Have you ever wondered how to clean terracotta pots from white residue? Did you ask yourself why it’s there? Or perhaps you tried to clean it, but weren’t successful? Keep reading to learn the reasons for the white residue forming, see the quick and easy methods to clean terracotta pots, and learn how to prevent the residue from forming in the future.
What is the white residue on terracotta pots?
1) Hard Water Deposits
One of the reasons the white deposits appear on your terracotta pots is when you water the plants with hard water (tap water in most places). Hard water contains salts and minerals such as calcium. As the water evaporates, these soluble salts are left behind as white salt marks. It is similar to the white crust left on your shower head.
2) Fertilizer Leftover
If your tap water is not hard, your soil fertilizer is the likely cause of the white residue. Fertilizers contains minerals. Since terracotta pots are porous, the minerals seep through and are left behind when the water dries off.
If you keep terracotta pots outdoors in your garden, the rain should flush out some of the minerals. In that case, you won’t need to clean garden pots as often as indoor plant parents.
Can I leave the residue? Is it harmful?
I know many people love the crusty old terracotta pots look. I agree, crusty clay pots can look amazing 😊 However, the buildup of salts can damage plant roots. What you could do to keep the beautiful terracotta look and protect your plants, is clean the mineral deposits and mineral salts from the inside of the clay pots, while leaving the beautiful outside look.
Can I clean terracotta pot with the plant inside it?
Before applying any cleaning process, I suggest carefully removing the plant from its clay pot together with all the soil. After you’re done, you’ll be able to put it back in with the whole rootball intact.
I don’t recommend leaving the plant inside during the cleaning terracotta pots process as you won’t be able to clean the part that matters, the inside of the clay pot, and also, some of the cleaning clay pots solutions can damage the roots.
Cleaning Method 1 – Clean Terracotta Pots With White Vinegar
Using white vinegar is a cheap, easy and straightforward way to clean terracotta pots. The mixture ratio is 1 part vinegar to 20 parts water. First use a brush to scrub off dirt from the pots. Let the clay pots soak in the warm water and vinegar mixture for about 30 minutes, giving this vinegar solution time to start dissolving the deposits. After 30 minutes use a brush to scrub the inside, outside, and anywhere you find white spots.
This solution is safe to be used in the dishwasher if you can fit your clay pots inside! Set the dishwasher to maximum heat and the strongest water spray settings.
After you’re done, regardless of whether you used the dishwasher or manual cleaning clay pots method (e.g. with dish soap or baking soda paste), wash pots again, but this time using plain warm water. Get the vinegar out of the pot.
If you clean clay pots manually, be careful that you don’t break the pots.
If you’re still having a hard time getting terracotta pots clean, try the baking soda/water mixture. Mix some baking soda with water until you get a paste like consistency. The next step is to apply the baking soda paste to the white spots and scrub them with a brush. Continue scrubbing until the spots are gone and you have clean clay pots.
Some people like using dish soap in the mixture. Dish soap can be useful if you want your clay pots to be even cleaner. However, you don’t need dish soap to get the terra cotta pots clean. Baking soda will be sufficient. Note that dish soap produces a lot of bubbles and will make the rinsing process more difficult.
When you’re done, rinse the pots with clean water and let them air dry. Once they dry, they are ready for potting!
Check out the YouTube video below with the step by step process of cleaning terracotta pots.
Cleaning Method 2 – Clean Terracotta Pots With Bleach
Another method to clean terracotta pots is with household bleach. The mixture ratio should be 1 part bleach with 20 parts water. If your pot size is small, you can dip them in the solution for faster removal of the deposits. Otherwise, scrub the clay pots with this solution. After cleaning terracotta pots, let pots soak in clean warm water to remove the remaining bleach. Let the pot air out for a few days, so the smell of bleach is completely gone before using it.
Preventing Mineral Deposits – Tips To Keep Clay Pots Clean Longer
1) Leaching Soil
To prevent white spots on terracotta pots, leach the salts out of the soil every few weeks. Sometimes a thin white layer of the salts and minerals is visible on the soil. You can remove this top layer. Then thoroughly soak the soil, make sure all of the soil is wet. Leave it for 10-15 minutes, give the time for soluble salts to start dissolving in water. Then, place the pot in a sink or a tub and start pouring water into the soil. Let the water drain out the bottom to flush the salts. Repeat the process several times. Each following time the color of the water coming out will be lighter.
A buildup of salts can damage your plant, so it is good practice to flush the soil regularly, every couple of weeks. This method is tested and very effective.
2) Use Rain, Distilled Water or Reverse Osmosis Water
Although the ideal solution to this problem would be to remove minerals, plants needs them for growth and development. Instead, you can try decreasing salts by watering plants with distilled water or rainwater. Distilled water and rain water contain no minerals. If you have a reverse osmosis water filtering system in your home, you could also use the water treating with it for watering your plants. A reverse osmosis filter removes 70-99% of minerals from water. This is the system I’m using in my home.
Share this post with anyone else worried about how to clean terracotta pots and keep their plants healthy. Share your tips for cleaning terracotta pots in the comments below. And enjoy your gardening! :)