How to Clean Artificial Plants

updated Sep 28, 2022
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window sil full of fake plants
Credit: Sarah Crowley

It’s impossible to overstate the difference that greenery makes in the look and feel of a room. But real plants aren’t for everyone. For anyone who can’t care for plants (or doesn’t want to), want to add a touch of green in low-light situations, or is afraid of committing to a real plant, artificial plants can be welcome, beautiful stand-ins for the real thing. But to keep faux plants looking real, you must make sure they’re kept clean, lest they show signs of being fake.

Artificial plants don’t need water or fertilizer and won’t drop leaves when a draft comes in, but fake plants still need care to keep them looking good. And this care is exclusively in the form of dealing with dust. While real plant leaves collect dust (and also need to be cleaned regularly), fake plants always seem to collect a film of thick filth faster—and that buildup of dust is a telltale sign that your plant friends are faux.

To keep your artificial greenery looking alive, you need to dust them regularly and, occasionally, clean them more deeply. Here’s how you do it.

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Credit: Sarah Crowley

How Often Should You Clean Fake Plants?

Artificial plants collect dust just as much as anything that has a surface, which is to say, continuously. Include them in your regular dusting routine by swiping your microfiber duster over them in broad strokes around once a week. Dusting regularly prevents dust from accumulating and becoming increasingly harder to remove.

Artificial plants should also be regularly deep cleaned. Again, regular cleaning helps prevent the buildup of a harder-to-remove film of dust and grime. Aim to deep clean your artificial plants about twice a year.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How to Deep Clean Your Artificial Plants

Cleaning your artificial plants isn’t difficult, and you probably have everything you need on hand. Delicate silk flowers require special care, but for plastic, polyester, or sturdier silk foliage, you can try one of these three methods.

1. The Shower Method

If you can fit your plants in the shower, that’s one quick and easy way to rinse the dust away. Grab a trash bag, your duster (or paint brush, or your vacuum cleaner), and your plant, and head to the bathroom. Or take them outside if you have a hose.

  1. Take your plant outside or into the shower.
  2. Dust off the leaves of your artificial plant using a small paint brush or a microfiber duster. (You could also use a vacuum cleaner fixed with the brush attachment to suck up the dust, but the suction could be too strong for some delicate artificial plants.)
  3. Wrap a garbage bag around any portions of the plant that shouldn’t get wet—such as moss in the plant’s pot, for instance—and seal the top of the bag with string or packing tape.
  4. Use cool water from the shower head or hose to rinse off your plant’s leaves, stem, surface, or wherever dust collects.
  5. Set your plant on a towel or outside in the shade to dry.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

2. The Leaf-by-Leaf Method

This method is a little more labor-intensive, but it can still be done quickly. You only need a damp cloth and can leave your plants in place right where they are.

  1. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down your plant, leaf by leaf.
  2. If the plant is large, you might need to rinse your dusty cloth out before you’re done. Just run the cloth under cool water until it’s mostly clean, then squeeze excess water out until the cloth is just damp, and continue cleaning leaf by leaf.

3. The Vinegar Method

If water alone doesn’t seem to be cutting through the grime, or your plants are more intricate, you might need to add some white vinegar to the mix (literally). The vinegar will help cut through a built-up film of dust.

  1. Create a half-vinegar, half-water solution and mix it in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray down your artificial plant with the solution. For really tough build-up, let the vinegar solution sit for around five minutes.
  3. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe away as much of the vinegar and dust as you can.

How to Clean Delicate Silk Flowers

Silk flowers require special care. Because of the way silk flowers are constructed and the dyes that are often used, liquid cleaning could cause colors to run. But there’s a dry cleaning solution that won’t hurt your silk flowers, using cornmeal or salt to gently abrade the dust from petals and leaves.

If your arrangement of silk flowers is small enough to fit in a large zip-top plastic baggie (or can be dismantled piece by piece), here’s what to do.

  1. Grab a large zip-top baggie or an old pillowcase, and fill it with either ½ cup of cornmeal or ½ cup of salt.
  2. Add your arrangement to the bag or pillowcase if it fits. If not, remove stems a few at a time from your arrangement and add them to your bag (you’ll have to do this a few times). Take note of where the stems go so you can put them back and maintain the shape of your arrangement.
  3. Seal your bag or twist up your pillowcase and grab the end.
  4. Gently shake your flowers around in the bag.
  5. Remove the stems or the arrangement and shake off the salt or cornmeal. (You may want to do this outside or over a trash can.)
  6. Use a hairdryer (on the cool setting) to blow off any remaining granules of cornmeal or salt.
  7. If applicable, replace the stems on your plant and repeat the process for each section.

Can Silk Plants Get Wet?

Some silk plants can get wet, but getting others wet can cause colors to bleed. Foliage-only silk plants tend to fare better when wet than silk flowers. If you want to try a wet method, especially on colorful flowers, test in an inconspicuous area first. If you’d rather not risk it or you notice color bleeding, try the dry method outlined above instead.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How Do You Clean Fake Plants with Hairspray?

If you need a quick way to make your fake plants look clean without the more painstaking work of actually removing the dust, you can spray your artificial plants with a coating of hairspray, then shake them clean. The hairspray will dislodge some of the dust and leave behind a sheen, so your plants will appear clean and shiny for a fraction of the cost of silk plant cleaner.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Can You Put Fake Flowers in the Dishwasher?

Some fake flowers and plants can be put in the dishwasher. Check for colorfastness first, so you don’t ruin your flowers or dye the inside of your dishwasher! And make sure every part of your plant (including the pot and ground cover) can get wet. Choose a gentle cycle and don’t use detergent.

How Do You Shine Artificial Plants?

A silk plant cleaner that’s specifically made to make artificial plants look good as new will make your fake plants shine. You can also try hairspray, which, like the silk plant cleaner, seems to make dust and dirt melt away while leaving behind an impressive shine.

How Do I Keep Dust Off My Artificial Plants?

The first line of defense against dusty artificial plants is a regular dusting routine. Try to dust your plants with a duster or cloth once a week as part of your regular housekeeping. This keeps dust from forming a thick stuck-on layer that requires deep cleaning. You can also try a leaf shine product that promises to keep dust from settling.

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