6 simple steps to cleaning indoor plants

July 28, 2015

Your plants need more than regular watering. To maintain your plants' ability to grow, you need to clean them. This is important to do, because grime is the enemy of photosynthesis, the process in which leaves absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide to make food for the plant.

6 simple steps to cleaning indoor plants

1. Dust

Remove dust and dirt from plants the same way that you remove dust and dirt from yourself — with a shower. The shower will also help remove any insects.

2. Prepare the pot

  • Put the pot in a plastic bag and tie the bag tightly around the base of the plant without injuring it. You want to be sure the plant doesn't get over-watered in the shower.
  • If your plant has multiple stems, lay extra plastic bags between the stems.
  • Put the plant in the shower and sprinkle tepid water, which is neither hot nor cold, over the plant for a few minutes.
  • Sometimes minerals found in the shower water will build up on the plant's leaves, making them look dull. To clean the minerals off hard-surfaced (not hairy) leaves, wipe with a dry, clean rag.
  • Support each leaf with your free hand as you wipe.
  • Another method to use is to gently scrape the minerals off with your thumb.
  • Cleaning plants with hairy leaves is a little trickier. First give them a gentle dusting with a feather duster and then hit the shower, as mentioned above.

3. Let them dry

  • After the plants have had their shower, allow them to dry thoroughly in the shower stall, or set them on paper towels or old newspapers until they're not dripping any more.
  • If you return them to direct sunlight too quickly and they're still wet, the light could unfortunately burn the leaves.

4. Check plant’s surroundings

Make sure the window you set your plant in is clean so that the plant will get optimal sunlight.

5. Attack mineral deposits

  • White mineral deposits can be toxic to your plants, so gently scrape them from the soil surface and the inner rim of the pot.
  • If you have an extreme case of mineral build-up, put the pot in a sink, where it can drain freely and run a lot of water through the soil to remove the minerals.
  • Don't do this during times of low light or dormancy. Plants should be actively growing; otherwise they may develop root rot.

6. Cacti and succulents

  • Cleaning a cactus requires a gentle touch — not only to prevent skewering yourself, but also to protect the waxy coating that helps the plant conserve moisture in desert climates.
  • Stick to misting your cactus with a spray bottle filled with water, and even then only clean the areas of the plant that are showing dirt or dust.
  • Make the cleaning quick and gentle, and let the cactus dry before putting it back into direct sunlight.
  • As an alternative, you can use long tweezers to carefully pick off any dust particles.
  • To clean succulents with fuzzy leaves, use a feather duster or a soft paintbrush to remove dust. The fuzziness protects the plant in arid conditions, and washing can be hazardous to the leaves.
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