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How to Keep Outdoor Fountain Water Clean

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Fountains are the centerpiece of many yards, but they’re often hard to maintain in an outdoor setting. Dirty water can fill them with grime that destroys the overall atmosphere of the piece. On top of that, the internet can be a confusing place when trying to find helpful information to solve this problem. 

Below, I’ve put together a helpful guide that you can use for your fountain. By repeating these simple steps on a regular basis, you’ll be able to keep your outdoor showstopper glistening and ready for company at all times.

water fountain bowls

Turn Off the Fountain Before Doing Any Maintenance 

The first step is to turn off the water pump inside your fountain. This is important to ensure that water doesn’t spray everywhere when you start cleaning. You also need to remove this pump, along with any other small decorative items that you might have inside.

Empty the Water from the Fountain

The next step is emptying the fountain. After all, the easiest way to keep your water crystal clear is to go all the way back to the beginning. A blank slate means you can take every necessary step to ensure clean water that lasts for a long time. 

Removing the Water

By letting dirty water sit inside the vessel, algae and other materials are more likely to build up and stick around for the long haul.

Emptying fountain water is an easy process, typically done in one of a few ways:

  • Unplugging: Removing the plug on the base of the fountain and allowing drainage.
  • Bucket by bucket: Using a small bucket to take the water out.
  • Siphoning the water: Siphoning water to the ground with a small piece of tubing.

Once you’ve completed this step, you should be able to see the grit and grime leftover in the base. We’ll look into the removal of this in the next step.

Scrub the Fountain Clean

Next, we need to get rid of the remaining excess. Some of the most common methods of dirt/algae removal include the use of: 

  • Household bleach mixed with fountain water
  • Stiff sponge, water, and a common household dish soap
  • Fountain cleaner (make sure it works for copper fountains)
  • Stainless steel cleaner (for stainless steel fountains)

You can also scrub any extra decorative items clean with a sponge, making sure that they don’t have any invasive algae or dirt that may damage your progress.

Once the water is drained and the fountain is clean, you should be able to examine every part of it freely. You are now okay to move on to the next step.

Check the Pump for Blockage

Water pumps often become clogged with dirt, leaves, and other natural debris that come with the outdoor location. This leads to poor water circulation, in turn causing the liquid to turn a lovely shade of brownish-green.

A simple solution is to clean the pump with a small washcloth or a towel. Doing this every so often will prevent calcium buildup and let the water flow freely. However, sometimes there’s more to it than that. Natural blockage might be the issue.

Common sources of blockage may include:

  • Leaves: Big or small, they can plug the pump
  • Dirt: Typically, this gathers on the bottom of the fountain
  • Rocks: Maybe small or larger
  • Household garbage: Such as wrappers, paper towels, and plastic bags

You can pull out these things by hand, but if there seems to be an obstruction deep inside, it might be best to use a homemade solution to clean it. This will remove any unreachable obstructions and clear the way for proper water circulation.

Solutions for removing blockage include:

  • White vinegar: This quickly breaks down unwanted buildup.
  • Water and soap: Work in a similar method as vinegar, though not as strong.

Both of these can be applied with a toothbrush so that you can get down to the deepest parts of the pump without issue. You can also use pipe cleaners.

Refill With Distilled Water

The best kind of water to use in your fountain is distilled. This works best because it’s pure water. The pump has an easier time pushing it through, so it will last longer and keep your water cleaner for a more significant amount of time.

Distilled water can be purchased at pretty much any grocery store, gas station, or hardware store. It’s affordable and will keep your fountain in the best shape possible. 

Cover the Pump Completely With Water

Once you’ve found distilled water, it’s time to fill your fountain back up. It’s important to cover up your pump with liquid so that the water can circulate. To ensure that the pump is covered:

  • Submerge the pump: Make sure the pump is entirely submerged underwater.
  • It needs to be working: Note that the pump is taking in water.

When the pump is completely covered, your brand-new water is ready to begin the circulation process. Turn it on, and after a few moments, the fountain will run just as it did before. This indicates that the pump is in the proper location.

Keep the Fountain Clean by Keeping the Water Clean

Once the fountain is full, you should once again have a clear and glistening centerpiece. However, without proper care, the water will become dirty again. There are also some additional preventative measures you can take.

Algae and Dirt Preventatives

There are many items for sale online that can be used to delay dirt from taking over your fountain water. Algaecide is a common tool that can be mixed into the water to prevent natural algae growth. Some of the best sold on Amazon include:

By using this tool, you can slow the growth of the inevitable green and keep your fountain crystal clear for longer. 

Use A Cover

You can use a cover, either made specifically for fountains or fashioned from a tarp, to keep unwanted items out of your fountain at night or in bad weather. Simply wrap it around your centerpiece tightly and remove it in the morning to minimize disturbance.

Some covers that can be purchased on Amazon include:

These will help keep your fountain beautiful, despite the unexpected.

Keep the Water in Motion

Another important preventative measure is to keep your fountain on at all times, no matter what time of day. By keeping the water in constant motion, algae and other growths have less of a chance to stick and develop. You can read more about this here, on

Straining Preventatives

You can prevent dirt buildup by checking your water fountain regularly and pulling leaves and dirt from the surface of the liquid. To do this, you may use:

  • A small pool strainer: These can be found at any local hardware or pool store.
  • A colander: Such as those you use in your kitchen.
  • Your hands: Your hands often work best for removing bigger objects.

This small precautionary step goes a long way, helping prolong the life of the water pump. It’s important in the general upkeep of your centerpiece.

Replace Your Pump 

While it’s crucial to keep your pump clean, it’s also just as important to replace it. Typical pumps last three to five years.

Repeat the Process

Perhaps the most important preventative measure is to repeat this process about once a month. Regularly checking up on your fountain and water pump, scrubbing the interior, and replacing the water will keep the fountain in its best possible condition.

Checking up on your fountain will help you much better in the long run. Treat it like a living being, and it will flourish like one. Be sure to visiting our other articles on cleaning such as cleaning a hot tub that has been sitting, and cleaning hot tub without draining it.

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