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rainbowgardener
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

Personally I would only worry about sterilizing it if something that was in it contracted a plant disease, especially some kind of fungus that would survive in soil. In that case I would dig out and get rid of the soil, then scrub the box with a long handled brush and bleach solution. Rinse/ wipe it out as well as you can, then let it air and sun dry for at least a couple weeks. Refill with clean soil.

Otherwise, I would just keep adding new soil/compost to what is there.
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thebookfrog
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

A further question on this topic: what if I don't have a tub large enough to submerge a pot? Can I spray it with the bleach solution, or, well, something else?

Thanks!

imafan26
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

I make a 10% bleach solution. I remove as much dirt and roots I can and then I soak my pots in a five gallon bucket for a week and sometimes up to a month. After that amount of time most of the bleach has dissipated, the pots are clean without even scrubbing and terra cotta calcium residues are mostly gone from the outside of most pots. The plastic pots can be rinsed and put away. Since terra cotta absorbs more, I rinse the pots out but soak them in water which gets changed daily for another three days to make sure anything in the terra cotta leaches out. I use terra cotta mostly for the orchids and succulents, it has not been a problem.

The old way to disinfect pots and plants was with Physan. It is a bench disinfectant, fungicide, virucide, and algaecide. While it is still available at agricultural suppliers it is really expensive.

I used it on the benches but it can also be used as a fungicide dip for orchids nd other plants. When orchids are repotted we often will dip orchids in a fungicide since they are very susceptible to fungal and bacterial rots. Unfortunately, orchid seed germination is dependent on certain species of fungi to succeed so the orchids do invite fungi and bacteria. However, not all fungi and bacteria present in a collection are the good kind, so the professional growers fungicide regularly. As a hobbyist, I just try to get by, so I lose a lot of my orchids in plastic pots, that is why I put most of the orchids in baskets or terra cotta.
https://www.physan.com/

P.S. It is o.k. to use cleaned pots on some plants. However, some plants that are especially prone to fungal, bacterial rots and viruses should always be in new pots whenever possible. Long term plants should be in new pots since they will be there a long time. Plastic pots these days are brittle and they don't last as long as the old pots.

Never reuse soil or a pot where the plant was virused. Viruses can remain viable on fomites. If you have a virused plants. Try not to touch it with your bare hands. Wear gloves; bag the whole plant pot and soil and dispose of it. Wash your hands after.
Tools should be disinfected after each cut or plant when you work on them. Orchidists use a small torch to heat the blade. Bleach and alcohol are other ways to disinfect tools between cuts, but they don't kill viruses. Utility knives with disposable blades is another way. People who have had to destroy collections and rebuild them have learned the hard way about the value of good sanitation.
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ID jit
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

thebookfrog wrote:A further question on this topic: what if I don't have a tub large enough to submerge a pot? Can I spray it with the bleach solution, or, well, something else?

Thanks!
Never done it with pots, but have done this with a lot of +100 gallon aquariums.

Fill a spray bottle about 1/4 full of generic bleach and add tap water for the other 3/4's. Shake it up a bit. Start at the top and spray the hell out of it and go around in circles, maybe the top 4"-6" all the way around, then the next 4"-6" all the way around. Really saturate the area so the bleach solution runs down the sides.

Once you have sprayed the whole thing, you can use a brush/scrubbie/sponge/scotch bright pad to slop the solution out of the bottom and back up onto any problem areas. Have at it until you are sick of the smell, get bored or have nothing left to clean.

Use a old towel or similar to soak up the solution in the bottom for disposal. Once you have as much of the liquid out as you can get out. Spray the whole thing down inside and out with fresh tap water. Get the water out and let air dry. If you get white 'dust' once it is dry, rinse it again.

When there is no more bleach smell, there is no more bleach. Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is pretty unstable if exposed to ambient air and will react with most things it encounters, so there is a every short period where the cleaning residue is "bleach".

REMEMBER to do do the outside as well as the inside, or what ever you are trying to kill off will creep right back in.
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applestar
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

Good technique! I actually have a tall octagonal aquarium I have to clean and was wondering how. Thanks!

Definitely sounds like a good method for washing/cleaning large pots. :D
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ID jit
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

It is messy, but it works. If it is one of those octagonal towers between 3' - 6', get a new string mop or similar, get some solution in the bottom and just mop the sides.
(ever try to find a container big enough to soak a 250 gallon aquarium?)
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imafan26
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Re: How to Clean and Disinfect Old Containers and Pots

Mix a 9 parts warm water and 1 part bleach in a spray bottle (10% solution). Clean the window box of as much of the dirt as you can. Spray the box with the bleach solution and let it sit for about an hour. Rinse well with water. Let the box air out until you cannot smell the bleach.
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