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How To Clean Indoor Plant Leaves? (7 Simple Ways)

We all are aware of the fundamental needs of indoor plants. Sunlight and water are perhaps the two most important factors behind a plant’s growth.

For your indoor plants to thrive uninterruptedly, a well-suited location, proper humidity level, proper temperature, pest control strategies, and adequate nutrient supply are essential too. 

If we take one step further, there remains a secondary issue that serves a critical role in improving your plant’s health. It includes the simple step of cleaning your plant regularly for it to flourish to a new level. Cleaning your plant’s leaves will keep your autotrophic friends healthy and breathing.

But how to clean indoor plant leaves? Let’s find out.

8 Effective ways to clean your indoor plant leaves are:

  1. Dust your indoor plant leaves with a feather duster.
  2. Wipe the plant leaves with a damp cloth.
  3. Dunk the plant in water.
  4. Gently shower your plant by taking them to a sink or bathtub.
  5. Clean furry leaves with a brush.
  6. Use compressed air to clean succulents and cactus.
  7. Spray your plant with a soap solution.

To understand why your indoor plants need cleaning and how to clean your indoor plants, keep reading this article. We have covered all the information you need regarding cleaning your houseplants.

Clean indoor plant leaves

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Why do you need to clean your indoor plant leaves?

It doesn’t take much time for the dust to accumulate on indoor plants. Anyone who has gone away for a couple of days knows this.  

Whenever we open windows or turn on a fan or an AC unit, a significant amount of suspended dust particles manage their way to the plants and settle down on leaves. Though a bit tedious to do, it is vital to clean these dust residues from your plants’ leaves, as:

  • Maintaining photosynthesis: A layer of dust covering the foliage prevents leaves from absorbing sunlight. It, in turn, reduces the rate of photosynthesis. 
  • Pest management: A plant with a reduced photosynthetic rate will eventually become feeble, unhealthy, and susceptible to pest infestation.

The simple act of cleaning the leaves will be a build-in pest control strategy to prevent and control any future infestation of bugs. Thus wiping the leaves eventually wipes out these potential problem-causing agents before it could create any further complications. 

  • Prevention from pathogenic infection: Like human beings, plants also need to be clean, dirt-free to stay healthy. Bacteria, fungus, and other pathogenic infections become prevalent in grubby spots.  
  • Support performance: Leaves are the primary spots for the plant’s gaseous exchange. Leaves have tiny pores, called stomata, responsible for carrying out the transpiration process (excess water loss) and gaseous exchange. A plant needs to breathe well to stay healthy, and for that, the leaves, specifically stomata, need to be dirt and dust-free. The stomata can allow optimum gaseous and moisture exchange only when they are free from any debris.

When to clean your indoor plant leaves?

How often you check for dust particles and how frequently you should clean depends on the surroundings. Indoor plants growing near industrial set up, construction sites, traffic-filled roads need regular cleaning. 

To determine if your plants need cleaning or not, run your fingers over the leaves. If you feel the presence of dirt way too much to blow off, it’s time to clean. Give a delicate, quick swipe on the leaves with a damp cloth.

In the wild, the cleaning process happens naturally for the plants. Plant species are organically cared for in their natural environment with wind, rainfall, and other flora-faunal gatherings.

Now the question arises how accurately we can mimic this process for our indoor species?

Equipment needed to clean your indoor plant leaves

At first, the cleaning process may appear a bit tricky for you, but you can simplify the work with the help of these tools. All you need is:

  • Spray bottle
  • Sprayer nozzle
  • Bucket
  • A damp cloth or microfibre 
  • Soft duster or brush
  • Stiff brush (for cleaning planters)
  • Cleaning materials include dish detergent, household bleach

Ways to clean your indoor plants leaves

The ways to clean indoor plants depend on the amount of dirt accumulated, the type of plant species, and the leaves’ nature. Rinsing or spraying with soapy water, dusting, and wiping are the most applied methods in cleaning indoor plants.

Here we will discuss some common ways.

Let’s start with some of the easiest, more general methods that serve well for plants that aren’t overly dirty and then get into more specific cleaning methods.

Dust leaves with a feather duster

This process is best suited when there is only a fine layer of dust on the leaves. You can use a feather duster and gently brush it over the leaves to remove dust particles from the foliage. Don’t be rough, as you may end up clipping off leaves from the stem.

The best type of feather dusters is made of ostrich feathers. Even for ostrich feathers, black feather dusters serve better than those made up of grey plumage.

When you are done with dusting, take the duster outside, hold it close to the ground, and remove the accumulated dust by shaking it vigorously. 

The single issue with this method is that feather dusting is incapable of removing all of the dirt, especially in case of over accumulation. For that, you need the help of some extensive methods we have discussed further.

Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth 

This simple method of wiping your plant leaves with a wet cloth cleans the houseplants. This process is best when the plant is not excessively dirty or has fewer or larger leaves.

All you need to start with this process is a cotton cloth and some clean, lukewarm water. The cloth can be a washcloth, a microfiber, or even a piece of your old tee shirt. 

Make sure whatever you are using is soft enough and has no damage-causing element. Avoid using synthetic clothes as they retain a lot of water which is not pretty much helpful.

Damp your cloth with lukewarm water and gently wipe both sides of the leaves. Make sure to provide support from the bottom while wiping the upper surface of the leaves to prevent any damage.

Avoid using excess hot or cold water as it can affect the plant’s health. Wash the cloth after every use to make it dust-free. You can use a dry cloth following this process to remove any excess water from the leaves.

The disadvantage is that it can not be applied to plants with numerous or smaller leaves, as wiping one leaf at a time is quite tedious and time taking. You need to go for some other method in that case.

Dunk the plant in water

A quick dunk in water is an effective method in the cleaning process. This process is helpful to plants that are smaller in size or have innumerable leaves.

First, fill a bucket or sink with lukewarm water. Keep a firm grip, invert the planter with the plant, hold the soil and the planter, and gently dunk the plant into the water until the soil layer.

Once you dunk and swirl the plant around in the water, turn it back to its normal position.

Let it dip dry before moving it to its original location. If you notice too much water on the leaves, use a dry cloth or paper towel to wipe or blot the water gently. 

While dunking the plant, make sure you don’t dip the entire pot into the water. This will make the soil soggy and raises the risk of root rot.

If you are worried about making a mess while turning the pot, spray a little water before this process to bind the soil particle tightly.

Or you can cover the soil and the pot with a plastic bag. It will act as a barrier and prevent the soil from coming out during the upside-down position.

Rinse the plants under the shower

Misting pothos

If your house plants are too large, dunking them in the sink or bucket is not the right option. For large plants, the method that suits the best is a quick, complete shower.

Take your plants to the bathtub, and by using the shower sprayer, rinse them thoroughly to get rid of all dust and dirt. Just be careful with the spraying force. It shouldn’t be too forceful, or you will end up damaging the leaves or the stem.

Once you rinse your plant well, leave it to dry out completely. You can use the previously discussed method of drying by using a dry cloth.

You can use this method if you notice any salt build-up as white crystals on the soil surface. The soil build-up is mainly caused due to mineral stress from overfertilization. Rinsing the plant down through the soil works effectively in that condition.

Clean furry leaves with a brush

Plants with fuzzy or furry leaves attract more dust that gets accumulated among the minute pubescent hairs. You can not clean plants like African violets with water since water can damage those tiny hairs on the leaves.

Moreover, plants with hairy growth on leaves retain water easily, which can be a matter of harm for the plant.

The best possible way of cleaning these plants is by using a brush with soft bristles such as a toothbrush or a small craft paintbrush to sweep away dirt from the leaves.

Start from the base of the leaves and gently move towards the tips, moving from top to bottom surface. After use, wipe the dust from the bristles of the brush.

Use compressed air

Cactus and succulents require a different method when it comes to cleaning. Most of these desert-growing species have waxy (mucilage) coating due to their adaptation in arid regions.

This coating helps prevent excess transpiration, thus promoting water conservation in their body. 

Cleaning these plants with water will degenerate this waxy coating and affect the plant adversely. Hence water is a big ‘NO’ for them. Instead, use compressed air to clean cactus and succulents.

Hold the can 10-12 inches away from the plant and spray air in short bursts to drive away from the dust from them. You can perform this entire process outside if you don’t want the dislodged dirt to scatter all over your room.

Spray your plant with soap solution

Soap solution is an effective product to cope up with extreme dirt that gets settled on the plants. Besides dirt, soapy mixes help fight many plant pests.

Mix 1⁄4 tsp of a mild dishwashing soap per quart of lukewarm water and fill a spray bottle with this diluted solution. Give a good shake, and now mist the entire plant with it. 

Once spraying is done, rinse the plant with clean lukewarm water to remove any soap residue. Let it dry completely before moving it to its spot. Try not to spray soapy water on the soil mix as it can alter the natural pH of the soil.

Important consideration

Regardless of the method, it would be best to keep a few key factors in mind to clean your indoor plants effectively.

  • Your home and the immediate surrounding determine the frequency of cleaning. You need to consider the area where you live, any filtration system that has been installed in your furnace, or the quality of filters.
  • While cleaning the plants, always pay attention to the undersurface of the leaves. Most of the pests remain there since undersurfaces are often ignored.
  • Never use commercial cleaning agents. Such synthetic products carry harmful chemicals that can put stress on the plant. Moreover, these kinds of products clog the stomata and prevent gaseous and water exchange by the plant. Thus it ultimately works against the purpose of cleaning.
  • Commercial products often intend to give leaves a glossy appearance. This should be avoided as such products have some waxy material in them that clogs stomata.
  • As water evaporates after cleaning, it leaves behind mineral salts of calcium and magnesium on the leaves. In such cases, leaves may develop telltale spots, which may appear a bit unpleasant visually. You can use a few ways to remove such spots, like wiping down the leaves with a dampened rag or cloth. 
  • To remove deposits, you can use diluted white vinegar solution in distilled water and dab it on the leaves. Allow it to sit for a while. Then wipe the leaves with rainwater or distilled water.

Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.

Final words

Cleaning your houseplants is not a difficult job to undertake. The methods mentioned earlier are simple and can be done with minimum arrangements. You must not avoid the presence of suspended microscopic dirt particles in the air.

Try to follow a routine cleaning to avoid such elements from accumulating in layers on your plants.

Periodically cleaning your houseplants in return makes less work for you in the long run. A clean, dust-free houseplant is capable enough to uplift the vibe of your indoor environment and your mood too.

Source: Growing Indoor Plants with Success, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, University of California, Missouri Botanical Garden.