How to Eliminate Residue From Clay Pots

clay pots
Photo by Annie Spratt

When the spring rolls around and it’s time to begin gardening again, you want to make sure that all of your essentials are in top shape. This includes pots. They typically build up residue over time, which can cause many problems for gardeners. Check out our tips below on how to clean up your clay pots, leaving them in terrific condition.

Pros and Cons of Clay Pots

Clay pots are crucial for the development of any plant. They keep soil moist, but not soggy, as well as insulate roots against overheating in the summer. Since they are porous, they hold air and water, which benefits the plants that’s growing in them. Plus, their color helps bring out the hues of many flowers and foliage. However, with clay pots, there are also spaces where calcium, minerals and salts from fertilizers can get trapped.  As the moisture in the pots evaporates, residue is left on the surface of the pot, resulting in whitish streaks and bands.

How to Clean Them

To eliminate residue, start out by using a brush to remove as much dirt as possible from the pot’s surface. You can use a toilet brush or any other household scrub brush to do this. Once that’s done and you’ve gotten rid of the soil plastered on top, drown the pot in a 20 to 25 percent vinegar solution for 20 to 30 minutes.  This basically comes out to 1 cup 5 percent acidity white vinegar in 3 or 4 cups water. The more vinegar you use, the less you’ll need to soak the pot. If you see bubbles rising or hear sizzling sounds, that’s completely normal. This is just a sign that the vinegar is dissolving the buildup.

Your pot is all done, if the buildup comes off easily after the immersion. Otherwise, soak the pot a little longer, until the entire residue is eliminated.  You may find that you need a brush to scrub it all off. For tough residues, we recommend you use undiluted vinegar to loosen it up. To counter the vinegar the pot absorbed, follow this up with a soak in clear water.

Lastly, run the pot through your dishwasher’s quick-wash cycle. This will disinfect and clean the pot, so that you’re all ready to fill it with fresh potting mix and new plants come the spring.