Anyone who has ever gone away for a few weeks at a time knows how quickly the dust accumulates on all surfaces, including your houseplants. A speckling of soil on lower leaves is almost unavoidable when a fan or AC unit is turned on or a window is opened. Cleaning the leaves of your houseplants on a regular basis, though it may appear to be a tedious task, is essential. A layer of dust on the foliage will block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, which is how the plant ultimately feeds itself.
A clean plant that is photosynthesizing at maximum capacity is a healthy plant that is more resistant to diseases and pest infestations. Cleaning the leaves of your houseplants on a regular basis actually saves you time and improves both the plant and the indoor environment.
How Often to Clean Your Houseplants
The frequency with which you clean houseplant leaves is determined by the amount of dust in your home. Houseplants in areas with dirt roads, ongoing construction, vacant lots, and a lot of wind will need to be cleaned on a regular basis, probably every other week or so. Rub your fingers on the leaves of a plant to see if it needs to be cleaned. It’s time to clean if you can feel or see more dust than you can blow away.
Though Leaf Shine products appear to be a quick way to cleaner, prettier plants, they can actually interfere with a plant’s ability to breathe and photosynthesize. Skip the Leaf Shine and instead rely on elbow grease.
What You’ll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Spray bottle
- Sprayer nozzle or hose
- Damp cloth
- Soft duster or brush
- Stiff brush
- Plastic wrap
- Dish detergent
- Household bleach
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How to Clean Houseplant Foliage
Wash the Plant With a Spray Nozzle
Moving medium to large houseplants to the kitchen sink, shower, or outdoors and hosing them down with a sprayer nozzle is the most convenient way to clean them. Maintain a low water pressure and test the water before spraying to ensure it is lukewarm—water that is too hot or cold can harm a plant’s leaves. As you spray, gently support the leaves or stems with your hand.
Mist With a BottleMist With a Spray Bottle
A spray bottle is an excellent solution for plants that cannot withstand the force of a spray nozzle. Succulents, cacti, and bonsais are among the plants that benefit from a spray bottle misting.
Dunk the Plant in Water
Smaller plants can be cleaned by inverting them into a bucket of water and swishing the leaves under the water. Watering the soil ahead of time will help keep it from falling out when the pot is inverted. You could also wrap plastic wrap around the plant’s base to keep the soil contained while cleaning. Again, use lukewarm water and allow the plants to drip dry before repositioning them.
If your plants are particularly filthy, spray them with a diluted soapy water mixture and then hose them off or immerse them in a sink of clean water. 1 quart of water requires about 1/4 tablespoon dish soap. Plants that cannot be hosed down in the sink can be sprayed with clean, lukewarm water to remove the soap.
Wipe the Leaves
If the plant is too large to move, simply wipe the leaves clean with a damp cloth. This method is also effective with plants that have only a few leaves, such as young snake plants or banana plants. After the initial cleaning, you can help prevent dust from accumulating on the leaves by dusting them with a soft duster whenever you dust your furniture or floors.
Use a Soft Brush
Some plants have sticky or fuzzy leaves that are difficult to clean, while others, such as African violets, dislike getting their leaves wet. In these cases, a soft brush, such as a mushroom brush, can be used to gently coax the dust from the leaves.
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Tips for Keeping Tidy Houseplants
Cleaning plants is also an excellent time to tidy them up by removing any dead, brown, or yellowing leaves. Remove a leaf by hand if it comes loose easily. Otherwise, clean sheers or scissors should be used. Never attempt to remove a firmly attached, resistant leaf. Remove only the browned leaf tips from plants that have been left too dry. When cutting, follow the natural contour of the leaves to make the plant look more natural.
After all of your hard work cleaning your plants, you should take the time to make sure your pots look good as well. If a white layer of salt or minerals has formed on the outside or rim of a pot, remove the plant and thoroughly clean the pot. Wash the pot with a 1 part bleach to 10 parts water diluted bleach solution. Scrub the salt residue away with a stiff brush, then thoroughly rinse the pot before repotting your plant. To prevent future buildup on pots, flush the soil with water and allow it to drain completely on a regular basis.