When you bring something new into your home or garden, whether that’s a piece of furniture, an ornament or a plant, it looks perfect. But then, as time passes, it starts to show the effects of dust and dirt. With most things – rugs, furniture, decking, and so on – we’re used to cleaning them and know what to do to get them back to their best … but what about your artificial plants?
Having some greenery in our surroundings has proven benefits, but those benefits will soon be wiped out if we feel stressed because our plants look a mess! So, indoor or outdoor, large, medium or small, synthetics or silk, how do you clean your artificial plants? Let’s take a look.
Indoor Trees and Plants
Indoor plants are unlikely to get very dirty, but they will need to be dusted regularly and may need a more thorough clean from time to time, maybe a couple of times a year. Here’s a run-down of the ways you can clean indoor plants.
Use a duster
Dusters come in many forms. As well as the traditional soft cotton cloth, there are microfibre cloths, feather dusters, long, fluffy dusters with handles, anti-static cloths and more. Which you use will depend on things like the size of the plant – a soft cloth you can easily control might be best on a small or dainty plant, whereas a longer duster on a pole might work best on something bigger and more robust.
Start at the top and work your way down. That way, you aren’t dislodging dust that will fall onto something you just cleaned.
Depending on what type of duster you are using, the size of the plant and the amount of dust, you might want to undertake your cleaning outdoors – some forms of duster simply move the dust from the surface you’re working on to somewhere else, rather than removing it and holding it in the fibres, and with those you could end up having to vacuum, then dust the plant again.
Use a brush
You could use an anti-static dusting brush, or a simple paintbrush. As with cleaning with a duster, start at the top and work your way down. You can match the size of the brush to the size of the plant and use, say, a four-inch brush for larger leaves, such as on a cheese plant, and an artists’ brush to get into nooks and crannies or handle dainty details on something smaller.
Vacuum the plant
Provided your vacuum cleaner has an upholstery setting and a soft brush attachment, you might be able to simply vacuum the dust off your plant. Take care not to do damage, either by using an inappropriate attachment tool or too much suction.
This method might work best on more robust plants and trees. Even if you’re not comfortable using a vacuum cleaner on the foliage, it might do a great job on the main stem or trunk.
Use a hair dryer
This can be effective but, remember, all you are doing is relocating the dust. Either work outside or else vacuum afterwards, so the dust you dislodge from the plant doesn’t get deep into the carpet. If you have wooden floors, sweep or mop them when you’ve cleaned the plant, to stop the dirt being walked around the house.
Set the hairdryer to a cool setting and keep it moving – don’t concentrate on a single area for too long as even a low heat can warm up materials with a concentrated burst.
An alternative would be to use blasts of compressed air, and this might be especially useful on smaller, more delicate plants. The kind of cleaner you get for your keyboard – a can with a directional straw attached – should do the trick.
Use a damp cloth
Again, starting at the top and working down leaf by leaf, you can clean an artificial plant with a damp cloth. Make sure the fabric is colourfast before you do too much, and dry it off with an old tea towel or some sheets of paper towel.
Even if you don’t clean the entire plant with a damp cloth, it can be handy for spot-cleaning anything that needs extra attention.
Rinse off the dirt
When it comes to water, while it’s safe to assume your outdoor plants will be okay if you rinse off the dirt, you can’t make the same assumption with indoor plants. Some will be fine, whereas others might be adversely affected. Colours could be washed out, fabric could be water-damaged, and leaves and petals might lose their shape.
Even if the plant itself is waterproof, it might be that the contents of the pot aren’t, so you need to take great care when using water to rinse an artificial plant.
If you are confident your plant will be okay but you aren’t sure about the pot, you could wrap the pot carefully to keep the water out and then use the showerhead – on a cool, gentle setting – to clean the plant itself. Alternatively, you could take it outside and use the hosepipe or a watering can.
You should avoid swamping the plant. You’d be better off subjecting it to a couple of gentle showers than a single deluge.
It’s not a good idea to immerse a plant in a bucket, a sink or the bath.
One thing to be very careful with is the dishwasher. You might be in the habit of putting pretty much anything that needs a clean in there, and it probably always does the trick. However, there’s no guarantee that your artificial plant will survive a trip through a wash cycle!
Some plants – perhaps succulents, or others made from a similar material – might be okay. Silk won’t; it might be discoloured, or entirely ruined.
If you do want to use the dishwasher to clean your plant:
- Make sure everything – all aspects of the plant, the pot, and the contents of the pot – is waterproof.
- Make sure the plant fits in the machine without being bent out of shape.
- Choose a cool, quick wash cycle, and don’t add detergent.
- Allow the plant to dry out of direct sunlight.
- You may need to fluff it up or shape it again when it’s dry, or nearly dry.
Try a salt shake!
If you have silk flowers and you aren’t able to use a damp cloth on them, try this. Add salt – around a half a cup should do the trick – to a plastic bag, one that’s large enough to fasten the flowers inside. Now put them in with the salt, seal it up, and give it all a gentle shake. The salt should act as a mild abrasive and displace the dust and dirt.
Afterwards, remove the flowers from the bag and shake them gently, or use a hairdryer on a cool setting, to dislodge any remaining grains of salt. Reshape the flowers as necessary and you should be good to go.
Outdoor Trees and Plants
Artificial outdoor plants include many options. There are hanging baskets, which may be mostly filled with one type of plant or else filed with an array of different blooms and foliage. There are plants and trees of varying size, planted in pots or perhaps directly into the ground. And there are stunning green walls, often sizeable installations featuring a great many individual plants.
You can use all the same types of cleaning materials for your outdoor plants as you do for your indoor plants, including dusters, brushes and compressed air. You can also use a hosepipe or watering can to rinse off any dirt. Mother Nature lends a helping hand by blowing away or showering off dirt every now and then.
Being outdoors in nature is lovely, but some of the creatures we share that space with can cause us a problem or two. I’m thinking here of birds. They’re beautiful to see and hear, but in the context of cleaning, they may leave us the odd deposit that needs attention. Most are small and easily dealt with, but if there are seagulls around, you are likely to have a bigger job on your hands!
Try rinsing the area first. If it’s fairly fresh, that should sort out most if not all of it. If it doesn’t, or there are some spots that need additional attention, don the rubber gloves and fetch a bucket of warm water. Wiping the affected spots with a wet cloth should get things clean again.
You might be able to use a mild detergent on your plants, which will help. Try a spot test on a hidden area before you use it where it’s visible. If the plants are robust and the stain is persistent, try the rough side of a kitchen sponge. That should do the trick, meaning you end up with nice, clean, fresh-looking plants again!
If you live near the coast then you need to be extra careful when cleaning your plants. As we’re on an island, this is going to apply to a fair few people! This also applies if there’s a building site nearby, as that can cause similar problems.
The issue is this: if there is sand or grit in the vicinity and it’s windy, that material is blown about and can come to rest on any surface, including your lovely plants, both artificial and real. If it’s also raining, then that can make things worse as the sand and grit can stick to the surfaces. If your plants have been covered in sand or grit, which is coarse, rather than just dust and dirt, which generally is not, the act of cleaning them can damage the plants.
What you mustn’t do in these circumstances is wipe or rub that plant as the sand or grit will act as an abrasive and could do damage to the surface. Instead, you need to rinse the sand and grit away. Using a hosepipe on a gentle setting or a watering can with a rose fitted – think shower rather than downpour – should do the trick.
If you live at the coast you may already be used to having to do this to your windows and your car, so it’s very likely nothing new to you!
Once the abrasive material has been removed, you can proceed with further cleaning, if necessary.
Specialist cleaning materials
There are specialist cleaning materials available that might make your job easier. Here’s a quick rundown.
Cleaning sprays can help dislodge dust and dirt, and there are specialist ones that are safe to use on silks without affecting the colour. Even so, you might want to do a spot test on a hidden area first. These are spritz and leave sprays, there’s no additional rinsing or wiping required.
These are moist wipes that clean the plant and lift away the dirt. There are also leaf shine wipes available, some of which claim to prevent dust from sticking to the plant, so they may be worth checking out.
When you invest in artificial plants, it makes sense to care for them and keep them looking at their best. That way, they don’t just look fantastic, but the life of the plant will be prolonged.
Regular dusting is the best way to do that for indoor plants, with a more thorough clean once or twice a year, or if there is the need.
Mother Nature will, for the most part, take care of your outdoor plants. If you do need to clean them more thoroughly, take care not to damage them. Outdoor plants are pretty robust anyway, so you have a head start there.
Do you have any questions about cleaning your artificial plants? Leave us a comment and we’ll answer if we can. Also, do you have any cleaning tips you’d like to share? Again, leave us a comment – we love to hear your feedback and ideas.