Everyone knows how quickly dust, grease and grime can accumulate inside the home. But, while you probably clean your furniture on a regular basis you probably haven’t even considered that airborne particles are also gathering on your houseplants leaves and stems. Most people don’t even think about how dirty their plants are until they are completely covered. And, dirty leaves result in a very unhealthy plant.
Outside plants are washed naturally by the rain, but inside plants need a helping hand to stay clean. Everyone has heard of photosynthesis, the process where plants absorb carbon dioxide and sun to produce food. The plants leaves inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen through openings called stomatas. When these openings become clogged, the plant can no longer make food.
Keeping your houseplants clean will not only make them look better it will also help to stimulate growth and reduce insects and pests. How often you need to clean them will depend on the area in which you live. If you live in a windy area, or near dirt roads or a busy street, you may need to clean them more often. A good way to tell if it’s time to clean your plants is to try to blow the dust off the leaves. If you can’t blow it off, it’s time for a good cleaning!
The quickest and easiest way to clean the plant is to sit it in the shower or sink and spray it. Make sure to adjust the water so that it’s lukewarm and not cold or hot which can damage the plant. You also need to make sure the water pressure isn’t too strong for the plant or you could end up ripping leaves off or breaking the stems. Thoroughly spray the leaves on both sides to remove as much grime and dust as possible.
If the leaves are really dirty or greasy, combine one quart of water and about a fourth of a teaspoon of dish liquid in a spray bottle. Just make sure that you rinse the plant thoroughly with clean water after you’ve cleaned it. Just as soap can leave a film on your shower it can leave a film on the plant that can be as harmful as the dust and grime. So, make sure you rinse all the soap away.
While spraying your houseplants might be the easiest way to clean them, depending on the pot it’s not the best way for some plants. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes in the bottom spraying will leave the soil drenched and can cause the roots to rot. It’s also not a good choice for plants that are too large or heavy to move to a sink or tub. For these plants you will need to clean the leaves individually by hand.
To clean the leaves by hand you’ll need a soft cloth. Pieces cut from an old tee-shirt or an old cotton sock are both ideal. Simply wet the cloth in lukewarm water and gently wipe each leaf. Use your hand to support the leaf to prevent breakage. If the leaves are really dirty you can use the dish liquid method to remove the grime. Once the leaves are clean, use a clean cloth in clean water to remove as much of the dish liquid as possible.
Spray cleaning or using dish liquid and water is a great way to clean plants with smooth leaves, but it’s not ideal for plants with fuzzy leaves or plants that are prone to water spots. The best way to clean this type of plant is with a soft paint brush or a makeup brush. Support the leaves in your hand and gently brush them until they are clean.
If you have purchased a new houseplant that has a white film all over the leaves it’s most likely calcium. Many nurseries get their water from wells and it has a high calcium content. The best way to remove the film is with a mixture of water and a small amount of vinegar. Either put the mixture in a spray bottle or use a cloth to wipe each leaf.
Although some people suggest using food products like milk and mayonnaise to clean leaves and make them shine, it’s not a good idea. Mayonnaise contains oil that can clog the stomatas and defeat the whole purpose of cleaning the plant. Food products are also very likely to attract pests such as flies and gnats. It’s much better to use plain water or a soap and water mixture to clean your houseplants.
Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2011 HousePlantsForYou.com