How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves {my secret weapon}

a close up of water spots on leaves

Sharing is caring!

Many people love having indoor plants within their homes. They keep the air fresh and add a pop of color to any room. And they give such a serene nature-y vibe that makes you never want to leave your house. It’s like living in a garden.

But what do you do when that pop of color is dulled? Instead of the leaves being green and vibrant, it’s now filled with faded white spots.

It’s such a sad sight.

But don’t lose hope just yet!

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you’re wondering how to clean water spots off plant leaves, just know that you have options. You can either use a mixture of lemon, vinegar, or soap and combine it with water to scrub away the lime deposits that are on your plant leaves. Use either a soft cloth, cotton swabs, or a clean paper towel to help scrub off the lime deposits.

This article lists a few simple ways to clean those faded white water spots off plant leaves. These methods only require simple ingredients and a few minutes of your time. I’ll explain them to you here, and why there were water spots on your plant, to begin with, how to stop it from happening again, and why cleaning your houseplants is something that should be done often.

Why Hard Water Spots Form

Before learning how to remove water spots, you’ll need to know why they appeared in the first place. One of the reasons that plants’ leaves have water spots is because they’re watered with hard water.

Hard water is full of minerals and salts that leave a film on surfaces once the water has dried. They tend to also leave behind lime deposits on plant leaves. Those are the faded white speckles that you see.

You’ll know you have hard water in your house by the tell-tell spots it leaves on your glasses and silverware, much like the spots on your leaves.

To help avoid using hard water, you can either use rainwater or distilled water. When I run out of either type of water, I’ll take regular sink water and will let it sit aside for at least 24 hours before using them. This gives the chlorine time to dissipate.

What is the best way to clean plant leaves?

the leaf has fresh water drops that have not formed water spots

1. Vinegar and Water

The best way to clean water spots off plant leaves is to combine water and vinegar, then gently wipe away the spots.

A recipe of half a gallon of water and half a teaspoon of vinegar is best to avoid damaging the leaves and soil. Be sure to avoid using cold water. They may leave water spots on the surfaces of your leaf.

For scrubbing, use a cotton swab, cotton pad, a clean paper towel, or a soft but damp cloth, depending on the size of the leaves.

This method works because the acidity of the vinegar breaks down the hard water minerals, so the combination of vinegar plus gentle scrubbing means no more spotty leaves. 

If only I knew that I could have used vinegar to clean plant leaves in the past, I would have saved myself a ton of time and money.

2. Lemon Juice and Water

Did you know that you can use lemon juice to clean plant leaves?

This method is like the vinegar and water mixture, and it works the same way. You should combine 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with 1 quart of water, and gently scrub at the spots. Just like the vinegar, lemon juice is acidic, so it breaks down the mineral deposits in hard water.

Note: Lemon juice is a little less acidic than vinegar, so you may need to adjust the amount of water you use.

3. Soap and Water

For this method, you’ll need soap and some water. A mild soap like a commercial fruit and veggie wash or Dr. Bronners Soap will work best. Avoid using harsh hand soap or dish soap, these have detergents in them that may damage your plant.

Combine half a teaspoon of soap and half a gallon of water and scrub the same way as the methods listed above. You may also need to adjust the amount of soap or water.

You can also put the mixture in a spray bottle. This is what I like to do before giving them a bath every other month. ill mix the solution together, spray it all over my plant, and then either hose them down outside or shower them in the bathtub. And then once they’re dry, I’ll put them back where they belong. This method allows me to sleep in peace knowing that my plants are clean and it’ll help get rid of pests too.

4. Distilled Water 

You can use plain distilled water to wipe away water spots. You’ll use a cotton swab or pad, or a soft cloth, just as the methods above.

For best results, use tepid water or lukewarm water. Avoid using extreme temperatures of hot or cold water at all times. You don’t want to cause a shock to your plant’s root system.

Note: The mild soap and distilled water methods may not work depending on the severity of the water spots. For more stubborn stains, use either vinegar or lemon juice.

Caution with leaf-shining products

Some recommend using leaf-shining products to clean leaves and get rid of water spots, but these are no good for plant health. These products only end up clogging the small pores on the plant leaves, and this can cause poor growth or plant death. For a more in-depth look at this, The Sill has great information.

How to stop water spots from happening

If you have hard water, you may be wondering how to stop hard water spots from forming. Here are a few ways:

  • Bottom-watering. To bottom-water, fill a container with water, some find a dish basin or bathtub works well. Only have enough water so that about half the pot is submerged. Then, place your plant pots in the container and leave them to sit and soak up the water. They will only take as much as they need.

Note: If you have plants with long vines or big leaves, keep them propped up so they aren’t drooping in the water.

  • Avoid watering the leaves. If water doesn’t get on the leaves of the plants, they won’t get water spots. Investing in a gooseneck watering can will help you but only put water in the soil instead of all over the plant.
  • Collect rainwater or use bottled water. Garden Guides recommends using rainwater or bottled water. Both are low in hard, spot-causing minerals. Keep in mind that bottled water can get pricey. 

Related articles: How to quickly rehydrate a wilted houseplant

Warnings against softened water

Softening your water may seem like a sensible option for avoiding water spots on your indoor plants and around your home, but softened water is not good for plant watering. Softened water is usually treated with salt, which raises the sodium content of the water.

When used for long periods of time, the high sodium build-up in the soil can cause growth problems for plants, or cause them to die. Go to Gardening Know How for more information.

Should I clean my plants regularly?

Now that you know you can get hard water off plant leaves; you may be wondering if you should be getting the dust and dirt off your plants, too. 

Giving your plants a good cleaning is as essential to their health and growth as sunshine, watering, and fertilizing. Plants see sun rays through their leaves which causes many chemical responses inside the plant, and this eventually turns into growth.

 If a layer of dust and grime is covering the leaves, it’s as if your plant is wearing sunglasses. That’s not what we want for big, beautiful plants. 

These are some common problems you may face if you aren’t cleaning your entire plant:

  • Dusty leaves, causing poor growth
  • Mites or bugs
  • Fungus growth, like the powdery mildew mentioned before
  • Plant diseases

Regularly cleaning your plants can help prevent the problems listed above, helping your plants to grow bigger and healthier. 

How should I clean my plants?

The vinegar and water solution should only be used for water spots or getting rid of fungus or mites, not for regular maintenance. The acidity of the vinegar, if overused, can affect the acidity of the soil. For regular cleanings, consider using these methods:

  • A damp cloth. Gently wipe a damp rag over the leaves and stems to remove dust and dirt.
  • Overturning in water. For smaller, leafy plants, hold the base of the plant to keep the dirt in the pot and overturn the leaves into a basin of water. Swish around for a few seconds to remove dust and dirt. 
  • Use this duster. #secret weapon. This has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to cleaning leaves, especially for my fiddle leaf fig and rubber plant. It is so easy and almost fun to do. Especially since it comes with a microfiber cloth. Just clamp your leaves in between the duster and slowly slide out. And it’ll help get rid of the dust as well.

Plant TIP: avoid using any other type of duster. As tempting as it may be to use a small dust wand, you never know what you may pick up when dusting the leaves, such as the tiny eggs of pests. 

How often should I clean my plants?

There are many things that will affect how often your plants will need a cleaning:

  • Dust accumulates quickly. If you live in a dusty area, like near a country road or field, your plants may get extra dusty.
  • Pets in the home. Animal fur and dander can build up on your plants, too. If you notice your plant growing fur, you’ll want to wipe it away.
  • Location of the plant. If you have your plant in the kitchen or on the dining table, you may want to keep an eye out for splashes and crumbs. If your plant is near a sink, it may be more prone to water spots. 

It’s a good idea to aim for a cleaning once a month, you can adjust as you need for your area and for each plant. If it’s dirty, clean it! If not, don’t!

The Bottom Line

Learning how to clean plant leaves will ensure your plant will stay as beautiful as ever!

Water spots on plants can be upsetting, but they have a simple cause and an easy fix. A little water and vinegar on a cotton swab and your plant leaves are spot-free. By avoiding getting water on your plant’s leaves, or by watering with rainwater or bottled water, you can prevent these spots from appearing again.

Some preventative care and maintenance go a long way in the life of a plant. We hope that by reading this article you’ve learned important things about plant care, and not just taking care of hard water spots. You’ve taken a big step towards healthier foliage!

Related Questions to How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves

Can I spray my plants with soapy water?

Yes, you can spray your plants with soapy water. But if you’re going to spray it instead of using a cloth to wipe down the leaves, I would suggest hosing it down afterward or giving it a shower in your bathtub.

What do you wipe plant leaves with?

You can use either use a microfiber cloth or any soft cloth or rag, cotton balls or swabs, a clean paper towel, or a blind cleaner duster.

Can you clean plant leaves with vinegar?

Yes, you can clean your plant leaves with vinegar. Just make sure to dilute the vinegar with plenty of water.

Is Leaf-Shine good for plants?

No, it is not healthy to use Leaf-Shine on your plants. Those types of products tend to clog the leaf stoma, making it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and breathe fresh air.

How do I make my plant leaves shiny?

A simple cleaning of the leaves will instantly make your plant shiny while clearing away the dust and debris. Giving it a good shower once a month will do the trick as well.

Can you clean plant leaves with soapy water?

Yes, you can. Using Dawn liquid soap won’t be as effective as using a more mild soap like Dr. Bronners. Dawn is more effective as an insecticidal soap to get rid of plant pests than to clean plant leaves.