After a long summer of use, a bird bath can be getting pretty grimy this time of the year. It is easy to clean a cement bird bath to make it a safe and fun place for birds to enjoy. All you need are a few common supplies and minutes of your time.
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.
One of those jobs is cleaning my dirty bird bath. I change the water on it regularly but the hot and humid summers here in the Southeastern part of the USA have given me what seems like a big project to do.
Are you in a similar bind? This project will make short work of the problem. With just a few supplies, it’s easy to turn a dirty bird bath into one that the birds will love to visit in no time flat.
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.Sunlight, humidity and garden debris can make a mess of a bird bath. Find out how to clean one in just minutes with three common household ingredients. 🦜🦅🕊🐦 Click To Tweet
Why clean a dirty bird bath?
Aside from the obvious nasty looking structure in your garden, there are other reasons to keep the bird bath clean.
Dirty bird baths will keep the birds away from the water source, since they are looking for clean liquids to wet their wings and moisten their lips.
The dirty water not only keeps birds from using the water, it also can spread diseases to all sorts of backyard birds if it is used.
Additionally, the dirty water will become a breeding ground for insect populations such as gnats and mosquitoes which can be problematic for humans, as well as birds.
If you have mosquitoes in your yard, be sure to check out my essential oil homemade mosquito repellent. It works like a charm.
Dirty bird bath water will also have an odor which attracts other pests, such as rats and mice, and the smell is definitely not pleasant to people.
Eventually, if a bird bath is left uncleaned for a long period of time, the algae and soil will accumulate to such a degree that it will stain the structure so that it will be hard to clean.
And most of all, clean birdbath water will attract lots of birds to your yard!
How often should you clean a bird bath?
There is no definitive answer to this question, since the weather in your area, how many birds use the bath, and the quality of the water all play a roll in how dirty a bird bath can get.
The smaller your bird bath is, especially if coupled with a large flock of birds, the more you will be cleaning it.
Cleaning the bird bath with jets of water and a strong spray 2-3 times a week, or when you start to see discoloration and the bottom of the basin is suggested as a normal summer routine.
During the summer months, when the weather is hot and humid, you may find that the birdbath becomes discolored more often and may need a stronger cleaning routine.
This is also true in the fall months, when leaves are falling and debris will end up in the bowl of the bird bath.
But if you neglect normal bird batch cleaning, then heavier cleaning will need to be done if you have let the bird bath get dirty and have to remedy this situation. So let’s get cleaning!
How to clean a cement bird bath
It is important to remove the debris that is 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.
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 the dirt out just doing this! It looks reasonably clean but you can still see some residue that the brush did not get.
To get it cleaner you will need these items: A 40 gallon black trash bag and some liquid bleach.
The next step to clean a cement bird bath 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.
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 black bag step is necessary because the water in the bath will be attractive to birds now that it is clean and you don’t want them to be drinking the bleach solution.
The black color of the bag will also absorb the rays of the sun to heat the water up. This helps to clean the bird bath quickly.
When you remove the plastic bag, your bird bath should look like new. If it still has algae or scum in it, 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.
The whole process takes about 30 minutes, unless your bird bath is very, very dirty and has been neglected for a long time.
Get the bird bath ready for the birds
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.
Now 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 as the bird bath cleaner. Hopefully, mine will not get to the awful state shown above for a long time to come!
Much better than the initial picture above, don’t you think?
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How to keep a bird bath clean
There are a few things that you can do to ensure that the bird bath doesn’t get so dirty in future.
- Position your bird bath so that it is not under bird feeders or woody trees which will allow debris and seeds to get into the water. You can position it near a feeder but not under it.
- Place your bird bath in a shady position. This minimizes algae growth and slows the evaporation of the water.
- Change the water daily to prevent build up of algae.
- When adding water, dump out the old water, so that the entire basin has clean water in it.
- Bird baths with a fountain pump as part of the design keeps the water moving which helps with cleanliness. This a discourages mosquitoes.
- A heater in your birdbath in the colder months will help to keep it cleaner.
- Biodegradable balls (available at hardware stores) are designed to keep algae out of ponds. These can also help to keep birdbaths clean if it has a large bowl area.
- Bird bath enzymes work well in small areas like a bird bath to keep them clean.
There are lots of other ways to clean a concrete bird bath. I also tested alka seltzer and copper pipes recently. See my test results on this method here.
If you don’t like the idea of using bleach, white vinegar and water does a pretty good job of cleaning a bird bath, but it does not kill the pathogens.
How do you keep your bird bath clean? Please leave your suggestions below.
Pin this post for later
Would you like a reminder of these tips for how to clean a bird bath? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest, so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: this post for tips to clean a cement bird bath first appeared on my blog in August of 2013. I have updated it to include some new photos, a printable project card, tips for keeping the bird bath clean and a video for you to enjoy.
- Liquid bleach
- Black 40 gallon trash bag
- Scrubbing Bruch
- Use the highest pressure on your hose attachment to remove as much of the debris and grit as you can from the bird bath.
- Scrub the basin with the scrubbing brush to remove the grime residue, some stains will still remain.
- Refill the bird bath with water above the stain lines. (I used 3/4 cup of bleach for each gallon on water.)
- Cover with the black bag and leave in the sun for 15-20 minutes. The heat of the sun will warm the water inside the black plastic and clean the bird bath for you.
- Remove the bag. If any reside and stains remain, replace for a bit longer.
- Remove the bag when clean and keep it to use the next time you clean.
- Drain out the water and use the hose with a high pressure nozzle again to clean out the water with bleach in it. (see note below about bleach and plants)
- Smell. If any Bleach odor is present, rinse some more. You don't want any residue of bleach to remain in the bird bath.
- Allow the bird bath to dry in the sun for 5-10 minutes or so. This will help to disinfect.
- Fill the bird bath with water and welcome the birds back.
Be careful of getting the bleach water on nearby plants since this can kill them. I used sponges and a bucket to remove my bleach diluted water.
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