debris is loosened.
  5. Pour out the vinegar (works great as a weed killer).
  6. Rinse with clean water using a garden hose or water bucket.
  7. Rinse scrub brush.
  8. Use scrub brush over bird bath to ensure all dirt is removed.
  9. Rinse bird bath and brush.
  10. Allow bird bath to dry and then fill with fresh clean water.
  11. Keep the scrub brush handy and only use it for cleaning the bird bath.
Man scrub brush to clean bird bath

How to Keep a Bird Bath Clean Without Using Detergents

The National Audubon Society warns against using detergents to clean a bird bath. The compounds/chemicals in detergent can strip bird feathers of their natural oils.

Why Birds Need Natural Oils

According to Science Direct, detergent can strip the bird's natural oils excreted from the preen gland (uropygial gland). The oils from this gland coat the feathers to provide antimicrobial protection from bacteria, ectoparasites, and fungi. The oil also waterproofs the feathers. When the oil is stripped from the feathers, the bird becomes vulnerable to these, and disease can set in.

Baking Soda to Remove Bird Bath Stains

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.

Supplies Needed

  • Stiff bristle scrub brush
  • Baking soda
  • Clean water from a garden hose or bucket


  1. Empty the current water in the bird bath.
  2. Rinse with a garden hose or bucket of clean water.
  3. Empty rinse water.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda over the bird bath basin.
  5. Sprinkle a little water over the baking soda, enough to form a paste.
  6. Use the scrub brush and work in circular motions.
  7. Scrub the entire basin.
  8. Rinse the bird bath and scrub brush.
  9. Empty the water and soda solution.
  10. Rinse the bird bath a second time.
  11. Empty the water and check to make sure all the baking powder is gone.
  12. Rinse again if necessary.
  13. Refill the bird bath with clean water.

How to Clean Concrete Bird Bath

The distilled white vinegar and/or baking soda methods will clean concrete bird baths. You may also use a jet nozzle to lift dirt. A power washer will give you a fast cleaning process when only using water.

How Do You Clean a Bird Bath With Peroxide?

You can also use hydrogen peroxide to clean your bird bath. You can use a 1:1 ratio of water and hydrogen peroxide. Once you have the mixture ready, follow the same instructions as the vinegar method.

clean bird bath with garden hose

Using Bleach to Clean a Bird Bath

Some people use bleach to clean their bird baths, since it can be left in the bird bath to eat away at the debris and stains. If you feel this is the method you want to use, make sure you rinse all residue from the bird bath before refilling for the birds' enjoyment.

Caution About Using Bleach to Clean Bird Baths

According to the National Audubon Society, you don't need to use harmful bleach to clean a bird bath since distilled white vinegar will do the job. Rinsing all chemical residue requires multiple rinses, and you can still leave harmful bleach behind. In addition, some people report finding a dead bird or two after using bleach to clean their bird baths. Most people decide it isn't worth the risk when distilled white vinegar does a great job of cleaning without harming or potentially killing birds and other wildlife.

How to Use Bleach to Clean a Bird Bath

If you intend to use bleach to clean your bird bath, make sure the bird bath material won't be damaged by bleach if it made of something other than concrete.

Supplies Needed

  • Bleach
  • Stiff bristle scrub brush
  • Heavy duty rubber gloves
  • Fresh, clean water and garden hose or water bucket
  • Tarp, plastic sheet, or large garbage bag to cover bird bath to keep birds out


  1. Empty the current water in the bird bath.
  2. Using the stiff bristle scrub brush scrub the bird bath.
  3. Dilute the bleach with water in a 9:1 ratio with water being the largest part.
  4. Pour the water/bleach solution into the empty bird bath.
  5. Fill the solution to the rim of the birdbath.
  6. Cover the bird bath with a plastic sheeting, tarp or garbage bag, anchored around the rim so the wind won't carry it off.
  7. Leave the covering for as long as you want, depending on how much stain and dirt needs to be removed.
  8. Once the time is up, use the scrub brush to loosen any remaining dirt/stain.
  9. When you're satisfied all the dirt/debris has been removed, pour out the bleach mixture and loosened dirt.
  10. Make sure you dispose of this harmful chemical in a glass container or metal bucket to dispose of it properly.
  11. Use a garden hose or water bucket to rinse the residue from the bird bath with clean water.
  12. Again, be careful how you dispose the liquid.
  13. Rinse more than one time.
  14. Allow the bird bath to dry naturally in sunlight.
  15. Wait a couple hours before refilling to allow the sun to burn off any bleach residue.
  16. Refill the bird bath with clean fresh water.

Prevent Algae From Growing Back

Baking soda is great for removing algae. However, if you don't remedy the circumstances responsible for the algae growing, you will simply have to repeat cleaning the bird bath to remove the algae. If the bird bath is in a shady area of your yard, then move it into full sunlight so algae cannot grow in it. Some bird bath owners swear by leaving several copper pennies (minted prior to 1982) for the chemical reaction copper has in stunting the growth of algae.

Cooper pennies in a bird bath

Tips for the Easiest Way to Clean a Bird Bath

According to The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), you can clean a bird bath with just water and a stiff bristle brush. The NWF advises changing out the water on a regular basis to prevent the water from becoming stagnant. Stagnant water sets up conditions for bacteria and algae to grow in your bird bath. The NWF states that warm weather is the best time to clean a bird bath.

Regular Scrubbing Keeps Bird Bath Fresh

The NWF advises you must constantly remove/scrub away bird droppings to prevent buildup in your bird bath. In addition to stagnant water, seeds and bird droppings can carry various bird diseases that can be transmitted to other birds.

Keeping Your Bird Bath Clean

Change out the water once a week to prevent disease, algae and mosquitos 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 with clean fresh water every two to three days.

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.

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