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Cleaning Houseplants

Martha Stewart Living, September 2000

Every houseplant needs regular cleaning to keep it healthy and beautiful. It is easier for plants to breathe, soak up sunlight, and make food through photosynthesis when its leaves are free of dust and other airborne particles.

Shiny-leaved plants are easy to clean. Simply moisten a soft cloth with warm water and wipe both sides of each leaf, or wash leaves by misting with water. To clean several plants at once, set them in the shower under a fine, tepid spray. After washing, use a paper towel to blot excess moisture, which may cause rot or sunscald.

Fuzzy-leaved succulents are sensitive to touch. Washing the fuzzy hairs that protect the plant in arid conditions can be hazardous to the leaves. Instead, use a soft paintbrush and gently dust each leaf.

Cacti, with their sharp spikes, can be tricky to clean. Many also have a waxy coating that helps them conserve moisture. If water remains on the coating, it can act as a magnifier and scorch the leaf. To avoid damaging the waxy coat, spray short bursts of canned compressed air (used to clean cameras) to blow away dust and dirt, or use long tweezers to pick off stray particles.

Comments (2)

  • GreenIguana 8 May, 2010

    I've had good results using 1/2 cup of nonfat milk added to 1 quart of warm water. Moisten cotton balls or small pieces of sponge and carefully clean the leaves. The leaves shine and are not clogged with a residue.

  • mjstar 20 Feb, 2008

    my dad taught me to clean my shiny leafed plants not with water, but milk, on a cotton ball.
    he had an amazing green thumb, so i did what he said. don't know why, but it's always worked!