How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves – DIY Remedies

Hard water stains on your plants’ leaves can ruin the overall aesthetics of your indoor garden you have been working so hard to achieve. Fortunately, cleaning water spots off your plants leaves is easy. You can:

  • use everyday household items to restore the leaves shine,
  • quickly whip up a solution using our simple recipe below, and
  • have clean shining leaves again in under 15 minutes.
How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves

Welcome to the Garden Bench Top. In today’s article we’re going to help you restore your plants to their former glory.

Why does my plant have watermarks on its leaves?

Let’s face it. Water spots on your houseplants’ leaves are simply unsightly.

But why do they appear in the first place?

One of the main culprits for these nasty watermarks is hard water.

Hard water develops when water filters through mineral deposits, like limestone or gypsum. The water slowly absorbs the minerals from the sediment, and ends up with high mineral concentrations. It is often supplied to suburban houses as tap water around the world, such as European and US cities.

The problem arises when you use hard water to water your plants. As water falls onto the leaves and evaporates, the mineral buildup will remain and leave white watermarks on your gorgeous leaves.

How to Eliminate Hard Water Spots

To remove the hard water stains from your plants’ leaves, we need to dissolve the minerals with a substance that is plant-friendly.

As described in the following section, we like to use slightly acidic solutions to break down the minerals and leave the plants looking as good as new.

Cleaning Watermarks off Plant Leaves

Water spots on plant leaves

In this section, we’ll guide you through the exact steps we take to keep our indoor plants looking their best.

You Will Need:

  • a mixing bowl
  • absorbent cloth (kitchen paper towels work too)
  • 17 oz (approx 500 ml) of filtered water
  • juice from half a lemon (fresh or pre-squeezed)

Steps for How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves

Here is our recommended quick and easy process for cleaning your plant leaves.

  1. Step 1 – to begin, fill your mixing bowl with the filtered lukewarm water and add the lemon juice.
  2. Step 2 – stir the solution together until mixed.
  3. Step 3 – take your absorbent cloth and dip a corner into the solution.
  4. Step 4 – gently apply the damp cloth to a few of the tops and bottoms of your plants leaves.
  5. Step 5 – dry any excess water with the other end of the cloth.
  6. Step 6 – repeat steps 4 & 5 until you have cleaned your entire plant.

Once your indoor plants’ leaves are fully dry, will notice that the water spots from the hard water will have disappeared.

You can use this solution for all your indoor plants, including succulents. Just try not to get spiked by the leaves of your succulents!


Test your solution on a few plant leaves that are in a less obvious place on your plant BEFORE you apply the solution to the entire plant. The purpose is to see if your plant is sensitive to the acidity levels in your solution.

Other Cleaning Solution Recipes for Removing Water Spots off Plants

Using lemon juice and water is our preferred method to do away with hard water spots. But, it isn’t the only way. Below are a few other options for creating DIY remedies for how to clean water spots off plant leaves.

Soap and Water

credit: Unsplash

A mixture of soap and water can also work to remove stubborn hard water stains on your houseplants. To create a soapy solution to clean water spots off plant leaves, mix 1/2 teaspoon of soapless soap with 17 oz (approx 500 ml) of filtered water.

If you choose to use a soap – based solution, we recommend adding a step to the process.

Additional Step – After you have applied the weak soapy solution to your leaves, grab another cloth and dip it into some filtered water to wipe the soapy solution off your plants’ leaves.

Vinegar and Water

Using vinegar is very similar to using the lemon or lime juice recipe. The vinegar brings acidity to your solution that helps to break down the minerals from the hard water.

To make up your vinegar solution, mix 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to 17 oz (approx 1 liter) of filtered water, and apply to your leaves.

Milk and Water

Milk is a great ingredient for cleaning your plants leaves – especially because almost all households will have a bottle of milk in the fridge.

clean water stains off leaves

Mix equal portions of milk and filtered water in a spray bottle and spritz your plants leaves with the solution. Let the solution sit on the leaves for a bit (to work its magic), before using a clean kitchen paper towel to gently clean your leaves.

What NOT to use for cleaning your plant’s leaves

Okay, so we know what helps to clean off hard watermarks. Let’s talk about what NOT to use and debunk some of those gardening myths out there.

Regular Water

Obviously using the same water source that produced the hard water stains will not help. And let’s be honest, you probably already tried that already😉

credit: giphy

Unfortunately, soft or filtered water won’t clean the hard water stains on your leaves. It may look like it is working at first, but as soon as the water dries or evaporates, you will see the hard water stains still remain.

The reason this occurs is that the soft or filtered water doesn’t contain the necessary ingredients to break down the solidified minerals on your leaves.

Mayonnaise and Olive Oil

There are some adventurous gardeners out there who like to use mayonnaise or olive oil to clean their plants.

We can understand why they would choose to use these ingredients – to a degree. The oily consistency makes the leaves shine like a newly polished shoe.

However, this can cause long-term problems for your plant. The oil blocks the leaf stoma, preventing them from releasing water vapor, resulting in your plant slowly suffocating.

Think of it like putting mayonnaise directly onto your skin – it will block your pores, causing grime and dirt to become trapped, resulting in a break out of pimples and acne.

Leaf Shine

In your quest to rid your plants of hard water spots, you may have come across ready to use products like Leaf Shine and other artificial leaf cleaning products.

Even though they seem like the perfect solution. These are only superficial solutions. What is worse, is that they can actually be detrimental to your plants long – term health. Like the oily solutions like mayonnaise, the mixtures will block the pores of your plant.

Why You Should Clean Your Plant’s Leaves

Apart from your plants looking 100 times better, we recommend getting into the habit of cleaning your indoor plants’ leaves on a regular basis.

The reason you should clean your plants is that it will help to remove any dust that settles on your plants leaves. If dust and minerals are allowed to build up on your plant, it prevents them from functioning properly. The residue will prevent the leaves from receiving sunlight, and therefore prevent the natural process of photosynthesis.

How To Prevent Hard Water Stains

Have you ever heard the saying ‘Prevention is the best cure‘?

In this case, prevention would definitely help to reduce the amount of a plant’s ongoing cleaning and maintenance.

There are two things you could do to prevent the build up of minerals on your plant leaves.

  1. When you water your plants, try not to splash water on your leaves. Direct the water towards the soil, rather than from the top of the plant. Alternatively, you could take this one step and try to water your plants from the bottom.
  2. Use filtered water to water your plants, rather than hard water. We understand it is easier to grab a cup of water from the tap. However, taking that extra minute to use filtered water will save you the 30 minutes of hard water scrubbing on your plants’ leaves.
how to bottom water plants

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section we tackle the odd questions that may crop up while you are cleaning your plants.

On a side note – if we don’t answer your question below, please reach out to us via our contact page and we;’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can. We’ll even feature your question in this FAQ section so other fellow gardeners can benefit.

What do you wipe plant leaves with?

We recommend you use a kitchen paper towel to wipe the leaves. However, to be honest, any soft cloth or fabric, like microfiber cloths, will do the job. The only criteria are that your choice of material is soft and delicate. This is to prevent any damage to the leaves, which can often be fragile and sensitive.

Can you clean plant leaves with vinegar?

Vinegar is a perfect substitute for lemon or lime juice in a plant cleaning solution. Like lemon juice, vinegar adds acidity to the solution, which helps to break down the minerals from the hard water.

How can I make my plant leaves shine?

To keep your plants shining with health and vibrance, we recommend implementing a regular cleaning schedule for your indoor plants. We find wiping your plants leaves every other week is frequent enough to prevent a thick layer of dust from settling on your plant. It also gives you the opportunity to inspect your plant and identify any issues early.

How often should you clean the leaves?

Cleaning your plants leaves once a fortnight is sufficient to stop your plants from gathering too much dust. If you can maintain a clean every week, that would be preferable. However, we understand not everyone has that much time on their hands.

Can you clean plant leaves with soapy water?

It is completely acceptable to clean your plants’ leaves with diluted soapy water. We like to wipe the leaves down with fresh filtered water, after applying the soapy water.