How to clean a bird bath - a simple step-by-step

Transform your bird bath from grubby to gleaming with our essential guide

mosaic bird bath
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If your garden features a pretty bird bath that's often frequented by flocks of birds, keeping it clean should be a priority. The good news is that learning how to clean a bird bath isn't overly complicated, so it's a chore you can keep on top of. 

Bird baths are a lovely addition to wildlife garden ideas, but not so much when they're covered in muck and grime. Aside from spoiling the aesthetic, more importantly, a dirty bird bath can be hazardous to the feathered friends that visit your garden.

'Birds require a water source to bathe, as a regular wash helps to keep their plumage in top condition, as well as remove any dirt, bacteria or parasites that could harm their health', says Dani Hawkins, CJ Wildlife. 'But they need to be cleaned regularly to ensure bacteria doesn’t mount up and make our birds sick.'

So now we've established why learning how to clean a bird bath should definitely be on your to do list, we've asked the experts to share their top tips on how to get the job done.

Gold bird bath with Robin bathing in

(Image credit: GardenKraft)

How to clean a bird bath - step-by-step

Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to clean a bird bath - and fortunately, it's a job that can be done in five simple steps. There's a few supplies you'll need to get hold of first. 

What you'll need to clean your bird bath

  • Hose or bucket with water
  • Antibacterial disinfectant - ideally one that is specified as being safe to use for cleaning bird houses and baths
  • OR household bleach
  • Rubber gloves
  • Hard-bristled brush
Lucy Fenwick

Lucy is our technical advisor here at Birdkind and is responsible for providing support and guidance both internally to our team and externally to customers and press. Lucy provides an insight into the correct nutritional options for birds, how to correctly care for and provide for them and how to choose and use bird feeding accessories to enhance your bird feeding experience.

1. Drain and empty the bird bath

Small blue bird bath hanging from tree

(Image credit: Birdking)

To begin cleaning your bird bath, it needs to be emptied of any old, stagnant water and any loose debris. Dirt, seeds, twigs and anything else that's collected in the water needs to be removed so you can give it a proper clean. 

'If you have a hanging bird bath, make sure you dust any unwanted leaves, branches, twigs or dirt off the chain, in case they were to fall into the bath', says Lucy Fenwick, Technical Advisor, Birdkind. 'Likewise, if you have a bird bath with any water features, remove these (if you can) and empty those parts too.'

2. Rinse with a hose (or bucket)

Next, get some fresh water in the bird bath via a hose or bucket. 'This should help to loosen any persistent debris on the bath and clear out any debris that is lying at the bottom of the bath too', Lucy says. 

3. Scrub the bird bath with a weak disinfectant

Robin in bird bath

(Image credit: Getty)

To learn how to clean a bird bath properly, you'll need some sort of disinfectant, ideally a veterinary-approved, biological antibacterial product. 'This will remove any bad bacteria or build-up of grime without adding any harmful toxins to the bath that could potentially poison birds', says Dani from CJ Wildlife.

Alternatively, you could make your own disinfectant using bleach. This would need to be diluted, around one part bleach to ten parts water. For bird baths that don't need as deep a clean, you can try cleaning with vinegar.

Using a hard-bristled brush, scrub your chosen solution into the bird bath. Apply a bit of elbow grease; you may need to work the solution quite rigorously into any stubborn stains. It's recommended to wear rubber gloves, especially if you're cleaning with bleach.

Ark-Klens Feeder Disinfectant, £14.65 at Amazon

Ark-Klens Feeder Disinfectant, £14.65 at Amazon

Ark-Klens Feeder Disinfectant is a bird-safe and veterinary-recommended disinfectant and cleanser suitable for bird feeders, tables and bird baths. This disinfectant spray helps to protect garden birds against E.coli, Salmonella, psittacosis and flu viruses (and many others).

4. Rinse the bird bath

Rinse out your cleaning solution with fresh water, again using either a hose or a bucket. You may need to rinse the bath a few times, as all the solution needs to be gone - you don't want any feathered friends accidentally drinking any leftover remnants. 

Avoid using one of the best pressure washers on your bird bath, as it might not be able to withstand the powerful jet.

5. Let it dry

White bird bath with angel on stand

(Image credit: GardenKraft)

'Once your bath has been thoroughly cleaned, leave it to dry in the open air', says Lucy. 'You can then refill this and place it back in its position.'

And that's it - you've successfully learnt how to clean a bird bath, and your feathered friends can start bathing again!


How often should a bird bath be cleaned?

How often you should clean your bird bath depends on how much it is used. 'For example, if you have starlings visiting your garden every day, you will need to clean and refill your bird bath more often than one that is used only every few days', says Lucy Taylor, Manager, Vine House Farm . 'However, as a general rule, you should empty the water and remove any debris on a weekly basis.'

You can then give your bird bath a deeper cleaner with some disinfectant about once a month. 

Do pennies keep a bird bath clean?

You may have heard that keeping pennies in your bird bath is a way of keeping it clean. While this is true to some extent, experts still recommend learning how to clean a bird bath properly for best results.

'Copper can keep bacteria and algae growth at bay but this only works up to a point and your bird bath will still need to be cleaned periodically', says Lucy from Vine House Farms. 'Additionally, UK pennies are copper-plated steel, meaning the effect will likely be negligible.'

Is it OK to put bleach in a birdbath?

It is safe to use bleach to clean a birdbath, though this should be heavily diluted. Never use straight bleach to clean the bath, as this will be too strong and risks damaging any composite materials. You also need to make sure there isn't any traces of bleach left after cleaning, as this will be harmful to the birds. 

'There are other methods of cleaning your bird bath that use less risky and harmful chemicals which you should opt for over bleach', Lucy Taylor says. 'The chance of bleach remaining in your bird bath after cleaning could put your garden birds at risk and is there for inadvisable. Instead, use a designated disinfectant or a solution of one part white vinegar to nine parts water.'

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.