How to Clean Terra Cotta Pots

Although soluble salts can make for an attractive pot, a build up can be harmful to your plants.

Personally, I love when terra cotta pots have a “patina”. New planters look so shiny and new. I prefer my terra cotta to look aged.

That pretty patina has been left behind on my terra cotta by additives from the tap water that I’ve used for my plants and also from fertilizer. Another name for these remains is soluble salts. And, unfortunately, once they have built up, they can cause burning on your plant’s roots and even any leaves that rest against the planter. So we must remove it. Thankfully, it’s super easy to do.

Begin by removing any loose soil. I use a toothbrush with firm bristles, but any kind of scrubbing brush will do. I like a toothbrush because it’s easy to use for cleaning all different sizes of terra cotta pots. Remove any loose soil or soluble salts and don’t forget to scrub down the outside of the pot and the bottom of the pot (inside and outside).

Once you have all the loose dirt and grit removed from the pot, it’s time to soak. The mix I use is one part vinegar to four parts water. (This is what works best for me, but there are about a million different recipes online. Feel free to use whatever recipe sounds the best for you.) Soak the pot for 20 to 30 minutes and then scrub the pot with a scrub brush/toothbrush. If the build up scrubs off of the pot easily, then the pot is all done. If the build up can’t be removed completely, soak it for another 20-30 minutes and repeat the process. For really hard to remove minerals you may need to add more vinegar. You can even use pure vinegar for extra difficult planters.

I always make sure to rinse planters thoroughly after soaking in vinegar. Technically, vinegar shouldn’t cause any damage to the roots of plants, but I don’t like to risk it. Just rinse under a faucet or soak in clean water and the vinegar should be rinsed out. Another, excellent way to rinse and sanitize is to run a load of terra cotta on the quick wash cycle in your dishwasher.

It doesn’t much matter how you rinse your terra cotta, but something that matters very much is drying it out completely before storing it. I like to let my planters sit for several days in a low humidity area of my home. Drying planters on a cookie cooling rack works very well since it allows the entire pot a chance to dry out, top and bottom. Like many people, I stack my pots when they aren’t being used and I don’t want any moisture left in the pots before storing because they can and will grow mold and mildew.

So now you can clean all of your pots and have them ready for the upcoming growing season. Thanks for reading, my friends. I hope you are all doing very well.

Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

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If you would like to see this in video form, here is the YouTube video How To Clean Terra Cotta Pots

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Products I use and (therefore) recommend:

Planty friends – Feel free to use these links to the products that I use for my houseplants.  I receive a small percentage of any sales through these links, so feel free not to use them if that bothers you.

Horticultural 1/4” pumice –

Horticultural perlite –

Coco coir –

Orchid Bark – Extra small chips –

Orchid Bark – Small chips –

Earthworm castings –

Coco Loco potting mix –

GE Balanced Spectrum grow light bulb –

Monios L LED grow lights – 2 ft. –

Bonsai scissors –

Hygrometer (humidity monitor) –

Moisture meter sticks –

Horticultural charcoal –

Organic houseplant fertilizer liquid –

Insecticide/Miticide – (many bug sprays don’t kill spider mites, this one does) –

Systemic houseplant insecticide –

Full disclosure – the last three product links will be much cheaper if you can find them in your local garden center.  I’ve put them here so that you can see what they are called and what they look like, but I’d advise that you buy from these links only as a last resort.

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