The One Big Mistake You’re Making When Cleaning Your Houseplants

published Dec 26, 2021
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Fiddle leaf fig in a home
Credit: Lauren Kolyn

I once had a roommate who loved plants but invariably killed them with too much care. So many times I caught her lovingly (over)watering a miniature indoor rose plant and had to stop her. She brought new meaning to the phrase “kill them with kindness.”

Even if you think you know much better than to overwater your verdant friends, even the most plant-savvy always have something more to learn. And according to The Sill, one plant care habit in particular has the potential of crossing the line from responsible plant ownership to unintentional, misinformed “care.”

While cleaning plant leaves is important, using leaf shine products can do more harm than good. Leaf shine products, often used to make plants appear healthy in the store, can actually clog plants’ pores and make it difficult for them to breathe. Dust might not be suffocating your plants, but the leaf shine products are! Furthermore, leaf shine products can often attract more dust and make it harder to clean from your plant leaves.

Artificial shine can also make your plants appear fake. And let’s be real, you aren’t spending so much time and energy watering, re-potting, and trimming your real plants only to have them look like plastic ones. Ditch the plant shine, and practice these safe and effective plant-cleaning habits instead:

Use a damp rag and water. A slightly damp microfiber rag lifts dirt and dust, so your plants look clean and natural and can breathe their best.

Remove residue with vinegar and water. If you’ve used a leaf shine product or suspect that someone else did before you bought your plant, use a diluted solution of white vinegar and water to remove it from your plant leaves.

Dish soap and water. If your plant is suffering from an infestation of spider mites or other pests, a solution of water and a few drops of dish soap can help address the situation. You can use a rag or your hands to apply the solution to both the tops and undersides of the leaves. Make sure to rinse the soap from the leaves.

Give your plants a shower or, better yet, a rain bath. One efficient way to clean all your plants’ leaves is to give them a shower. Gather all your plants in a shower stall, bathtub, or large sink. Use a sprayer attachment to rinse leaves and give your plants a deep drink of water at the same time. You can also treat your plants to a lovely rain bath by setting them outside before a rainstorm. With either method, don’t use it on plants that live in containers without drainage holes. In addition, take pots that have drainage holes out of their decorative containers so your plants don’t get waterlogged.