For most of the continental U.S., we bring a lot of our plants indoors during the winter months. Some of us have year-round houseplants. This is great if you do because indoor plants not only provide ambiance to a home, but they clean the air, provide oxygen, and get rid of toxins in the home. (You can read more about what plants are essential for indoors and detoxifying your home in my blog, “How to Detoxify your Home“.)
So how do we take care of the plants in the home? Did you know not properly dusting and cleaning your plants can have harmful health effects?
Leaves of plants accumulate dust over time. This dust not only prevents the plant from acquiring proper sunlight but can lead to mold and bacteria growth. It also attracts insects who feed off of the mold and bacteria and nobody wants bugs in their home.
The Do’s and Don’ts
- Do take steps to regularly spray your indoor plants with lukewarm water, but only if they are tropical such as banana trees, etc. A non-tropical plant does not require spraying, but this can prevent future dust from settling on it and is a good preventative measure for any indoor plant. If it’s an outdoor plant being brought in for the winter, I personally wouldn’t bother. For tropical plants, it’s more important because they experience warm mists in their native climate.
- Don’t use cold water on tropical plants. This may cause shock to the plant and will leave ugly spots on the leaves.
- Small plants can be taken to a sink or shower and sprayed with an attachment hand sprayer. Make sure not to spray too hard and make sure the water is again, lukewarm. You can swish the leaves in the water if there are many as these tend to have a lot of leaves and cleaning each would be time-consuming. Allow the plant to drip dry.
- Big leafy plants can be wiped down with a smooth, wet (lukewarm) cloth. Make sure this is not abrasive as this can damage the leaf. I use cheese cloths personally, but an old t-shirt or similar would do. Do not use paper towels or napkins as these can be abrasive and leave behind little bits of the paper on the leaves. If you clean using this method, always support the leaf with one hand.
- For long leafy plants, you can dip the leaves into a bucket of lukewarm water next to it and swish the leaves around in the bucket to clean.
- If the leaves are delicate, I recommend using cotton. Cotton balls work well.
- Do not use dish soap or vinegar to clean your plants. I know some sites recommend this, but I would advise against it. Both, if accidentally exposed to the soil of the plant, may harm the plant. Vinegar is highly acidic so you could use this with highly acidic plants such as the blueberry bush or azalea. The majority of plants out there are alkaline and do not tolerate acidity in the soil. Most dish soaps contain harmful chemicals you do not want leaching into the soil.
- If you have a lot of grime on the leaves and nothing else works, you can try using an old soft toothbrush on the leaves with lukewarm water, but only as a last resort. Make sure not to scrub too hard.
- Place the plant outside. Allowing the wind to carry dust off of your plant is a really easy way of cleaning them. If you can’t do this, you could always try using a blow dryer as well (just not too close to the leaf as these can get hot).
A couple of items to note:
- Cleaning cactuses is tricky. I recommend a spray bottle, but they don’t like their soil overly wet so when cleaning these, make sure not to inundate your cactus with too much water.
- It’s best to wash your plants when they need water.
- Don’t expose the roots to hot or water.
- Rule of thumb is to dust/wash your plants off at least once a year. Preventative spraying can be done year-round, once or twice a week.
- Once your plant’s leaves are dry, use the inside of a banana peel to make the leaves shine! (banana peels are also great for shining and polishing shoes! ;))
Indoor plants, for the most part, are pretty low maintenance. Dusting and/or washing off your plants may seem like a hassle, but the benefits and beauty they provide to your home far exceed the extra time it takes to care for them. Comment below if you know any other tricks to dusting your plants!