How to clean and maintain an outdoor fountain
An outdoor water fountain can be a transformative addition to your garden. It serves as a pretty focal point and can create a peaceful atmosphere thanks to the calming tinkling water sounds it produces. Some simple outdoor fountain care can help keep your fountain looking its best and running optimally. This water fountain maintenance guide explains how to clean your garden fountain and provides basic upkeep tips.
The importance of outdoor fountain maintenance
Outdoor fountains come in various shapes, sizes and designs, giving you a diversity of options to choose from when installing a fountain on your property. Regardless of the style you select, you will have to put some effort into fountain cleaning and maintenance. Since they’re located outdoors, fountains are regularly subject to elements like rain, snow, ice, wind and direct sunlight.
Temperature fluctuations can also cause damage, especially during the winter. For example, say a fountain has a crack in its foundation and some water penetrates this fissure. If the temperature drops and the water freezes, it will expand. This can then cause the crack to get even larger, spreading and causing more serious damage.
Additionally, the water that circulates through the fountain’s pump work can leave behind traces of calcium and magnesium. If these mineral deposits build up, they may impede the water pump’s function — and create a white scale that detracts from the fountain’s overall appearance. If the fountain has any metal parts, it may also build up brass, copper, iron or manganese deposits.
These various types of damage can ruin your outdoor fountain’s appearance and its functionality. Investing the time and money in regular cleaning and maintenance will ultimately be more cost-efficient than paying for large repairs or replacement parts — or replacing the fountain entirely.
How to clean your outdoor fountain
Outdoor water fountain cleaning isn’t super complicated or costly. Follow these simple steps to help keep your fountain in good shape. Try to clean the fountain at least once a month. If it becomes visibly dirty — for example, after stormy weather has blown in more debris than usual — extra cleaning might be necessary.
Drain the water
Before you get started, unplug the fountain to turn off the pump. Next, locate the fountain’s drain. This usually appears as a small plug located along the bottom of the fountain. Older fountains may not have a plug, in which case you will have to scoop or siphon the water out manually. You can simply submerge an empty plastic container — like a gallon milk jug — in the fountain and submerge it so that the air inside escapes and is filled with water.
Service the water pump
The pump circulates water through your fountain. It can get clogged with mineral deposits, algae buildup, pollen, dirt and other debris over time. You can use a homemade solution of distilled white vinegar mixed with water (50/50) to clean the pump. Simply remove the pump from the fountain and soak it in a plastic bucket containing the solution until the mineral stains dislodge. You can then wipe the fountain pump clean with a soft cloth.
While the pump is soaking, clean the pump cover. You can take off the cover manually and remove buildup of leaves, sludge and other debris with your hands. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. You can then use an old toothbrush to scrub away any growth of algae, minerals or other crusty buildup from crevices and nooks that you can’t easily reach using a cloth and your hand. Rinse the cover under running water before replacing it.
Clean the fountain water reservoir
The fountain’s reservoir holds the water. Once the reservoir is emptied, you can easily clean it. Use a hard-bristled brush and hot water mixed with dish detergent to scrub away grime. If you’re having trouble with tough deposits, you can use a vinegar solution as described above to help disintegrate them and ease removal, sparing you endless scrubbing.
Rinse the fountain
After you’ve scrubbed the reservoir, you will need to thoroughly rinse the fountain to get rid of the dirt and grime that you’ve removed. Use your garden hose to spray down the sides and bottom of the fountain, ensuring the dirty water drains thoroughly through the plug. Again, if you don’t have a plug, you’ll have to remove the water using a siphon or scoop. Once you’re done rinsing, reinsert the plug before refilling the water.
Replace the water pump
Before refilling the fountain, reinsert the water pump and cover. You should already have completed the pump maintenance by this point. However, wait to plug the fountain back in and turn it back on until after you’ve refilled the reservoir with water (see the next step).
Refill the fountain
When refilling the fountain, use distilled water if possible. Distilled water is created by boiling water, turning it into a vapor and then condensing the vapor to return it to a liquid form. In the process, minerals and contaminants leach out of the water. Since distilled water has a lower mineral content, it’s less likely to leave behind deposits.
If you can’t use distilled water, you can treat tap water to minimize mineral buildup. Simply add some chlorine bleach. For small fountains, just one teaspoon will be sufficient. Larger fountains may require three teaspoons. Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made water treatment product designed to prevent algae or mineral buildup. These products contain enzymes that remove contaminants and clarify water, acting as a natural algaecide and mineral remover.
Tips to maintain your outdoor fountain
In addition to cleaning your fountain regularly, some basic maintenance best practices can help extend its life span. Follow the below pointers to ensure your outdoor fountain keeps running smoothly.
Keep water levels correct
Your fountain’s water level will change daily due to factors like precipitation and evaporation. Check the waterline regularly. If the fountain is overfilled, excess water may splash and spill over the edge of the reservoir. This can possibly ruin the surrounding landscaping, attracting mold, moss and fungal growth.
If the water level is too low, the water pump won’t be able to function properly. Additionally, it may produce an irritating humming or vibrating sound — definitely not the ambiance you want when you’re hoping to listen to the gentle sound of trickling water instead. Ensure the pump is fully submerged at all times.
Use distilled water if possible
Mineralized water, also called hard water, contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. Soft water has less of these damaging minerals. Distilled water (as described above) is the perfect example. Whenever possible, use distilled water to top up your fountain’s water levels, as this will minimize the risk of buildup on the fountain reservoir and pump.
Remove debris frequently
Mineral buildup isn’t the only thing that can clog a fresh-water fountain pump, obstructing function and potentially breaking it. Debris like sticks, leaves, dead insects and grass clippings can also fall into a fountain and get sucked into the pump if you don’t take care of it. When these items sit in the water, they also promote algae growth. Use a small pool skimmer to remove such debris.
Be proactive about cold weather
Winter can be especially hazardous for outdoor fountains, especially if you live in an area where temperatures get below freezing. Prepare your fountain for the colder months accordingly. Before the first freeze, unplug and drain the fountain and clean it as described above. Over the winter, store the pump in a temperature-controlled area. The cold can make plastic parts brittle, causing cracks and breakage.
You should further cover the fountain over the winter — for example, with a plastic tarp, burlap sack or designated fountain cover. This will prevent precipitation from gathering in the reservoir. Standing water increases the risk of damage due to freeze-thaw cycles, as mentioned.
To further protect against moisture buildup in the reservoir, you can put a few towels in the basin to absorb wetness. You will have to replace the towels regularly after significant precipitation. Finally, if your fountain is made of cast stone, apply a concrete surface sealant to the base. This will prevent moisture from the surrounding ground from creeping up the fountain’s base and causing stress fractures.
Protect your home systems with a warranty from Cinch
An outdoor fountain can help take your outdoor space to the next level, transforming it into a peaceful oasis of calm with its gentle water sounds. There are many types of fountains available, allowing you to select a size and style that easily integrates into your overall landscaping. To ensure your beautiful fountain lasts for as long as possible, implement the above cleaning and maintenance tips.
Cinch Home Services knows how important it is to maintain a beautiful, comfortable home. While a Cinch home warranty does not cover outdoor fountains, it will protect important built-in systems and major appliances. Your warranty will help with the repair or replacement of covered items, sparing you the burden of unexpected costs. As a homeowner, this added safeguard can provide you with significant peace of mind. Find the right home protection plan for you and request a free quote today.