Why Are There Water Spots on My Plant Leaves? (And How to Clean Them Naturally)

Part of what makes plants so enjoyable inside and outside our homes is their bright, cheery foliage. Plants with large shiny leaves like Rubber plants and Monsteras add a pop of color and freshen up any space. So it can be a shame when cloudy water spots dull those glossy leaves.

Even if you wash away these faint white spots, they can reappear as soon as the water dries. Getting rid of them for good will take some elbow grease and an amendment to your watering habits. 

Water spots on plant leaves are usually caused by lime deposits from minerals in hard water and can be removed by cleaning the leaves with natural solutions like vinegar or milk. 

Let’s look into some tried and true methods to get rid of those water spots and how to prevent them from returning!

What Causes Spots on Plant Leaves?

The likely culprit is limescale if you notice a chalky white residue on your plants after watering or misting them. 

Limescale is common in areas with hard water. Hard water contains high amounts of minerals like magnesium and calcium. When these minerals solidify together, they create limescale.  

Limescale doesn’t just affect your plants. Kettles and even water heaters can become inundated with limescale build-up. Enough build-up can do some serious and expensive damage to these appliances. 

Limescale doesn’t just affect the look of your plants. Enough buildup can prevent the leaves from breathing. It can also block light from reaching the leaves, preventing the plant from performing photosynthesis. If the plant can’t make its own food, it will begin to wilt. 

How To Clean Hard Water Stains On Plants

water droplets
Thankfully, getting rid of these pesky white stains is easier than expected. Not only will these techniques clean away water spots, but they’ll also make your plant leaves wonderfully shiny! The best part is that these are all-natural cleaners you probably already have at home. 

Cleaning Plant Leaves With Vinegar

A diluted acid solution like vinegar mixed with water is the number one trick for cleaning limescale off your plants. Proper dilution is important, as pure vinegar may harm your plant’s leaves.

Use a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Mix the solution in a spray bottle and mist your plant’s leaves. Then, take an old t-shirt and gently wipe the leaves clean. Avoid using microfiber cloths or paper towels, as they tend to leave behind fuzz and residue. 

What’s great is that vinegar also acts as a pest repellant.

This solution will also work with lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar. Use the same dilution of 3 parts water to 1 part lemon/lime juice. 

How to Clean Plant Leaves with Milk

Another solution to clean hard water stains from plant leaves is a mixture of milk and water. This cleaning solution also works as an excellent natural leaf polish. Use dairy milk only, as it contains beneficial nutrients like calcium and B vitamins.

Make your solution by mixing 1/2 cup of milk with 2/3 cup of water. Like the vinegar method, you can pour this mixture into a spray bottle and then mist your plant’s leaves. Use a wet cloth to remove any limescale stains. Then with a separate dry cloth, remove any excess milk solution and polish the leaves. 

Avoid soaking your plant with this milk solution. Any residue left on the leaves will begin to smell bad over time. 

How to Prevent Limescale Deposits

If you live in an area with hard water, tending to your plants will require a little extra work. But a few simple changes will make a world of difference to your plants. 

Instead of using regular tap water, buy distilled water to water your plants. This will get pricey over time, but your plants will be happy! A cheaper option is to collect rainwater and use that for watering. This is great if you only have a few plants but may be impractical if you have an entire garden to water. 

The most expensive option is to install a water softening system. Unfortunately, water softeners contain salt, which can also be tough on your plants. An abundance of salt leads to buildup near the plant’s roots and causes salt burn on your plant’s leaves. For this reason, distilled water or rainwater are your best options. 

How Often Should I Clean My Plants?

You can clean your plant leaves as little or as often as needed. A good rule of thumb is if you start to notice dust or limescale, it’s time for a cleaning.

Like limescale, dust can prevent leaves from breathing and block their access to sunlight. Cleaning dust and other residues from leaves regularly can prevent allergens from lingering in your home.

If your windows are open in the summer, you may need to increase how often you clean your plants. The outside air brings in all sorts of particles like pollen, settling on your plant leaves.

Can You Use Baby Wipes to Clean Plant Leaves?

Baby wipes may seem like a no-brainer solution to cleaning plant leaves. They’re pre-moistened, don’t make a mess, and are gentle!

However, many baby wipes contain parabens and a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. Methylisothiazolinone has been known to cause severe allergic reactions in children. If these chemicals can harm humans, they may also damage your delicate plants. 

Besides the potentially harmful chemicals, baby wipes are single-use and not environmentally friendly. A plain cloth or old t-shirt is a cheaper and safer material to clean your plants with. 

Is Coconut Oil Good for Plant Leaves?

Coconut oil
Coconut oil is such a great multi-use product to have on hand in your home. You can use it to remove crayon marks on walls and shine plant leaves!

Coconut oil gives plant leaves a beautiful rich glossiness. Simply rub a dab of coconut oil onto your plant’s leaves with a cloth to achieve this. 

Coconut oil also works as a natural pesticide to get rid of mites and mealybugs. Just add liquid coconut oil to Castile soap in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture onto any infected plants in your home. The soap and oil will create a thin layer that will suffocate the bugs and kill them.  

You should only use coconut oil every once in a while since it reduces the leaf’s ability to absorb water. 

What Do White Dots on Leaves Mean?

Hard water spots are easy to identify because they leave a pale cloudy film, usually in the shape of water drops. 

But if you have opaque white speckles on your leaves, this is likely powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease transported to other plants through airborne spores. If powdery mildew isn’t controlled, it will take over the entire plant and kill it. 

Thankfully, powdery mildew is more common in outdoor gardens. But it can affect houseplants, so if you notice it, you must seek treatment immediately. 

Can You Wash Off Powdery Mildew?

Since powdery mildew is a fungal disease, washing it off with water won’t kill it. Two inexpensive solutions will help treat this fungus: baking soda and potassium bicarbonate. 

Mildew needs a neutral pH environment to thrive. These two solutions create an alkaline environment, making it difficult for mildew to colonize. 

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon of Castile soap and 1 gallon of water for the baking soda treatment. Use a spray bottle to coat the plant leaves with the solution. 

Mix 1 tablespoon of potassium bicarbonate with 1/2 teaspoon of Castile soap and 1 gallon of water for the potassium bicarbonate treatment.

Both these solutions should be reapplied once a week for 3-4 weeks to be effective.


Hard water spots don’t just tarnish the look of your plant’s leaves. They can also affect critical plant processes such as photosynthesis and respiration. 

Water spots on plant leaves are usually caused by lime deposits from minerals in hard water and can be removed by cleaning the leaves with natural solutions like vinegar or milk. 

To get rid of hard water spots, you can use a solution containing 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water or ½ cup of milk to ⅔ cup water. Spray your plants with either of these mixtures and wipe the limescale stains away with an old t-shirt or cloth. 

But the best long-term solution is to avoid using hard water in the first place. If you can, water your plants with distilled water or rainwater instead.