Clay pots are useful gardening containers because, unlike many other materials, they're porous. This allows the roots to breathe and for the pot to participate in delivering moisture to the roots. After time, clay pots can absorb salt and mineral deposits from the water and soil you use. If too much salt builds up, it can cause salt toxicity, a condition that damages your plant's root system and leaves. These deposits can also impede water and air flow, creating pockets of mold and fungi. Cleaning your pots before planting only takes a few easy steps.
Use a wire brush or steel wool to clean the outside of your pot. Remove any obvious dirt and debris, then scrub off as much of the excess salt deposits as you can. Do not scrub hard enough to scratch or damage the pot. Remove only what comes off easily with light pressure.
Create a solution in your bucket or basin of one half water and one half white vinegar. Stir it lightly to make sure the water and vinegar are well combined. Use gloves to avoid irritating your skin or absorbing odors.
Soak your pot in the vinegar and water mixture for one hour. Check your pot to see if the mineral deposits have dissolved. If not, soak for an additional 30 minutes. Repeat checking and soaking until all the deposits are gone. Use the wire brush to remove stubborn spots. Allow the pot to dry.
Fill your sink or basin with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Avoid the temptation to use extra bleach, because bleach slowly breaks down clay pots. Using too much can ruin your pot.
Soak the pot in your bleach solution for 30 minutes. This will kill any remaining mold or fungi that could potentially harm your plant. Allow the pot to dry completely before using. If you have rare or fragile plants that may be damaged by small amounts of bleach, soak your pot a third time in plain water to remove any last traces of bleach.