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CLEANING YOUR MOSAICS

Minor Cleaning - Usually a good spray with the garden house is all that's needed to clean out the bird baths.   I keep a nylon bristle dish brush handy when a bit more cleaning as needed as this will get in the corners and between the tiles with out scratching or leaving any residue behind.    

Major Cleanaing:  Rinse with water and scrub with a nylon bristle dish brush and then again with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and waterand then rinse very well with clean water.  If necessary straight white vinegar (or diluted bleach as a last resort) can be used to spot clean stubborn areas, just be sure to rinse it very well.    I find that white vinegar is less toxic to the birds and easier on the grout but it does not always do the trick.   For bird baths cleaned with bleach I like to rinse them well, let them soak in water for a bit and then rinse again before returning them ouside to the birds.  Re-sealing annually with grout sealer (see below) will help protect the grout and make it easier to clean.

RE-SEALING YOUR MOSAICS

I recommend you re-seal all mosaics annually in order to keep up the stain protection for the grout.    For exterior pieces this is easiset to do before returning pieces to the garden in the spring.  If the piece can stay outside year around pick a dry day and do not work in the direct sun as the sealer will dry too quickly and will leave streaks.  

You will need some grout sealer  - "Aqua Mix" or other brand is fine as long as it is suitable for exterior use - it's  the same product used in shower stalls, etc.  I  avoid any products with Silicone because I don't like the fumes it gives off.  Some sealers are high gloss, don't get the high gloss unless you want the whole piece to be shiny/wet looking - I think matte or low-sheen works better.    If you don't already have sealer you can get it at most hardware stores, a small bottle is fine as a little goes a long ways.  It's always a good idea to not buy the cheapest product on the shelf, a slight increase in price usually means better quality.
You also want a few lint-free rags (I use old sheets) and a clean paint brush or disposable chip brush (2" wide works good). - Lint free is the key here!
1) Be sure the bath is clean and dry.  If it is not clean follow the instructions above before proceeding.
2) Turn the bath upside down and using the brush work around all the corners and bottom  to get out any bits of dust, etc.
3) Place the bath upright on some newspaper, coat your brush with sealer and paint it on the entire surface of the grout until all of the grout is a uniform dark color.  If you missed any spots it will show up lighter in color.   Let sit about 5 minutes.
4) Mop up all of the excess liquid with one of the rags and do an initial wipe down.
5) Immediately follow with a dry cotton cloth and buff off any excess liquid off of the tiles/glass until it is streak free.  The draw back about the sealer is that if you allow it to dry on the tiles it can leave streaks so keep changing your cotton cloth if it looks streaky and buff again.   If there is a stubborn streak that won't buff out dampen the cloth in sealer and rub that over the spot.
6) If you have  rocks and glass in the bottom there will be a few areas where the sealer has pooled up in the bottom.  Don't worry too much, it will dry out, just try to remove as much as you can and buff the rocks and glass as you would the tile.
7) Wait 24 hours, or as indicated on the container, before putting the piece outside.                                                                                                                                                                                              

TROUBLESHOOTING

Placement: 
-I find that the small birds such as the chickadees and wrens like to perch before bathing and situating you bath near or under a high branched tree gives them perching locations.
-Robins and other larger birds perfer a open location were it is easier for them to just fly right in and strech out their wings.
-If your bath is not getting much use move it around your garden to see if a different placement will encourage bathing.

Crows seen to seasonally use any water source to soak their food and it leaves lots of detritus behind.  I've had good luck discouraging the crows by placing rocks, balls or other items to decrease the amount of  open water available.   This still allows for robins and other smaller birds to use the bath.

Strange algae or colored growth in your bird bath may be caused by a few things.  
-It may be very high mineral content in your water (in that case there's not much you can do except change the water more often). 
-If your bath is situated under or near a evergreen tree (don't ask me why) you may want to try moving the bird bath to another spot. 
-Too much sun can often mean more algae growth, try moving  your bath to a partially shady location. 
-Try cleaning with vinegar or removing the bath from the garden and giving it a good scrub down with bleach and then rinsing very well.

 

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