Cleaning your houseplants is so commonly a missed step in the care routine but it can be super beneficial to their overall health. In this guide, we will take you through why you should be regularly cleaning your plants, as well as how to do it and what to look out for along the way.
Why is it important to clean your houseplants’ leaves?
Cleaning your houseplants’ leaves is crucial to their overall health. If there is a build-up of dust and dirt on the leaves then this can actually block some of the sunlight.
You might not think so because it’s not totally covered up by dust, but even small particles can have an impact. When your plant is getting less light, it slows down photosynthesis which is when your plant turns sunlight into energy. When your plant can’t photosynthesise as well, it can lead to a stressed-out plant and slower/less healthy new growth.
Alongside enhancing photosynthesis, cleaning the leaves of your houseplants also makes them look better! Dusty leaves can look quite dull and just by giving them a quick clean, you can bring a lot more vibrance into the room.
So how do you go about cleaning them? Well, there are a few key things to know to make sure that you aren’t damaging your plants whilst cleaning them. We’ll go through everything you need below.
Signs that it’s time to clean the leaves on your houseplant
If you rub the leaves gently with your fingers and a layer of dust comes off, then it’s definitely time that you clean the leaves. This can build up naturally but is also really common after building works of any kind in your home.
If you notice any sticky residue on your plants then it’s important this is removed. It’s also worth checking if there are any signs of pests that might have caused this residue, or if it came from something falling onto your plant.
If you notice any pests then one of the ways to treat the issue is to give your entire plant a clean and a wash. But even if you haven’t spotted pests yet, doing this regularly can help prevent an infestation.
How to clean the leaves on your houseplants
There are quite a few different methods you can use to successfully clean the leaves of your plants. Not every method will be suitable for all plants (for example, plants with small delicate leaves need to be handled very carefully). But don’t worry, we’ll explain all with each different method.
Wipe the leaves over with a soft dry cloth
For an everyday quick clean, we recommend using a soft dry cloth to wipe over the leaves. This will remove any dust and leave the leaves looking and feeling a lot fresher. This method can be used on most houseplant types, but we recommend against it for plants with super small delicate leaves such as the String of Hearts. It would simply be impossible to go over each leaf and even the smallest touch can damage the stems and the leaves.
When wiping over the leaf, we recommend using your other hand to press up from underneath the leaf. This gives it a bit more stability and means you don’t put all of the weight on the stem joint which can sometimes damage the plant.
Wipe the leaves using a damp cloth
If the leaves haven’t been cleaned for a while, or have become super dirty after building work, for example, then using a damp cloth will work better to remove the grime. Use lukewarm water to avoid shocking the plant and gently wipe over, the same way you would when using a dry cloth.
If this still isn’t getting the dirt off your houseplants, then you can add a small drop of washing up liquid into the water. This will help remove the dust and grime from the leaves but is still a very gentle cleaner.
Use a very soft-bristled brush or feather duster
For plants that either have very delicate leaves or stems (or both), then a feather duster or very soft-bristled brush works best. This will remove the dust without needing to go over every leaf individually or put any pressure on the leaves.
The only thing you need to be careful of is brushing any pests across your houseplants. Whilst this is quite rare, if there are pests living on one of your plants without you realising it, feather dusters can spread them around quite a bit. To avoid this, make sure to check over your plants regularly for signs of pests and dust each plant in isolation, away from your other plants.
Shower your houseplant
Showering is a great way to clean your plant, lift the humidity and get rid of any potential pests all in one go. This is only suitable for plants with very strong leaves and stems as otherwise, you will likely cause damage.
We have three main tips when it comes to showering your houseplants. Firstly, make sure you only wash your plants with lukewarm water. Cold or hot water can shock or burn your plant which is less than ideal.
Secondly, keep the water pressure fairly low. The level depends a lot on what type of plant you are showering as some can deal with a higher water pressure than others. But be careful with this.
Lastly, once you’ve showered your plant, make sure that you let the excess water drain out from the pot for about 15 minutes, before returning it to its usual spot. You don’t want your plant’s roots to be sitting in pools of water as this can cause root rot.
Submerge your houseplant in water
If you want to wash your plant down but it has quite weak stems, or you’re worried about getting the water pressure right, then submerging your plant is a great alternative. Grab a container large enough to cover your plant and fill it with lukewarm water. Then slowly lower your plant into the water and submerge for a few minutes. Remove and let it drip dry before returning your plant to its usual spot.
Can I use leaf shine to clean my houseplants?
We actually advise against using leaf shine or products with chemicals in when cleaning your plants. Some products can actually clog up the little pores in your plant’s leaves, meaning they can’t breathe (take in carbon dioxide) as well as they need to survive. There are some better leaf shine products out there that don’t do it as much but for us, it’s not worth the risk.
Using harsh chemicals can also eat away at your plants, causing holes or discoloured patches on your plants. This is why we tend to only recommend washing up liquid to remove anything that water won’t on its own.
Tips on how to maintain clean houseplant leaves
Get into a dusting routine
It’s best to get into the habit of dusting your leaves with a dry or damp cloth about once a month. You might find some rooms are dustier than others which means some plants might need more or less attention when it comes to cleaning, but on average once a month will prevent dust from building up too much.
By keeping on top of it regularly, it reduces the need for larger deep cleans and helps keep photosynthesis levels where they should be.
Ventilate your home well
To prevent lots of dust from settling onto your houseplants, ensure that the rooms have good ventilation. This helps keep the air moving which has a range of benefits for your houseplants including temperature control and keeping the humidity up. A well-ventilated room doesn’t mean a drafty one though so watch out for any drafts that might be damaging your plants.
Buy an air purifier
Alongside creating nice clean air for you, air purifiers can help remove dust and toxins from the air that will keep your houseplants looking and feeling fresher. A great investment for your home and one that’s benefitted us and our plants a lot over the years.
Find a better spot for your houseplants
FiId that a few of your plants are just getting a lot dustier and dirtier than others? It might be because of where they are in your home. You might need to relocate your plants to a better spot to keep them cleaner and healthier.
Mist your plant’s leaves
Misting is a great way to not only boost the humidity, but to remove dust from your plant’ leaves. It’s important that you only do this to plants that need medium to high humidity levels and reduce the level of misting during winter. Cold damp leaves invite leaf rot which isn’t ideal.
Mist your plants in the morning so that there’s enough time for the water particles to evaporate before it gets cold and dark.
Move plants when you’re having building works
Dust from renovations can be a really big problem for houseplants and they hate being covered in a thin layer of dust and debris. If you are having work done, make sure to move your houseplants as far away as possible.
Whilst it’s not ideal, another good way to keep your plants away from dust is to cover them with a sheet. This is only really an option for a day or so as the lower light level can start to impact them pretty quickly. Top tip: use a transparent sheet to cover your plants as this way they still get some sunlight whilst being sheltered from the renovations.
We hope our guide to cleaning your houseplants has been useful and you now know how and why to keep the leaves free from dust and dirt. We find that keeping on top of regular dusting really helps to prevent the need for a longer more intense clean and means our plants stay vibrant.
You might think that it’s only valuable to clean your plants in spring and summer as growth levels dip during the colder months of the year, but cleaning in winter is just as important. Because the sun is out for less of the day and is weaker overall, you need to make sure you are maximising the light available.
This is why you’ll often see us recommend that you move your plants a little closer to the window in winter. Cleaning the leaves and removing any particles that will block out the sun can also help your plant receive as much sunlight as possible!