Testing Alka Seltzer and Copper to Clean a Bird Bath

As much as we all love to see birds splashing around in a bird bath, bacteria and grime will soon make it not such a pleasant sight.  For today’s project, I am testing Alka Seltzer and copper to clean a bird bath.

Testing Alka Seltzer and Copper to clean a bird bath. Do they work? find out at thegardeningcook.com/alka-seltzer-copper-birdbath

I have several bird baths in my garden beds.  I just love to sit and watch the birds having a bath in them and enjoying themselves. 

They sometimes even fight over who goes first, which is funny to watch.  (The big fat robin always wins!)

But cleaning the bird bath is a chore that is hard to keep on top of.   If I forget about it for a while, I end up with lots of brown algae every time. 

I am always looking for easy ways to keep my bird baths clean.  This is what one of mine looked like recently:

Dirty bird bath really needs a cleanIt had not been cleaned for a little while and looked ugly.  I’ve tried cleaning the bird bath using chlorox, but even though I rinse it well, I’m concerned that the residue, if any, might harm the birds. 

I have read that copper keeps algae from growing in a bird bath and that alka seltzer tablets will clean it.  I wanted to test this theory.

My test involved three ingredients:  two alka seltzer tablets,  (affiliate link) a scrubbing brush, and some small pieces of copper pipe. (79c each at Lowe’s.)

Alka Seltzer tablet, copper pipe and scrubbing brush are the tools to a clean bird bathI’ve tried alka seltzer to clean a toilet bowl in the bathroom and it worked well.  I also researched the effect of alka seltzer on birds and came up with an old wives tale about the effect of it on them. 

Snopes has debunked the myth that it it harmful to them.   My feeling is that the amount is very small and I’ll be rinsing it very well after cleaning, so the residue will be minimal.

Alka seltzer tablets contain baking soda as a main ingredient, so this could also be used if you don’t have the tablets. See more ways to use baking soda in the garden here.

Alka seltzer in a bird bathThe first thing I did was scrub over the bird bath lightly with a brush and then add the alka seltzer tablets.    The tablets did, indeed, clean what the brush missed.  Then I rinsed the bird bath thoroughly several times to get rid of any residue.

copper pipe keeps a bird bath cleanThe next thing I did was to add two small pieces of copper pipe into the clean water.  I have read that copper is a natural algaecide and will repel the algae that forms over time so I wanted to test this theory. 

(Some people swear that copper pennies in the bird bath also work.)  The bird bath in the back yard got the copper and the one in my front yard did not.  I wanted to see the difference.

Bird bath still clean a week laterThis is my bird bath a week later.  The copper did, indeed, seem to keep the algae at bay and the back yard bird feeder was definitely cleaner than the front after a week.

TEST RESULTS AFTER A LONGER TIME:   I left the bird baths as they were for a longer time (about two weeks).  The front bird bath had much more algae in it and the back one stayed much cleaner. 

Did it keep the algae totally away?  The answer is yes and no.  The back bird bath had much less algae build up in it but still needs periodic cleaning with a scrubbing brush, although the job is much easier in the bird bath which has the copper in it.

What techniques have you used to clean your bird bath?  How effective were they?  Let us know in the comment section below.

For another way to clean a cement bird bath, be sure to watch the video connected to this post.

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  22 comments for “Testing Alka Seltzer and Copper to Clean a Bird Bath

  1. Anastasia
    07/29/2014 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the detailed research results! I’m going to share this with my mom who has a new birdbath.

    • admin
      07/29/2014 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks Anastasia. I’m glad you found the article useful Carol

    • Barb
      05/26/2018 at 10:40 am

      We r trying your method & will lets know in about four weeks

      • Carol
        05/26/2018 at 11:34 am

        Thanks Barb. It kept mine clean for quite a while. Carol

  2. Michelle jadaa
    08/01/2014 at 11:12 am

    I add some hydrogen peroxide to mine,it stays clean and breaks down into oxygen so its safe.

    • admin
      08/01/2014 at 11:21 am

      Hi Michelle. I have heard that hydrogen peroxide works well. I haven’t tested it myself yet but will do so soon! Carol

  3. Pam
    08/05/2014 at 12:15 pm

    I did an almost identical post last year on my blog and had pretty much the same results. I think I gave it a grade of B. It really does work, but it’s not perfect. Now if I could only find something to keep the birds from poo’ing in the birdbaths I would be all set. I’ll have to try to alka-seltzer next week when I clean them again.

    • admin
      08/05/2014 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Pam. There is so much info out there that people just scrape from one site to the other without every trying to see if it works. It did help a bit but nothing like just getting the scrubbing brush out every few days! Carol

  4. 08/07/2014 at 1:10 pm

    Great article. I am definitely going to give this a try!

    • admin
      08/07/2014 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Jonni. Let me know how it works for you. Carol

  5. Sharon A Mulhern
    06/15/2017 at 9:51 am

    Do you keep the small pieces of copper pipe in the birdbath continually? Or do you remove them once you are finished with the whole bird bath cleaning job. And then in order to maintain cleanliness of birdbath, do you go through the original cleaning job except if you are maintaining it will be easier to clean and you won’t have to keep the copper pipes in as long as you did the first cleanup go around? Bottom line – should copper pipes just be kept in the birdbath for continual work on the algae.

    Thank you!

    Sharon A Mulhern

    • Carol
      06/15/2017 at 11:05 am

      Hi Sharon. You leave the copper in the bird bath. I tested one with and one without. The one that I left the copper in stayed clean longer. I still had to do some cleaning now and then but not as often. Carol

  6. Rick
    06/27/2017 at 9:15 pm

    Has anyone tried any of the solutions that help keep the birdbath clean? Amazon sells them I with try the copper pieces. I guess you could use pennies?

    • Carol
      06/27/2017 at 10:10 pm

      Hi Rick. Pennies would only work if they are dated before 1982. Those are the coins made with 95 percent copper. Later pennies are made mainly of zinc.

  7. Nicholle
    07/30/2017 at 3:18 pm

    apple cider vinegar works well too.

    • Carol
      07/31/2017 at 11:31 am

      Thanks for the tip Nicholle. I have tried apple cider vinegar in other ways but not in the bird bath. Must give it a go! Carol

      • Deborah Boyer
        08/02/2018 at 9:17 pm

        Hi Carol,
        Today I finally tackled my glass birdbath that I had let go for quite a while because of having surgery on my hand.
        I have a fountain on it that the birds love to drink the water falling off each of the leaves. To say the least, it was a mucky mess.
        I rinsed off as much as I could then I poured about a cup of white vinegar in the base and added enough water to let the pump run. I used a scrubbing brush to scrub all the surfaces including the underside of the fountain and the bowl. I let the fountain run for a few minutes and the water became quite dirty again. It had cleaned the inside of the fountain. I unplugged it and hosed everything down. The cups (leaves) on the fountain still needed a bit of work so I filled each cup with more white vinegar and did a bit more scrubbing. Yep it was more dirty than I thought! Finally after doing the last rinse, it was sparkling clean again. I filled it up with clean water and added one capful of apple cider vinegar. It not only will help with more algae bloom but the cider vinegar is good for the birds. It helps give them nutrients and it’s also good for their feathers.

        Adding the copper to the water is good but I had read in one of my birding sites that as long as the temps don’t stay above 90 for days, it should be ok. It becomes toxic for them if the temps are high day after day. I don’t know, I never used copper. I will try your idea of alka seltzer. I wonder how denture cleaning tablets would work to clean the birdbaths? They’re meant to lift stains off of dentures, right? LOL -Debbie

        • Carol
          08/03/2018 at 11:36 am

          Hi Debbie. Yes…birdbaths can be a mess if not cleaned often. I have one in my front yard that I forget about and it gets to be a sight~ The denture tablets will probably do the trick, but I’ve never tried this. Carol

  8. Bonnie
    03/05/2018 at 8:10 pm

    Can you make a bird bath out of paper mesha? That is newspaper soaked in white glue then molded into shapes of any kind, then dried then painted.

    • Carol
      03/06/2018 at 11:17 am

      Hi Bonnie. I have never tried to do this so I don’t know how it would hold up to water being in it all the time. Carol

    • Louise
      08/29/2018 at 2:37 am

      I think you could, if you can make it strong enough to hold the amount of water a bird bath would require. Obviously it would need to be completely sealed and then sealed some more!!! Could be really pretty~~~And the price tag would be right.
      Several folks are hitting the thrift shops and collecting glass to assemble into bird baths. They can be gorgeous~~~But are very fragile and topple easy in a storm.

  9. swillis
    05/12/2020 at 4:24 pm

    first I think you should use more copper. In my birdbath I have a couple of coils of solid copper uninsulated wire. For cleaning I just use a high pressure hose attachment to flush out the birdbath bowl. I don’t scrub. Afterwards I don’t feel any slime in the bowl. by the way you can buy fully copper bird baths but some people say they get too hot if in the sun. Pennies dated 1982 and later are zinc and toxic. You can actually die if you swallow one of those. Keep them away from your dogs.

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