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How to Use Vinegar & Water to Flush Salt Build Up Out of Soil

By Robin Coe ; Updated September 21, 2017

Fertilizers and chemically-treated tap water often leave high levels of soluble salts in your soil that can harm or kill your plants. These salt residues are left behind when minerals dissolve in water. This soluble salt makes it difficult for plants to absorb water and is the leading cause of root rot in houseplants. You can protect your plants from salt buildup and root rot by flushing the soil with vinegar and water.

Indoor Plants

Check your plants for indications of soluble salt buildup. Signs include brown leaf tips, lower leaves dropping, and very little new growth appearing. Another indication is a yellow or white crust on the soil surface or rings around the inside of a plant's pot.

Remove all the yellow and white crusted salt deposits from the soil.

Clean any rings from around the inside rim of the pot, or, if the pot doesn't already have one, repot the plant into a pot with a drainage hole.

Add enough water to your pot that it begins to come easily through the drainage hole at the bottom. Run water through potted plants twice.

Flush the soil a third time with a vinegar-water solution (1/2 teaspoon of vinegar for each quart of water). The vinegar will help lower soil pH and neutralize salts in the soil.

Outdoor Plants

Check for signs of soluble salt buildup in your outdoor plants as mentioned in Section 1. Water your outdoor plants enough to dampen the soil well.

Mix a vinegar-water solution at a ratio of 1-1/2 cups of vinegar to 5 gallons of water.

Pour the water evenly over your garden area. Repeat the process until you have covered the entire garden with the vinegar and water mixture.


Things You Will Need

  • Vinegar
  • 5-gallon bucket


  • Let the water for your houseplants sit overnight to reduce salt buildup from chemically treated tap water.
  • It also helps to empty the drip plates underneath indoor plants of excess water.
  • You can use a solution of vinegar and water once every two weeks on salt-sensitive plants to keep them healthy.

About the Author


Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.