Cleaning Fountains Tips

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Keep Fountains Bowls Gleaming

Keeping water fountain bowls gleaming, inside and outside, enhances the appearance of any fountain and helps keep fountain waters sparkling. Since indoor and outdoor fountain bowls come in a delightfully diverse array of materials, there is no single best cleaning method. Different materials require different cleaning solutions. Use these tips for cleaning some of the leading fountain bowls:

  • Ceramic fountains may be cleaned like any other ceramic porcelain or glazed stoneware using warm soapy water and a cloth or sponge. Stubborn slime or mineral deposits may require a light scrubbing with a non-abrasive pad. Rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving soapy residue. Note: the coating on low-glazed ceramic bowls may develop pinpoint holes or tiny cracks with wear and heavy cleaning; if this happens, re-glazing is a must.
  • Resin fountains and fiberglass fountains require more careful cleaning than ceramics. They scratch easily and are best cleaned with a soft cloth and warm soapy water or with special fiberglass cleaning products.

  • Copper fountains combine the positive Feng Shui elements of water and metal. Most copper fountains have a protective powder coast or clear finish coat to retard tarnish/greening; others are natural copper. All copper oxidizes and darkens over time. This natural process creates a patina that enhances the fountain's beauty. Clean copper fountains with Pledge or another good quality furniture cleaner and a soft cloth. Apply a light coat of car wax/turtle wax and buff every few months to maintain the gleam. Never use a strong commercial copper cleaner on natural or powder copper fountains. Copper cleaners actually damage copper finishes by removing the coating and natural patina.
  • Stainless steel fountains offer a cool, chic modern ambience and are practically maintenance free. They are highly resistant to the elements and bacteria/algae find it difficult to get a grip on the sleek surface. Clean with a wet or dry cloth and stainless steel cleaner. Never use abrasive cleaners or pads that scratch the shiny surface. Avoid bleaches and chemicals that discolor or damage the finish.
  • Bamboo fountains and wood fountains offer uniquely soothing sound and natural beauty. Sealed bamboo and wood clean with a soft sponge or cloth and warm soapy water. They would not be allowed to dry out once they have been used. A light application of linseed oil to a wood fountains exterior protects and shines.
Note: When in doubt, always follow explicit manufacturer's recommendations on how to clean a fountain.


Cleaning Indoor Tabletop Fountains

Distilled water is the best way to prevent algae build up in tabletop fountains. However, if distilled water is not available, rain water or tap water can be used if treated to remove harmful minerals and chemicals. About every three months, indoor fountains should be emptied and thoroughly cleaned on the inside and outside. Periodically cleaning pumps and filters keep them operating at maximum capacity and extends their operational life. Between periodic cleaning, watch for early signs of problems like algae, slime, white scale and foam.

Avoid using bleach in an indoor fountain -- it contains chemicals that may harm pets and children. Bleach may also cause fountain deterioration and it smells bad. Fountec is one popular choice for treating fountains. Just a drop a week typically keeps most fountains sparkling. Barley is another preventive maintenance alternative. And there are also a wide variety of fountain care products and fountain cleaning kits for preventive maintenance and easy cleaning. Look for No More Algae, No More White Scale and No More Foam. Care Free Enzymes Fountain Protector is a natural fountain care product completely safe for pets and wildlife. And, the Fountain Acscents Cleaning Kit comes with everything you need for keeping fountains clean.


Mother Nature Helps Clean Garden Fountains

Tap the power of Mother Nature to help balance and keep garden fountains clean. If you are interested in growing water garden plants, a garden pond fountain needs to be located where it gets four to six hours of direct sunlight daily. Mother Nature's sunny days also power solar fountains that inhibit algae bloom through aeration and by cooling water temperatures in summer.

Watch out for excessive direct sunlight, especially in sweltering summer months, as it may lead to increased algae bloom. Best bet: Use water plants to cover up to 2/3 of the garden fountain surface and prevent too much sunlight from reaching the surface while reducing algae build-up. (Note: if plants cover more than 2/3 of the surface they trap excessive carbon dioxide and other gases.) Keeping fountain pumps running continuously also helps Mother Nature.

Fish add interest and pleasure to a garden fountain. Although a garden pond fountain stocked with fish requires more care and cleaning, Mother Nature once again helps out with scavengers. Snails love algae. Tadpoles and goldfish feast on mosquito larvae. Plants help ecologically balance a fish-filled garden fountain by helping remove natural nitrates that are a by-product of the ammonia fish secrete into the water.


Balancing a Garden Pond Fountain Ecosystem

When the ecological balance of outdoor water features is in sync the water is clear. Fish and flora flourish. A balanced fountain system requires less time, effort and money. Use these tips to get an edge on ecological balance:

  • Consider the big picture. All the elements of a water feature impact ecological balance. This includes: the size of the garden fountain, aeration, sunlight, temperature, plants, snails and fish.
  • Learn as much as possible about ecological balance. Take a course at a local college on garden and fountain installation and fountain care. Study the garden and fountain instruction manual or research how to clean a fountain on the Internet.
  • Stay tuned in to your water. Purchase a master water testing test kit that includes: pH, ammonia, nitrite, and salt levels. Don't let water levels drop significantly. When the level is down by an inch add water. Fountain pumps do not operate efficiently when water level is too low. Always re-test after adding tap water and after heavy rainfall. (Note: Use distilled water that is free of chemicals and minerals for smaller indoor and outdoor fountains and replenish as needed for evaporation.)
  • Avoid unnecessarily draining a garden pond fountain. If balanced and maintained properly, you should only have to drain and thoroughly clean a small to medium sized garden pond water feature every three or four years. Refresh water features between draining by pumping or siphoning 10%-15% of the water from the bottom of the garden fountain where sediment accumulates, then refill.
  • Aerate and light up. Oxygenate garden ponds with a statuary fountain, floating fountain or waterfall. UV Lights are also helpful in large fountains (1,000-3,000 gallons filter capacity). The light sits on bricks above sediment at the base of the fountain and filters water through it, killing algae with the ultra-violet lamp inside.
  • Keep up with simple maintenance. Remove floating leaves and blooms from the surface and the bottom of the fountain. Prevent pesticides and fertilizers from getting into the fountain waters. Avoid fouling the water by overfeeding fish. Use a fountain care kit and only recommended fountain cleaners as needed that don't impact ecology.

How do I clean my fountain pump?

Cleaning Your Fountain Pump

If your water feature has a fountain pump, inevitably, you'll need to perform some basic maintenance to get it cleaned. Your fountain pump likely has a strainer or screen to prevent pebbles and other debris from jamming the function of the pump. It's always a good idea to clean your fountain pump before the water flow is completely blocked because your equipment can overheat and burn out. Here are just a few tricks to keep your pump jam-free.

  • Read the instruction booklet on how to disassemble and reassemble your pump for easy cleaning.
  • Once disassembled, use warm soapy water and an old toothbrush for a thorough cleaning.
  • You can then dip the pump parts into a mild bleach solution.
  • Once you're done, reassemble all the pieces and make sure your fountain pump is back to its original setting. The process should just take you less than 10 minutes.

Is it a good idea to use tap water to fill in my fountain?

Keep Your Fountain Clean – Avoid Tap Water

When you're adding water to your fountain, you might simply use water from the garden hose and think nothing of it. However, if you truly want to keep your fountain in good shape, use distilled water in lieu of tap water. Why? Because tap water has minerals in it and over time, it can cause ugly spots and rings in your fountain that are difficult to clean. Distilled water, which is not the same as drinking water or spring water, does not carry the minerals which create the unsightly damage spots. Just a gallon of distilled water might run you a dollar, give or take, depending on where you live. Once you fill your fountain up, just add a splash of additional distilled water every day to replace the amount lost to evaporation.

And if you live in an especially humid area, you can actually create your own distilled water using a dehumidifier. The collection tank in a dehumidifier can actually collect a few gallons a day in a climate with high humidity, eliminating the need for you to purchase your own.

Is it safe to use bleach as a fountain cleaner?

Why You Should Avoid Using Bleach As A Fountain Cleaner

You can use bleach as a fountain cleaner. However, although it would clean out your fountain, you should exercise some level of caution if any wildlife will be around your fountain. Obviously, if your fountain contains any fish, you shouldn't use bleach as a fountain cleaner because it contains harmful chemicals. But consider these reasons, as well:

  • Bleach can often turn existing algae into a brown scum.
  • Wildlife, like birds, will be drinking out of chlorinated water that isn't healthy for them.
  • Since the interior of a fountain isn't typically made to withstand chlorine, a liner would deteriorate much more quickly than usual.

What product can I use to treat algae?

Treat Algae With Fountec

Is unsightly green algae clouding your beautiful outdoor fountain? Eventually, all the slime and algae can clog your pump, so not only is it unsightly, it can become a maintenance problem. If you need to treat algae that's already formed, try a product called Fountec to clean out your fountain. By just adding one drop a week, you can have a clean fountain without physically cleaning it. Fountec also works to keep mosquito breeding at bay and it's safe for use with most pets. Avoid use of this product if you have fish, however. You should also keep in mind that although Fountec is deemed safe for plant use, some plants might not survive the effects of this fountain cleaning remedy.

How can I prevent algae from forming in my water fountain?

Barley – The Fountain Cleaner Alternative

Sometimes using a fountain cleaner is the only means to get your water feature into optimum shape. However, just a little routine prevention can save you from the trouble of having to clean out your fountain from algae. An alternative to having to use a fountain cleaner is adding barley to your water. Barley is more of a preventative measure than a fountain cleaner, which makes it even more effective. It works by preventing new algae from forming in your fountain, whether you have a wall fountain, waterfall fountain, a tabletop version or a pond. There's another bonus to using barley as a fountain cleaner alternative – you can purchase a small bale of it without spending very much money.

Hint: By also keeping your fountain in the shade, you help prevent the growth of algae in your fountain.


Cleaning and Maintaining Fountain Pumps

A fountain pump is the primary workforce for indoor and outdoor fountains. There are external and submersible fountain pumps. It is the pump's job to keep the water moving and it's a big job. Preventive maintenance and cleaning help the pump do its job and extend its lifetime. Don't wait until you notice diminished water flow or no water flow to service a fountain pump. Use this advice from garden pool experts to keep your pump purring:

  • Don't allow debris to build up around the fountain pump. Place submersible pumps on a base of bricks at the bottom of the fountain. Remove leaves and blooms from the surface and bottom of the fountain frequently. During periods of heavy leaf fall, use netting over the fountain to help catch falling leaves. At least weekly, turn the submersible pump off, remove it from the fountain and check for build-up of leaves and sediment. Some pumps have built-in filters; other pumps may require an added filter for best operation. Check the filters/filter baskets for clogs.
  • Never run a pump dry. Submersible fountain pumps must be completely covered with water at all times when in operation. Most fountain owners find it best to keep pumps running all the time. This continual operation actually prolongs the life of the fountain because it avoids the stress of turning the pump on and off. Fountain water also stays cleaner when the pump works continuously rather than have to struggle to “catch up.”
  • Follow manufacturer's guidelines. Clean the pump as often as recommended or whenever diminished water flow indicates the need. Turn the pump off. Remove it from the fountain and wipe the outside casing clean with a sponge or cloth. Follow instructions to remove the outside casing and clean the inside with warm soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. A toothbrush is handy for reaching tight spaces. Dip the pump in a mild bleach and water solution to sanitize. Reassemble and return it to the fountain to continue its work.


Keep Fountain Clean and Combat Algae Bloom

All algae are not bad algae. Healthy algae are a natural link in a garden pond fountain ecosystem. However, too much of the “wrong” kind of algae presents a problem for garden fountains. Occasionally, algae blooms turn fountain waters slimy green almost overnight. Free-floating algae strand and globs coat the sides of the fountain, clog fountain pumps and choke out plants. It smells bad. It's time for action.

For filamentous or erect algae, clean-up begins with physically removing the glutinous strands or globs with a rake, dip net or by hand. Ugh! Although barley works best as an algae inhibitor, it is also a helpful and inexpensive natural alternative to damaging algaecides. Barley straw, pellets or extract degrades in the water and sunlight and creates peroxide that kills algae. Fountain care products like No More Algae liquid also inhibit growth of suspended algae and algae that grow on the sides of fountains.

For recurring algae bloom problems in garden pond fountains, consider investing in a skimmer that collects water and algae and sends them through an attached filter that removes the algae and returns the water. Ultraviolet sterilizers also zap some types of algae with a wavelength of light. Combating an algae attack is never fun. Stop problems before they start with proactive prevention, balance and cleaning.


Clean Fountains Create Positive Energy

Water is associated with good fortune (chi) and wealth enhancement in Feng Shui principles. Moving water is even more auspicious. However, chi is only attracted to sparkling clean waters. A garden fountain, garden waterfall, garden pond or in-door fountain that sits stagnant, filled with debris and choked with algae attracts negative energy and misfortune attracts negative energy, known as shar chi.

Even people that do not subscribe to the principles of Feng Shui recognize a sluggish and stagnant water feature as unsightly and unhealthy. Stagnant waters are contaminated with chemicals that present health hazards to wildlife and children. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant waters. An unkempt fountain detracts from an otherwise soothing environment.

Fountains are much easier to clean and maintain on an on-going basis than facing major maintenance caused by neglect. Fortunately, a well-planned and well-tended water feature requires minimal time and effort. The secret is keeping the ecosystem in balance. A good rule of thumb: Average-sized water features that are ecologically balanced typically require about one hour per week for cleaning garden fountains. And, for large fountains, allot about 10 minutes per 1,000 gallons each week for keeping fountain clean.

How to I clean my fountain bowl?

Cleaning The Fountain Bowl

If you have a ceramic fountain bowl that is either glazed porcelain or stoneware, you're in luck. You have a fountain bowl that's fairly easy to clean. If you're using distilled water, you won't have to deal with unsightly mineral spotting. However, you still might have some spots due to the minerals in the slate of the bowl. If these stains occur, it's simple to clean. Just use a scuff pad and gently scrub your bowl with some vinegar.

Another common type of fountain bowl is one made of plastic resin and dusted with marble or limestone for a rich appearance. If yours is one of these, take caution not to scratch the bowl. For plastic resin bowls, you should only use a soft rag and warm soapy water to clean.

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