How to Clean My Outdoor Pots for Planting


Keeping your pots and planters clean and disinfected from year to year keeps your plants healthy, whether you are planting vegetables in them or use them for bright splashes of color from flowering plants. Outdoor pots also look dingy and dirty after braving the elements for 12 months, so a good cleaning improves appearances too. All pots require cleaning, regardless of the material they are made of. Clean your pots in the spring before you begin planting into them each year.

Step 1

Remove the soil from the pots. Place it in the compost pile or sterilize it for use a second time.

Step 2

Mix 9 parts water with 1 part bleach. Fill a large plastic tub with the bleach solution if you are cleaning larger pots or fill the sink with the solution for smaller pots.

Step 3

Soak each pot in the solution for 10 minutes. For pots that won't completely submerge, soak the submerged part for 10 minutes then flip the pot over and soak the rest of it for 10 minutes. Soak multiple small pots at the same time.

Step 4

Drain the bleach solution and refill the tub or sink with water. Add three or four squirts of liquid dish soap to the water.

Step 5

Wash each plant pot in the wash water. Scrub plastic and metal pots with an abrasive sponge and scrub clay pots with steel wool.

Step 6

Rinse the pots in clear water. Refill with soil and plant in them as usual.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid reusing soil unless it has been sterilized, as it can spread disease and pests to the new plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bin
  • Bleach
  • Dish soap
  • Abrasive sponge
  • Steel wool


  • Iowa State University Extension

Who Can Help

  • Sterilizing soil at home.
Keywords: cleaning planters, sterilizing plant pots, planting preparation

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.