Houseplants are well-known for their air purifying abilities. Even NASA has tested their ability to purify indoor air. But did you know that your houseplants could use a little cleaning, too? They may be able to remove toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and cigarette smoke from the air but plain old dust can do them in!
Plants feed themselves through photosynthesis. During this process, they breathe in carbon dioxide and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and breathe out pure, clean oxygen. These exchanges take place through their stomata, which are tiny pores in the leaves. You can probably guess how much a thick layer of dust interferes with this process!
Light is also an important part of photosynthesis. Since houseplants are frequently living in less than optimal indoor lighting conditions, they may be struggling to absorb enough light. Anything that reduces that light further (like a thick layer of dust!) creates more stress for the plant. And stress weakens houseplants and leaves them susceptible to diseases and insect infestations. That's right, pests like aphids and spider mites just love stressed out, dusty plants!
What can you do to help your houseplants 'breathe easier'?
- Treat them to an occasional shower. A tepid shower will wash away dust, refresh your plants, and even flush fertilizer build up out of the soil.
- If a plant is too big or heavy to move to the shower, gently wipe down the leaves with a soft, and very damp, cloth. You may even have to do this while you're showering your plants if they're really dusty.
- Make sure you support each leaf from below while you're wiping it down so you don't break the stem.
- Small or delicate plants may handle a good dunking better than a shower. Water them thoroughly, wrap plastic wrap over the soil, and swish them upside down in a bucket of tepid water.
- Plants with fuzzy leaves, like African violets, often resent wet leaves. A large, soft make-up brush works great for whisking away dust while keeping their leaves dry.
- A large artist's paintbrush with a long handle can help keep spiny cacti dust free with less risk to your hands.
- Never put a plant with wet leaves in direct sunlight! The water on the leaves will magnify that sunlight and the leaves will develop ugly scorch marks. Remember, these are houseplants with tender leaves. They're too sensitive to survive the things their tougher outdoor cousins take in stride!
You may not get spider mites from dust but there are lots of other dangers lurking in the stuff. If you look at common household dust under a powerful microscope you might be horrified at what you see! These are just some of the nasty components often found in dust:
- Animal feces-infested dirt tracked in on your shoes that becomes airborne dust when it dries out. Yuck!
- Are you or someone you love allergic to pets? Animal dander, hair, urine, and saliva are all allergy triggers and they can all be found in dust!
- Plant pollen that can trigger hay fever and other allergies. If you've ever wondered why you're sneezing during the depths of winter, blame the dust that's storing pollen left over from last summer.
- Tiny insects like dust mites can live quite happily in dust. Even more common are the waste products insects produce: bits of shed exoskeletons, body parts, and feces!
- Bacteria, mold spores, and protozoans are common in dust.
- Toxic chemicals that your poor dusty plants couldn't absorb!
- Even the non-living components of dust can be hard on the lungs, especially if you have asthma or other breathing problems. These include flour, bath powder, clothing fibers, dryer lint, carpet fluff, chalk dust, soot, ashes, and many more substances.
The very act of cleaning your home can actually stir up the dust unless you're using the right tools. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is essential to prevent hazardous dust from becoming airborne while you're vacuuming. Micro-fiber dusting cloths trap the dust rather than just scattering it.
However, the most important tools in your anti-dust arsenal are the filters in your HVAC system. Good quality filters trap and hold the dust so it never has a chance to drift around your home. Our Dust Goblin filters do a great job of trapping dust because they're 10 times thicker than ordinary filters. That means dust particles get trapped deep inside the filter instead of on the surface where they can get knocked loose. In fact, independent testing proved that our filters hold onto five times as much dust as ordinary filters!
It's important to change even our awesome filters regularly to keep dust out of circulation. Fortunately, we make remembering to change your filters easy with our handy subscription service. Your fresh new filters will arrive at your home every three months. You can choose the number and size of filters you'll need. We even offer custom sizes to match unique applications. Contact us for more information!