Cleaning Houseplants: Real, Silk and Plastic

Dust build-up on plant leaves looks bad and it will reduce plants’ ability to feed themselves through photosynthesis. The leaves can be lightly dusted, but you’ll need water to get rid of heavy build-ups.

Fill a spray bottle and mist the entire plant thoroughly until water drips off the leaves. (A drop cloth will come in handy if the leaves have grown outside the perimeter of the pot.) Don’t forget to spray the undersides as well.

If airborne grease is clinging to the leaves, put a drop of hand dishwashing liquid into the water and spray as above. You’ll have to rinse the leaves by repeating the process with clean water. This small amount of detergent won’t harm the plant — it will break down into a mild fertilizer. Don’t resort to anything stronger than liquid soap, however.

So-called silk plants made with plastics may be cleaned in the same way. You can also simply spray them clean using a bathtub faucet or a garden hose. To remove deposits of airborne grease, spray thoroughly with any mild, all-purpose household cleaner and let stand for a couple of minutes before rinsing.

Some silk plants made with fabrics may not be colorfast. If so, they cannot be cleaned with large amounts of water. Test for colorfastness on an inconspicuous leaf or petal first by gently rubbing a well-dampened white cloth across the surface. It’s not colorfast if any color transfers to the damp cloth. It’s best to dust non-colorfast silk plants using a microfiber cloth, or by securing a patch of used nylon pantyhose over a vacuum-cleaner hose and gently vacuuming the plant.

© 2006

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