Although cleaning house plants probably ranks somewhere between wiping down the blades on the ceiling fan and cleaning out the gutters on your to-do list, it’s a chore that’s critical to the plant and, one could argue, to humanity. Let’s go back to science class for a minute in order to understand why a clean plant is a productive plant. Remember that little thing called photosynthesis? Leaves are a central organ in the process. Technically, the stomata, which are small openings all over the surface of the leaves, absorbs carbon dioxide. At the same time, the chlorophyll in the leaves absorb sunlight. The process of photosynthesis then converts the water and CO2 into sugar plants need to grow and oxygen we need to breathe.
That’s a long way of saying that dusty, dirty, grimy leaves on your house plants can result in dusty, dirty, grimy air in your home. So bump that chore up your list a bit. Here are a few ideas of how to accomplish the task with spending endless hours wiping down every individual leaf.
Take a shower
Your morning shower is likely a rejuvenating ritual and your plants share your affinity. After all, it’s natural for plants to storm the rain, absorb the water and experience a cleansing. Take that concept inside by moving your plants to the shower. You can join them or place plants into the bathtub and use a detachable shower head to do the job. Give each plant a thorough soaking with cool to lukewarm water, allowing the water to both wash the leaves and provide moisture to the soil. Do not use hot or cold water that can be too shocking for the plant. Once saturated, give each plant a gentle shake to remove standing water on the leaves. Allow plants to drain into the empty tub and wipe off any excess water from the pot before placing it back on furniture. If you do not have drain holes in your planter, strain off excess water from the soil to avoid root rot.
Grab a feather duster
Like every other surface in your home, the leaves on your plants will collect dust. It’s best to provide regular dustings rather than trying to deal with a thick layer of dust down the road. When feather dusting, lightly move over the surfaces of the plant, weaving between branches to touch the top and bottom of leaves. Use caution so you don’t disrupt blooms or knock healthy leaves off the plant.
Take them outside
Another mess-free way to clean your plants is to take the task outside. Put your plants in a shady spot in the lawn, on your deck or patio. Use a shower setting on your garden hose to wash the plants, give them a gentle shake, and allow them to dry before bringing them back indoors. Often the water pressure from any of these showering techniques causes some of the soil to slop out. By completing the chore outdoors, clean up is a breeze. Just bring your plants indoors and hose the area down.
Use the sink
The kitchen sink may or may not be an easier option than the shower, but the concept is the same. Use your faucet nozzle set to spray for a shower effect on each plant. You will likely have to wash plants in a rotation if you have more than two or three. Allow plants to drain and dry off pots before removing them from the sink and then start on a new batch until they are all cleaned.
Use a mister
Not all plants can easily be moved to the bathroom or outdoors due to size and other factors. The deep soak isn’t necessary on a regular basis either, so in between showers, give your plants a spit bath with a mister. Any spray bottle set to a mist can provide the moisture, humidity and cleaning your plants need. Keep a spray bottle filled for this purpose.
Some plants won’t respond well to showers, like those with spiky or furry leaves. For these plants, use a mixture of dish soap and water on a regular basis to keep the leaves dust free.
Cleaning is more than removing dust
Once you’ve set aside the time to give your plants the TLC they deserve, make sure to check in on their general health and not just their personal hygiene. Remove any dead leaves from the plant and the soil below it. Dead leaves can contain bacteria and contaminate otherwise healthy soil. Also check the leaves of your houseplants for bugs and insects. Similarly, watch for bugs being flushed away while you wash your plants. If you see insects on your houseplants it might be time to treat them. Sometimes you can only see evidence of very small pests or disease so look for symptoms like black spots, webbing and sticky or curling leaves.
Healthy plants provide healthy air, so make the commitment to care for your plants with regular dusting and a cleansing shower every now and then. Breathe in the victory of your efforts.
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