Can I Sterilize Plant Pots With Vinegar?

Overview

Vinegar is an excellent, environmentally friendly household cleaner. It does not provide enough sterilization to protect new plants from the bacteria and viruses left behind by previous tenants. However, it will remove the salt build-up from fertilizers and hard water.

Sterilizing Plastic or Fully Glazed Pots

Plastic or fully glazed pots (inside and out) are impervious to moisture. They will only need surface cleaning. Commercial orchid growers such as Brennan's Orchids, LLC use a 10-percent bleach solution to accomplish this. They brush all loose debris out of pots and stack them in a plastic bucket; 1 part bleach is mixed with 9 parts water until the pots are submerged. The pots soak overnight. The pots are removed and dried and are ready to be reused.

Sterilizing Terra Cotta or Other Porous Pots

Because Terra cotta and concrete are porous, it is trickier to disinfect them. There are two lines of thoughts on this. Either a full-strength hydrogen peroxide bath is used, submerging the pots for several hours, or the pots are baked in a 325-degrees F oven for four hours.

Which Pot is Better?

Many people like the plastic pots because they are cheap, lightweight and easy to clean. A lot of people prefer the terra cotta or concrete planters because they too are fairly reasonable and they provide a timeless look. The plant doesn't care what it is planted in---as long as it gets the right amount of light, water and food.

References

  • "Ortho's All About Orchids" Elvin McDonald, 1999
Keywords: houseplants, cleaning plant pots, growing houseplants

About this Author

Molly Dugger Brennan has written professionally since 1982 as a technical author in Washington, D.C., producing proprietary analysis for her clients. She has also written on horticulture and orchid care and has lectured on orchid culture at garden shows since 2001. She won two American Horticultural Society gold medals for her orchids.

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