April 14, 2023

The Best (and Worst) Ways to Clean Bird Poop From Your Patio

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On the beautiful, sunny days of spring, bird poop will suddenly appear on all your patio, railings, and outdoor furniture. Online, there are all kinds of suggestions for what you can use to remove the icky white stain once you’ve scraped away the solid part, but it’s not clear which ones work and which are just conventional wisdom passed down from grandparents to bloggers. I tested three often-recommended methods to clear the stain (plus plain water, to see if it mattered), and here’s what I found.

Cleaning bird droppings with seltzer water

Bubbly water is a top-recommended bird poop stain-remover around the internet, so this was first on my list. I followed the instructions from Angi that said I should let it sit on the stain for a few minutes before removing it with a scrubber. (I opted to use a trusty melamine sponge over a brush, but an old toothbrush would work great here, too.)

The bubbles in the seltzer foamed up on my wooden surface right away, kind of like when you put hydrogen peroxide on a cut. I left it alone for a minute, then wiped it off—and after just a slight push with my melamine sponge, there was no stain left at all.

Conclusion: This one works, but you do still have to scrub a bit after pouring the seltzer.

Cleaning bird droppings with white vinegar

While I let the seltzer sit on one stain, I poured some vinegar on another. Wiping the stain away didn’t take any effort at all; the vinegar had already dissolved it, unlike the seltzer. The only downside was that it stinks (and it stinks even worse in the hot sun), but the smell goes away.

Conclusion: This is the best option, hands down. Almost no scrubbing needed.

Cleaning bird droppings with dish soap

Dish soap is widely recommended everywhere from window companies to The Kitchn to the University of Illinois’ infamous stain-removal resource guide. But I’ll tell you who doesn’t recommend it: Me.

This method sucked, at least for my purposes of cleaning a wooden railing. First, soapy water did nothing to dissolve the stain—I still had to scrub to remove it afterward and, for a time, the white residue left behind was stained blue by the soap, which oozed into the cracks of the railing and was much harder to remove than the vinegar or seltzer. Unlike the other two methods, this one needed a much more thorough rinse to get rid of the soap, which meant it took at least twice as long, plus I still had to scrub. Big thumbs-down. See below for the soapy, slightly-blue mess I had to fix.

Conclusion: No.

Image for article titled The Best (and Worst) Ways to Clean Bird Poop From Your Patio

Photo: Lindsey Ellefson

Cleaning bird droppings with plain water

Water was my experiment’s control, and did absolutely nothing for the stains. It sort of made them looser so I could scrub them off, but it was nowhere near as easy to do as it was when I tried the bubbly water or vinegar.

Conclusion: Don’t just use water. Even if you have to add dish soap, that’ll be more effective than water by itself.

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