Make This Your Go-To Fountain Maintenance Guide

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated April 15, 2022
A garden with small fountain
Photo: Thanthip Homsansri / Adobe Stock


  • Thoroughly clean the fountain pump and basin every three to four months.

  • Routinely check for debris and low water levels. 

  • Know your garden fountain’s material before cleaning.

  • Always check with the user manual when cleaning your fountain.

  • It costs around $50–$150 per month to hire a pro to clean a fountain.

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Be it the tuneful splash or that captivating focal point on your patio, outdoor fountains have a way of bringing peace and serenity to an outdoor space. While garden fountains can be a beautiful addition to any yard, they do require some care and maintenance to ensure they can withstand exposure to wind, rain, dirt, and debris. 

Follow these fountain maintenance tips to help keep your fountain pristine for years to come.

How to Clean a Garden Fountain

Cleaning your fountain is one of the most important ways to maintain it. But before you get to scrubbing, there are a few things you should keep in mind. 

Here are seven steps on how to clean a water fountain:

1. Use the Right Cleaning Supplies

Fountains can be made from a number of materials, including copper, stainless steel, and ceramic. Depending on the type of fountain you have, you’ll want to customize your maintenance care. 

Here's some fountain cleaning advice for each type of material:

  • Ceramic fountains: Soapy water and a soft cloth or sponge will do the job for a ceramic fountain.

  • Stainless steel fountains: Clean with a soft, dry cloth and special stainless-steel cleaner, taking care not to scratch the surface.

  • Copper fountains: Use a good-quality furniture cleaner and a soft cloth to clean copper, as these fountains tend to have protective coatings to prevent oxidization. 

  • Cast stone fountains: Many fountains that have a stone appearance come from stone molds or concrete. You’ll want to soak the stone with water and scrub the fountain with a soft-bristled brush, dish soap, and warm water.

  • Fiberglass/resin fountains: These materials are more fragile than other fountain materials, so use warm water, dish detergent, and a gentle cloth for cleaning. If there is a limescale, you might need to use a soft sponge to gently remove the residue. 

  • Wood fountains: To clean your wooden fountain, use dish soap and a gentle cloth or soft sponge. You’ll want to prevent the fountain from drying during the cleaning process, as this can cause it to crack. 

Pro Tip: It's always a good idea to consult a landscaping expert if you are unsure about how to clean your outdoor garden fountain. Look for a landscaping contractor near you who may also be an expert in outdoor garden fountain maintenance.

2. Drain the Fountain  

You’ve gathered your cleaning supplies, now it’s time to get started on the cleaning itself. But first: You don’t want water shooting out and splashing you while you’re cleaning it, and you definitely don’t want the pump to run with no water, as this can wear it down or worse—become a safety hazard if plugged in. Drain your fountain and turn off and unplug the pump prior to actually cleaning your fountain. 

3. Remove Any Debris

Once you’ve drained the water and unplugged the pump, the next step is to remove any obvious debris from the inside of the fountain. Outdoor fountains are constantly exposed to the elements. Be it branches, leaves, or dirt, it’s important to clear it out regularly to prevent the pump from clogging up.

4. Wipe Down the Bowl

Next, take a non-abrasive cloth, brush, or sponge and wipe down the inner bowl and outer surfaces. Then refill the fountain with the appropriate amount of water and run as usual.

To prevent unsightly buildup, wipe down your fountain on a regular basis—every four to six months, depending on the season and the appearance of your fountain. Every few months, you should also take a deeper approach. Lightly scrub the bowl with a non-abrasive brush and a mild cleanser. 

5. Remove Limescale Buildup and Algae

Buildup in your garden fountain can come from both algae and minerals in the water, such as manganese, calcium, magnesium, and copper. Here’s how to get rid of both:

  • Removing limescale buildup: For small fountains, consider using distilled water to prevent staining and mineral buildup. Cleaning with a vinegar and water mixture can help eliminate mineral deposits.

  • Removing algae: If your fountain receives a lot of direct sunlight, sometimes even a monthly cleaning isn't enough to deter algae growth. Consult with a professional about algae-fighting products that can be added to your fountain’s water, and use caution if children or pets have access to the fountain’s water.

6. Rinse the Fountain After Cleaning 

It’s important to rinse out the fountain once you’ve cleaned it to get rid of any remaining detergent or other cleaning ingredients. Turning the pump back on in a soapy fountain is a good way to turn it into a messy bubble bath! Rinsing helps prevent pets and children from exposure to algae removal products. 

Place the fountain in a sink, bucket, or in the bathtub to rinse off the soap suds and cleaning supplies, and then place your fountain in a shady spot to prevent algal blooms. 

7. Clean the Pump Thoroughly

Before you call it a day, don’t forget the pump. You should clean the fountain pump every three months to ensure it stays free and clear of debris and obstructions. Follow your owner's manual to determine the proper way to detach the pump. Then, let it soak in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Rinse and reattach the pump as instructed and refill the fountain.

Preventing Fountain Damage

A angel statue fountain in garden
Photo: pink_cotton_candy / E+ / Getty Images

All of that hard work will reward you with a beautifully maintained fountain, but you’ll also want to make your efforts last. Follow these preventative measures for keeping your fountain sparkly clean:

  • Avoid bleach: Your fountain isn’t a swimming pool, so while chlorine bleach may seem like a great way to keep it clean, bleach is too corrosive to make for an effective algaecide or pump cleaner. So, avoid using it to clean your fountain.

  • Check the water levels: The pump should always be completely submerged in the fountain’s water. Since water evaporates, you’ll need to keep an eye on the water levels and add water as needed.

  • Take extra steps in winter: In freezing weather, you will need to take additional steps to winterize your fountain. Ideally, you should move your fountain indoors to prevent cracking and freezing. If you can’t move the fountain, drain it completely, clean it with a non-abrasive cloth, bring the pump indoors, and securely cover the fountain with a high-quality, water-resistant cover.

Professional Fountain Maintenance

If you don't have the time for water fountain cleaning, contact a local fountain installer or professional landscaper to help with the upkeep. Professional fountain maintenance costs around $50 to $150 per month to come in and clean your fountain. 

This added cost may be well worth it, as proper fountain care can preserve your beautiful garden decoration for many years to come!

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