What Happens if You Accidentally Spray Cleaner on Plants?

Unfortunately, accidentally dousing your houseplants with a cleaner can happen easily. But what happens when you spray cleaner on your plants? Will cleaning products harm them?

If you accidentally spray cleaner on plants, they can die depending on how harsh the chemicals are. All cleaner residue needs removing to prevent possible burns or the death of parts of your plant. The harsher the cleaning spray, the more likely your plant will develop complications.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss how a cleaner affects plants, what to do if you have inadvertently misted your plant with bleach or vinegar, and how to treat plants affected by cleaning chemicals. So, if you want to learn more about getting cleaner on your plants, keep reading.

The Effects Cleaning Chemicals Have on Plants

Cleaning chemicals aren’t great for humans, so it makes sense that they can also harm plants, primarily if you use harsh cleaners. So, what effects can you expect when cleaning chemicals come in contact with your indoor plants?

If you spray your plants with cleaner, you will notice the following side effects: 

  • Drying out the plant’s leaves.
  • Increased acidity in the soil.
  • Altered pH levels in the soil.
  • Burned leaves and stems.
  • It lowers a plant’s resistance to temperature and illness.
  • Raises the salt content in the soil preventing proper water absorption.
  • The death of good organic matter and bacteria in the soil.
  • Reactions within the plant’s cells may result in the decomposition of the plant.

As you can see, there are many adverse side effects if your plant comes in contact with too much cleaner. Luckily, there are ways to remedy these problems if you act quickly after spraying your plant with cleaning chemicals.

But first, let’s learn a little about what happens if your plants come in contact with one of the most popular cleaners, bleach.

What Happens if You Spray Bleach on Plants?

Bleach is a standard household cleaner, so it can easily get in unwanted places, like your houseplant’s pots. So what exactly happens if you accidentally get bleach on your plants? Is there anything you can do when this happens?

If you spray bleach on plants, the chemicals will react with the plant’s cells causing the leaves to quickly pale and die. In addition, bleach is a harsh chemical to which plants are vulnerable. Removing infected parts of your plant and rinsing away bleach is the best way to save the plant.

Action is essential to save your plant if it comes in contact with bleach. The chemicals in bleach can quickly cause a plant to suffer from chlorine toxicity. In addition, chemicals sit on the plant’s leaves, causing them to become burned and die away. Burned leaves can prevent the plant from absorbing enough light to photosynthesize, resulting in a plant’s death.

When To Use Bleach on Plants

Oddly enough, a watered-down bleach solution is usable on cut flowers to help them live longer. However, even watered-down bleach can harm a growing plant since it increases the salt in the soil, and the chemicals can quickly burn plants’ leaves.

So it’s acceptable to use watered-down bleach to prolong cut flowers’ lives but ill-advised to apply it to your potted plants. If you get bleach on your potted plants, it’s best to wash the substance off quickly and cut away infected areas.

What Happens if I Spray Vinegar on Plants?

Vinegar is a popular organic cleaner. Using vinegar is excellent because it’s gentle and generally harmless to your family and pets. But what about your plants? Will vinegar harm your houseplants if it gets on them?

If you spray vinegar on plants, the leaves can begin to dry out, and the acidity in the soil may go up; however, diluted vinegar is pretty harmless to plants, though some are more susceptible to the vinegar’s acidity than others. Therefore, rinsing the vinegar thoroughly from your plant is best.

Vinegar is less harsh than some of the stronger cleaners like bleach. However, too much vinegar on your houseplant can have disastrous consequences, especially if you don’t remove the substance immediately.

When To Use Vinegar on Plants

A watered-down solution of vinegar can be used on your houseplants if needed. However, it’s imperative to use the mixture sparingly, as the acid in vinegar can quickly destroy a plant’s leaf membrane and cause it to die.

Watered-down vinegar can be helpful for things like:

  • Killing weeds.
  • Preventing pests.
  • Removing dirt or grime from a plant’s leaves.

There are a few benefits to using a watered-down vinegar solution on your plants. However, if using this mixture on your plant’s leaves, it’s essential to spray or wipe them off afterward. Vinegar left to sit on your plants can result in burned leaves.

Additionally, not all plants will tolerate even watered-down vinegar mixtures. For example, hydrangeas will tolerate vinegar quite well, while grass will quickly wither under the presence of vinegar’s acidity.

Signs Your Plant Is Suffering From Cleaner Exposure

It can be easy to unknowingly spritz your houseplants with cleaner during a deep clean of your home. Luckily, if caught quickly, you can remedy any potential issues. So it’s essential to recognize the signs of a plant reacting to cleaner.

Signs your houseplant is reacting to coming in contact with cleaning chemicals:

  • White or pale leaves.
  • Burned and dry leaves.
  • Wilting.
  • A salt build-up in the soil.
  • Soil dries out quickly.

Each symptom is a sign your plant has contacted a harsh chemical and is suffering from the exposure. Of course, some plants will react more dramatically than others. However, getting the cleaner off your plant is essential no matter if it seems to tolerate it.

It’s also important to note that some of these symptoms can double as signs of other issues with your plant, like old age.

What To Do if You Get Cleaner on Your Plants

Now that you know what symptoms to watch for, it’s essential to react if you get cleaner on your plants. Luckily, aiding a plant sprayed with a cleaning solution is easy. The amount of cleaner affecting the plant and the duration of contact with the plant plays a considerable role in its recovery.

How to help a plant that has cleaner on it:

  • Rinse the plant’s leaves. The leaves are one of the first things the chemicals in cleaner attack, and without leaves, a plant will quickly die.
  • Prune affected areas away. Leaves or bits of plant splashed with cleaner should be gently removed, especially if you notice continual discoloration after rinsing the plant off.
  • Move it out of direct sunlight. The chemicals on your plant’s leaves can react with the sun. The reaction can cause the plant to become more sensitive to the sun and heat, resulting in burned leaves.
  • Thoroughly saturate the plant’s soil with water. The process of watering soil to dilute build-up in the soil is known as leaching. By leeching the cleaner from the soil, you can ensure the plant’s roots don’t absorb as much of the cleaner.
  • Remove the plant from the soil and rinse the entire plant. If you are sure the cleaner is on your plant’s leaves, rising and repotting is a good idea. You may also rinse the roots if you exercise care. This step should be avoided unless necessary, as disturbing your plant’s roots can halt growth.
  • Replace the soil in the plant’s pot. If you have saturated the soil with cleaner, it’s best to replace it and start over. The plant needs repotting quickly. Any cleaner left in the soil might be absorbed by the plant, making it sick and possibly leading to its death.

If you remove your plant entirely to repot it, be gentle with the plant’s roots as the system can easily acquire damage during rising and replanting. Reacting is essential to saving your plant, especially if you have doused it with a large amount of harsh cleaner.

How To Prevent Cleaner From Getting on Your Plants

The best way to ensure your plant’s health is to prevent cleaners from getting on your plants in the first place. Of course, everyone needs to clean, but there are safe ways to use cleaners around your houseplants.

Ways to prevent cleaners from harming your plants:

  • Avoid using spraying cleaners in rooms with plants.
  • Remove your plants from the space when cleaning with harsh chemical sprays.
  • Briefly place a plastic bag over your plants when cleaning.
  • Use an eco-friendly cleaner that will be more gentle with your plants.

Avoiding contact with cleaners and your plants is ideal. But, unfortunately, accidents happen, so you should do your best to keep your plants and cleaner separated. A safe cleaner is also suitable for cleaning near indoor plants.

If you’re looking for a cleaning spray that will be safe to use around your plants, I recommend CleanSmart’s Daily Surface Cleaner (available on Amazon.com). CleanSmart’s cleaner is excellent because it’s safe for most plants, animals, and children. Additionally, it kills viruses and bacteria. Plus, it’s even safe to use around food.


Accidentally misting your plant with cleaner happens and needs treating quickly. Plants don’t respond well to the salt content in cleaners, and the harsh chemicals can easily lead to burned leaves. Treating a plant that has cleaner on it is easy; rinse the plant and replace the soil if needed. Getting the cleaner off the plant and removing infected leaves is also ideal.

You can read my other article on whether you can water your plants with soapy water here: Can You Water Your Plants With Soapy Water?

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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