Gardening · Problems · Uncategorized

The Importance of Plant Pot Cleaning

Why clean your pots?

Pots don’t just hold our plants. They also allow bacteria to grow. Terracotta is worse than plastic for this because it is porous and allows caves for bacteria to thrive.

Salt deposits also tend to grow on the bottoms if water is allowed to sit. This can affect the water quality over time if it sits too long in the saucer.
You should clean off the salt deposits regularly, but the most important time is when you wish to reuse a pot. Cross-contamination is a real problem for plants and growers. While one plant can exist without issue with some diseases, if that pot gets reused by another plant it could kill it.

When to clean a container

The best time to clean containers is as and when needed after emptying and discarding plants but you can clean them outside on a warm spring day before any planting is started. If you leave pots till spring to clean then don’t place them near any previously cleaned pots.

Washing terracotta pots prior to planting also helps to keep soil from drying out during the first crucial day of transplanting. Terracotta pots need a good soaking because if you don’t then they will leach the moisture from the soil you fill it with.


How to clean a container

First off, remove any soil and dirt left in and on the containers. Use a stiff scrub brush and clean warm water (No soap!). Stubborn salt deposits may need to be scraped off manually.

Once the pots are clear of any rubbish place them in a tub with a 1:9 (10%) bleach solution and let them soak for 30 minutes or so. This will kill off any diseases and bacteria.

Plastic pots can be sprayed to rinse off any residual bleach and then allow them to dry in the sun. If you have terracotta pots you will need to dowse them in clean water and soak for another 20 minutes to remove the bleach. These will also need to be air dried. They will probably take much longer than the plastic ones.
Don’t soak terracotta pots and leave them out if a frost is likely. Terracotta tends to shatter over time if left out wet.

How to store your containers

Once you have cleaned your pots, keep them away from any unwashed pots, you don’t want to risk cross contamination!
If you need to, place dirty pots in a bag.


15 thoughts on “The Importance of Plant Pot Cleaning

  1. How about that! Although I sometimes clean my pots I never bleach them! Are you telling me I should empty my EarthBox and scrub and then bleach it before growing anything in it this spring?

      1. I suppose you can order Earthboxes in England too. I do have to replace the medium that wouldn’t shake out from the fine root systems.

          1. Well I live in a flat area between mountains that form walls around our town. A glacier formed sand and round stones and boulders. I can’t do heavy digging anymore to remove the rocks from a garden. I had 4′ X 8′ raised bed gardens but when the wood started rotting I took them down about 20 years ago. Earthboxes just seemed easier for small time gardening on the back deck..

              1. Yes you have to pay for all those shipping fees etc. I bet you have a similar box made in England. BUT you don’t need one.

  2. WE are told to use the same growing medium for up to 8 years although I didn’t buy their growing medium. I used an organic peat moss, manure based medium. When I dug up the tomatoes I had so much fibrous roots I lost 1/4 of the medium by the time I took them all out.

    1. That’s a lot. O.o
      But then if the plants are really growing well they will convert soil to plant mass.

      BTW… I think I confused your earthbox with a composter in the last response… *sigh*
      I still don’t think you need to clean them like a normal pot.

  3. I never clean my pots (Unless i’m rinsing them!) but i’ve never thought of using bleach, what a great idea thanks for sharing!

    1. Bleach is better… Getting washing up detergent out of the pot would be really difficult. You would need to use cold water and plenty of it.
      If you want you could clean the greenhouse with vinegar. Or lemon juice. That works.

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