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 which can make them look less attractive.
Yes, there are some people that 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 them without damaging the pot.
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.
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!
1. Water and Washing-up Liquid
Fill a large container with water and washing-up liquid. you can then plunge the pots into this solution. You’ll need to use a scouring pad or some steel wool to scrub the pots to remove any stubborn stains and marks. Now, take the pots out and give them a good rinse using fresh water.
If you are cleaning the pots in the spring, you might wish to leave them in the clean water until you are ready to use them as this will save drying time and prevent them from sucking moisture out of the potting soil.
2. White Vinegar
If you have been unable to remove the algae stains using just soap and water, which is usually the case, you will need to use something a little stronger. White vinegar (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) is a great choice, and this will need to be mixed with water at a 50:50 ratio.
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.
Note: 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.
If you prefer, it is also possible to use bleach to rid your pots of those unsightly stains. But it is vital that you only use this instead of vinegar and not with it.
Bleach is not only powerful enough to remove stains, but it will also disinfect your pots making them clean and free from bacteria or fungi for their next use.
The solution shouldn’t be as strong as when using vinegar and one part bleach to nine parts water will be more than enough for soaking the pots. Furthermore, you’ll only need to leave them for up to an hour as opposed to overnight.
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.
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 them in. Terracotta is porous so that means the dirt and grime really does become ingrained.
Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.