Keeping your plants clean (and dust-free) is vital to their health and happiness. Along with attracting harmful pests, too much dust on your plant’s leaves can make it hard for your houseplants to absorb light and properly photosynthesize (remember that from elementary school?). That’s why experts recommend dusting off your plants at least once a month by using a clean microfiber cloth.
But for the healthiest houseplants possible, the cleaning shouldn’t stop there. We called on Rebecca Bullene, founder of Greenery NYC, to school us on the right way to clean our houseplants. Read ahead for a breakdown on how to properly wash your plants and why it’s so important that you do.
1. Remove any and all dead material from the soil
While it’s normal for plants to shed their leaves over time, it’s important to remember to remove dead leaves from the soil before they dry out or rot. “Pests and molds like to feed on dead plant material,” Bullene explains. “So don’t tempt them by leaving dead leaves lying about.”
2. Wash leaves with diluted castile soap and a micro fiber cloth
“A drop of castile soap in a bowl of water will help remove any stubborn dust or film that may have settled on your leaves,” Bullene says. “Don’t vigorously scrub — just a gentle wipe in a downwards motion 2 to 3 times per leaf is enough to remove any build up and get your leaves clean and healthy—just don’t forget to wipe the underside of the leaves as well!”
3. Clean cloths between each use
If you’re dusting multiple plants at once in your home, Bullene recommends thoroughly cleaning your microfiber cloth between plants. “If you don’t have the time or energy to wash your cloths between use, just use a new one for each plant.” Bullene explains, “Or else you’ll run the risk of unwittingly transferring any pests or pathogens to other plants.”
4. Prune off any browning leaves or rotting stems
“Once a leaf starts turning yellow or brown, it will never go green again,” Bullene says. “Don’t feel badly about removing leaves that start to yellow or brown. Taking them off quickly allows your plant to put its energy into healthy leaves and new growth.”
5. Give your plants a good shower twice a year
“Dusting helps,” Bullene says, “but nothing is better for cleaning leaves and stimulating growth than a nice, long lukewarm shower. We recommend rinsing your plants in the shower for 2 to 5 minutes, twice a year (ideally in the Fall and Spring before the extremes of the summer and winter seasons) to thoroughly wash its leaves and fully hydrate the soil.”
6. Clean your tools while you’re at it, too
Bullene says the most common way for pests to make their way to your houseplants is through the use of dirty tools. After cutting off leaves or removing stems, she suggests using rubbing alcohol to sanitize your pruners. “Wash your hands thoroughly in between caring for plants,” Bullene shared. “And don’t let your clothing brush up against any plants you suspect might be infested with pests.”