How to Clean A Cement Bird Bath in Just Minutes

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.

Find out how to clean a dirty bird bath in just minutes

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.

dirty bird bath in a garden bedThe 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 with algae

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 dirty bird bath in just minutes

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.

scum in a 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 the dirt out just doing this!  It looks reasonably clean but you can still see some residue that the brush did not get.

Scrubbing brush in a bird bathTo get it cleaner you will need these items:  A 40 gallon black trash bag and some liquid bleach.

Bl;ack bag, scrub brush and bleachThe 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.

Bottle of bleach in a bird bathAt 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.

Covered bird bath

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.

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 as the bird bath cleaner. Hopefully, mine will not get to the awful state shown above for a long time to come!

clean birdbath in a garden bedMuch better than the initial picture above, don’t you think?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase through one of those links.

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.clean bird bath

  • 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.

These tips to clean a cement bird bath will get yours clean quickly with little effort.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.


Yield: 1 clean bird bath

How to Clean A Cement Bird Bath in Just Minutes

Clean Bird bath

Bird baths can get very dirty, especially in the hot summer months. Use these instructions with just a few supplies to get yours sparkling clean in just minutes.

Active Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $2

Materials

  • Liquid bleach
  • Water
  • Black 40 gallon trash bag

Tools

  • Scrubbing Bruch

Instructions

  1. Use the highest pressure on your hose attachment to remove as much of the debris and grit as you can from the bird bath.
  2. Scrub the basin with the scrubbing brush to remove the grime residue, some stains will still remain.
  3. Refill the bird bath with water above the stain lines. (I used 3/4 cup of bleach for each gallon on water.)
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the bag. If any reside and stains remain, replace for a bit longer.
  6. Remove the bag when clean and keep it to use the next time you clean.
  7. 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)
  8. Smell. If any Bleach odor is present, rinse some more. You don't want any residue of bleach to remain in the bird bath.
  9. Allow the bird bath to dry in the sun for 5-10 minutes or so. This will help to disinfect.
  10. Fill the bird bath with water and welcome the birds back.

Notes

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.

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."

  52 comments for “How to Clean A Cement Bird Bath in Just Minutes

  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

    • Barb
      07/23/2019 at 9:34 pm

      What a wonderful, super thorough post ! Thank you so much. I am picking up my cement bird bath tomorrow and will keep your information close at hand. Hope you are attracting lots of beautiful birds !

      • Carol
        07/23/2019 at 10:30 pm

        I’m glad you enjoyed the article Barb. Best of luck with the new feathered visitors!

  2. vickie greufe
    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

      • Lora
        09/14/2017 at 12:01 pm

        Thank you!!! Great tip!!! If only everyone knew!!! Hope you are well. <3

  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

      • Maria
        07/25/2020 at 7:54 pm

        They are relatively inexpensive at Lowes. I see the powerwasher as well.

  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

    • Darla
      02/19/2020 at 10:38 pm

      So glad to get these tips, I like the Oxyclean the best. Don’t want to use bleach because of the birds & smell. Thanks. Darla

  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

    • Darla
      02/20/2020 at 10:44 am

      Sara, how much Oxyclean &do you put water with it & let it stay for a while.

  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.

  19. Karen P
    04/12/2019 at 10:21 pm

    I’ve been cleaning my bird bath for years using bleach; but keeping that way was the challenge.
    Back in “the day” the old timers used a product called Bluing to brighten their white clothes. It is totally non-toxic, beautiful in color, and recommended for keeping bird baths clean. I tried it and IT WORKS!
    Bluing can be ordered from the Vermont Store or I got mine in Kroger.
    After cleaning your bird bath fill it with clean water; add a couple drops of bluing and throw in a copper penny and your good to go for a couple weeks!

    • Carol
      04/16/2019 at 9:47 am

      Thanks for the tip Karen. This is good to know.

  20. Tim
    07/30/2020 at 11:40 am

    I use Chlorox Clean-Up Spray; Cleaner + Bleach direct from the Spray Bottle and scrub with a brush. It reads to let set for 30-seconds. I don’t wait much and just rinse it out with available water from the watering can; scrub and rinse again. Kills 99.9% of Bacteria & Viruses. Caveat it reads “In the Home…”

  21. Kathy
    09/04/2020 at 3:53 pm

    I can not thank you enough for your clear step by step instructions for bird bath cleaning!! I always thought bleach was a good idea but I was a little afraid..no more😊

    • Carol Speake
      09/05/2020 at 12:11 pm

      I’m glad my post was helpful Kathy.

  22. Phyllis
    10/19/2020 at 7:58 pm

    Is there a safe paint I can use on the inside of the birdbath to make it easier to clean and keep clean?

    • Carol Speake
      10/20/2020 at 12:09 pm

      That is not something I can recommend, since I have tried one. Perhaps a reader can help.

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