Houseplant expert’s cleaning tips to get rid of fungus gnats

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“When embarking on your house cleaning, your plants might not be at the top of your priority list (or on there at all), however, cleaning your houseplants can boost their health and help to keep those annoying flies away,” James Williams, a gardening expert at Rezigo says. But how do you go about getting rid of fungus gnats? James shared his top tips with 

Why do houseplants get fungus gnats? 

Fungus gnats, also known as sciarid flies, are associated with damp soil and are found especially in houseplants. 

They are small flies that feed on rotting organic matter and therefore are part of a healthy balanced ecosystem and are entirely harmless. 

Adult fungus gnats do not damage plants but they can cause annoyance when they are flying around indoors. The larvae feed mainly on dead roots and other decaying plant material and associated fungal growth.

Established plants are unlikely to be damaged by fungus gnat larvae. Here’s how to ensure fungus gnats don’t appear, and/or how to get rid of them if they’re swarming your plant. 

For sturdy plants

James said: “For robust plants with large smooth leaves such as the ficus or fiddleleaf, cleaning is really simple. 

“Using a damp cloth, gently wipe the leaves of your plant with the cloth while supporting the leaf from underneath with your other hand to avoid damaging the plant. 

“If your plant tends to collect a lot of dust or debris, you can use a pipe cleaner or soft toothbrush to remove dirt gently.” 

For tropical plants

“In most cases, you can clean tropical plants and keep pests away by using a water spray filled with lukewarm water – simply hold each leaf and gently spray with the water before allowing it to dry naturally,” he explained. 

“For larger tropical plants, it’s often easier to take the plant into the shower and use a low-pressure, low-heat spray in order to remove dirt, dust and insects. 

“If your tropical plant is particularly delicate, fill a washing-up bowl with lukewarm water and, turning the plant upside down, gently place the leaves into the water and agitate slightly to remove dirt.” 

Dead leaves

“Whatever type of plant you have, getting into the habit of removing dead leaves from the pot and the soil can help to discourage flies and other insects and keep your plant healthy,” the expert advised. 


“A lot of people are tempted to use a polish or oil to give their plant a healthy, shiny look but this should be avoided,” James said. 

“While cleaning your plant can keep the plant healthy and extend its life, polishes and oils can block the plant’s pores and prevent it from breathing properly.” 

“While cleaning your plants may seem like a bit of a faff, it really can help to keep your plant healthy and ward off flies and other insects which may cause a nuisance within your home and stop your plants from thriving.” 


Once the houseplants are cleaned, you can prevent the fungus gnats from returning, or staying by using a gravel mulch. 

If you cover the surface of the compost with a 1cm-thick mulch of gravel, grit or ornamental glass pebbles, this will stop house plant flies from being able to lay their eggs.

Not only will this deter fungus gnats, but the stones are attractive to look at. 

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