How to Wash the Roots of House Plants

Updated November 21, 2016

Overwatering is one of the worst things you can do to a house plant. It causes root rot, fungus, mould and encourages insect pests. If you notice curling, brown edges on leaves, or white mould growing in the top layers of soil, it's time to take quick action. Fortunately, washing the roots of a house plant and repotting it is a simple task. Washing roots it at the first sign of problems will give the plant a fresh start and a better chance of survival.

Put the plant on plastic garbage bag to catch the dirt. Gently remove the house plant from its pot. Tap as much soil away from the roots as you can.

Run a thin stream of lukewarm water from your kitchen or basement sink. Put the roots of the plant though the stream until all of the soil is washed away, rubbing them gently with your fingers.

When the roots are bare, examine them carefully for signs of damage. Root rot makes roots soft and mushy. Clip away diseased roots with scissors. Rinse the roots again in lukewarm water when you've finished.

Gently rinse leaves to dislodge mould, dust and insects. Set the plant in a bowl with a few inches of lukewarm water while you clean and refill the pot.

Scrub the pot with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts hot water. Use a toothbrush to clean crevices of porous clay pots. Rinse thoroughly, then fill the pot with fresh soil. Tuck the house plant's roots down into the soil and press the dirt gently down around them. Water generously to lessen transplant shock, but allow soil to dry out between waterings in the future.

Discard the old soil and the garbage bag to prevent infection of other plants. Do not reuse the soil.


Repot house plants every three years to ensure healthy growing conditions.


Don't wash house plant roots in cold or hot water. Both will cause damage and worsen transplant shock.

Things You'll Need

  • Garbage bag
  • House plant
  • Water
  • Scissors
  • Bowl
  • Bleach
  • Toothbrush
  • Potting soil
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author