Reasons For Terracotta Pots To Turn White

The sort of clay used to burn terracotta plant pots gives them their rusty tint.

The hue appears to be a fantastic foil for many different sorts of flowers and plants.

Reasons For Terraccotta Pots To Turn White

A terracotta clay pot is immediately identified by its distinct color.

The containers are numerous, inexpensive, long-lasting, and come in a variety of sizes and forms.

They are suited for a wide range of plant species.

Sometimes, a white residue will appear on these pots which is actually quite common but is still unsightly and worrying nonetheless.

Here is an in-depth guide on what this white stuff is, what causes it and other things you must look out for when you have terracotta pots. 

What Is the White Residue?

Terracotta pots are porous, which means that when they are wet, liquids and microscopic particles pass through the clay.

Water passing through the pot transports salts and minerals from the soil within, leaving white, chalky spots on the pot’s outside.

These regions become very visible as the pot dries. The presence of white powder does not necessitate the disposal of the pot; this discoloration can be eliminated.

Mineral salt deposits from hard water or fertilizers cause the white residue that accumulates on terracotta pots.

This white crust is technically known as efflorescence, but other people call it patina.

Leftover Fertilizer

The white residue might be caused by your soil fertilizer. Minerals are present in fertilizers.

Because terracotta pots are porous, minerals soak through and are left behind after the water evaporates.

Hard Water

One of the reasons the white spots emerge on your pots is because you water the plants with hard water, which most people refer to as tap water.

Hard water includes minerals and salts such as calcium. 

These soluble salts are left behind as a white residue as the water evaporates.

It is comparable to the white crust that has accumulated on your shower head.

Is The White Residue Dangerous?

The white residue that develops is safe. As a result, if you like the way it looks, you may keep it there.

It does, however, indicate that there are a lot of surplus minerals in your soil.

This is significant because excessive salt collection in the soil will eventually harm your plant’s roots.

Plants dislike salts in general. And these salts can eventually cause your plant to burn.

As a result, if you see a white crust or residue building on the edges of your terracotta plant, you should look into the source.

Removing The White Residue

Brushing the pot surface helps remove white deposits in many circumstances.

To avoid scratching the pot, use a nylon-bristled brush, such as one used for housework.

Use a wire brush to finish the job, taking care not to push too hard in case the pot is fragile enough to display scratches or damage.

If required, rehouse your plant and soil in another container, then rinse away any leftover clumps from the interior of the pot.

Fill a plastic bucket or tub halfway with one cup white vinegar for every three cups of water, or until the terracotta pot is completely submerged.

If you’re cleaning a lot of pots at once, you may substitute bleach for the vinegar, using 1/4 cup for every five gallons of water.

Plug any drain holes and fill them instead if you simply want to clean the interior of your pot. Soak the pots for 20-30 minutes.

Another option for cleaning terracotta pots is to use household bleach. The mixture should be one part bleach to twenty parts water.

If your pot is tiny, you can dip it in the solution to remove the deposits quickly.

Otherwise, use this solution to clean the pots. Soak the pots in clean water after cleaning to eliminate any lingering bleach.

Allow the pot to air out for a few days before using it to ensure that the bleach smell is totally gone.

While most, if not all, of the residue should have dissolved, tackle any obstinate pots with a scrub brush and a baking soda and water mixture.

To remove any leftover bacteria, give them a thorough hand scrub with dish soap and water.

Before repotting your plant, properly rinse the pots and allow them to dry completely.

Preventing Terracotta Pots From Turning White

Reasons For Terraccotta Pots To Turn White

Here are some things that you can change in order to prevent your terracotta pots from turning white.

Use Different Water

Although removing minerals would be the ideal approach, plants require them for growth and development.

Instead, try watering plants with distilled water or rainfall to reduce salts.

There are no minerals in distilled water or rain water. If you have a reverse osmosis water filtration system at home, you might use the treated water to water your plants.

A reverse osmosis filter eliminates 70-99 percent of water’s minerals. This is the system I use at home.

Additionally, every few months, flush your plant’s soil with twice as much water to remove any salt accumulation.

If the plant is in a gallon of soil, flush it with two gallons of water to ensure it can drain freely.

Drain The Plants Completely

Allow your plants to drain fully before placing them on a dish or saucer, unless the plant is designed to be watered from the bottom up.

Change Fertilizers

If fertilizer is the source of the white residue on your terracotta pots, you should reduce the frequency with which you feed your plants.

Alternatively, you might use a softer fertilizer. You may also weaken your present fertilizer by diluting it each time you use it.

Flushing the soil more frequently will also aid in the removal of salt from the soil.

Use Surface Sealer

Surface sealers keep moisture out of the terracotta pot. This prevents any white residue from forming as a result of water evaporation.

However, it negates the objective of utilizing porous material to assist avoid overwatering.

Adjust The Humidity

Changing the humidity can assist, but its benefits will be less pronounced than those of other treatments.

Maintaining a moderate to high humidity level will decrease evaporation and allow dissolved salts to depart the terracotta material.

Low humidity promotes increased evaporation, which deposits salts in the pots, resulting in more residue.

Are All Terracotta Pots Affected?

If hard water is used or a strong fertilizer in the terracotta pots, white residue will ultimately form.

Because not all homes have hard water, this may or may not occur.

Similarly, if you don’t apply fertilizer or use one that doesn’t leave a lot of salt on the surface, the pot could not acquire a white residue. If it does, it will be little.

The quantity of residue on terracotta pots, however, will vary depending on how the pot was constructed.

Because the clay is packed in tighter if it was created by machines, it is less prone to acquire a lot of white residue.

Because of the compact form, there are fewer and smaller pores for water and mineral salts to pass through.

This, however, implies that the pot is less permeable. As a result, it will not allow as much water to seep out.

As a result, its ability to prevent overwatering will not be as good as that of a typical baked terracotta pot.

Terracotta pots that have been baked at lower temperatures, on the other hand, tend to generate greater efflorescence.

As a result, handcrafted pots typically have more crusting than machine-made pots.

White Residue Vs Mold

Mold is seen as fuzzy growth. The mold will generally come off easily if you softly scratch it with your finger.

Mineral deposits, however, will not. 

Mold thrives in terracotta pots because the pots provide an ideal habitat for it to develop.

Terracotta absorbs moisture from the soil, and the pores are nearly always damp, creating ideal circumstances for the fungus to flourish.

The fungus develops considerably quicker if the pots are kept in a dark place with high humidity and little ventilation.

Around the rim or on the edges of pots, you will notice either white fuzzy mold or black mold.

Overwatering plants will also contribute, as will keeping plants in low light.

Is Mold Dangerous?

Reasons For Terraccotta Pots To Turn White

Mold on the exterior of pots is harmless to your plants.

Mold, on the other hand, may be extremely hazardous to human health, particularly when exposed for an extended period of time.

Mold creates spores that are readily inhaled.

Some people are allergic to mold and will have itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, or itchy skin, but those with allergies, asthma, or impaired immune systems may have more severe symptoms.

As soon as you find mold, make sure to remove it.

Getting Rid Of Mold On Terracotta Pots

To effectively clean the terracotta pots, first remove the dirt. Remove the plant and its root ball from the pot with care.

Also, make sure the dirt is dry; else, you’ll end up with mud stains.

Remove the leftover dirt after removing the plant and its root ball. Then, using a scrub brush, clean the inside of the terracotta pot.

After that, rinse the clay pot well while cleaning it on all sides. Remove as much filth from the vessel as possible.

Because vinegar is a strong mold-killer and disinfectant, it may be used to clean moldy pots.

Mold stains may be effectively removed by soaking your pots in a basin of diluted vinegar.

Prepare a big tub filled with water for the solution. Then add about three cups of white vinegar.

After that, immerse the pots for 15 minutes in the bathtub. Scrub any remaining spots with baking soda paste.

To produce a baking soda paste, mix baking soda and water until it has the consistency of hand lotion.

Then, put on the paste on the marks and let it sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lightly clean the pot.

Can Terracotta Pots Crack?

Normally, water enters and drains the pot without incident.

However, throughout the winter, the water might become trapped inside the planter and freeze, causing it to grow. 

The pot cracks as a result of this expansion. Small fractures may be undiscovered until spring, when the damaged pot will totally come apart.

Preventing Terracotta Pots From Cracking

One alternative is to empty any containers that contain plants that are not hardy enough to withstand the winter.

Then, dump the soil pot and clean it using a bleach-to-water solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.

Allow the pot to dry in the sun until all of the moisture has evaporated.

Cleaning the pot will aid in the prevention of pests and infections.

Bring the pot inside the shed, garage, or other enclosed place once it has dried to store it upside down.

Make sure the pot is not exposed to rain or snow.

This should be done before the first freeze of the season to guarantee that the pot is still intact when spring arrives.

Some plants are hardy enough to survive the winter, but they will require some care before the cold weather arrives.

To keep the pots off the ground, place them on a shelf, a concrete surface, or stones.

This will keep the pots from sticking to the ground in freezing temperatures caused by rain and snow. Keep in mind not to obstruct the drainage openings.

Changing your planting technique might also assist. A pot’s nemesis is poor drainage.

The more water that accumulates in the soil, the more probable it is to freeze and form an irreversible fracture.

Before filling the container with soil, there should be plenty of drainage material on the bottom.

Drainage holes should never be obstructed.


As great as terraccota pots are, there are still some things that can go wrong which includes a build-up of white residue.

They can also get a build up of white, fuzzy mold which can be mistaken for residue as they look very similar. 

Mold can be very harmful, especially if you have a lot of infected pots in an inclosed area as this makes you breathe in the spores in a more concentrated way.

Luckily the white residue is generally not harmful, but the built up of salt deposits can actually negatively affect the plant that is inside of the pot over time. 

Therefore, it is worth getting rid of it – and luckily its not too hard to do.

There are a variety of ways that you can clean terracotta pots which all have the same result. It just depends on what you have in the cupboard really!

Amy Enrich