Why and How to Clean Houseplants: Tips, Benefits & Types of Plants

Healthy houseplants are clean houseplants, or are they? Do you need to clean houseplants, and if so, how do you do it? The short answer is that it’s a good idea when done right but isn’t the most important part of houseplant care. Here is what else you should know about how to clean houseplants.

Is It Important to Clean Houseplants?

If you want houseplants that are as healthy and vibrant as possible, then a little light cleaning is a good idea. When a lot of dust builds up on leaves, the plants won’t be able to get the same amount of light and air that it needs for photosynthesis. Often, it boils down to houseplants that survive vs. houseplants that thrive. You can have houseplants for years and never bother to dust or clean their leaves, but if you want these plants to live their best lives with full foliage and flower growth, then yes it’s important to clean. The other reason why you should clean houseplants is that it provides an opportunity to closely inspect your houseplants for signs of pests or disease. Keep an eye out for weak growth, unusual spots, or discoloration.

How to Clean Your Houseplants

First, remove any dead, fallen growth from the soil and area surrounding the pot. Next, remove any diseased, discolored, or dead growth that’s still attached to the plant. Should this be necessary, it’s best to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to help the plant repair itself and prepare for new growth.

Next, take a clean cloth and gently clean the remaining leaves. A light misting can facilitate this process, but we recommend wiping the leaves with a cloth afterward. Support the leaves with your hand to avoid damage during this process. For houseplants with leaves that don’t like to get wet, like the African violet, you can use a soft-bristle paintbrush or a plain toothbrush if you’re careful. Find more plant cleaning tips.

How NOT to Clean Your Houseplants

There are just a couple things you need to watch out for. You shouldn’t need to scrub or otherwise become abrasive when cleaning houseplant leaves. Simply get the dust or mildew off the leaf. Leaf shine is NOT the way to clean your houseplants. These oils, waxes, and polishes will make your leaves look glossy for a little while, but will clog pores in the leaves and reduce plant respiration. A healthy houseplant will be fine, but if anything, this type of leaf shine treatment is adding stress to your plant.

If you like the look of glossy foliage, we recommend a ZZ plant, schleffera, jade plant, peperomias, or other plants with waxy leaves. The only times we recommend using leaf shine are when you’re trying to impress someone short-term. Home stagers, for example, might use leaf shine on the few potted plants they’ve placed for an open house.


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