How to Shine Plant Leaves

Shining your plant leaves make them appear beautiful, but also can open up their stomata. We’ll show you how.

Are your houseplants looking a little dirty or dingy? Are the leaves coated in a layer of dirt or dust? Keeping your plants clean is an integral part of caring for them, albeit often overlooked. Sometimes they need just a quick dusting, and sometimes they need a little extra spa treatment to clean them up and boost their luster!

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Plants? 

Over time, indoor plants can accumulate a fine layer of dust or dirt on their leaves. Grease and oils in the air—usually from cooking—also deposit on the leaves, creating a filmy residue that collects dust. This buildup inhibits gas and water exchange through the stomata and stops the leaves from absorbing sunlight needed for photosynthesis, so it needs to be removed periodically. 

A thick layer of dust on the surface of the leaves of a plant.

How to Shine Plants Naturally

There are many different ways to clean the leaves of your plants, ranging from straightforward methods that simply remove the dust to more in-depth ways that give them a lustrous shine. When choosing the best approach, it’s essential to keep in mind the amount of dust and dirt you’re working with and the type of plant. 

Removing Dust From Plant Leaves

If there is a light coating of dust on the leaves, and there doesn’t appear to be any grimy buildup underneath the dirt, cleaning will be pretty straightforward. Just take care that you work gently with your plant(s) to avoid breaking leaves or the plant’s stem, causing stress, or ruining the overall aesthetic of the plant.

To remove dust, you can:

  • Use a soft-bristled paintbrush or feather duster to dust off as much as possible. 
Using a soft bristled dry brush to clean plant leaves.
  • Use a soft cloth dampened with tepid water and carefully wipe the top and bottom of each leaf. Place one of your hands under the leaf to support it as you work.
Using a soft and damp cloth to wipe the leaves of a plant.
  • Put your plant in the sink or bathtub and gently spray them with lukewarm water.
Using a showerhead to bath a dusty green plant inside the bath tub.

Removing Residue From Plant Leaves

When there is a layer of residue or thick dust on the foliage, or you want to add a little extra shine, the following methods are great options. Always use a soft cloth or rag to prevent scratching the waxy leaf cuticle and rinse it in clean water to prevent depositing dirt back onto the plant.

  • Use a solution of soap and water to wipe the leaves. The soap will break up any oils.
  • Use a solution of vinegar or lemon juice and water to wipe the leaves. Both liquids are naturally acidic and will break up oils; the natural scent also helps repel pests.

Shining Your Plant Leaves

  • Wipe the leaves with a solution of milk and water. The proteins in milk give the cuticle a beautiful sheen, and the milk also acts as a natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. 
  • Wipe down the leaves with the inside wall of a banana peel. Your plant will also get an extra dose of potassium.

DIY cleaning solution recipes

Vinegar and Water 

Start by mixing a teaspoon of white vinegar into a gallon of water. Too much vinegar can be harmful; straight vinegar pulls the moisture from leaves and is often used as a weed killer. If that dilution is too weak, you can work your way up to one cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Lemon Juice and Water

If you’d rather not use vinegar because of the smell, mix the juice of half a lemon into a pint of tepid water, or about four lemons per gallon of water. If you don’t have fresh lemons and use bottled lemon juice, dilute one tablespoon into 2 cups of distilled or filtered water.

Diluted Milk

Mix a 50:50 solution of dairy milk and water. You can use whatever dairy milk you have in the fridge ranging from whole milk to reduced fat. Avoid using non-dairy milk like almond, oat, soy, or coconut milk products. They don’t have the same proteins as dairy products, so they won’t shine the leaves well, if at all.

Why Are Some Commercial Cleaners Not Good? 

While there are many products you can buy to shine plant leaves, you should avoid them. Yes, they make the leaves look beautiful, but they can also cause many problems. These products often contain oils or wax that clog the stomata, halting gas and water exchange. Instead of fixing the issues caused by dirt buildup, they make it worse.

Other Products to Avoid

  • Baby wipes
  • Coconut or olive oil
  • Mayonnaise
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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