Terracotta is a material that most plants love. There are tons of benefits of using terracotta pots, ranging from their porousness that prevents root rot to their versatility in indoor and outdoor gardening. The downside?

Terracotta pots can get a little grimy-looking over time. If there’s one thing we know at Detail Cleaning Services, it’s that the little details matter.

Learning how to clean terracotta pots the right way can seem frustrating at first. Many gardeners want to throw in the trowel and accept that their pots are going to look dingy with age. We’re here to offer some terracotta cleaning tips that will truly change the game.

Read on to learn how to clean terracotta pots once and for all.

What Is Terracotta Made Out Of?

First, let’s talk about what terracotta actually is. This will help you to understand why you don’t want to use harsh chemicals like bleach to clean your terracotta pots.

Terracotta is a type of fired clay, typically left unglazed. Why? Glazing terracotta can produce a beautiful effect, but it will also make the pot less porous, which is one of its best features.

The clay used to create terracotta pots is coarse. This is what creates that porousness, which allows the pot to “breathe” while absorbing moisture from the dirt or substrate your plants are growing in. 

Why Do My Terracotta Pots Look So Dirty?

When we talk about dirty terracotta pots, we’re usually talking about an accumulation of white film or residue. This residue tends to make the pots look older and hides the natural reddish hue that gardeners love.

What is causing that residue? If you use any fertilizers on your plants, the pot is going to absorb some of the chemicals or substances used in the fertilizer. Even if you don’t use fertilizers, your tap or hose water likely contains a variety of minerals like salt, which can create that same hazy look.

One way to avoid this is to use organic fertilizers and rainwater to care for your plants. However, we often don’t realize that this is a good idea until it’s too late and the pots are already getting a little funky.

Why Should You Clean Terracotta Pots?

It’s easy to decide you’re not going to clean your terracotta, especially if it’s outside. What does it matter if your pots look clean or not? 

The reality is that if you’re going to reuse a terracotta pot for a new plant, you should clean it whether it looks dirty or not–but especially if it does. That buildup of residue can actually become a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful diseases that can infect and kill your plants.

What if a pot that is currently in use has that same residue on it? Consider repotting your plant in new soil (and a new pot) so that you can clean the old one before reusing it.

How to Clean Terracotta Pots the Right Way

Alright, let’s get down to it. We’re going to tell you how to clean your terracotta pots in three simple steps.

To do this, you’re going to need:

  • a small pot brush or other rough-bristled brush
  • white vinegar
  • dish soap

The full process can take up to a few hours but the good news is that a lot of this time is just a waiting game, rather than active cleaning.

Give It a Good Brushing

Start by brushing away any dirt left over on the inside or outside of your pot. You can also use this step to remove any other debris like cobwebs or leaf litter that has also made its way onto your pot.

You don’t need to remove every speck of dust, here. Do your best to get rid of the big clumps and to loosen and remove dirt that is caked onto the terracotta. The more dirt you remove, the less mess you’ll have to deal with in the next step.

Complete a Vinegar Soak

Now, it’s time to start the chemical reaction that will remove that white residue. To do this, you’re going to want to create a mixture of one cup of white vinegar for every three to four cups of water. Room temperature to lukewarm water is ideal.

You can mix this solution in a plugged sink or bathtub if you don’t mind them getting a little dirty. Otherwise, use a bucket large enough to submerge your terracotta pot completely.

Allow the pot to soak in the mixture for about 20-30 minutes or longer if needed. You may see or hear bubbling and fizzing when the pot hits the water. That’s caused by the acidity of the vinegar as it dissolves the residue and gets absorbed into the terracotta.

Disinfect Your Terracotta Pots

Once the soaking is complete, it’s time to disinfect your terracotta pots so that they’re ready for a new resident plant. You can do this in the dishwasher by using the right setting or by hand.

If you’re going to run your terracotta pots through the dishwasher, use the quick wash cycle. This will reduce the amount of heat they’re exposed to. Plus, you don’t need a long cycle to do the trick.

If you don’t have a dishwasher or your pots won’t fit, wash them in the sink using a scrub brush and dish soap. This will take more time but it’s just as effective. 

Keep Your Whole House Clean With Detail Cleaning Services

Learning how to wash terracotta pots isn’t so hard, after all. Now that you know, you can rejuvenate even the oldest terracotta pots for the next growing season.

Looking for help managing the rest of your household? Detail Cleaning Services offer a variety of cleaning packages to fit your needs. Contact us to get an instant quote.