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How to Sterilize Plant Pots

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.


Things You Will Need

  • Plant pots
  • Baking sheet
  • Oven
  • Chlorine bleach
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Water
  • Garden hose
  • Plastic gloves


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

About the Author


Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.