How to Clean Terracotta Pots

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How To Clean Terracotta Pots

Terracotta pots have a timeless beauty and can last for several years if given some TLC once and a while. One of the advantages of using terracotta pots is that they absorb water, and help prevent over-watering (I use them to grow all of my succulents and cactus plants).

But, terracotta pots also absorb fertilizers, salts and other chemicals that are in the water. Over time, these chemicals will build up and create a crusty residue on your beautiful clay pots.

Crusty Old Terracotta Pots

Crusty Old Terracotta Pots

The good news is, it doesn’t take much time to give new life to your crusty old terracotta pots. So why buy brand new terracotta pots when you can save yourself tons of money with just a little elbow grease. Check this out, I recently got a bunch of free clay pots from a nice lady on Craigslist. There were about 25 various sized terracotta pots in total – awesome score, right?! The clay pots are very old and they looked nasty, but I could see the beauty that lies beneath all that crusted on grime.

Crusty Residue On Old Terracotta Pot

Crusty Residue On Old Terracotta Pot

How To Clean Terracotta Pots

Step 1: Remove any loose dirt from the pot.  Brush as much dirt as you can off of the clay pot, but you don’t have to get it all off. I got this fancy pot brush for Christmas a few years back, and love it for cleaning my pots.

Remove Loose Dirt From Terracotta Pot

Remove Loose Dirt From Terracotta Pot

Step 2: Soak clay pots in vinegar/water solution.  Ideally, you would use 1 cup of white vinegar (5% acidity) for every 3-4 cups of water. The less vinegar you use, the longer you’ll need to soak the pots. Completely submerge the clay pots in the solution. You may hear a sizzling sounds or see bubbles. Don’t worry; that’s a combination of the vinegar doing it’s job at dissolving the crusty buildup, and the clay pot absorbing the water. I start by soaking crusty clay pots for 20-30 minutes. If the buildup wipes or scrubs off easily, they’re done. Otherwise, I’ll soak the pots longer. Keep checking until all the residue is easy to remove. You may need to use your brush to scrub it off.

Related post: Tips For Repotting Houseplants

Soak Terracotta Pots In Vinegar Water Solution

Soak Terracotta Pots In Vinegar Water Solution

For really tough crusty buildup, you can soak the pot in pure vinegar (here I’m just soaking the rim of the pot where the buildup is the worst). If you soak the entire terracotta pot in vinegar, you should soak it in water afterward to dilute the vinegar the pot absorbed.

Soak Terracotta Pot In Vinegar To Remove Tough Buildup

Soak Terracotta Pot In Vinegar To Remove Tough Buildup

Step 3: Run through the dishwasher. As a last step, I run the terracotta pots through the quick wash cycle on my dishwasher. This will help to disinfect the pots and clean them. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can scrub the pots in soapy water (will require a little extra elbow grease).

That’s it, I told you it was easy. As for those dirty old terracotta pots I got for free. Well, here’s what they look like after I finished cleaning them…

Related Post: DIY Succulent Potting Soil

Clean and Shiny Terracotta Pots Look Brand New

Clean and Shiny Terracotta Pots Look Brand New

Can you believe these are the same terracotta pots? Seriously, this took about 30 minutes of my time (not counting the time I let the pots soak, and the time it took for the dishwasher to run). Now I have what look like brand new terracotta pots. I’m pretty sure it’s been several years since these terracotta pots have been cleaned (if ever). It’s good practice to clean terracotta pots every time you use them to keep them looking beautiful, and prevent pests and diseases.

For more information and tips for repotting houseplants, click here… Repotting Houseplants

Do you clean your terracotta pots, or do you like how the old crusty clay pots look?

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I've used a similar combo of equal parts water, white vinegar + rubbing alcohol) and sometimes a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water, which means I can skip the dishwasher step (which is a good thing because my dishwasher is tiny).

    • says

      Great, thanks for sharing your formulas! It's always good to hear how other people do it. I've used the same bleach solution to sterilize pots that aren't dishwasher safe, and my seedling trays.

  2. says

    Very cool, thanks. I've often seen terra cotta pots for cheap, or free, at garage sales or estate sales, but have always been put off by the icky buildup on them since I didn't know how to clean them correctly. Now I know, bring on the pots!

    • says

      LOL, that's not good! I can't say for sure because I've never tried it… but I would expect the stain would be removed if you cleaned your pots with this method. You could try scrubbing them with a pot brush and soapy water first if your pots contain plants you don't want to remove. Otherwise, I would try soaking them in the vinegar/water solution (remove the plants first). Let

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