Bleach in an Outdoor Fountain: Yay or Nay?

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Bleach is a great solution for household cleanings, but is it the same for your fountain whether indoor or outdoor? Here’s what you should know.

Using bleach in outdoor fountains can get rid of algae blooms and clean the water, but it can also corrode the fountain and even change the fountain’s color, which is undesirable. You should be cautious using bleach in outdoor fountains. However, Bleach can be a safer choice for indoor fountains.

Bleach may be able to wipe out some stains but how far is too far? Here are a few tips on how to wisely use bleach for your fountain.

Bleach Damages

Bleach is an extremely powerful substance that must be handled with care. It can be used in fountains, but overuse will lead to corroding and, well, bleaching. You do not want to have mottled bleach spots on your fountain’s exterior. Corroding and color change is especially prominent with concrete fountains.

Your pump may also be in danger if you use bleach or chlorine too often. It will corrode the pump which will lead to twice as many malfunctions and wear it out much faster, though this is more likely if there is a constant, gradual application of chemicals to the water.

Bleach applied in small amounts is more likely to evaporate faster. Chlorine and bleach can clean your fountain out quickly, but it might also make your fountain or pond smell like a swimming pool which is probably not what you are aiming for.

Bleach is also dangerous to any animals that may come to sip from your fountain. In a pond, avoid it at all costs, obviously. Your fish will not last long in bleachy water. If you have birds drinking from your fountain constantly, this is also a problem. They will most likely be poisoned and the last thing you want is a bunch of dead birds lying around your fountain.

There is a lot of damage that bleach can cause, but it can still be used if used carefully. If your outdoor fountain is plastic or ceramic, it will probably be the least negatively affected by bleach or chlorine. As said before, you should avoid use with stone or concrete fountains because they will become discolored by constant application.

If you are simply aiming to purify your water, adding about a teaspoon or two for every gallon should be more than sufficient to cleanse the cycle. Let it run overnight to ensure that the bleach has enough time to do its job.

If your fountain has developed stubborn stains, empty the water completely and apply bleach to the affected spot (make sure you are wearing hand protection). Scrub the spot with a bristled brush until the stain is cleared away and rinse with clean water afterwards.

Indoor Fountains

There are pros and cons to using bleach for indoor fountains as well, but they are actually less prone to damage. Most are plastic or ceramic and will remain largely unaffected by bleach. With wood and metal fountains, however, bleach should be avoided always.

Bleach will blanch wood, removing the stain color and, in some cases, even the natural color. Metal is especially susceptible to damage from bleach. Pledge or furniture polish can be used to clean natural copper exteriors, though you will want to avoid getting this in the water as it can have the same effects on children and animals as bleach.

For stainless steel, your best bet is a damp cloth. You do not want to use abrasive sponges or harsh chemicals on this as it will be permanently damaged.

Bleach also poses a safety problem for indoor fountains. If you have a household pet (cats, dogs, etc.) that drink from the fountain, they will most likely suffer from poisoning which could be potentially fatal. It is also a risk if there are small children in your house who may play in or even drink the water themselves.

That said, indoor fountains are less finnicky when it comes to using bleach. Since most indoor fountains are on the smaller side, a mere five to ten drops will do to purify the water, and you can also use chlorine tablets in this case as well. Exercise caution with chlorine tablets, however, as you will want to avoid the issue of your fountain and house smelling like a swimming pool.

Also, keep in mind that different kinds of bleach can have different levels of power and efficiency so be aware of the type you are using.

Though indoor fountains are usually safe from bleach damage, you should probably stick to using bleach as a last resort. Indoor fountains do not get nearly as dirty as outdoor ones but they still get dirty, and are even prone to algae blooms from time to time.

If the algae problem is severe enough, chlorine tablets or bleach are a great way to get rid of it. Try to prevent algae from growing in the first place, though. This can be done by keeping your fountain in the shade as much as possible and keeping the pump running. Stagnant water will only encourage the algae to grow and sunlight will make the water swampy.

Sometimes the chemicals in your fountain’s water will develop hard water spots which are often difficult to deal with. You can remedy this problem by shutting off the pump, emptying the water, and scrubbing the spots with bleach (again, please make sure your hands are protected). Avoid turning your pump off constantly, however. This can lead to irregularities, malfunctions, and early wear on the pump.

Other Ways to Keep Clean

Bleach may seem like an obvious solution to keeping your fountain clean even despite the risks. However, there are many other ways to keep your fountain clean without having to worry about damage or wear and tear.

There are several products to keep algae growth under control such as herbicide and algaecides. Apply these liberally every once in a while and you will most likely keep the gunk and grime to a minimum. This could be a problem, however, with animals drinking from the fountain.

These chemicals are toxic and would still possibly poison or kill birds, dogs, cats, or others. Since this is the case, try looking for an algaecide with natural, biological products.

To avoid water spots, keep your pump running. If the water level is too low or you have had a string of dry, hot days, check that the pump is completely submerged and the fountain completely full. This will keep the pump functioning properly and prevent hard spots and stains.

If you need another way to purify your water, consider trying vinegar. Be mindful of how often and how much you use, as the smell of vinegar can be just as undesirable as the smell of chlorine and/or bleach. Vinegar is especially helpful with metal fountains or parts of fountains. It will buff and polish the metal exterior rather than damage it, making vinegar a safe alternative to bleach.

In large amounts it can be somewhat dangerous to animals such as birds and cats. Birds will be somewhat less affected, as vinegar can serve as a helpful disinfectant for them. For cats it will likely serve as an irritant that could potentially cause diarrhea, vomiting, and pain. Vinegar will not negatively affect children or dogs, however.

Vinegar is also good with stains and spots. The process is the same as with bleach; empty your fountain and turn off the pump and scrub the affected spot with vinegar and a bristled brush. It is the same for both indoor and outdoor fountains. Scrub thoroughly; vinegar will have no damaging effects on metal, stone, concrete, plastic, or ceramics if used sparingly.

Wood, however, can be damaged from vinegar. It can corrode finishes and stains, so if you do use vinegar, do not let it sit for too long and make sure you mop up any residue. The last thing you need is vinegar making your fountain look dingy.

The most basic way to keep your fountain clean is with consistent maintenance. The average indoor fountain/water feature will typically require a thorough deep-clean every six months or so. This will prevent severe dirt and bacteria buildup as well as hard water spots.

Outdoor fountains will probably require a tad more attention since there are many more contributors to dirt and grime in the outdoors. Keep your water constantly clean and the fountain out of direct sunlight, if possible, which will prevent algae growth.

For both indoor and outdoor fountains regularly check your pump. A broken pump will lead to stagnant water which will allow algae to bloom which will attract insects. Plus, having to constantly replace your pump takes time and money, so take the time to check for broken parts and clogs if necessary.

You might even want to consider taking a pipe cleaner and sticking it in the hole where the water comes out of the fountain and cleaning that area.

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We always wanted a fountain of some kind at our house, but professional installation was just too pricey. So, we decided to make our own little fountain and after learning how, we thought we should share our experiences to help people in our same situation.

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