Hello gardeners! Today you will find out how to clean plant leaves and enhance your plant’s ability to grow well.
Cleaning plant’s leaves is a very important aspect of plant care. It will not only make your indoor plants look more attractive, but if leaves are clean, they can absorb a lot more light than dusty leaves. This means that if leaves are clogged with dust, less sunlight can get through, slowing the process of photosynthesis down and affecting the overall growth.
Related: Cleaning Guide for Beginners
Principles for Keeping Plants Clean
Like other indoor surfaces, plant leaves also collect dust. Removing this dust helps the plants by maximizing the amount of light reaching your plants, thus enhancing the process of photosynthesis and transpiration.
So, a little bit of attention on a regular basis keeps your houseplants happy and thriving. Before we learn how to clean plants depending on the type, let’s tackle some general principles for cleaning plant leaves.
General Principles for Cleaning Plants
Use soft water. When using water to clean the plant’s leaves, always make sure it is soft (distilled) water or tepid water. The lime and mineral salts in hard tap water may mark the leaves and clog the pores, so shy away from it.
Always use lukewarm, room temperature water. If you use cold water, you will cause the plant unnecessary shock.
Never spray flowers. Never spray in direct sunlight. Spraying in direct sunlight will cause plants to develop leaf spots.
Provide support. To prevent damaging leaves, support the back of a leaf with one hand while cleaning it with the other.
Clean both sides. Many pests hide underneath the leaves.
Clean with soapy water. Using dishwashing liquid helps to loosen dirt and dust.
Shake off. If you are using water to clean plants’ leaves, shake off excess water and allow the plants to stop dripping before returning them to their usual place.
Protect from the fierce sun. Plants cleaned by misting should never be exposed to direct sun, some not even to bright sun, as it can lead to leaf spots.
Provide airflow. Allow the air to circulate and speed the drying period. Alternatively, turn on a gentle fan.
To clean plant leaves, you need:
- a soft cloth, sponge or leaf wipe
- a soft paintbrush or a feather duster
- a dishwashing liquid to loosen the dirt
- one tablespoon of white vinegar can also be mixed to a gallon of water for easy cleaning
- a spray bottle
- soft, distilled, lukewarm water
- clean paper towel if plants drip on the floor
You may be wondering whether you shall use a soft cloth dipped in soapy water or a soft paintbrush. This depends on the type of your indoor plant. Let’s take a close look at the type of plants and how to clean the leaves of each type.
How to Clean Plant Leaves- Different Type of Plants/Leaves?
Fine-foliaged plants have fine leaf hairs that trap dust very easily. For example, ferns, Velvet Plant and Piggy-Back Plant have fine leaves. These techniques would work well with fine-foliaged houseplant leaves.
1. Summer Outdoor Spraying
Plants like these may be cleaned with a gentle spray of water. Simply bring them outdoors in summer, set them in a shaded spot and spray them from all sides. Spray the plants again after 10 minutes and gently shake off water. Allow them to dry away from the direct sun, then return them indoors.
2. Bathroom Spraying
If watering indoors is your only option, bring them to your bathroom. Set them in your bathtub or sink and use a spray bottle to clean the leaves. Don’t use a shower because it is too harsh for the fine leaves.
Additionally, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to a quarter of water in the spray bottle to loosen dirt and dust. Thoroughly cleanse and rinse off plants with lukewarm water. Then, shake it off and return to its usual place.
3. Gentle Swishing
Here is the third method of cleaning plants with hairy or finely cut leaves. Simply put a plastic bag over the pot and soil and secure it with tape. Then, submerge the foliage in a tray of lukewarm water mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid by holding the plant upside-down and swishing it through the water. Let it drip dry before shifting it into indirect sunlight.
Hairy-leafed plants are, for example, African violets. We can also put plants with sticky or fuzzy leaves into this category. If you spray or water the leaves of African violets or other fuzzy-leafed plants, they might develop leaf spots if not dried properly or if exposed to bright sunlight while the leaves are still wet. These methods would work well for hairy and fuzzy leaves.
1. Submerge and Dry
Small houseplants with hairy leaves are best cleaned if submerged. If you opt for this method, shake off excess moisture, let your plants drip dry, turn on a gentle fan to speed up the drying process. Don’t expose the plant to bright light until the leaves have dried.
2. Paintbrush Cleaning
Alternatively, you can use a soft brush to clean your plants, sweep dust and dirt from the leaves. The same goes for furry-leaved or prickly plants.
Over time you may find that your succulents and cacti accumulate dust and other debris on their bodies. Some would say that cleaning cacti is a bit of a challenging task because of the spines and different leaf markings. But the fact is, it is not that hard.
To remove dirt and dust, use canned air or a bulb syringe. You can also use a soft paintbrush to gently brush off dust and dirt. However, this won’t fully get rid of dirt.
One more method works quite well with cacti – spray and swab method. First, spray spiny cacti with water. Then, use a cotton swab to remove dirt between the spines.
What you can also do at this point is remove dead leaves around the base and cut off new growth.
Large-leafed plants are Philodendrons, Monsteras, Elephant Ear, and Rubber Tree. So, special care should be taken in order not to bruise the leaves of these larger houseplants. Here is a good rule for you.
1. Wipe One Leaf at a Time
While it is a very slow process, the best way to thoroughly clean plants with large leaves is to do one leaf at a time.
Use a soft cloth or sponge and warm, soapy distilled water. Gently wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. Support one side of the leaf with one hand while wiping over the surface with the other.
Clean both the top and undersides of each leaf so as to get rid of tiny insects along with dust and dirt.
Enjoy the relaxing process of cleaning your plants. Besides, plants will benefit from your presence as breath is found to contain carbon dioxide that plants so desperately crave.
How to Make Indoor Plants Shiny
Clean houseplants are stunning. But what will make them even more stunning – shiny leaves.
While leaf shine products are known to make plant leaves glossy, they can block the leaf pores, which affects transpiration negatively. What’s more, very few flowering plants can tolerate leaf shine, as they are easily burned or clogged by the oil it contains. Check instructions and never use them more than once a month.
Instead of using commercial waxes, opt for a half-and-half mixture of milk and water to make your plants shiny using natural products. Some gardeners recommend using olive oil, too.
While You Are At It
Now that you are cleaning houseplants, why not take a few steps more to give your entire indoor garden an orderly facelift.
Care for Containers
Once your plants are clean and dry, wipe containers clean with a soapy cloth to remove dirt and fingerprints. Also, rinse out saucers and drainage trays.
Terrariums need slightly more care to be clean as every dirty stain is easily noticeable and distracting.
Whole Plant Care
Dispose of old flowers on your plants by pinching them off gently, since leaving them can encourage mold and brown leaves.
Also, remove any flowers and leaves that fall on the surface of the soil before they start to decay. Finally, trim any stems that have died back.
Dust builds on leaf surfaces, minimizing the levels of light that reach the plant and impeding the process of transpiration, photosynthesis and overall plant health and growth, while also making the plant look neglected and less attractive.
For this reason, dust should be removed regularly using a soft cloth, sponge or paintbrush depending on the type of plant. In a nutshell, wipe smooth leaves with a very soft cloth or sponge dipped in soapy water and use a soft paintbrush to dust off hairy-leafed, furry-leaved or prickly plants.