Bird Bath Basics

Simple tricks to clean a bird bath without scrubbing

clean a bird bath

Note: As an affiliate for Amazon and other vendors we earn from qualifying purchases.

This article shows you a few simple tricks to clean a bird bath without scrubbing.

If you’re going to have a bird bath, you’ve got to be absolutely committed to keeping the bird bath water clean. If you’re not, you’re going to find that algae, bird poop, feathers, dead leaves, mosquito eggs and other yucky stuff builds up pretty fast.

But don’t worry – it’s not that hard to clean a bird bath if you avoid letting gunk build up.

Why does a clean bird bath matter?

Did you know that bird poop can carry more than 60 diseases, some of which affect humans?

Here’s a small sample of what you’re up against:

  • Histoplasmosis, a potentially fatal human lung disease
  • Salmonellosis or “food poisioning,” which makes birds (and people) very sick
  • Candidiasis, or yeast infections
  • Chlamydia
  • West Nile Virus, carried by some birds and by mosquitoes, which lay eggs in still water.

You’ll also need to keep the bird bath in a sunny place to discourage the growth of a parasite (Trichomonas gallinae) that spreads easily among birds. The sunny location will promote more algae growth, but there are easy ways to deal with that.

Related: Attract more birds with a bird bath

See also: Birds love moving water

You might like: How to Use a Bird ID Guide

How to clean a bird bath without heavy scrubbing

Cleaning your bird bath doesn’t have to be a big chore.

Got a garden hose and running water handy?

Put the nozzle on the high pressure setting and hose the bird bath out every day.

Once a week or so, fill the basin with a 10% bleach solution (1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water), then scrub the basin and rim with a stiff bristle brush. (Especially important if your bird bath is made of concrete or a similarly porous material.)

Finish by rinsing thoroughly to get rid of chlorine. Let it dry in the sun then fill with fresh water.

If you do this every week, a light scrubbing will keep the nastiness away. It’s easy work, as this video explains.

Don’t like bleach? You can use white vinegar and water for cleaning your bird bath, but it doesn’t kill germs very effectively.

You can also use Grapefruit Seed Extract, (GSE) a highly effective, natural, non-toxic and fully biodegradable cleaner for bird baths, bird feeders and pretty much everything else you can think of.

(To learn more about GSE, visit this article and scroll to the section on GSE.)

Bird-toxic cleanersDo not use sanitizers, germicides, ammonia-based cleaners, or cleaners containing phenol, pine oil or any petroleum product. Don’t use veterinary disinfectants either, because most of them are not created with bird safety in mind.

Handy products to clean a bird bath

If your bird spa hasn’t been regularly cleaned, these products are good for cleaning a bird bath without scrubbing (or with less scrubbing):

Brush attachment for your cordless drill. Take it easy on your muscles and “power up” the scrubbing with a heavy duty brush that attaches to your cordless drill.

For keeping the water clean

These products will help prevent stains, sludge and mineral deposits from building up in your bird bath.

CareFree Birdbath Protector — Biodegradable enzyme-based solution. Breaks down organic contaminants and prevents mineral scale. Safe for birds, pets and wildlife.

Sanco Bird Bath & Fountain Maintenance — Another enzyme product, similar to Care Free.

Spaces Places fast acting bird bath and fountain cleaner — Natural formula helps keep bird bath clean. Safe for fish, plants, birds, animals and humans

For controlling algae in a bird bath

EasyCare FounTec Algaecide and Clarifier — Kills algae and prevents further buildup. Safe for plants, birds and wildlife but NOT SAFE for fish. One of the most useful products for keeping bird bath water clean.

(Don’t use this if you live near a stream or have an unlined pond with fish in it.)

For mosquito control

Still water in bird baths can be a mosquito breeding ground not changed frequently.

Mosquitoes are not only bothersome, may carry diseases like West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, dog heart-worms, malaria and various forms of encephalitis.

Mosquito eggs can hatch in as few as four days, so be sure to change the water in your bird bath at least every three days to give mosquitoes the boot.

If you’d rather go longer between changes, you could try using a Water Wiggler – it’s a quiet little motor that makes constant ripples in your bird bath water.

Mosquitoes won’t lay their eggs there, and as a bonus, the moving water will attract more birds!

Products for Mosquito Control

Note: Don’t use chemical insecticides in your bird bath! They may harm pets, birds and other wildlife.

If you can’t empty and refill your birdbath twice a week, or if the mosquitoes have somehow gotten ahead of you, here are some safe, non-toxic products you can use to get rid of them.

Summit Mosquito Dunk — Donut-shaped tablets that release Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which kills mosquitoes but is not harmful to birds, fish or other wildlife. Each donut covers 100 square feet and lasts for 30 days.

Do copper pennies help clean a bird bath?

You may have heard that putting a few copper pennies will help with keeping bird bath water clean, but is this true?

Yes, up to a point. Copper does slow the growth of algae and some bacteria somewhat. But as this photo illustrates, even bird baths that are entirely made of copper still need cleaning.

Don’t use US pennies though – all US pennies are at least 95% zinc, which is highly toxic to birds. Acidic water, oxidation through exposure to air, and harsh cleaning chemicals may expose the zinc core beneath the copper.

(Canadian pennies minted between 1876 and 1996 are at least 95% copper, but mostly zinc and/or steel thereafter.)

A better option would be to use a bit of copper piping or other large-ish copper items that birds can’t swallow if they are attracted to the shiny metal.

Even if you do add some copper, you still need to be cleaning your bird bath at least once a week – twice if you don’t use a fountain or Water Wiggler.


There lots of easy ways to clean a bird bath, but the simply cleaning it “on the regular” is the easiest.

Fresh water in your bird bath will attract more birds to drink and bathe. You might even get some birds that don’t come to feeders, such as owls or hawks!

What are your favorite tips to clean a bird bath? Let me know in the comments!

Image credit: The top featured image is a U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom.

About the author

Joy Thurlow

Hi, I'm Joy Thurlow. Watching birds in the back yard is a favorite hobby of mine. My mission with Joy of Birdwatching is to share (accurate) information about birds, birding and useful products to help everyone connect with nature and enjoy the birds while we still have them. Thanks for reading!

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

About the Author

Joy Thurlow

Hi, I'm Joy Thurlow. Watching birds in the back yard is a favorite hobby of mine. My mission with Joy of Birdwatching is to share (accurate) information about birds, birding and useful products to help everyone connect with nature and enjoy the birds while we still have them. Thanks for reading!