Do I need to clean my garden pots?
Cleaning garden pots can help revitalize the appearance of pots that may have become faded and dirty over time. It can also ensure the health of the plants it contains by helping common plant diseases. Annual cleaning and occasional wipe-downs will keep your planters looking new and functioning well.
When do I need to clean garden pots?
Your pots should be cleaned seasonally with extra wipes or brushing throughout the season as necessary to keep the dirt off. Often after a rain storm pots will have splashed dirt, grime, and watermarks on them which can easily be removed with a gentle wipe with a dry or damp cloth. Use a wet towel with a little bit of dish soap for more stubborn spots.
Cleaning Before Repotting
Planting in used pots requires proper cleaning and sterilization to eliminate any bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens that may be present in the soil residue. Skipping this step can result in contamination.
Regularly cleaning garden pots also helps prevent the buildup of minerals, harmful bacteria, fungi, and pests, such as aphids and mites, which thrive in the confined space of pots and can harm plants.
How should I clean my specific type of planter material?
Depending on the material of the garden pot, (natural clay pots, lightweight resin pots, fiberglass pots, glazed ceramic pots, etc.) there are different methods of cleaning. It is important to know the pot’s material before you choose a cleaning method to make sure you don’t damage the surface of the pot.
Cleaning Terra Cotta, Unglazed Clay, or Glazed Clay Pots
For a quick cleaning of the outside of clay pots, you can use warm soapy water and a sponge or brush to remove dirt and prevent mineral buildup.
Note: If your clay pot is intended for indoor use only, it may be safer to follow the instructions for cleaning delicate planters below, or to use a damp cloth and mild soap as needed.
Seasonally or before replanting, clay pots should be cleaned thoroughly. On terra cotta pots, white crusty deposits, caused by mineral and salt buildup from fertilizers and tap water, can accumulate on both the inner and outer surfaces of clay or terracotta pots. These deposits can harm plants by burning their roots and affecting soil pH and nutrient uptake and should be removed.
Steps for sanitizing and removing mineral build-up on clay planters
- Empty the pots completely, removing all soil.
- Use a stiff brush to remove debris clinging to the pot’s interior.
- Prepare a solution of about 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar and submerge the pots in it.
- If the pot has mineral deposits you should see and hear a fizzing reaction.
- Soak the pots in this solution for up to 30 minutes, then rinse.
- If there are any remaining spots you can scrub them again while still wet with the vinegar solution.
- Rinse the pots thoroughly with warm water. Smaller terra cotta pots can also go through the dishwasher on a low-temperature drying setting.
- Air dry them completely (at least 48 hours) before use or storage so they do not grow mold.
Note: A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water is also safe for most clay pots.
Cleaning Lightweight Resin and Fiberglass Planters
Many planters today may look like clay or stone, but they are actually made from stone, cement, sand, or clay mixed with a lightweight material like resin or fiberglass. If your pot can be lifted somewhat easily then it’s probably not pure clay, stone, or cement.
Note that lightweight fiber and resin planters can be delicate, so it’s important to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive tools that may damage the material. It is also not recommended to soak these planters in the cleaning solution.
Steps for cleaning mixed resin or fiber planters:
- Empty the planter of any soil or debris and wipe down the interior and exterior with a dry cloth or brush to remove any loose dirt.
- Create a cleaning solution with warm water and gentle soap or dish detergent, mixing roughly 1 tablespoon of soap per gallon of water.
- Dip a soft-bristled brush or cloth into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the entire planter, paying extra attention to any spots or stains. For persistent stains, try using a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water to loosen the grime.
- If there are any hard-to-reach areas or crevices, such as with some finishes of fiber stone or cement planters, use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to clean them.
- Once cleaned, rinse the planter thoroughly with water from a hose, ensuring that all soap and grime are washed away.
- Leave the planter to air dry completely before filling or storing it.
- Repeat this process at least once a year to keep your fiber and resin planters looking brand new.
Cleaning Wood, Bamboo, Grass, or Delicate Planters
Planters with delicate natural materials such as woven grass planters and wood planters should be cleaned with a dry or lightly dampened cloth. These planters are generally for indoor use and should not be hosed down or soaked.
Any plastic inserts in these pots can be removed and cleaned with water and soap, vinegar, or bleach as long as they are thoroughly rinsed and dried before putting them back.
If you have any other cleaning questions or want to know about a different material, leave a comment below.