How To Clean An Indoor Water Fountain

There’s nothing nicer than the sound of flowing water, and many people use indoor fountains to create a relaxing ambiance in their homes. The thing about water fountains is we must maintain them regularly to keep the water fresh and to prevent algae.

The best way to clean an indoor water fountain (with or without a filter) is with a sponge or soft cloth and warm, soapy water when it’s empty. Clean it regularly. Do not use harsh chemical cleaners or abrasive sponges because they might damage their surface.

So, if there is a new water feature in the home, you might be wondering how to clean it. If the fountain isn’t cleaned, it will get dirty quickly, resulting in a smelly, unattractive feature that will harbor bacteria. If you want to know how to keep the water in the fountain fresh, take a look at this comprehensive guide on how to clean an indoor water fountain.

an image of a bamboo water fountain

What Is the Best Way to Clean a Water Fountain?

The best way to clean a water fountain is with regular, light cleaning every few days (or once a week) and a deep clean every four to eight weeks. Cleaning is an essential part of fountain maintenance, so create a cleaning schedule and stick to it.

If we don’t clean the fountain, there will be a buildup of bacteria, encouraging algae and turning the water and surfaces green. The fountain will become discolored, and it might get a thick lime crust, which is hard to remove.

There are two methods we can use to keep a fountain clean; light cleaning and deep cleaning, which we’ll explore below:

Step #1 – Light cleaning

We should lightly clean the fountain every few days, using a clean sponge to wipe the surface. Slime and dirt will get sucked up and processed by the pump. Also, check the water for debris and ensure the pump is submerged and working correctly.

Ensure the water fountain also has enough water to function properly. This step can’t be skipped.

If cleaning the fountain every few days is too much, then at least do a light cleaning once a week. That’s the minimum for most indoor water fountains, decorative or otherwise.

Light cleaning is only a temporary solution for keeping a fountain clean – we must also give it a deep clean every month or two.

Step #2 – Deep cleaning

Deep clean the fountain every four to eight weeks because the debris from light cleaning will gather on the pump and filter. To deep clean a fountain – remove the water, pump, and accessories, such as stones.

Deep cleaning requires time and effort but is a simple process which I’ll talk you through below.

Deep Clean Step #1 – Drain the fountain

To drain a fountain for deep cleaning, switch the pump off and remove it. Some fountains have a drain hole, but if it doesn’t, use a plastic jug and bucket to remove the water, and soak the last bits up with a sponge.

We could also use a wet/dry vacuum to remove the water if you own one.

Pro tip: if you use a wet/dry vac to remove the fountain’s water, empty the vacuum before using it. You don’t want to accidentally make cement in the canister.

Deep Clean Step #2 – Remove the pump and accessories

If there are stones and accessories in the fountain, remove them and clean them separately. It’s easy for dirt to get trapped around accessories – and if we replace the water without cleaning them, they will contaminate the fresh water.

Put accessories such as stones in a sink or bucket and clean them separately with warm soapy water and a cloth.

Deep Clean Step #3 – Clean the pump

Cleaning the pump and filters is vital because this is where most dirt and bacteria gather. If we don’t clean the pump, it will contaminate the clean water and won’t function correctly if it’s clogged with dirt.  

To clean the pump properly, take it apart – most are easy to disassemble. Rinse all the parts under warm running water and use a cloth to remove slime and dirt and a toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach places. Ensure all holes are free from debris.

Deep Clean Step #4 – Clean the fountain

Clean the fountain’s surface with a soft sponge or cloth and warm, soapy water. Again, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach places. Don’t use abrasive pads because they can damage the surface.

In most cases, warm soapy water will remove dirt, but sometimes we might need a product for tough stains or crusty lime buildup. If using a product, choose a lime cleaner recommended for indoor water fountains and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Never use harsh chemicals on the fountain because they can cause corrosion.

Deep Clean Step #5 – Rinse and dry the fountain

After cleaning the fountain, rinse it off to remove soap and chemicals and let it completely dry before replacing the water. Drying it will kill off any remaining water-borne bacteria.

The best way to dry the fountain is with natural air and sunlight, so, if possible, take it outside to dry along with the pump and accessories. If you can’t move it, at least dry the pump and accessories outdoors, and consider investing in a UV light and a fan to dry the fountain indoors.

Deep Clean Step #6 – Replace the accessories and refill with water

Replace the pump, accessories, and water when everything is dry. It’s better to use distilled water in a fountain, which is purified. Tap water contains minerals and pollutants, which encourage algae growth and can stain and discolor the fountain.

Distilled water costs more than tap water, but the benefit is that it will keep the fountain cleaner for longer.

Make sure there is always enough water in the fountain to cover the pump. If it’s not submerged in water, it won’t work correctly, and there’s a chance it will burn out. Don’t turn the pump off for long periods because bacteria thrive in stagnant water.

An image of a Water fountain during winter.

How Can I Keep My Indoor Water Fountain Clean?

Regular cleaning is the best way to keep an indoor water fountain clean. Each fountain is different when it comes to cleaning. Some are small and decorative, others are large and made with glass or steel.

Below, I’ll tell you the best way to clean the different styles of indoor water fountains:

How to clean a tabletop fountain

Tabletop fountains are the smallest and easiest to clean because they fit in a sink or a bucket. To clean a tabletop fountain, switch it off, unplug it, remove the accessories and drain it before cleaning it with soapy water.

Use a sponge and warm soapy water to wipe the surfaces – don’t use harsh chemicals on the surface. Tabletop fountains are usually quite decorative, so get into all the nooks and crannies with a toothbrush.

To keep a tabletop fountain clean, don’t switch it off at night, and keep a close eye on the water levels. We usually have to top them up more regularly than we would larger fountains.

How to clean a large indoor fountain

Large indoor fountains come in many shapes, sizes, and finishes, but the cleaning technique is the same. We must drain them, clean them with a sponge and soapy water and clean the pump and accessories separately.

If the large fountain has brass, steel, or glass fixtures and surfaces, we can use the appropriate products to clean them. If using chemical products, rinse the fountain thoroughly before replacing the water.

If a large fountain has stagnant areas, use two pumps to keep the water clean and circulating. A single pump might struggle to keep a large volume of water clean and can burn out.

How to clean a pet water fountain

Wipe a pet fountain daily with a clean sponge and deep clean and disinfect it once a week. Make sure to clean the pump because it will get clogged with pet hair and drool.  

Pet water fountains are generally easy to clean because they are not as decorative, but we must clean them more frequently because they will get dirty quickly.

Usually, we can disinfect the fountain with vinegar or bleach solution, but make sure to rinse it thoroughly and let it dry before filling it back up. Don’t use too much bleach to clean a pet water fountain because too much bleach in water is toxic – and even a slight odor will put pets off drinking from it.

Can I Put Vinegar in My Water Fountain?

We can put vinegar in a water fountain to disinfect the water and prevent algae, and it’s a fantastic alternative to using chemical products. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and will help keep fountain water clean.

Vinegar is antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and very acidic and creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow in. We can add one to two cups of vinegar to the fountain depending on its size – use filtered cider vinegar for the best results.

We can also use a vinegar solution to clean a fountain. Vinegar disinfects and removes stains and mineral deposits. Never use straight vinegar on a fountain because it might corrode the surface.

Don’t use too much vinegar if it’s a fountain with drinking water (like for pets). It’ll make the water taste weird, and your pets won’t like it.

How Do You Clean Algae from an Indoor Fountain?

If there is a lot of algae in the fountain, deep clean it and pay particular attention to the pump and filters. Use vinegar, bleach solution, or algaecide to kill bacteria and disinfect the pump.

The pump and filters are a hotspot for bacteria – if we don’t clean them thoroughly, the algae will quickly reoccur. Bleach and vinegar can kill algae and remove stains, but never use them straight – dilute them first to make a solution.

Here are the quantities we will need to make a disinfectant for bacteria:

  1. Bleach solution – 1 cup to 1 gallon of water.
  2. Vinegar solution – 1 part vinegar to 1 part water.

How Can You Prevent Water Fountain Water from Turning Green?

Algae turn fountain water green, and to keep the water clear – we must prevent algae. To prevent algae, use distilled water and regularly clean the fountain and pump. Keep it out of direct sunlight and add cider vinegar, one or two drops of bleach, or an algaecide to the water.

Take a look at the tips below for the best advice on how to prevent fountain water from turning green:

  • Keep the fountain out of direct sunlight – Algae thrives with warmth and light, so it will quickly develop if a fountain is in direct sunlight. Keep it in a shady place to reduce the chance of algae, and turn the fountain lights off at night when going to bed.
  • Keep to a regular cleaning schedule – If we don’t clean the fountain regularly, the algae will feed off dust and dirt particles in the water and spread quickly.
  • Use distilled water – Algae have a tough time surviving in distilled water because it contains fewer minerals and contaminants, which they need to feed on. Distilled water can potentially stay clean for a couple of months, but we must clean fountains that contain tap water every few weeks to prevent algae.
  • Add one or two drops of bleach – A couple of drops in the water can also keep algae at bay, but this isn’t advisable for indoor fountains if kids and animals have access to it. A safer alternative to standard bleach is Oxygen bleach, which is non-toxic.  
  • Use an algaecide – We can add a range of products to a fountain to prevent algae, which usually contain algaecides. If using an algaecide, make sure it’s safe for indoor fountains and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Add vinegar to the water – Vinegar can also help keep algae at bay and is a safe and effective chemical alternative. Add one to two cups of filtered cider vinegar to the fountain water to prevent algae.
An image of Marina Bay area in Changi, Singapore - November 26 2019: The world-famous Jewel at Changi Airport, which is the world's largest indoor water fountain.

What Cleaners Should I Never Use on an Indoor Water Fountain?

Never use harsh chemical cleaners on an indoor water fountain because they might damage the surface. Avoid using straight bleach and vinegar because they can corrode some materials.

We can use bleach and vinegar on our fountains if we dilute them first. If using chemical cleaners, make sure they are suitable for delicate surfaces and designed for water fountains. Don’t use general water system cleaners because these are quite harsh.

How to Prevent Mold in Water Fountains

Prevent mold in water fountains with regular cleaning and by using distilled water. Add vinegar to the water or use a chemical cleaning product designed for indoor fountains.

Mold is very similar to algae, and we can prevent it by following the advice in the previous sections about algae.

How to Make Fountain Water Smell Good (can you do that?)

The best way to make fountain water smell good is with regular cleaning. Fountains that contain drinking water may benefit from small amounts of vinegar or food-safe bleach. If the fountain doesn’t hold drinking water, you can add a few drops of essential oils to make the water fountain smell good.

Essential oils are fragrant concentrated plant extracts, and we must use them in moderation. Some oils are toxic if we ingest them, so don’t use them if animals or humans drink from the fountain.

Essential oils are a fantastic option for water fountains because they make the home smell beautiful. They also have healing properties and can enhance our mood.

The smell of essential oils can be overpowering if we use too much, so always use them in moderation – just a couple of drops at a time.

Here are some essential oils which are perfect for a water fountain:

  1. Lemon or patchouli – are deodorizing, which means they remove smells from the air rather than mask them.
  2. Lavender geranium chamomile – are soothing and relaxing with a floral scent.
  3. Citrus oils – like orange and mandarin, are uplifting.
  4. Rosemary – is stimulating and can help with concentration.  
  5. Tea Tree – is antibacterial and antiseptic. It can reduce bacteria and leaves a fresh smell.
  6. Citronella – this will also keep insects at bay.
An image of Washing and cleaning stuff, domestic supplies for spring cleaning service.

Best Products For Cleaning an Indoor Water Fountain

If you’re ready to clean your fountain, having the right products handy makes the job easier (and faster!). Here are some of the best products we’ve tried, tested, and/or wanted to try on our indoor water fountains.

Best cleaning equipment:

  • Having the right brushes to clean your fountain is important! This brush kit (available on Amazon) has an assortment of sizes so you can always clean every nook and cranny in the fountain.
  • Sponges are fantastic for cleaning larger areas. These large sponges are a great option if you want a good price by shopping on Amazon.
  • Store all your cleaning stuff in a bucket, and you’ll always have everything you need to clean (including the bucket!). Amazon has a great selection of buckets, like this one. It’s even got a handle, which is a must in my book.
  • A wet/dry vacuum is a great way to clean things up fast. You can get a 5-gallon one on Amazon for a great price, though you can also shop your local home improvement store sales.

Best after-cleaning equipment:

  • Once the fountain’s been cleaned, use a fan (like this one on Amazon) to speed up the drying process so you can refill the fountain much faster. Plus, having the fan handy while you’re cleaning will keep you cooler, too.

Best fountain equipment

  • Your fountain needs a pump to function. If yours has gone bad (or you need a second one), Amazon has some (like this one) for great prices – better than I’ve found at some of my local stores.
  • This plant lamp is kind of an extra, but if your fountain has any plants in or near it, it’s waterproof and, therefore, a great option to keep those plants healthy! Click here to see it on Amazon.

Best water additives:

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

The best way to keep an indoor water fountain fresh is with regular cleaning – we should lightly clean it once or twice a week and deep clean it every four to eight weeks.

Never use harsh chemicals or abrasive sponges for cleaning because they might damage the finish. Warm soapy water and a sponge are usually enough to do the trick.

If algae are in the fountain, we must clean it and pump it with vinegar or bleach solution to kill the bacteria. To prevent algae from forming, fill the fountain with distilled water, keep it in a shady place, and add a cup or two of cider vinegar or an algaecide to the water.


Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These sources were used in this article and our research to be more informed as we DIY and decorate our homestead.

  • “A Complete Guide to Tabletop Water Fountain.” Ferrisland, 22 Dec. 2020,
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting With Bleach | CDC. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.
  • Davitt, Keith. “Tired of Cleaning Slime From Your Plastic Pet Fountain.” ThirstyCat Fountains, 29 Dec. 2021,
  • How to Stop Algae Growth in Your Water Fountain. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.
  • “Tips to Keep Your Indoor Water Fountain in Pristine Condition.” Water Gallery LLC, 22 July 2014,
  • “Cleaning: How to Clean Your Fountain.” YouTube, 2 May 2011,
  • “Using Scent in Water Fountains.” Prosperity Fountain, Accessed 10 Oct. 2022.

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