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Why you should definitely clean the flower pots before you reuse them: Tips depending on the material

As most houseplants and flowers mature, they outgrow their original pots and containers and need to move to something larger. Then the question arises, where to put the old pot? While reusing the pot is a great, sustainable option, make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned before putting a new plant in it and letting it take root. Here’s why you should clean your flower pots and how to do so without harming your plants.

Why should you clean flower pots before using them again?

Clean old planters before you reuse them

Let’s say you had a flower pot that was full of potting soil that you discarded along with the plant. Of course, if the pot is undamaged, you may reuse it instead of throwing it away. For many, it may seem pointless to go to the trouble of cleaning the pot if they’re going to stuff it full of dirty soil again afterwards, but that’s not the case. So why is it so important to clean garden planters?

Reasons why you should clean flower pots before reuse

Regardless of whether the pot is made of clay , plastic or any other material, mineral deposits and other debris can accumulate in the pot over time and harbor disease organisms. And if you don’t clean and disinfect flower pots before reusing them, you can harm their new occupant. Diseases such as mildew, as well as bacteria and fungi, can be transferred to the new plant, preventing its healthy growth.

How to properly clean flower pots depending on the material.

How to properly clean flower pots made of different materials

The best time to clean your planters is either in the spring before planting or in the fall after you have removed dead or dying plants. Washing some pots (such as those made of clay) before planting has the added benefit of moistening the material, which helps prevent the soil from drying out on the first crucial day of planting.

The time and effort required to clean and disinfect flower pots and planters depends on their material and current condition. Below are some guidelines for different materials.

Cleaning clay flower pots

Clean clay pots properly before next use


One of the reasons traditional terracotta clay pots are so popular with gardeners is their porosity – that is, they are permeable to air and water, which protects plants and their roots from rotting. But their porosity also makes them a little harder to clean.

How to clean flower pots scrub with brush

This is the correct way to proceed: First, remove minerals and other debris with steel wool or a wire-bristled brush and give the pot a quick rinse. Next, fill a container (such as a bucket or large plastic container) with one part white vinegar to four or five pots of hot water and a splash of mild liquid soap (or dishwashing liquid).

Soak planters in water with dishwashing liquid


Soak the pots for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours if needed. Then rinse the pots to prepare them for disinfection (see below for instructions).

Clean glazed ceramic pots properly

Glazed ceramic pots make clean tips

The vinegar solution described above also works for glazed ceramic pots, but this time, avoid using steel wool and wire brushes. Instead, scrub away stubborn mineral deposits with a paste of three parts baking soda and one part water, then rinse and sanitize the flower pots.

Cleaning plastic planters

Cleaning and disinfecting plastic flower pots

Both of the above methods are suitable for plastic pots. If they are not in bad shape, you can also clean them with a sponge, hot water and dishwashing liquid. As always, rinse and then disinfect.

How to disinfect flower pots and tubs.

Disinfect planters in water and bleach.

Once the pots are clean, it’s time to disinfect them.  Here, the same disinfection method works for all pots and containers, regardless of what material they are made of. Here’s how:

  • Rinse the pot thoroughly before you start disinfecting – especially if you used vinegar. You’re about to use bleach, and combining it with vinegar can create dangerous chlorine gas.
  • Fill a large container (or sink) with a solution of 10 parts water and one part bleach.
  • Submerge the pot completely in the solution and let it soak for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse the flower pots thoroughly again before use.
  • Place the cleaned and disinfected planters in the sun to dry (without stacking them).
  • You can also disinfect glazed ceramic and plastic pots in the dishwasher.

Disinfecting planters without bleach

Disinfect flower pot with hydrogen peroxide

If you don’t want to use bleach, you can try another method of disinfecting flower pots. For example, you can spray the pot with hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off.

How to disinfect terracotta pots

Clay flower pots can also be disinfected in the oven. To do this, first preheat the oven to 100 °C. This temperature is sufficient to kill most bacteria and fungi. Place the clay pots on a baking tray and bake them in the oven for about 1 hour. After that, turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the pots cool down before removing them from the oven.