Why you should start cleaning your plants (and how to get started)

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Lauren Geall
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A woman wiping the leaf of her plant

Are your plants struggling with the decrease in daylight hours now autumn has arrived? Cleaning their leaves is a quick and easy way to maximise the amount of light they can absorb – here’s how to get started.

Your plants may only need light and water to survive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some extra steps you can take to help your leafy friends thrive.

From boosting the humidity around them to using fertiliser during growing season, there are plenty of things you can do to support your plants’ health. But one of the easiest (and most effective) things you can do is simply giving them a good old clean.

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Your plants may be more alive than the other decorative objects in your home, but they still collect dust in exactly the same way. And while their outdoor counterparts have the rain and wind to keep them debris-free, indoor plants need a little bit of human intervention to keep their foliage looking fresh.

Cleaning your plants isn’t just a way to keep your home looking spit spot, either – clearing dust from your plants’ leaves can have a positive impact on their overall health. 

Why you should clean your houseplants 

A monstera plant on a table
Cleaning your houseplants allows their leaves to photosynthesize correctly.

Besides keeping their leaves looking nice and green, cleaning your houseplants is important because it allows them to photosynthesize properly.

“Plants, like every household item, collect dust and require regular dusting and cleaning,” explains Richard Cheshire, Patch’s plant doctor. “Plants make energy from photosynthesis – which takes places in their leaves.”

In this way, when a plant’s leaves are covered in dust, the amount of sunlight they’re able to absorb is affected, reducing their ability to photosynthesize. In the long run, this means they’re not able to create energy, which they need to survive.  

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On the flip side, cleaning your plants’ leaves ensures they’re able to soak up the maximum amount of light they need and photosynthesize effectively. “The more light your plant can absorb, the more energy it will make and the happier and healthier the plant will be,” Cheshire explains.

This is particularly important in the autumn and winter months, when the shorter days and miserable weather makes it harder for houseplants to get the light they need to survive. Making sure their leaves are clean – and moving them closer to a window – are two ways you can ensure your plants continue to thrive at this time of year. 

How to clean your houseplants 

A shower head
Smaller plants can be cleaned under a luke warm shower.

You’ll need to mix up the cleaning method you use depending on the type of plant you’re dealing with. “For larger plants, wipe their leaves every other week with a dust cloth, a damp paper towel or micropore cloth,” Cheshire explains.

“For smaller plants or those with more delicate leaves, it’s sometimes easier to put them in a luke warm shower so that the water washes off any dust. This saves cleaning each leaf individually and is also a great way to water the plant too!”

Cheshire continues: “Avoid showering cacti and succulents; these prefer a dry dust cloth or soft brush.” 

When to clean your houseplants 

A woman wiping a plants' leaves
Cleaning your plants on a regular basis is the most effective way to keep them dust free.

You should clean your houseplants as often as you need to to keep them dust and debris free. 

A good rule of thumb is to give them a once over every few weeks, or every other watering during autumn and winter. 

New to plant parenthood? Check out Stylist’s guide to buying, styling and caring for plants to get started.

You can find out more about the most common houseplant problems by checking out our range of plant care content, too. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.