How to Clean Terracotta Pots?

If like me, you use terracotta pots in your garden, you know that it takes a lot to clean them because of their porous nature.

I had always been fascinated by clay pots, way before I got into gardening. Due to the natural and porous nature of terracotta, they serve to provide better plant care for your greens and flowers than other types of garden pots. They are also susceptible to fungus and algae growth, and as such, require thorough cleaning in-between seasons.

I used to believe that cleaning terracotta pots is a complicated process, as my pots already developed the crusty white residue that is common to clay garden pots. However, I have since discovered that it is not a complicated process; you just have to know what you’re doing. If you are a gardening enthusiast like me, I will show how to clean terracotta pots in a few easy steps.

What You Need to Clean Terracotta Pots?

When cleaning your pots, you should remove all pathogen growth in addition to dirt and mineral buildup. These pathogens will affect the growth of your plants if you don’t get rid of them. To thoroughly clean and sanitize your terracotta pots, here are the essential supplies you should have ready.

  • Scrubbing brush
    You need this to scrub dirt and crust buildup from the terracotta pots. A flowerpot brush is quite easy to get.
  • Vinegar
    White vinegar (5% acidity) to dissolve mineral buildup.
  • Baking soda
    Not essential, but necessary, in case vinegar is not sufficient to remove some mineral buildup.
  • Bleach
    This will be used to sanitize the pots after the primary cleaning process.
  • Utility tubs/large containers
    Needed to prepare vinegar solution soak the pots. Also required to make a bleach mixture for sanitization purposes.
  • Trash bags
    If you have large pots that cannot be submerged in any of your containers, you can get some durable trash bags to prepare the solutions and soak the pot.

6 Steps to Cleaning Your Terracotta Pots

Cleaning Your Terracotta Pots

Much more than just carrying out necessary cleaning, you need to get rid of all mineral buildup and kill all plant pathogens. These will involve several processes, and I strongly advise that you do not skip any of them. I have done my best to streamline the whole cleaning process and break them into more straightforward steps for you.

Step 1. Cleaning Your Terracotta Pots

Much more than just carrying out necessary cleaning, you need to get rid of all mineral buildup and kill all plant pathogens. These will involve several processes, and I strongly advise that you do not skip any of them. I have done my best to streamline the whole cleaning process and break them into more straightforward steps for you.

Step 2. Remove the soil

Get rid of all the plants and soil in the pot. You will discover some soil sticking to the pot after you have removed the plant. Wait for the soil to dry before scraping it out; it is always easier to get rid of dry soil than it is to remove wet soil. With the aid of a stiff scrubbing brush, gently scrub the dry soil out of the pots. Although clay pots are tough and can handle some intense cleaning, never scrape too hard at your pots.

Step 3. Soak the pots in a vinegar solution

Terracotta pots are more likely to have mineral buildup after prolonged use than other types of garden pots. The porous nature of the pots encourages this. Vinegar is quite effective in dissolving the mineral buildup. Depending on the sizes and number of pot you have, prepare a vinegar solution of 1 part of 5% acidic vinegar to 3 parts of water.

Soak the pots for about 20 minutes and then check to see if the buildup is fully dissolved. If the buildup doesn’t dissolve easily, you may have to scrub some of the residues of with a brush. Nonetheless, the crust should dissolve easily in the solution. After this, soak the pots in water for some time to dilute the acidic vinegar that has been absorbed. More so, if you soaked the entirety of your pots in the vinegar solution.

Step 4. Use baking soda on stubborn mineral buildup

One of my pots retained the crusty residue after I had soaked it in a vinegar solution for an extended period. I had set this pot for some time before learning that baking soda can remove mineral buildup. If you experience a similar thing, mix baking soda with water until it forms a paste with similar thickness to body lotion. Apply the baking soda paste directly to the crusty areas, leave for a few minutes, and scrub away gently with a scrubbing brush. The stubborn mineral buildup should come off easily.

Step 5. Clean with dishwasher

This is not a compulsory step, but I always like to be thorough. Running your pots through a dishwasher will get rid of some of the bacteria that can eventually affect your plants.

Step 6. Store pots in a cool, dry place

When your pots are all clean, store them in a cool, dry place. Putting them outside again will only expose them to the elements and dirt, way before you are ready to plant your greens and flowers.

Sanitizing Your Terracotta Pots

In most cases, the basic process discussed above is sufficient to clean your pots thoroughly. However, there is a need to remove all fungus that can affect the growth of your greens and flowers. Thorough sanitization will get rid of these pathogens and ensure that the pots are ready for the next planting season. You can either sanitize with bleach or with heat. I personally didn’t like the idea of soaking my pots in bleach, but I discovered it is the easier method of the two, more so if you have big pots that won’t fit into your ovens.

  • Get a container that is big enough to contain the largest of your pots and create a bleach mixture. Bleach is corrosive, so you want to use it as little as you can. Mix 1 part of bleach with 10 parts of water, depending on how big your pots are. If you have pots that are too big for your containers, you can prepare the bleach solution in durable trash bags.
  • Submerge your “clean” pot in the bleach mixture. If you are using a trash bag, you will have to tie it over the pot after putting it in. 30 minutes of soaking is sufficient to sanitize, but if you have discovered visible mold/grime on the pot, you may want to leave it in for a longer period. On the other hand, you should never leave a pot in bleach for too long; it is not safe for your pot and the plants you hope to plant.
  • Next, you remove the pot and dip into another container filled with clean water to rinse. Rinse as many times as it takes to wash out the bleach completely.
  • After rinsing all the bleach out, you can now allow the pot to dry out completely before you store it in a cool, dry place.

Conclusion

I hope you find these steps easy enough to follow. You cannot avoid these cleaning processes if you have terracotta pots in your garden. If you neglect to clean the pots, you risk the health of your greens and flowers, in addition to the sore sight that is unkempt terracotta pots. For convenience purposes, you may choose not to sanitize every planting season. Nonetheless, you should do it as often as you can to keep the pots in good condition and your plants healthy. If you found this article helpful, kindly share it with your family and friends. Also, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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