How to clean dusty houseplant leaves

From watering to fertilizing to making sure they get adequate sunlight, plant parents do many things to ensure that their houseplants are growing and thriving. But did you know, houseplants also benefit from a good dusting, or leaf cleaning, from time to time? Just like anything in your house, plant's leaves will accumulate dust and even mineral deposits from hard water. In this blog, you will find out how to clean your houseplants leaves along with the importance of keeping them dust free.

Advantages of Clean Houseplant Leaves

It may not have crossed your mind before, but dust build up on plant's leaves can effect the amount of sunlight your plant is able to absorb. A thick layer of dust on the plant's leaves will hinder the photosynthesis process.

Photosynthesis is the process in which plants absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight through the plant's leaves, and convert it into energy. This energy aids the plants in things like water absorption, keeping green healthy leaves, and even creating oxygen as a by product. So, in short, having clean houseplants is extremely beneficial.

single snake plant in a white planter on a plant standSingle snake plant in a white planter on a plant stand
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

Another crucial reason you should clean plant leaves, is to help keep plant pest infestations away. Plant pests like spider mites, thrive on dirty, dusty leaves. In order to prevent pests, it's important to regularly remove dust off plant's leaves.

Cleaning dust off plant's leaves also gives you one on one time with your plants and gives you the time to take a closer look at their overall health. You can examine any damage on the leaves, check an individual leaf to see if there's any plant pests lurking in the shadows or check any mysterious spots on damage leaves. This one on one time is most important for those larger plants that don't often get a lot of intention. Neglected plants often accumulate the most amount of dust and are the most susceptible to pest infestations.

How to clean your plant leaves

There's many different ways to clean plants leaves. My go to method, is to wash them down in the shower once a month. When it's watering day, I put all my plants in the bath and run the shower making sure the water pressure isn't too low but is high enough to knock off any dust and debris off the entire plant. When I go to return the plants back in their place, if I notice the leaves are still dirty, I'll use a damp cloth and gently wipe down the dirty leaves.

A plant picture featuring a zz plant and monsteraA plant picture featuring a ZZ plant and juvenile Monstera delisciosa
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Since getting into the habit showering my plants down monthly, I've notice a difference in overall plant's health and a drastic decrease in plant pests. And while this method is very effective, keep in mind that your plants will need time for the leaves to dry, it's never ideal to keep leaves wet as this could lead to fungal problems. After a proper spray down, give your plants plenty of air flow, maybe even by a fan, so they can air dry as fast as possible.

Last thing to keep in mind when showering your plant leaves is to always make sure your plants are planted in pots with a drainage hole. You want to prevent any excess water from pooling by the plant roots and having a drainage hole is one hard and fast rule to prevent root rot.

Products for cleaning plants

From store brought leaf shine products to DIY solutions, there's many different things you can use to clean plant leaves.

Homemade leaf shine using neem oil for houseplants

Neem oil is one of the top recommended and top used plant cleaning products. Mix together equal parts of neem oil and water with a dash of dish soap. This solution is a great DIY method of and will help your plant leaves shine. The neem oil is also a natural way to prevent pests. Once a pest starts munching on the plant leaves, the neem oil will suffocate it. However, neem oil isn't the best option for an ongoing infestation but best used for prevention.

You can read more on plant pests here.

Clean plants with a sponge and soapy water solution

A soap and water solution is another good go-to method to clean indoor plants, especially if you're dealing with plant pests. Using a spray bottle and microfiber cloth gently spray down the houseplant leaves and carefully wipe the tops and bottoms. If the plant leaves have spider mites or thrips, clean the plant, remove any damage or dead leaves, and isolate indoor plant for 5-6 weeks. During this quarantine period, continue to clean the leaves on a weekly basis until you no longer see any pests.

single hand holding a spray bottleA hand with pink rubber glove holding a yellow spray bottle
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Lemon Juice and Water to Clean Plant Leaves

Lemon juice and water is a good DIY solution to clean plant leaves with hard water spots. Simply mix equal parts of lemon juice and water in a spray bottle and clean the houseplant leaves with a soft cloth. The lemon juice will leave your plants with those ideal shiny leaves.

When to use a Soft Brush

In some cases, with certain plants, it's best to clean them with a soft brush rather then giving them a complete water dunk. Plants like African violets, with delicate leaves, are the types of plants that will fall under this category. To clean these soft, fuzzy leaves, gently brush any dust off and carefully remove dirt you see.

Is Baby Oil, Coconut Oil, or Olive Oil Safe for Plant Leaves?

I've seen many times, things like baby oil, coconut oil or olive oil be recommended to use as a DIY solution for cleaning plants, especially if you want shiny leaves. However, these oils are too heavy to use on houseplant leaves. These oils can have long term effects on your plants and ever hinder the plant's ability to photosynthesize. It's better to use the DIY products mentioned before or a leaf shine product you can find at any big box store.

coconut oil in a spoon next to open coconutsCoconut oil in a spoon next to open coconuts
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

These oils aren't able to be absorbed by houseplants, so that oil will just sit on top of these leaves. This oil will draw in more dust and pests and make it harder to clean in the long run.

More plant related blogs:
Fertilizing your plants 101
How to attach a climbing plant to a wooden plank
How often should you water your houseplants?