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How to Clean Clay Pots and Planters for Germ-Free Fall Gardening

How to Clean Clay Pots and Planters for Germ-Free Fall Gardening

Knowing how to clean clay pots and planters for your garden is so important for breaking the pest, pathogen, and weed cycles that can spread and become prevalent in soils and plant roots. Salt deposits, and spores and fungi that can cause mold and root rot are also likely to show up on pots that have not been cleaned properly, and may not even be visible to the naked eye. Since reusing your pots and planters is the eco-friendly alternative to buying new ones, we recommend you keep them sterile so that your new seedlings have the best chances of growing into healthy and productive plants. Clean pots and planters can make all the difference in the success of your garden, so take the few extra minutes for the task.

Bleach Cleaning Method

The most effective way to clean your pots and planters is to use bleach, since it kills all germs and bacteria. Make sure you don't make the bleach solution too strong; a 1:9 ratio of household bleach to water is recommended. Use a large plastic tub, tray or 5-gallon bucket to soak your pots and planters for at least 10 minutes in the bleach solution. After that either rinse them well with water, or soak them in a organic dish detergent and water solution, and then rinse them off with just water.

Tools for Cleaning

After you've soaked your pots, you will likely still need to use different tools to fully clean them, especially in the case of clay and terra cotta pots. A wire-bristle brush will remove mineral deposits and other debris, while a plain butter knife will do the trick if even the wire-bristle brush doesn't work on tough spots. Once you've scraped the pots clean, make sure to thoroughly rinse them and even soak them in a bucket of clean water. Scrape off any mineral salt remains with a scouring pad or butter knife, and rinse once more so that it's ready for reuse.

Alternative Cleaning Method

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From the Organic Authority Files

If you prefer not to use bleach, you can use heat for cleaning and disinfecting. First, soak your pots in a solution of organic dish soap and warm water, and then submerge them in boiling water for about 30 minutes. Once you take them out of the boiling water, wash them again with mild dish soap water, and then rinse with water. Let the pots then dry in the sun for several hours. This method is not as effect as the bleach cleaning method, and does not work with plastic pots.

Cleaning Garden Tools 

You can use either cleaning method from above to clean your garden tools as well, and the same cleaning tools can be used to make sure all the surfaces of the tools are scrubbed clean. Make sure to dry all metal tools off well, and its a good idea to oil tools once they've dried with a machine oil or other penetrating oil.

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