Once you begin the hobby of gardening, you may discover you have a selection of plant pots that once housed nursery-bought plants and seedlings. Throwing them away is an obvious waste of money and resources and simply adds to the landfill. Reusing them for houseplants, or for starting seedlings the following spring, is both cost-effective and practical. But before you put them away, or reuse them for other plants, it is important to clean and sterilize them properly to prevent the spread of disease.
Remove all soil or plant residues from the inside and outside of the plant pot by rinsing with water from the sprayer attachment of your hose. Place pots in the sun to dry before bringing them inside to eliminate the mess of wet containers.
Fill a large basin with a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water. Mix to evenly distribute the bleach in the water. Water temperature is not important, but warm water may be more convenient to work with.
Submerge the plant pot into the basin of water so the entire the entire pot is covered. Allow to sit in the bleach and water solution for 30 minutes. According to Rutgers, at least 30 minutes is required for the bleach to kill bacteria or harmful disease organisms on the pots.
Examine the pots for any signs of salt or mineral deposits around the rim. Scrub with a stiff-bristled brush to remove buildup, or use a knife to scrap away crusty deposits on the pots.
Remove the pots from the water and allow excess water to drip back into the basin. Dry the pots with a soft cloth or place in direct sun to air dry.
Store thoroughly dried plastic pots stacked inside each other in a dry area. Keep clay or terra cotta pots in plain water, if you intend to reuse them right away. Dry clay pots whisk moisture away from the soil, leaving plants dry.
Fill pots with fresh sterilized soil, and re-pot existing plants or plant seedlings in the recycled pots, when ready to re-use.