Terracotta pots have a rustic charm like nothing else and this is one of the main reasons that so many green-fingered homeowners love them. Not only this, but they’re pretty resistant and will stand up to a lot of battering from the elements; just don’t drop them because then, it’s goodbye. One of the major problems, however, with terracotta pots is that they are prone to developing green patches and mould which can make them look less attractive. Yes, there are some people who find these green accents to add to the beauty of the overall look, but others want them gone and are trying to find suitable ways to clean terracotta pots damaging them. The good news is that you can typically clean terracotta pots with products you already have lying around the house, and they’ll come up pretty nice.
What is the Green on Terracotta Pots?
The green that you see forming on terracotta pots is a natural product that is caused by weathering. This is actually algae and will usually form on pots that are kept in a shaded location as they are unable to dry out thoroughly which gives the algae a perfect place to spawn and thrive. But don’t worry, these algae won’t do any harm to your pot and what’s even better is that algae won’t hurt your plant. If you like how the algae looks and want that weathered appearance, then it’s perfectly acceptable to leave it how it is.
We should also point out that white mould can also develop on your terracotta pots and while this likely won’t do much damage to your plants, it could harm you so you may wish to remove this using the method we will talk about in this guide.
How to Clean Green off Terracotta Pots – 3 Ways
Cleaning your terracotta pots can be done at the end of the growing season once the plants have faded or in the early spring before planting as it is best to remove the contents. Personally, I frost-proof my pots and then leave them out all winter and give them a spruce up in the spring.
What You Need
- Large Bucket
- White Vinegar
- Washing Up Liquid
- Soft Brush
Prepare the Pots
Before you start, you will want to get yourself ready and you can start by getting rid of the contents of the pot including plant debris and potting soil.
It’s a good idea to wear a pair of gloves and a face covering to protect you from touching or breathing in any mould spores, fungi, and other nasties. Pop on your gloves and use a soft brush to remove any dry, baked-on dirt or other debris that may be on the pot. You can also rinse the pot with a hose to remove these things if you prefer. Now be prepared for the elbow grease!
Method 1 – Clean Terracotta Pots with Water and Washing-up Liquid
Our first way to clean terracotta pots is to simply use washing-up liquid. Here’s how:
- Step 1: Fill a large container with water and washing-up liquid.
- Step 2: Plunge the pots into the solution.
- Step 3: Use a soft brush to scrub the pots, removing any stubborn stains and marks.
- Step 4: Remove the pots from the solution.
- Step 5: Rinse the pots thoroughly using fresh water.
- Step 6: (Optional for spring cleaning) Leave the pots submerged in the clean water until you’re ready to use them. This helps save drying time and prevents the pots from drawing moisture out of the potting soil.
- Step 7: You can let them air dry by leaving them upturned.
Method 2 – Cleaning Terracotta Pots with White Vinegar
Our second way to clean terracotta pots is to use white vinegar. Here’s how:
- Step 1: If soap and water don’t remove the algae stains, prepare a stronger solution. Mix White vinegar (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) with water in a 50:50 ratio.
- Step 2: Place your pots into the solution and leave them for a few hours (preferably overnight) to soak. When the time has elapsed, you can then scrub the area to remove the algae stains.
- Step 3: After soaking, scrub the pots to remove the algae stains.
- Step 4: If you still find that it’s proving difficult, you might try adding some undiluted vinegar to a rag and scrubbing directly onto the stain.
- Step 5: Turn your pots upside down and let them air dry.
Method 3 – Cleaning Terracotta Pots with Bleach
Our third way to clean terracotta pots is to use bleach. Here’s how:
- Step 1: If you decide on bleach as your cleaning agent. Remember, it’s an alternative to vinegar, so don’t mix the two.
- Step 2: Prepare your cleaning solution. Mix one part bleach with nine parts water. This dilution is milder than the vinegar solution.
- Step 3: Submerge your pots in the bleach solution.
- Step 4: Let the pots soak for up to an hour. Unlike the vinegar method, there’s no need to leave them overnight.
- Step 5: After soaking, scrub the pots gently using a soft brush to remove any remaining stains or residues.
- Step 6: Allow to air dry by turning them upside down for 24 hours.
Note: Green stains that have formed on a terracotta pot can easily be removed using bleach OR vinegar. However, it’s essential to choose just one of these products as mixing them together can create a dangerous chemical reaction.
How to Dry Terracotta Pots
If you have cleaned off your terracotta pots, you will now want to allow your pots to dry and find somewhere suitable to store them for the winter. The best way to do this is to let them air dry by turning them upside down and leaving them before putting them into your shed or garage. If you have a de-humidifier at home, this will help you dry out the pots inside, or you will need to wait until a sunny day – luckily in the UK winter, we have plenty of sunny but windy days which are perfect for drying your pots.
Some people like the weathered look of terracotta pots that have turned green as it gives a more rustic feel. However, a lot of gardeners like their pots to look pristine so if you’ve noticed green algae stains, this may concern you. But don’t worry, these marks can be easily removed using regular dish soap along with vinegar or bleach. It really is simple, learning how to clean green off terracotta pots and have an immaculate garden!
Garden Doctor Tips
“Do not mix white vinegar and bleach, this can make a dangerous chlorine gas!”
“Clean your pots on a sunny but windy day, this will help the pots dry out very quickly!”
“Make sure that you wear gloves and a face mask, especially when using vinegar or bleach!”
“Wait until spring before cleaning your pots and then use them immediately to save on storage space and drying time!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Does baking soda clean terracotta pots?
Baking soda can be used for cleaning terracotta pots, it is particularly good at removing the white stains that build up.
How do you make terracotta pots look new?
Terracotta can be thoroughly cleaned in a number of ways. For a very deep clean, you will need to soak your pots in bleach or white vinegar.
Is terracotta easy to clean?
No, terracotta can be difficult to clean and will require an amount of elbow grease regardless of what solution you use to soak it in. Terracotta is porous so that means the dirt and grime really does become ingrained.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.