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8 Best Ways To Clean Houseplant Leaves

Clean and healthy plants are a beautiful addition to your home and do a wonderful job of purifying the air. But dust on your plant’s foliage will block the sun rays from reaching the leaves and reduce their ability to photosynthesize.

The best ways to clean houseplant leaves depend on the type of plant you own. You can clean your plants by washing their leaves with water, wiping them with a wet cloth, brush, or feather duster, spraying a soap solution, or using compressed air for plants like succulents.

Cleaning will not harm your plant and keep it healthy and happy. This article lists simple ways to use home items to clean houseplant leaves. Keep reading this article to learn more.

Cleanend Rubber Plant Leaves

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Why is it essential to clean houseplant leaves?

Plants are much more than just for show.

The leaves perform an important function in a plant’s life, and dirty leaves can deteriorate overall health.

Just as hygiene is important to humans, it is important for the plant too.

Cleaning the houseplants periodically is important to remove the dirt from their leaf surfaces so they can function properly.

Also, a healthy and clean leaf will be more resistant to pests and diseases.

The plant performs three major functions: photosynthesis, gas exchange, and transpiration.

The dirt and dust accumulate over the leaf surfaces, preventing them from performing such vital biological processes.

Keeping the houseplants clean will also make them look more attractive. 

Cleaning is important for the leaves for doing the following functions.

Photosynthesis

The process of photosynthesis takes place through the leaves.

It is an important biological process that plant uses to prepare food in the form of sugar.

During photosynthesis, the leaf takes up carbon dioxide and sunlight from the atmosphere, which is mixed with the water transported through the roots.

The leaf uses these ingredients to create glucose and oxygen.

The dust on the surface of the leaves will not allow them to absorb sunlight, and as a result, the photosynthesis process gets affected.

If photosynthesis slows, the leaves will be unable to form glucose which the plant needs to get the energy to survive and grow.

Gas exchange

The leaves have tiny pores called stomata.

The opening and closing of stomata pores are based on atmospheric conditions like temperatures and humidity.

During photosynthesis, the stomata pore open, and the plant absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. 


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Transpiration

Transpiration is another important function performed by the leaves.

Transpiration is when the excess moisture in the plant is evaporated as water vapor through the stomata.

The dirt or oil from the air blocks the stomata opening, due to which there is no exchange of gas and water vapor through the pores.

As a result, the biological processes slow down, and plant health deteriorates.

How often should you clean houseplants?

Rubber plant leaves cleaning

How often you should clean your houseplant leaves depends on how much dust is present in the air of your house and the immediate surroundings.

The houseplant growing in a place close to roads, ongoing construction, or any windy location should be cleaned often, like every other week.

However, if you have kept your plant inside your room, the leaves will not get dirty quickly so you can clean them once a month.

The best way to find out whether your plants are dirty or not is to check their leaves by rubbing your fingers on them.

If you notice dirt or dust in your hand, it’s time to clean the plant. 

Timely cleaning will reduce your work in the long run and will also encourage your plant’s healthy growth.

Tools required for cleaning houseplant leaves

For cleaning your houseplants, you don’t need to purchase expensive leaf cleaners because you already have the ingredients in your home to make your own.

Most commercial houseplant cleaners can block the stomatal pores, which affects photosynthesis and transpiration. 

The equipment or tools that you will require to clean the leaves of your houseplants are:

What is the best way to clean leaves on indoor plants?

It doesn’t matter how much we keep our house clean; dirt and dust will float in the air.

Over time, dust particles settle on the surface of the leaves, creating a dirt layer that is required to be cleaned. 

There are a handful of ways to clean plant leaves, and most are simple with everyday household items. 

Let us now discuss some simpler, commonly used cleaning methods that work well with houseplants.

Clean indoor plant leaves

1. Dunk the plant in a bucket of water

In this method, we will only use water for cleaning the leaves.

Small-sized plants or plants with many leaves can get cleaned by giving them a quick dunk of tepid water.

This cleaning method works best for houseplants like sword ferns, devil eye, or peace lilies.

  • Start the cleaning process by filling the basin or sink with lukewarm water.
  • Now invert the pot carefully by holding the plant and soil inside the pot with one hand and with the other hand, gently dunk the leaves in tepid water.
  • After rinsing the leaves, flip the plant so it is right side up and allow it to drip dry before you shift it to its original spot.
  • If the leaves have lots of water, you can use paper towels or a soft cloth to blot the leaves. In this way, the leaves will dry out faster, and also, there will be no water spots left on the leaf surfaces. 

Here’s a trick if you think this cleaning method will create a mess.

To prevent the soil from spilling out, water your plant before inverting the pot, so the soil particles remain intact.

2. Wash the leaves with clean water

If you have large indoor plants and can’t dunk them in the kitchen basin or bathtub, then the best way to clean such houseplants is by showering them.

  • Bring plants to the bathroom and turns on the shower to rinse the dirt and dust from their leaves.
  • Ensure the water is lukewarm and not very cold. The water spray from the shower should not be very forceful to the plants. Otherwise, the leaves will get injured and fall over.
  • After rinsing the plant, take a soft dry cloth and blot the leaves so that the leftover moisture will get soaked.
  • After blotting the leaves, move your plant near a window to give it some sunshine. 

This method also works well to remove the excess salt built from the soil due to fertilization.

The water will flush the soil and drain the pot’s excess fertilizers.

3. Mist the leaves with a spray bottle

Some houseplants can’t handle the force of a shower; misting is a great solution to clean them.

Fill the spray bottle with lukewarm, distilled water and mist the leaves of your plants.

Bonsais, Calatheas, Fittonia, and ferns are some plants that should be cleaned by misting.

Misting will also help the plant eliminate unwanted pests and provide it with needed humidity. 

Prefer misting the plants early in the morning so their leaves can dry out during the daytime.

4. Wipe off the leaves with a damp cloth

Wiping off the dust is one simple method of removing dirt from your indoor plant.

This method is ideal for those houseplants that have fewer leaves or leaves are large-sized.

Young banana plants, rubber plants, monstera, and snake plants should get cleaned by this method.

This cleaning technique is unsuitable for houseplants with lots of leaves or whose leaves are very small.

Although, if you want, you can clean the leaves of such plants, it will take too much time and effort.

Wiping is helpful to the plant as it cleans leaves without leaving any water drops on them, an effective method over other cleaning options.

You only require two items for this cleaning method – a soft microfiber cloth and some lukewarm water.

You can also use a hand towel, a washcloth, or a cotton cloth if you don’t have a microfiber cloth.

The only important thing is that the cloth material should be soft and not harsh on the leaves.

  • If you can’t find any suitable cloth, take an old t-shirt and cut it into pieces and use it to wipe the plant leaves. 
  • Dip the cloth in the water, squeeze out the excess water, and gently wipe off each leaf’s top and bottom parts.
  • Hold the leaves very gently while wiping their leaves to prevent any damage.  
  • Once your plant leaves are clean, rinse the cloth with detergent to remove the collected dust or dirt. 


5. Clean the leaves with a soft brush

Houseplants with fuzzy or furry leaves should get cleaned with a method that doesn’t use water since water can harm the little hairs on the leaves.

You can use a mushroom paintbrush or soft-bristled toothbrush to remove the dust or dirt from the furry leaves.

Houseplants like African violets and chenille plants have fuzzy leaves with pubescent hairs and should get cleaned by this method.

A soft paintbrush will remove the dirt and dust lying between the tiny hairs of the leaves without causing them any harm.

Once the leaves are clean, it is time to clean the brush.

You can either clean the bristles by wiping them with a paper towel or wash the paintbrush with water and let it dry.

6. Clean the leaves with a feather duster

When the leaves of your plant have a fine layer of dust, you can use a feather duster or any other similar product to remove this form of dirt from the plant.

There are many feather dusters available on the market.

However, the ostrich feather dusters are the best as they trap the dust better than any other feather dusters.

Hold the duster and gently brush the leaves to clean as much dust as possible.

Be careful while cleaning the leaves, and make sure you don’t tear them. 

After dusting the leaves, take the feather duster outside and shake it well to blow the dust from it. 

This cleaning method may not remove all the dust from the leaves, but your plant will be free from the dust build-up for the next few days.

7. Clean cacti and succulents with compressed air

Cactus and other succulent plants have different care compared to other houseplants regarding cleaning.

These plants come from arid conditions and have a waxy coating as an adaptive feature to their natural environment.

This waxy coating helps the plant to prevent water loss so that it can hold water inside its stem for a longer time which helps it withstand drought conditions.

The plant will wilt and die if you use water to clean them since it can’t survive an overwatering condition.

Spraying water over the plant or dunking it in water will damage its coating.

Avoid cleaning cacti and succulents with water, and use a can of compressed air to clean the dirt and dust from them.

  • Start cleaning by holding the can 10-12 inches away from the plant.
  • Wear a mask and gloves and spray the compressed air to dislodge the dirt and dust from the succulents.
  • You should perform the cleaning activity outside in an open area if you don’t want to blow the dust inside your house.
  • Do not spray the compressed air over the plant for an extended period. Otherwise, the plant tissue will get damaged.

8. Spray the plant with a soap solution

If your houseplants are considerably dirty, spraying water on the leaves or dunking the plant will not eliminate the dirt.

Consider using a gentle soap solution for cleaning the leaves when they are very dirty.

  • Prepare a soap solution by taking 1 liter of lukewarm water and ¼ teaspoon of dish soap.
  • Fill the soap solution in a spray bottle and shake it well so that water and soap are perfectly mixed.
  • Bring your plant to your sink and spray the soap solution over the entire plant.
  • After misting the plant with soap solution, rinse the leaves with lukewarm water to remove the soap residue.
  • Move the plant near a fan or a slightly windy place so the leaves can dry out quickly.
  • You can also blot the leaves with a soft towel to remove the water residue.
  • Once the leaves are dry, put the plant back in its original place or your favored location.
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Factors you should keep in mind while cleaning your houseplants

Regardless of the method you follow, you must keep certain factors in mind while you clean your plant leaves:

  • When you clean your houseplants, pay enough attention to the stem, stalk, and underside of the leaves. These parts of the plant shouldn’t get neglected since they also need care. The dust particles get collected on those parts, too, not in the same amount it collects on the leaves’ surfaces, but it still accumulates.
  • Always use lukewarm water for cleaning your houseplants. If the water is very cold, it will shock the plant and cause water spots on its leaf surfaces. If the water is too hot, the leaves will suffer burns, and the root system will get damaged. Many houseplants are originally tropical beings and are not adapted to survive very hot or old conditions. Like us, they prefer growing under room temperature and will stay happy with lukewarm water.
  • When the excess water evaporates, it leaves behind magnesium or calcium deposits on the leaf surfaces that cause tell-tale spots. However, there are ways to remove the watermarks. An easy method to get rid of these spots is by damping a rag in distilled water or rainwater and gently wiping the marks on the leaves. If the marks are still not going, you need to mix a tablespoon of white vinegar in one-liter water and apply it over the leaves with the help of a soft cloth. Allow the vinegar to sit on the leaves for a minute, and then rinse the leaves with clean water.
  • If insects are landing on your houseplant leaves, add dishwashing liquid to the water to clean the leaves. Mix 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in 1 quart of water and clean the dirt and dust using this solution.

Is leaf shine good for my houseplants?

Many commercial leaf shine products give your houseplants a shiny, glossy look.

However, I recommend you not to use such products on your plant as they contain toxic chemicals and harm plant tissues.

Commercial shining product contains waxes that can block the stomatal pores. 

Instead of buying commercial shining products, you can prepare a natural leaf shine spray in your home.

All you require is a damp microfiber cloth with neem oil spray. 

Neem oil is great for pest infestations like mites, scales, fungus, etc., and will prevent them from settling in your plant.  

It will give an additional shine and act like a protective covering against pests.


Reference: OSU Extension-Knox County