As a houseplant owner, you’ve probably noticed dust collect on the surface of your plant’s leaves. Any time you see this, it is important to clean your plant so it can absorb sunlight better.
How do you clean indoor plant leaves? The best way to clean the leaves of indoors plants will depend on the kind of leaves it has and the kind of plant you have.
You can do so by wiping its foliage with a damp cloth, giving the plant a shower, dunking it in water or spraying with a soap solution if there’s a lot dirt and dust that’s accumulated on the leaves.
Regularly doing this will help the plant stay healthy and grow optimally.
And it only takes a few minutes of your time every few weeks if you choose the right method.
When to Clean Your Houseplants
How often you clean your houseplants depends on how quickly they collect dust. As such, this depends on how much dust there is in the air.
Also, some plants collect more dust than others as their leaves then to attract tiny debris more. In general, larger leaves will pick up more dust due to bigger surface area they cover.
However, the most important factor is their surrounds.
If your plant is near a road, place where a lot of cars pass by or there is construction, it will receive a lot of dust form the wind. On the other hand, plants that are kept indoors will collect significantly less dust.
The simplest way to tell when it is time to clean your plants is to run your finger on the surface of the leaves. If you can feel a good amount of dust, it is time to clean its leaves.
Similarly, if you can blow the dust from the leaves or visibly see the layer of dust, it is time to clean the leaves.
Effective Ways to Clean Indoor Plants
Cleaning your plant’s leaves is an important part of its care routine.
Dust attracts pests. It also blocks light and can clog your plants pores which affect transpiration. And no matter how well you keep your home clean, small specks of dust will eventually make their way to the leaves.
Over time, the dust will build up.
Fortunately, cleaning your plant is quite simple. However, depending on the size of your plant, how many leaves it has, how big the leaves are and how much dust there is, it can take some time to clean.
Just as importantly, different kinds of leaves require different kinds of care.
Therefore, I’ve made a list of methods you can use to clean your plant’s leaves. Each has its pros and cons and vary on the effort and time it takes.
Wipe the Dust Off the Leaves
The simplest and probably most straightforward way to clean your plant is to just wipe the dust from the leaves.
All you need is a cloth and some warm water. Avoid using cold or hot water.
Some people will use soap and water which I’ve found helps to keep pests away. However, it also takes more time to clean the plant.
To clean your plant using this method, just wet the cloth and wring it so you don’t get a lot of moisture on the leaves. Then, wipe down the leaves.
Because of the nature of this methods, you’ll be cleaning the leaves one by one.
This allows you to inspect the leaves, stems and other areas for pests or signs of disease while you’re cleaning the plant.
An additional benefit is that you can thoroughly clean the plant.
But the obvious downside is that it is time consuming. More importantly, it is not efficient for plants with lots of leaves.
Also, the smaller the leaves, the more work and time it takes since you need to do lots of them one by one.
Use a Vinegar and Water Solution
This is an offshoot of the first method. I picked it up from a friend who likes to use a vinegar and water solution to clean her plants (instead of just plain water).
She told me you can also use lemon juice in place of vinegar.
The process is similar to wiping off the leaves with a damp cloth. But this time you mix vinegar with the water then wipe down the leaves.
Vinegar acts as a disinfectant. It also helps prevent pests.
To use it, mix one teaspoon of vinegar per gallon of water.
Because the entire process is the same as above, the pros and cons are similar as well.
Dust the Leaves
One of the easiest ways to clean dirt, dust and debris from your plants is to use a feather duster.
Feather dusters use a more general approach to cleaning. That means you’ll brush the leaves gently which will remove the dust from the surface of the leaves.
This method is much faster than many of the others in the list because you can quickly get through a few leaves at time.
However, it does have its drawbacks.
One, it does not clean thoroughly. You can expect smaller dust particles to get left behind. However, over time and the more you dust, the less and less dust is left. So, it’s not a huge problem.
Also, the dust you brush off has to go somewhere. In this case, it floats into the air. Therefore, you probably won’t want to dust your plant indoors since you’ll just be pushing the dust and dirt to the floor or furniture.
Instead, take your plant outside so the dust is left outdoors.
Finally, a feather duster is only effective for larger leaves. You’re just not going to be able to clean vines with lots of small foliage with it efficiently. Therefore, save this method for plants with leaves that are at least a few inches long.
It is also worth noting that there are many different kinds of feather dusters. Some attract more dust than others depending on the kinds of feathers they use.
Put the Plant in Water
If you don’t like to wipe or brush leaves one or a few at time, you can use water instead.
The advantage of using water is that you can quickly rinse the entire plant. This means less work and time on your part.
There are a few ways to do this which I’ll go through next.
This first water method entails dunking or submerging the plant in water. Note that we’re not talking about the entire plant.
Instead, we’re more concerned about the leaves.
Therefore, there’s some work to do on your part.
Essentially, you’ll be filing the sink, basin or a container with water. Then invert the plant and dunk or submerge the top of the plant so the leaves get wet in the water.
Doing so remove most of the dust on its leaves.
That said, you need to make sure to hold the soil in the pot. Otherwise, the entire plant can slip out and fall right into the water. This makes a mess and gives you more work to do.
When doing this method, it is a good idea to have both hands on the pot while keeping different sides of the soil in the pot as you invert and dunk the plant.
You can also wet the soil beforehand so that it binds to the pot. Another method is to wrap the bottom of the pot so that root ball does not slide out.
After dunking the plant, make sure to let it dry. I like to lightly pat down the leaves with a towel to speed this process up.
Avoid letting the leaves stay wet for long periods of time.
When this happens, you can end up with water spots on the leaf surfaces. At worst, it can promote leaf infections.
This method is most effective for small plants. Larger plants are usually too big and harder to control for this method. Although, you can try using a group effort to do this.
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Give the Plant a Shower
For larger plants, giving them a shower is a much more efficient solution.
You can likewise use the dunking method but this time in a bathtub if you want. Although a shower is usually easier.
Another option to using the shower is to take the plant outside and using the garden hose.
The goal is to use the shower or hose with a light to moderate stream of water to spray off dust from the leaves. Avoid using strong streams as it can damage the leaves.
The biggest benefit if this method is that it is quick and simple. And you get complete coverage without a lot of work.
I also favor this method because it helps your plant if humidity is low. Doing this every couple weeks or so not only lets you clean your plant but also ensures it gets its fill of moisture.
At the same time, the soil gets watered.
If you routinely flush your soil to get rid of mineral salts from fertilizer from building up, you can use this opportunity to do that as well.
The multiple functions of this method lets you do a few things at a time.
That said, make sure to allow the soil to drain and the leaves to dry after. This is crucial as wet soil can lead to root rot while wet leaves can increase the risk of fungal infections.
Spray the Plant with Soap Solution
For dirtier plants that have collected quite a bit of dust lightly wiping or getting them wet may not be enough to remove the dust. This is especially true if it has gotten thick or stubborn.
For this, a better solution is to use a soap solution.
You can make your own by mixing half a teaspoon to a quart of water. A quart is about a quarter of a gallon or close to 1 liter of water.
Then shake the mixture and use a spray bottle to mist the leaves.
I like to do this in the sink, preferably a large one, or the bathtub. The dust will eventually make a little bit of a mess as they slide off.
After spraying the plant’s leaves and covering all the dusty areas, rinse the plant with water to remove any residue of soap and dust.
Then allow the plant to dry after. You can use a cloth or paper towel to pat off some of the moisture as well.
Use a Soft Brush to Clean Fuzzy Leaves
For plants with fuzzy or hairy leaves, dust can be stubborn and stick to their leaves. Other plants don’t like getting their leaves wet as this can damage the hairs on the surface of their foliage.
Thus, the best method to clean the leaves of these plants is to use a soft brush. You can use a toothbrush or small paintbrush.
The brush lets you easily remove of the stuck dirt.
When using this method, it is a good idea to start from the top and work your way to the bottom. That way any dust or debris that gets brushed off and goes down will be cleaned up later as you reach the bottom.
Should You Use Leaf Shine to Clean Indoor Plant Leaves?
I don’t recommend leaf shine or other commercial products to clean leaves. While some do work well and make your plant look shiny and pretty, I don’t believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Leaf shine and other product do make the job of cleaning and giving your plant’s leaves a nice shine easier and faster.
However, these products can also clog the pores and interfere with photosynthesis and your plant’s ability to breathe.
Therefore, I prefer cleaning my plants the old-fashioned way, even if it does take a bit more time and effort.
Why Is Cleaning Your Indoor Plant Leaves Important?
From our perspective, cleaning a plant’s leaves makes it look neat and beautiful. However, from a plan’s perspective, clean leaves help it stay healthy.
That’s because the leaves play a part in many of the plant’s function.
The most important of which is photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is one of the most basic and important processes that a plant does. It does so to produce energy which it uses to sustain growth and produce new leaves.
Photosynthesis works as the plant’s leaves absorb light from the sun or grow lights. It then uses this light to create sugars which it uses for food.
Therefore, when a layer of dust collects on the surface of leaves, it reduces the amount of light the plant is able to absorb.
With less light collected, the plant will grow slower, produce fewer leaves and smaller ones at that. It also is not as strong and resilient as it normally would be making it prone to pests and infections.
Another important function of leaves is air and water transfer.
Leaves have small pores called stoma. These open and close depending on the current environment.
The goal is to regulate its internal water level, temperature, and oxygen.
When dust accumulated on leaves, they can clog these pores preventing the flow of air and water vapor. As such, it affects the plant’s health an growth.
Therefore, cleaning the leaves once the dust develops ensures that your plants are able to perform all its basic functions.