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Related Articles: Five Tips for Healthier Houseplants | Grow Healthy Beautiful Houseplants

Clean House Plants = Healthy Environments
by Tina Timms

Houseplants are a vital part of todayís interior design. Houseplants are attributed with improving mood and attitude, producing healthy environments, and reducing stress. However, if indoor plants are not cared for they can cause a health hazard.


Houseplants collect dust and grease, hand oils, and pollutants that dull their appearance, making them less attractive and inhibit the plantís growth. Clean leaves promote healthy growth.

Cleaning controls insects and enhances the plantsí aesthetic appeal. However, cleaning will also clean the contaminants on the leaves that promote the growth of viruses, bacteria, and germs. Most people do not think about a plantís ability to promote the growth of pathogens and contaminants.

This can be increased if the plants are misted, and are kept in a warm humid environment.

Products that clean and shine leaves are generally not recommended because the waxy coating residue may interfere with air exchange. They also coat the leaves with a residue that will break down and promote the growth of contaminants.

Closed environments like offices need to pay careful attention to the plants they use in the office. Never use these products on plants that have hairy leaves, such as African violets. These plants cannot be cleaned.

The best way to clean leaves is to dampen a soft cloth with water and wipe the lower and upper surfaces of each leaf. An alternative is to place the entire plant outdoors or in the shower to rinse it off.


The soil should never be overlooked. Eventually all soil become inundated with microorganisms that can cause illness. This does not mean that indoor plants are unhealthy. It means that indoor plants need to have their soil changed every six months, more if the plant is over watered, or is kept in a warm humid environment.

Always change the soil outside. Plastic pots should be washed thoroughly with a strong anti-mold, anti-bacterial cleaner. Terra cotta pots and other porous pots should either be soaked well in a cleaning solution and left in storage for a few months, or thrown out.

Mold can cause serious breathing problems in enclosed areas. Mold can grow under leaves, under pots, around areas where leaves touch the walls, furniture, or carpets. Areas where water spills can also encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Never use mold and mildew cleaners on plant pots. Harsh cleaners, bleach, and salt baths will leave residue on plant pots that may kill the plant.

After cleaning the pot, refill it with new sterilized soil. Never reuse soil. Try to remove as much soil from the roots as possible without exposing them. If removing the soil does expose the roots, it is important to wrap the exposed roots with damp paper towel and keep them in a dark place.

Trim off broken or rotting roots. Trim away any white areas and discard. White mold needs to be removed.

Avoid bargain soils. Only use sterilized potting soil.

Healthy plants are a necessity in any home or office environment. However, a healthy environment includes healthy, clean plants.

Tina Timms advises you on bonsai and plant care at her site. Drop by and download her Free Guide at

Reader comment: Years ago soil was not to be found in stores. My mother and grandmother had the most beautiful and healthy plants of many varieties. They got their soil from their outdoor vegetable and/or flower gardens. To "sterilize" the soil they would set it outside in a large flat pan and pour lots of boiling water over. When the water had cooled and evaporated - it was ready for the planting...Mairmie

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