You’ve Been Soaped! Now What?

Soap suds in fountain in town square.

Last Updated July 18, 2023

Soaping. This prank — which involves dumping laundry detergent, shampoo, or dish soap into a fountain to produce suds — is as old as toilet papering but can be even more destructive.

Turning a public water feature into a giant bubble bath may sound like harmless fun, but putting soap in a fountain can result in expensive cleanup and long-term damage.

If your water fountain got soaped, you’re not alone. Pranksters have put soap in fountains for years.

Fountains on the Lee Clarion University campus in Cleveland, Tennessee, are historically prone to vandalism. One particular event in August 2010 cost the university $1,000 in materials alone. It was necessary to drain the fountain, clean all surfaces, chemically remove the suds, and flush the pipes. Plus, important chemicals needed to be added back in to prevent algae growth and keep the water crystal clear.

In July 2014, a soaped fountain in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, kept city workers busy for days cleaning up the mess. Crews had to clean out the whole fountain, backwash the filters, rinse, wash, and repeat multiple times before all the soap was cleared out of the system. It took hours of manpower and several days before the fountain was back up and running.

If you’ve been soaped, The Grounds Guys® offers you some tips for cleaning up the mess and protecting your fountain against future pranks.

Gather Cleaning Supplies

Your soapy, bubbling fountain may have brought joy to the neighborhood pranksters, but they aren’t the ones who have to clean it up. Not all hope is lost, though. You can usually remove those soapy suds with some common items that are lying around your house. The following cleaning supplies can help you take care of the soap in a fountain:

  • A pool skimmer to pick up the foam
  • A bucket for scooping up the soapy water
  • An anti-foaming agent
  • New filter
  • Chemicals to keep algae growth at bay
  • Rags or towels

Cleaning the Fountain

Once you have the essential cleaning supplies, it’s time to turn that bubbling fountain eyesore into the sparkling water fountain you know and love. We’ve laid out some useful tips on how to get rid of suds:

  • Act immediately: At the first sign of soaping, be sure to act quickly to minimize damage to the pump and other essential features of your water fountain.
  • Drain and rinse the fountain: Get as much soap out of the water as you can by draining it completely. Not all fountains are the same size, so if it’s a large fountain, you may want to use a wet/dry vac to drain the water completely. Note: unplug the pump to prevent the pump’s motor from burning out. Refill it and drain it again to rinse more suds from the fountain.
  • Add anti-foaming agents: Cleaning a soaped fountain is not as simple as pumping water out and replacing it. Residual soap will continue to foam until you add a nontoxic anti-foaming agent to the water.
  • Replace the filters: They’re probably all gummed up from the soap and need to be replaced, possibly even multiple times during the cleanup process, depending on the size of the fountain and how much soap the vandal added.
  • Restore the proper chemical balance: To restore the fountain to its former glory, add the proper chemicals to thwart algae growth.
  • Call in the pros: If your personal fountain gets soaped, but you don’t have the tools, ability, or time to clean it, hire professional fountain cleanup from The Grounds Guys.

Rinsing and Drying

Once you’ve drained the fountain, you will need to rinse and dry it. Always use clean water to rinse the fountain. You’ll want to be sure that all the lines are clear, so run the water through them. Since the water is gone, it’s an excellent time to clean algae stains with a rag and water. You may have to remove stubborn stains with a toothbrush and cleaning agent.

It’s also an excellent time to clean your pump because soap can ruin it in less than a day. Go back and rinse the fountain again to ensure all the soap is gone. Do you want to give your fountain an extra clean look? Some fountains, such as those made from stone, can be pressure-washed, but we advise having a pro do this as you might cause damage

You can let the water dry out naturally or by using towels or a dry vac.

Preventing Future Incidents

Let’s face it. Most of these types of pranks are done by neighborhood pranksters. And, so long as there are mischievous people in the world, pranks such as putting soap in a fountain will continue. However, with some preventative measures, you can protect your water fountain from future antics.

If the fountain is on your private property, add locks to your gates to help keep trespassers out. Whether the fountain is in a public or private area, you can install surveillance cameras to help deter or catch any future perpetrator in the act. Another excellent preventative measure is to install residential outdoor lighting near your fountain.

Seeking Professional Help

When the damage is too much for you to handle, or you don’t have the time, tools, or ability, seek professional help. Find your local The Grounds Guys, and let our experts clean the fountain right the first time. We provide free estimates, so there are no surprises! We’re local to your community and take pride in the work we do. We stand behind our work and are proud to deliver our Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which guarantees that it’s done right the first time.

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