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How To Clean & Paint A Terra Cotta Flower Pot

Simple terra cotta pots, as shown in Figure 1, for garden plants both indoors and out are back in vogue!

terra cotta garden pot

Figure 1 - Terra cotta garden pot

Over time the terra cotta pots become dirty and grungy looking and many gardeners want to paint them to bring them back to life.

Before you can paint a terra cotta pot it is necessary to clean it properly so that the effort you spend painting it will last for a long time. If the terra cotta pot is not cleaned properly paint will not adhere to the surface and it will peel or blister.

Cleaning instructions:

  1. Using a stiff brush remove all the loose dirt from inside and outside the terra cotta pot. Don’t forget the bottom!
  2. Place the terra cotta pot in a bucket or if necessary because it is a large pot, garbage can. Add a mixture of 1 part bleach (household bleach will do just fine) and 9 parts water. The terra cotta pot should be completely immersed in the bleach solution. Allow the terra cot pot to soak in the solution for at least 24 hours.
  3. After the pot has finished soaking, use a stiff bristled brush to remove any remaining dirt and salt residue that will appear on the terra cotta pot. The longer you have allowed the pot to soak the easier it will be to remove the crud that remains!
  4. Rinse out the bucket or other container that you used for soaking the pot in the bleach solution and replace the pot in the container and allow it to soak in fresh water for 30 minutes. Remove the pot and rinse thoroughly. It is important to remove all of the bleach from the pot.
  5. Place the cleaned terra cotta pot in a spot where it can dry. It is wise to have the pot sitting off the ground or table to get good air flow.

painted terra cotta pot

Figure 2 - Painted terra cotta pots

Painting instructions:

acrylic paint

Figure 3 - Acrylic paint

You can use almost any paint for a terra cotta flower pot, however there is no reason to buy any specialty paints, as a basic water based acrylic paint will work fine.

If the terra cotta pot has not been previously painted you may want to use an undercoat or primer for better adhesion. Any acrylic paint primer or undercoat will suffice.

If it is a small pot and you are only doing the one pot you can use two coats of the acrylic paint without the primer or undercoat.

It should be noted that many craft stores sell small bottles of acrylic paint, as shown in Figure 3, in an assortment of colors especially made for terra cotta pots. This avoids having to buy large quantities of paint for small projects.