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How to Sterilize Plant Pots

Gardeners who reuse planting containers often choose to sterilize plant pots. When you sterilize plant pots, you effectively kill any bacteria and pathogens that accumulate on the surfaces of the pots. These bacteria can harm future plants you place in the pots if you do not take steps to sterilize each year. Use one of two simple methods to prepare your planting containers for new plants. The method you select depends upon what materials your pots contain.

Oven Sterilization Method

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F.

Place small and medium terracotta pots onto the baking sheet and place the baking sheet into the warm oven.

Leave the terracotta pots in the oven for one hour and then turn the oven off.

Remove the terracotta pots when the oven and the pots are completely cool. Do not remove the pots before they cool completely because you risk breaking them.

Bleach Sterilization Method

Mix 1 part chlorine bleach and 10 parts cold water in the 5-gallon bucket.

Place pots of any kind and any size into the bleach solution in the bucket and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.

Remove the pots from the bleach solution and rinse them completely with the garden hose.

Leave the pots in a location where they can dry completely over the next few days. As the pots dry, any bleach residue that remained on the pots will dissipate naturally.

Sterilize Plant Pots

Bacteria, parasites and other harmful microbes living on the surface of a plant pot can destroy a growing plant. Sterilization of your pots reduces the possibility of passing on harmful parasites such as spider mites, silver fish and fruit flies, along with diseases and fungal spores, to your plants. Select a container large enough to fully submerge the pot in, such as a sink, bucket or bathtub. Rinse the pots in warm water before sterilizing them. Scrub off any soil or debris from the interior or exterior surface with a wire brush. Soak the pots for at least 10 minutes in the solution to kill harmful germs and parasites. If the solution doesn’t cover the entire surface of the pot all at once, ensure that your rotate the plant pots until every part of the surface has been submerged for 10 minutes.


Another cleaning method used by some gardeners is to wash the pots in an automatic dishwasher with approximately a half-cup of white vinegar.

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