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How I Clean the Leaves of My Plants | Maintenance

I LOVE caring for my houseplants…that “love” is really a prerequisite if you want to be a good plant parent. It’s really not that different from being a parent of anything (human, dog, pet, etc.). It starts with a desire, followed by unconditional love, and then dedication to see things through, ensuring “them” a happy life. Don’t be rolling your eyes at me…I know they’re just plants. In my book of life, if something can die, it can live, so when I decide to care for something that can live, I do with it with love and passion. Where did all that come from? Oh, yeah–I am here to share with you how I clean my plants.

In order to grow healthy, thriving plants, we need to take care of them. Each plant comes with a list of requirements–light, water, fertilizer, and so forth–but today, I wanted to share a maintenance tip: how I clean the leaves of a plant. I know that there are a LOT of ways to go about this, but after testing many different methods, I have found that the following technique has led to strong, thriving plants that are pest-free (except for the occasional freeloader that hitched a ride on a new plant).

This method came to me one day when I doing routine cleaning of a plant that I just brought home from the store. You can read more on that (here). In a nutshell, every plant that comes into my fold starts off with a refreshing shower, following by a heavy dousing of my neem oil solution. The refreshing shower removes any plant pests that are hanging around on the leaves. The neem oil solution works as a natural pesticide that helps to kill off any mealybugs, spider mites, etc. that may be tucked in hard-to-reach places. Neem oil is a plant staple for me, so I got the idea to use it as part of my plant pest maintenance routine.

The Benefits of Cleaning Plant Leaves

Not only does the following method clean the leaves, but it also fights against plant pests. Trust me, it doesn’t take long for dust to accumulate on plants. A layer of dust on the leaves of houseplants will block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, which is how the plant feeds itself.

Plants breathe through their leaves through little pores called stomata, and many leaf shine products end up clogging these stomata with either oil or wax. It’s just like your skin – you get blemishes when you have too much residue blocking your pores. The difference is that plants don’t get pimples; their clogged pores mean suffocation and maybe even death.

Supplies Needed

Instructions

  1. Tear one sheet of paper towels into fourths. Place the pieces in a bowl.
  2. Douse the paper towels with the neem oil solution. If the plant is really dirty or large in size, change out the paper towels when they become soiled.
  3. Clean both sides of the leaves; dust collects on top and critters collect underneath (and sometimes on the top of the leaves as well).
  4. Support the leaves with one hand while wiping them down to avoid bruising or cracking them.
  5. When I am done cleaning the leaves, I like to spray the top of the soil with the solution and wipe down the pot with moistened paper towels. Plant pests hang out in these areas as well.

 

Key Points

  • Do not share paper towels between different plants. You don’t want to transfer pests or diseases.
  • You can use microfiber cloths, but you should use a new clean one for each plant, which can lead to a lot of dirty towels that need to be washed.
  • Do not use a feather duster to clean the leaves, as this will spread pests to neighboring plants.
  • With the same doused paper towels, wipe the lip and sides of the pot, since pests can hang out there too.
  • There is no limit to how often you can do this.
  • Not all plants can be cleaned this way; African violets, fuzzy-leafed plants, etc. For those, remove the dust with a soft-bristled paintbrush, or use a soft toothbrush or pipe cleaner. Stroke from the base of the leaf to the tip to dislodge dust and other debris.
  • Dust accumulates on surfaces throughout your home, which means a couple of monthly wipe-downs are necessary in order to get rid of the build-up and prevent more from accumulating. The leaves of your potted plants are no exception and should be wiped down whenever you’re cleaning the house or when watering them. I tend to wipe them down every 2-3 waterings.

 

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