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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

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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Sunday 17th of July 2022

Using the pennies in a bird bath.... I would guess that older pennies (pure copper) would be better than the newer ones which are copper and zinc?

Carol Speake

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Yes, that is true.


Sunday 17th of April 2022

Copper Pennies work too! They must be minted before 1985, I think. Go through your coin stash.

carol paton

Sunday 21st of March 2021

Depending on the surface of your birdbath bowl, the copper pipe sections can keep it clean. A glazed ceramic surface stays clean for a very long time, a porous one for much less time. My smooth surfaced birdbath with two 2" sections of copper pipe stayed pristine all summer (no scrubbing), and I am in the hot midwest where we grow world class algae in the sun and the heat. The copper will tarnish and lose the ability to shed Cu++ ions, so periodic polishing with copper polish is helpful.


Friday 30th of October 2020

Can I use a charcoal block in a fountain that birds use? It was not intended for bird use exclusively but birds do like to come and drink and bath in it and I like that.

Carol Speake

Saturday 31st of October 2020

I've never tried this so I am not sure how it would work.


Tuesday 12th of May 2020

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.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."