Boost Your Houseplant’s Longevity With This One Simple Upkeep Step

shiny monstera houseplant

Indoor (and outdoor) plants have fundamental needs that we’re all aware of— water and sunlight being perhaps the 2 most important variables of survival. For your houseplants to sustain and thrive, a good location, proper humidity level, and pest control are important too. However, taking it one step further, there’s a secondary step that will help your plant flourish to a new level. It’s as simple as cleaning your plants’ leaves! Doing this easy task will keep your plant breathing, growing, and glowing by cleansing the pores of the leaves so they don’t become clogged or succumb to pests. 

Why Clean the Leaves?

dusty fiddle leaf fig leaves

  • Check Plant Health

Have you taken a look lately at the leaves of your plant? The leaves often alert us of the current state and health of the plant as a whole— whether they’re green and vibrant (mostly indicating a healthy plant) or droopy, dull, yellowing, browning (showing cause for concern). Perhaps maybe you spot leaf tears, a colony of insects that have established residence on your plant, or even fungus growth. Whatever you notice, cleaning the leaves provides the perfect opportunity to check in with your plant and address any potential problems. 

  • Pest Management

The simple act of cleaning houseplant leaves will also act as a built-in pest control to prevent future bugs from inhabiting your plant. There can always be little critters, especially ones that are invisible to the naked eye (like spider mites), crawling around your plant. While it’s normal for indoor plants to at some point experience insects, it shouldn’t be a regular thing that gets out of our control. Wiping the leaves regularly will wipe out any potential problem before it even gets to the point of being noticable (and, well, more of a problem than before). 

  • Support Performance   

Not only are the leaves visually telling, but they also rely on breathing to remain healthy. Plant leaves contain pores, called stomata, which are responsible for the plant’s gas and moisture exchange. To efficiently breathe, the leaves need to be clear of debris like dust and dander that commonly accumulates on household plants. When that dirty layer forms, it ends up blocking the penetration of sunlight, hindering the plant from photosynthesis and transpiration. With these weakened vital functions, the plant cannot absorb and create energy sufficiently. Specifically, when the stomata are blocked or closed, the plant uses its reserves to function. This, in turn, leads to slow growth and susceptibility to pests and diseases. 

houseplant spray bottle

The simple solution is to check your plant’s leaves every couple of weeks by giving them a quick, gentle swipe with a damp cloth or microfiber. Generally, in the wild, this process of cleaning the leaves happens naturally in a plant’s outdoor living habitat. With rainfall, wind, and other flora and fauna around, the plants are naturally cared for in their environment. But exactly how do we mimic this process indoors?... 

How To Clean Houseplant Leaves:

misting houseplant with water

  • Try to stay away from cleaning the leaves with harsh chemicals or oils that may burn the leaves or even further clog the pores. 
  • Leaf wiping works for most plants, but not for fuzzy leafed plants (like certain cacti). 
  • Just a little lukewarm water on a cloth will work perfectly. Be sure to use a different cloth for each plant as you want to minimize the risk of spreading any pests from plant to plant (again, they may be microscopic and unnoticeable). 
  • Swipe the entire unit— starting with the top or inner leaves, clean the front and back of each leaf. Remembering the back of the leaves is very important as pests typically hang out and lay eggs there. Then moving down and/or out, wiping each leaf carefully. 
  • Next, glide the cloth in one swoop along the stems if they’re prominent in your particular plant. 
  • Lastly, give the pot a quick wipe while you’re at it (as extra pest control) and empty or washout the drip tray if needed.

houseplant wipe

When the simple swipe doesn't cut it...

If you’re new to this whole cleaning leaves thing, no worries! Your plant may have a buildup of dirt or grime, that’s ok, you can fix it! If the basic warm water swipe isn’t quite enough to remove the dirty layer, then mix up a soapy warm water solution. Our go-to recipe is using 1 teaspoon of liquid soap (namely, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap) and 1 quart of warm water into a spray bottle. Shake the mixture well and spritz the leaves, allowing the liquid to sit for a few moments (but not dry), and then wipe away with a damp cloth. Plants need to be able to respire freely without blockage of particulate matter.

When to clean...

Cleaning your plant leaves is so straightforward and can be added to your weekly (or biweekly) house cleaning schedule. If you have a lot of plants and that seems like a longer task or if your plate is already maxed out on cleaning day, then just dedicate one plant per day to clean. For instance, take a look at the leaves during your watering routine, and just clean one plant at a time after watering. That way, you only add a couple of extra minutes to your routine.

Plus it's a bonus for your home too and not just your plant! Some plant leaves actually attract dust, so cleaning them further sanitizes your home, ridding of unwanted dust, dander, and dirt. It’s a win-win for all! 

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