Tips for Cleaning Crusty Clay Pots

When the days get cooler and shorter, it is time to put the garden to bed for the winter.  Cleaning clay pots this time of the year keeps my garden still in mind and makes sure that they are ready to use when spring comes around again in a few months.

Tips for cleaning clay potsGetting Rid of the Crust! Tips for Cleaning Clay Pots.

Terra cotta clay pots are my choice when it comes to patio decor. They breathe well, help to keep the soil moist but not soggy and prevent overheating here in our NC summers.  I also love the natural look of them.  There is nothing quite like a basic clay pot for planting drought resistant succulents and cacti plants.  But clay pots can look tired and worn by the end of the gardening season and often need a good dose of TLC to get them in good shape for next year.Succulents in clay pots

The reason that this job is so necessary is the clay itself.  Clay pots absorb minerals from the soil itself, and also absorb  chemicals from any fertilizer you might use. They need to be cleaned and sterilized at the end of each season to keep from spreading these absorbed particles to new plants and to rid the threat of spreading fungus or mold which can infect new plants and damage the pots themselves.

Cleaning clay pots is easier than you might think when you see the messy pots in the fall.  It really doesn’t take much time to give a new lease of life to your crusty old terracotta pots. Why spend money on new terracotta pots when you can save yourself tons of money with just a little elbow grease?

Dirty terra cotta pots

Image credit: Wikipedia Free Image repository. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Remove the soil. The first step in cleaning clay pots is easy.  Take out the old soil and plant out of the pot.  Allow the remaining soil to dry so that it will be easier to remove.  dirty clay pot

Scrub away the dirt. Then simply remove as much of the remaining soil as you can with a stiff scrubbing brush.  Rinse both the pot and the scrubber with water.  (don’t use soap. They can leave a residue that is hard to remove.)  Next, use the same scrubbing brush and brush the outside of the pot, removing as much of the crusty gunk as you can.clean ou the soil from the clay pot

Vinegar helps to disinfect. The next step uses my trusty friend vinegar.   Soak the pots in a water/vinegar solution for 20-30 minutes.  The solution should be 1 cup of 5% acidic white vinegar to 3-4 cups of water. 5% acidic white vinegar

Baking soda neutralizes stubbon salt marks. Check the pots after about 20 minutes.  If the buildup is gone, the pots are finished. If there is still residue, just leave them a bit longer.  For particularly stubborn salt marks, use a paste made from baking soda and water.  Just use enough water so that the mixture resembles the consistency of hand lotion. Spread this paste over the build up, let it sit for a few more minutes, and use the scrubbing brush to gently scrub it away.  The baking soda neutralizes the salts so that they come off easily. baking soda and water cleans clay pots too.

For an extra cleaning use the dishwasher. Once the pots are cleaned, you can run them through the dishwasher, if you want. This will give the pots an extra dose of disinfecting.

Store the pots away from the elements. Store the pots away from the elements and next spring you will have clean and lovely clay pots to replant your favorite new friends!  If you leave the pots out where the rain and snow will get to them, they will just get crusty and dirty again. Give them some time indoors in a covered shed or lean to where the weather can’t reach them.Potting shed

Bleach and Water also works!  Another way to clean the crusty clay pots is to use a bleach and water solution.  1/4 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water is the mix.  Let the pots soak for about 30 minutes.  This video from YouTube shows how to clean the clay pots with this method and also with the baking soda method.

Once you have finished your cleaning and disinfecting, the pots will be refreshed and ready for use when spring comes. I can’t wait for that to happen!!  Are you ready for spring yet?

Clean Clay pots

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  4 comments for “Tips for Cleaning Crusty Clay Pots

  1. 11/25/2014 at 1:52 pm

    This is great info. Thanks for sharing.

    • admin
      11/25/2014 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Vanessa Glad you found it interesting. Carol

  2. Gale
    01/11/2015 at 11:51 am

    love the idea. Thanks for sharing. I have lots of old clay pots in my yard.

    • admin
      01/11/2015 at 12:21 pm

      My pleasure Gale. Glad you enjoyed the article. Carol

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