Cleaning plants

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About a week ago, as the evening temps started to cool down, I decided to tackle the cleaning of my back patio. All was going well until I took a good look at my silk plants. Whoa! Where did all that dust come from? Suddenly my plants were looking like real leaves changing to their brown autumn color - and it was just the buildup of dust. Time to figure out how to get them clean.

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Cleaning artificial plants: You'll need to evaluate the plants a little. And, by that I mean, would they tolerate moisture. Some are fragile, or the color will literally come off, so test a small area with any of these options first. Also, many of these will drip off the leaves of the plant so move your plant on top of paper towels or newspapers to catch the dirt and drips.

But, for typical green foliage here's what I tested:

A commercial silk plant cleaner This worked but you need to saturate the leaves well. Depending how many large plants you have, this can be a little expensive. Mine cost about $6.

An all purpose household cleaner I must say, this worked as well on my plants as the commercial product. I tested a more natural product from Target and also regular 409. Both worked well. Honestly, I'd just do this, it was easy and my plants came out clean.

Make your own cleaner If you don't have a cleaner, make one of your own. I mixed a small amount of lemon dish soap (to help get any grease off) with water in a spray bottle. It worked nearly as well as the cleaner. It left a little more dust but still did the job. If you have a large-leafed plant and you don't mind tending to each leaf separately, try taking a wet wipe or even a baby wipe and wiping the leaf down from the base to the tip of the leaf. It worked but was tedious.

Dried Flowers, artificial plants that can't take water or if you're in a pinch.

Hair Spray This worked surprisingly well. Best for smaller leaves but it cleaned up my door wreath beautifully. It cleaned my dried flower bunch and also a garland that loses all its color if water hits it. Just spray it on and let dry. The cheaper the hairspray the better - the alcohol in it is doing the cleaning and the cheap ones have more alcohol.

Salt Shaker I couldn't wait to give this a shot. I took a garland that had been draping a bench in my courtyard all summer, tossed it into a brown paper bag and poured on about a cup of table salt. I folded the top down and had a fun time shaking it all up. When I opened it up, I was shocked at how clean the leaves and flowers were. This won't take off stains, but did the trick on the dust.

Cleaning Real Plants Living plants get dusty, too and for their health it's actually important to clean them off. A layer of dust can prevent air and light, vital to their growth, from getting inside.

Tricks that worked

Commercial Leaf Shine It worked like a charm. So if you want to invest about $6 in a product, you can find it at most craft stores. Some, plant experts aren't too fond of them, saying if used too much they can over-coat the leaves. But I learned that florists swear by Leaf Shine. My plant did look gorgeous afterwards.

Homemade options!

If you want to just spray something on, try a spray bottle filled with a very weak soap and water solution. It works really well and acts as a repellant for some pests as a bonus. The leaves will be clean but not extra shiny.

The commercial product contains mineral oil as a primary ingredient, so I tried pure mineral oil. It worked, but if you're going to buy the mineral oil, might as well try the good stuff. If you've got it lying around though, it does work. You also can mix mineral oil and water to spray on the plant.

Another homebrew that left my plant leaves beautiful, was some regular mayo watered down with a little water. Whole milk also works; skim milk won't - it's the fat that creates the shine. I just took a soft cloth dipped it in and wiped off the leaves. Beautiful, but again you have to be willing to wipe each leave.

I read that a banana peel could do the same thing, so I gave it a shot. Not too effective in my opinion. The mayo is better. Be cautious with food products though, on some plants, if not wiped off well, it could attract some pests. But in a pinch, I'd do the mayo again for a beautiful leaf.

If you find your leaves have that white residue left over from hard water spray, a great homemade remover is a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Either wiped on or sprayed, it'll take off those white spots.

This is definitely one of those household tasks that beg you to ignore it. Especially if the plants are up high or in a corner. But, every once in a while we need to cave to the cleaning queen in all of us and tackle the task - at LEAST the leaves that are in front!

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