Tidbit Tuesday – Tips for Cleaning Houseplants

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If you love decor (like I do!) you probably already have enough to clean in your house without adding one more thing to the list, but houseplants need cleaning, too!  Outdoor plants are constantly being cleaned by wind, rain, etc., but our indoor plants rely on us to clean them.  Just as with any other item in the house, plant leaves can accumulate a layer of dust.   This not only dulls the look of the plant, but is actually harmful to it.

Plant leaves contain small pores called stomata through which gases are exchanged.  When we let a layer of dust and grime to accumulate on the leaves, it reduces the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and ultimately, affects the health of the plant.  To help plants take in the sunlight they need and maintain their health, we need to keep them clean.  While this might seem like a lot of work, a little bit of cleaning will actually make for a healthier plant and a healthier living environment in the long run!

Give Them a Rinse

The fastest way to clean plants is to give them a quick shower using lukewarm water (as both hot and cold water will injure them).  Smaller plants can be washed off in the sink, while larger plants can be moved into the shower for a quick rinse.

Small, delicate plants or those with fuzzy leaves might need to be dunked upside down in a container of water and swished around a bit to remove dirt and debris.  You can water the plant beforehand to help prevent the soil from falling out and then cover the dirt with plastic wrap or foil before turning the plant upside down to wash the leaves.

Always allow the plant to dry before returning it to its place.

Wipe the Individual Leaves

Some plants are just too large to give a bath and in that case, you will need to wash the individual leaves.  Use a soft, damp cloth in one hand to wipe the top and bottom or each leaf while supporting the leave with the other in order to avoid breaking or cracking the leaf.  Commercial leaf shine products are available, but they aren’t really necessary and there is some debate as to whether these products actually harm the plants by clogging the pores.

While working at a plant nursery as a teenager, I was taught to use milk to wipe the plant leaves to help make them shinier.  Again, there is some debate surrounding the use of milk (and mayonnaise) on houseplants and although I personally have never had an adverse effects from using milk, I can’t really tell the difference between leaves cleaned with milk and those cleaned with water.  Given this, I now just use water.

Leaf Before Cleaning - Tidbits&Twine

Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) Before Cleaning

Fiddle-leaf Fig After Cleaning with Water

Fiddle-leaf Fig After Cleaning with Water

Dust them Off

For plants like African Violets, whose leaves don’t like to get wet, you can use a soft brush to wipe the dust off the leaves.  Try a paint brush or a soft toothbrush and use small, gentle strokes to brush off the dust.

Once your plants are clean, be sure to incorporate them into your regular cleaning routine by giving them a quick dusting on a regular basis to prevent large amounts of grime from accumulating.

 

How often you’ll need to wash your plants really depends on the environment in which you live.  The best way to tell if it’s time to clean you plants is to blow the dust off of a leaf, then get eye level with the leaf to see if there is still grime left.  If you can see or feel grime, it’s time for a bath!

 

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