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How to Clean Orchid Leaves from Dust?

Orchids are great at bringing in a bit of nature to your home, but they also gather quite a bit of dust. Rain will usually clean outdoor plants of dust but cleaning the leaves of houseplants befalls on us.

Cleaning orchid leaves should be easy and straightforward, right? It actually is!

The problem is a few of the dust cleaning practices that have been gathering steam lately, but which aren’t completely harmless to your orchids.

I’m going to address some of the best and not so good ways to clean orchid leaves. Let’s start with the best practices:

Best Ways to Clean Orchid Leaves

The following dust removal techniques are the best for making sure your orchid’s leaves are clean and dust-free:

– Water

Assuming that your orchid is dusty and there are no fertilizer or other chemical residues on them, cleaning the leaves with a damp cloth will usually do the trick.

There’s no point in complicating things with fancy cleaning products. Simply dampen a soft cloth and gently wipe off the leaves.

You can also mist the leaves with water, then gently wipe them off with a soft cloth.

– Rubbing Alcohol / Hydrogen Peroxide

Use rubbing alcohol to clean orchid leaves only if you notice pests on the leaves. Use 70% isopropyl alcohol diluted in water or undiluted. Apply on a cotton disk and gently wipe the leaves off.

Alternatively, you can use hydrogen peroxide to get rid of pests. Whichever you use, don’t use them in the soil or the roots as you risk burning them.

– Lemon Juice

If your orchid seems to have mineral deposits on its leaves, you’re going to need an acid solution to remove them. Creating a solution of one part lemon juice and one part water will help remove mineral deposits caused by tap water or hard water.

Therefore, unless your orchid has pests or mineral deposits on the leaves, simply just use water to clean the leaves. Simple and easy!

Some will also put their orchid plants under the showerhead, but I don’t recommend doing that if your orchid is in bloom because the water pressure may damage the blooms.

Can You Use Milk to Clean Orchid Leaves?

Cleaning orchid leaves with milk is said to make the leaves shinier. I haven’t tried cleaning my orchid leaves with milk (Would it need to be whole milk or skim milk? Raw milk or pasteurized?), but there are at least two problems I can potentially see happening with this method.

First, if that milk stays on the leaves it will go sour and it will potentially smell. Another problem is that milk going sour can attract insects and the fat breaking down will serve as a breeding ground for fungi.

So, if you’re going to use milk to give your orchid lives a shine, do wipe off any excess milk from the leaves to prevent the issues I mentioned.

Milk is also used as fertilizer, being a good source of sugars and calcium. Again, if it’s not diluted properly, you’re going to have a smelly potting medium, which I’m sure you don’t want indoors.

I’m not saying that you can’t use milk on orchids or that there are no benefits at all, it’s just that there are better ways to make sure your orchid is clean and fertilized.

Can You Use Soapy Water on Orchid Leaves?

Yes, you can use dish soap diluted in water to wipe down the leaves of your orchids. Use a few drops of dish soap diluted in one cup of water and wipe down the leaves one-by-one.

Dish soap diluted in water is especially good if the leaves are too dirty and cleaning them simply with water will not cut it. Another reason to use dish soap is if there’s a pest infestation you’re trying to control.

Don’t try to get rid of a massive pest infestation with dish soap only. Dish soap is more efficient in keeping pests at bay and dealing with a mild, localized infestation.

When dealing with a massive infestation, you need to resort to using pesticides.

Can You Use Beer to Clean Orchid Leaves?

Wiping down leaves with a solution of beer and water is another unconventional way to clean orchid leaves.

The arguments in favor of this practice are that beer will make the leaves glossy and there are also nutritional benefits associated with this method.

While I’m not disputing these claims, there are some caveats. Just like with milk, beer that’s left out at room temperature, will go bad and smell. Beer is also known to attract fruit flies.

So, if you’re going to use the beer method, make sure to create a highly diluted solution and wipe the leaves dry of any excess liquid to prevent fruit flies and foul smells.

But at the end of the day, simple water will do just fine.

Do You Need to Clean Orchid Air Roots from Dust?

The only reason you notice the dust on orchid leaves is because they’re glossy and large, so it’s easy for dust to settle on them.

Dust on air roots may not even be noticeable, so I don’t think you should be actively cleaning the roots every time you remove the dust from your orchid’s leaves.

That said, you can gently pat the roots with a damp cloth to freshen them up a bit but do take care not to break or damage the roots. And make sure you’re using a clean cloth.

Wrapping Up

Orchid leaves will gather dust from time to time, so it’s best to keep them clean. This will also help prevent some pests from setting up shop on your orchid’s leaves.

Unless there’s an active pest infestation you’re trying to control, wiping the leaves clean with water will be enough. Make a point of cleaning the leaves every time you water the plant.

Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and dish soap are only really needed when trying to clean the leaves of pests. Lemon water can help remove mineral deposits from leaves.

Milk, beer, mayonnaise and other such unconventional products can create more problems than they solve, so it’s best to stick to simple solutions.

Updated: November 13, 2020

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