How to Clean Terracotta Pots?

If you use terracotta pots in your garden like we do, you know that cleaning can be tricky due to their porous nature!

We’ve always been fascinated by clay pots, long before my interest in gardening. Due to the natural and porous nature of terracotta, they provide better care for your greens and flowers than other types of garden pots.

Terracotta pots are also susceptible to fungus and algae growth, requiring thorough cleaning in-between seasons.

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We used to believe cleaning terracotta pots is a complicated process. My pots quickly developed the crusty white residue that is common to clay garden pots.

You just have to know what you’re doing! I’ll show how to clean terracotta pots in a few easy steps below.

What You Need to Clean Terracotta Pots

Remove all pathogen growth, dirt, and mineral buildup when cleaning pots. Pathogens will affect the growth of your plants if not taken care of. Listed below are the essential supplies you’ll need to thoroughly clean and sanitize your terracotta pots!

Scrubbing Brush

You’ll need to scrub dirt and crust buildup from your terracotta pots. A flowerpot brush is quite easy to get! 


White vinegar (5% acidity) is required to dissolve mineral buildup. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda may be necessary if vinegar is not sufficient to remove mineral buildup. 


Bleach will be used to sanitize the pots after your primary cleaning process. 

Utility Tubs/Large Containers

Needed to prepare vinegar solution soak the pots. Also required to make a bleach mixture for sanitizing purposes. 

Trash Bags

Durable trash bags are great for larger containers!

6 Steps to Cleaning Your Terracotta Pots

Step 1. Cleaning Your Terracotta Pots

You’ll need to get rid of all mineral buildup while killing plant pathogens! These will involve several important processes. The entire cleaning process is broken down into straightforward steps for you below.

Step 2. Remove Soil

Remove plants and soil from your pot, setting them in an alternate container.

You might notice soil sticking to the pot after plant removal. Wait for any stuck-on soil to dry before scraping it out. It’s always easier to get rid of dry soil than it is to remove wet soil!

Using a stiff scrubbing brush, gently scrub any dry soil out of your pots. Although clay pots are tough and can handle intense cleaning, never scrape too hard!

Step 3. Soak the Pots in a Vinegar Solution

Terracotta pots are more likely to contain mineral buildup after prolonged use than other types of garden pots due to their porous nature.

Vinegar is effective at dissolving mineral buildup! Prepare a vinegar solution of 1 part of 5% acidic vinegar to 6 parts of water, depending on the size and number of pots you have.

Soak your pots for about 20 minutes, checking if any buildup is fully dissolved. Scrubbing may be required If buildup doesn’t dissolve easily. Any crust should dissolve easily in the solution!

After this, soak the pots in water in order to dilute any acidic vinegar that has been absorbed. Soak the entirety of your pots in the vinegar solution.

Step 4. Use Baking Soda on Stubborn Mineral Buildup

What do you do if your pots retain crusty residue after soaking in a vinegar solution for an extended period?

Baking soda can remove mineral buildup!

If you experience something similar, mix baking soda with water until forming a paste with similar thickness to body lotion. Apply your baking soda paste directly to any crusty areas.

Leave for a few minutes, gently scrubbing after with a scrubbing brush.

Any stubborn mineral buildup should come off easily!

Step 5. Clean with Dishwasher

Running your pots through a dishwasher will rid any bacteria that can eventually affect your plants.

Step 6. Store Pots in a Cool, Dry Place

Store your pots in a cool, dry place after cleaning.

Placing these outside will allow exposure to elements and dirt before you are ready to plant your greens and flowers.

Sanitizing Your Terracotta Pots

The process discussed above is normally sufficient to clean pots thoroughly.

You’ll still need to remove all fungus that can affect the growth of your greens and flowers. Thorough sanitization will get rid of these pathogens, ensuring your pots are ready for the next planting season! You can either sanitize with bleach or with heat.

We didn’t like the idea of soaking my pots in bleach, but discovered it is the easier method of the two. This is especially true if you have big pots that won’t fit into your oven.

  • Get a container that is big enough for your largest pots and create a bleach mixture. Bleach is corrosive, so you want to use it as little as possible! Mix 1 part of bleach with 10 parts of water, depending on how big your pots are.

Prepare the bleach solution in durable trash bags for pots too large for other containers.

  • Submerge your “clean” pot in the bleach mixture. If you are using a trash bag, you will have to tie it over the pot after submersion. 30 minutes of soaking is sufficient to sanitize. You may want to leave it in for a longer period if you have discovered visible mold/grime.

Never leave a pot in bleach for too long!  This isn’t safe for either your pot or any plants.

  • Remove the pot and rinse, dipping into another container filled with clean water. Rinse as many times as necessary to wash out any bleach completely.
  • You can now allow the pot to dry out completely before storing in a cool, dry place after rinsing all bleach out.


You cannot avoid these simple cleaning steps if you have terracotta pots in your garden! Dirty pots risk the health of your greens and flowers, in addition to visually appealing terracotta pots.

You should at least clean the pots every other season.

Photo by bloodstone