How To Clean A Cement Bird Bath

Keep your Bird Baths Clean to Encourage the Birds in your Garden.

I admit it.  I am not the best housekeeper in the world.  I’d rather spend time in my garden. But even normal gardening chores have piled up on me this summer.  My only child made a move across the country and there have been so many things to do to get her ready for the move.

How To Clean A Cement Birdbath

Now that she has gone, I have to get my “nest” back in order.  And cleaning out my bird bath is at the top of my list.  The poor birds have abandoned me because I let it get so dirty.

Pretty border with a not so pretty birdbath.The above scene is lovely but a close up shows just how disgusting the bird bath had gotten over the last month or so since I cleaned it out.

Close up of the dirty bird bath

It is important to remove the debris in the bird bath.    The water contains an accumulation of all sorts of bacteria and debris, including bird feces.  To remove the water, I just tipped it slightly on its side and let the water run into the surrounding garden. This close up shows just what needs to be removed.

Close up of debris in a dirty bird bath.

The next step is to use the hose to remove what you can.  I used the highest pressure setting on my hose and then scrubbed the bird bath with a scrubbing brush.  Surprisingly, I got a great deal of it out just doing this!  It looks reasonably clean but you can still see some residue that the brush did not get.

Bird bath after a good scrub.To get it cleaner you will need these items:  A black trash bag and some liquid bleach.

Tools to clean a bird bath.The next step is very important. Refill your bird bath.  Bleach is highly toxic and needs to be diluted.  I used about 3/4 cup to a gallon of water.  Fill the bath up above any stain marks and add the bleach.

Liguid bleach and water to clean a bird bath.At this point, the bath will need to be left for about 15-20 minutes. (longer if it is very dirty.)  Cover the whole bird bath with a black plastic bag and leave it to sit. This step is necessary because the water in the bath will be attractive to birds and you don’t want them to be drinking the diluted solution.

Bird bath being cleaned is covered with a black plastic bag.

When you remove the plastic bag, your bird bath should look like new. If it is still algae or scum, just replace the bag for a bit longer.  You can save the plastic bag to use again the next time you need to clean your bird bath.

Drain out the water.  I used old sponges to sop it up and put into a pail to discard.  I did not want the chlorine bleach to get onto the nearby plants.  Once you have removed the chlorinated water, be sure to rinse the bath thoroughly.  Once again, I used the pressure setting and let the water run into it for about 2 minutes. Tilt the bath and be sure to get every part of the bird bath rinsed.  You will have a good idea if you have rinsed enough by smelling the bath. If you can smell chlorine, keep rinsing.

It is a good idea to let the bird bath dry in the sun for a while before putting in fresh water.  This will help to sterilize the surface of the bird bath against bacteria.  The basin will dry in just a few minutes on a hot sunny day.  This step is not crucial but is a good idea.

clean bird bathNow refill with clean fresh water and your bird bath is clean and safe for your birds to enjoy.  The bath will remain clean for several days and you can help to keep it clean longer by pressure rinsing and refilling the bath daily.  With proper care, you will only need to occasionally use the bleach method.

Hopefully, mine will not get to the awful state shown above for a long time to come!

Garden bed with clean bird bath.Much better than the picture above, don’t you think?

There are lots of other ways to clean a bird bath.  I also tested alka seltzer and copper pipes recently.  See my test results on this method here.

How do you keep your bird bath clean? Please leave your suggestions below.

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  39 comments for “How To Clean A Cement Bird Bath

  1. Susan
    08/20/2013 at 7:46 am

    I like your solution and the step-by-step photos, but I do think you can accomplish this with less than 3/4 cup of bleach. I worry that the bleach will leach into unsealed cement, and the more you use, the more will remain in there and will end up in the clean water. You do need to rinse and rinse after the soaking anyway, but try this with 1/4 cup instead of 3/4. Your results should be the same.

    • admin
      08/20/2013 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for the tip. One article I read recommended 1 cup and I thought that was too much, so I reduced it. My bird bath was horrible so I figured I needed quite a bit. When I clean it in future, I will use less though.
      Carol

  2. 08/21/2013 at 7:09 pm

    clean birdbath withone part bleach to ten parts water or 50/50 vinegar and water, then rinse,rinse and rinse again. Refill with fresh water and add a commercially available enzyme that prevents stains, scrum, mineral deposits and organic contaminates. Just add a capful of the enzyme to water, also safe for wildlife. Moving water is a bird magnet, add a dripper, mister or water wiggler. All birds need water !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Nancy Stephens-king
      05/29/2014 at 7:20 pm

      After I cleaned my bird bath (I used a scrub brush, baking soda and vinegar), I added a bunch of pennies that were dated prior to 1983 (the copper keeps the bird bath clean from algae). So far, so good!

      • admin
        05/29/2014 at 9:12 pm

        great tip Nancy. Thanks! Carol

  3. Susan Stanley
    08/21/2013 at 7:39 pm

    Hi, I went into my local birding store to see if they had some specific cleaner that I could buy. The owner happened to be there and was worried about using any chemicals, so he suggested his method: Hydrogen peroxide. He swore by it, just let it set and of course rinse well after a scrub with a brush. I also cover my bath during it’s treatment. Seems to work great!

    • admin
      08/30/2013 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks for the tip Susan. I’ve also heard that hydrogen peroxide is a good way to go.

      Carol

  4. Renee W
    09/01/2013 at 5:33 am

    I use a pressure washer to clean my birdbath from top to bottom. No cleaners or scrubbing….clean in 10 minutes. Clean my 4 tier fountain the same way….clean in 15 minutes.

    • admin
      09/01/2013 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for the tip. I wish I had one. The edges of my roof could do with a good clean too!

      cArol

  5. Sara
    09/05/2013 at 10:22 pm

    You could also use OxyClean or Stain Solver (oxygen bleach). It’s safe for the plants and won’t bite into the concrete. I noticed the first year I tried this the green slime does not build up on my fountain as quickly.

    • admin
      09/06/2013 at 7:20 am

      I’ve also been amazed that the slime did not build up on my bath using the method I outlined above.

      Thanks for your tips. My main concern is for the birds, so I keep the chemicals part as low as I feel I can get away with.
      Carol

  6. Judy Hoppe
    09/07/2013 at 8:38 am

    I have also used just builder’s sand. Rubbing it into a dry bird bath helped removed a lot of the discoloration and no problem for the plants below, plus no residue needing copious amounts of rinse.

    • admin
      09/11/2013 at 11:21 am

      Thanks for the tip Judy.

  7. Beth
    08/28/2014 at 9:07 am

    Judy, thanks for the tutorial. The photos were very helpful. For years I’ve seen some beautiful antique bird baths at estate sales, and really wanted to buy them, but always shied way from pulling the trigger because I was afraid that the stains might be permanent. Now I feel free to go ahead and take the plunge. Thank you!

    • admin
      08/28/2014 at 9:54 am

      Hi Beth, I have cleaned the dirtiest bird baths you can imagine. They always seem to clean up well. Carol

  8. Lindsay
    06/11/2015 at 5:00 pm

    I would like to try hydrogen peroxide to clean the birdbath but am unsure how much to use and how to apply it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • admin
      06/11/2015 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Lindsay. I have only tried alka seltzer tablets and chlorine on mine. I did find this info on another site:

      Before you fill it, each time, pour in about a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide around the sides and on the bottom so it is all coated. Then add the water. The extra oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide ( it is water with an extra atom of oxygen attached to each molecule) quickly dissipates in the rest of the water and is completely safe for the birds.
      You may well see some ‘bubbling’ as the hydrogen peroxide first hits the sides and bottom of the birdbath. That means it has found something to ‘eat up.’ Then it becomes just water after that, because that bubbling uses up the extra oxygen.

      I can’t vouch for this info but it seems as though it would work. Just not sure about putting it in an not rinsing. Perhaps another reader will have some advice?
      Carol

  9. Donna Pollack
    08/30/2015 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the information on cleaning bird baths, plus so much more useful tips for caring for a home and garden. The pictures are lovely and my kind of activities , like antiquing and refubishing things.
    Thanks again

    • admin
      08/31/2015 at 9:43 am

      Hi Donna. Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you are enjoying my blog. Carol

  10. Sue Johnson
    08/31/2015 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for a lot of great info. I just bought the exact bird bath that you have pictured above. Hasn’t been used in some time. It has a few small cracks superficial but worried it could crack more with use. Can I do something to keep cracks from getting worse and can I paint with something safe to protect the concrete from deteriorating?

    • admin
      08/31/2015 at 3:26 pm

      HI Sue. To be honest, I am not sure about that. I have never cracked mine, so I don’t know what one would use to fix it. I did a search for this issue and came up with this article: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/seal-concrete-birdbath-52526.html. But I can’t vouch for it, since I have not tried this.

      Carol

  11. Mabel Adams
    04/07/2016 at 3:58 pm

    Love your site, my birdbath is sparkling.

    M.

    • Carol
      04/07/2016 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Mabel. I am glad you enjoy my site. I need to get out and give mine a good clean now! Carol

  12. Elaine
    04/22/2016 at 7:55 pm

    This is what I do and it seems to work:
    To keep algae growth down and your bird bath clean, add 1 capful of apple cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon per gallon of water to the bird bath. The apple cider vinegar also provides vitamins & minerals to the birds.
    Apple Cider Vinegar in Bird Baths (National Gardening Association)

    • Carol
      04/22/2016 at 10:03 pm

      Great idea Elaine. Thanks for sharing. Carol

  13. Robin E.
    04/25/2016 at 2:37 pm

    I cleaned my cement bird bath using 50/50 vinegar and water then used a brush to remove the dirt that had accumulated over the winter. I have never had it that clean before. No chemicals required. Beautiful results.

    • Carol
      04/25/2016 at 5:45 pm

      Thanks for sharing the tip Robin.

    • Lori
      04/30/2016 at 10:54 am

      Hi Robin! I like the idea of using vinegar…something natural. Do you use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar? Thank you!

  14. Maribel Guel
    07/20/2016 at 10:23 pm

    Would it be a problem if I let the birdbath soak overnight?

    • Carol
      07/21/2016 at 10:18 am

      Hi Maribel. I have never left it to soak over night but I doubt it would do any damage to the bird bath. Carol

  15. Laddie
    08/04/2016 at 8:56 pm

    WOW! I just stumbled across this site. It is incredible. I want to enjoy my birds more, now I can. It seems I was cleaning the birdbath more than getting the relaxation and enjoyment one is supposed to be receiving from the birds. If I had a new way of thanking you I’d use it right now. So, I’ll have to go with the tried and true version………….Thank you all. Lad

  16. Sonni
    10/28/2016 at 3:42 pm

    Wow, it’s only been 15 minutes, and already a huge difference, thank you….it was a lot of money I spent on this bird bath, and it’s back to looking like the day I bought it.

    • Carol
      10/28/2016 at 4:47 pm

      Hi Sonni, I had the same reaction the first time I cleaned mine! Carol

  17. Barb
    03/08/2017 at 5:25 am

    I have 6 bird baths, one hummingbird feeder, one 3-tier fountain, and will be buying two more bird baths this spring. I’m always looking for ways to clean them and found the photos and suggestions interesting. I have been using pumice stones to clean mine and felt my time spent was a labor of love, but I would like to try other ideas. Thanks!! Happy birding! ❤

    • Carol
      03/08/2017 at 10:06 am

      Hi Barb. I am glad you found the article helpful. Carol

      • Javasia Dixon
        07/14/2017 at 5:52 pm

        I’ve never used a bird bath before. One came with my new home and I never used it. Today I decided to put it in a place it looked good but it was so dirty I didn’t know if I could use it. Thank God I found your instructions. I am now so excited!! I’m going to buy the supplies and get to pleasure 🙂 Thank You, Thank You Thank You!!!!!!

        • Carol
          07/14/2017 at 9:52 pm

          My pleasure Javasia. Hope it cleans up well! Carol

      • Javasia Dixon
        07/14/2017 at 6:16 pm

        I had a bird bath that came with my home. It was in the garden for over 10 years. I moved and decided to take it with me. Today I finally put it in my garden. It looked good except it was extremely stained and dirty ( of course, being outside with no care ). Thank God I found your instructions. I am so excited and am ready to get to FUN!!!

  18. Della
    05/07/2017 at 7:23 am

    You can get 3 percent hydrogen peroxide from the dollar tree. A cheap paint brush , a cheap bucket, you can clean up all of your yard tool and trinkets. I think of it as my clear soap safe for the enviroment. I clean me up outside also. especially my mosquito/bug bites.

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