I Accidentally Bleached All 600 of My Houseplants!

Last Friday I finally finished a quick move of most of my plants to my new plant room in my unfinished master bath. In the process I scrubbed lots of trays and washed a lot of mats in the washing machine. I had everything roughly in its place and the plan was to go through and really organize them the next week.

But before I did that I wanted to make sure and spray all my plants with insecticide since it had almost been a week since the last time I had done it because it took me about two weeks to get everything moved and set up (might I add with a lot of help from my husband buying and installing shelves, setting up lighting, moving shelves multiple times, etc.

It only takes me about ten minutes to spray all my plants so I thought I would hurry and do it before we all left the house for a few hours. This was last Saturday around 1 pm right before our extended family Halloween party.

Right when I finished everyone in the house started complaining about how it smelled like a pool in our house. Then all of a sudden everything clicked for me in a moment of recognition of what I had just done!

Back story - When I started spraying my plants with an insecticide a year ago I put it in a regular spray bottle and labeled it as "Captain Jack's" which is the brand I was using at the time. After a while, I switched over to a gallon hand pump sprayer and that made things so much easier and faster. When I did that, I dumped the Captain Jack's into my new sprayer.

A few months ago we found some mold in that bathroom (mostly around the window) so we bought this really strong cleaner that is basically really strong bleach you spray on the mold and it just disappears without even touching it. It's pretty cool but it stinks up the house for days.

It's really strong and ate through the spray bottle it was in so my husband dumped it into the Captain Jack's spray bottle and didn't re-label it (it's a good thing I still love him - in his defense - he did tell me what he was doing. I am incredibly forgetful and should have just re-labeled it myself.)

Fast forward to the two weeks ago when we were moving into the bathroom - we found a little spot of mold we missed so my husband looked all over the whole house trying to find the mold spray and couldn't find it anywhere. He even smelled the Captain Jack's sprayer and couldn't smell anything.

When I was moving the plants into the bathroom I found the sprayer and forgot I had already dumped out what was in it and since there was something in the sprayer I figured it was Captain Jack's because that's how it was labeled so I just dumped it in my pump sprayer (which had about 1/3 a gallon of insecticide so it was about 1/3 of the cleaner, which is stronger than bleach).

Back to 1 pm last Saturday - I instantly put two and two together and realized I had just sprayed all my plants with the bleach mold cleaner!

I still can't believe I did that! I did smell a bit of chlorine but the spray tends to not be very strong at first but pretty soon gets overwhelming. I just thought it was the smell from the bug spray, which was part of what I sprayed on my plants.

It wasn't the best timing because I had a party to get to. All we could think of doing was to just spray down all the plants a few times with plain water. Then I got to realizing the soil would have bleach in it too so I went late to the party and rinsed down a bunch of my plants and rinsed out the soil and hoped that would be enough.

Once I got home from the party (at which I was trying really hard not to freak out at) and started researching the cleaner and how it's really, really bad to spray your plants with almost full concentrated bleach I started freaking out and thinking they would all be dead in 2-3 days, which is what most people said.

I was so sad about my plants I love suffering and so upset about the amount of money, time and effort I had spent on all my plants. I was so sad at the thought that I might not be able to sell plants anymore and would have to just get an accounting job or something. I realized this is my first "job" I was sad at the thought of leaving.

I finally came across an online forum where someone said she did something similar and someone else said you can't rinse bleach out of soil and the best thing to do was to take the plant out of the pot, completely rinse off all the leaves and roots and then put new soil back in the pots.

This is because even if you rinse off the leaves, the bleach is really bad in the soil because it raises the PH to 14 and basically suffocates your plants. It could take anywhere from a few days to two weeks but they would die for sure if I didn't do something about it.

Ugh! That gave me hope that they weren't ALL going to die like everything else I was reading said - but I had 660 plants! That's a lot of plants to repot. I decided it was worth a try, even if it would be an insane amount of work.

We started by just throwing away any plants I had under $8. I had probably 150 plants I sold for $2 and I was already feeling like they weren't worth my time to water, propagate, repot them, the soil, the place to put them and then in like six months when they were finally ready to sell to spend at least 10 minutes for each plant to take a photo and list it in 4-5 places. Not to mention all the time to either coordinate pickup with someone or to ship it.

The re-potting process went like this - go shopping all over town and buy all the "ingredients" I could find for my custom aroid soil mix, mix up the soil a few times a day, fill up a mixing bowl with water and put it by my garbage can, take a tray of plants and put all the soil in the garbage then put the plants to soak in the bowl of water, scrub the tray the pots were in, put the felt mat that goes on the trays in the washing machine (I had a few extra trays and mats so I could do the cleaning in batches), scrub the pot the plant was in or pile them up to be washed later if I was going to use a different pot, decide what to do with the plant (such as chopping it up and/or making more "Mothers"), actually re-pot the plant and put it on a new tray, water the plants and take them back downstairs again.

It was very labor intensive and exhausting. I spent the last week working on it every chance I could get and even had help from my husband, Mom, children, and nieces. I am so grateful for their help. It was such a big project and so tiring. I'm so sore.

I started with my more valuable plants and the ones that I had already sold first. Some of the plants were just totally dead by the time I got to them. Most of them had very white, stiff roots. Many of them have very damaged leaves and I'm not sure if those leaves will make it.

Over the last week, many of the leaves have died. But with these types of plants, it's not the end of the world if the leaves die. As long as the node is good (the part of the stem where new growth comes out) then you can propagate the plants and eventually have a whole new plant.

Some of the plants seem perfectly fine, especially the ones with lots of roots and/or thicker roots. So I ended up chopping up all the plants I could. My thinking is that even if the base of the plant dies then hopefully the propagations will be ok since they didn't have roots to get damaged.

I figure chopping not only helps increase my chance that at least part of the plant will survive but it will make it so I have way fewer plant chores to do for a few months while I wait for all the plants to get large enough to sell.

I also took the opportunity to make more "Mothers" of plants that sell well for a good price that I want to keep selling. In the past, I haven't had enough Mothers of most of my plants so I ran out of stock a lot. I'm hoping I will eventually have a more consistent supply of my good plants.

I also decided to sell larger pots of some of my less expensive plants so I can make more money with less work.

I have a few plants that could be ready to sell in as few as two weeks, assuming they continue to do well and get new growth on them. But most of my plants won't be ready to sell for months.

So the good news is now that I finally finished re-potting everything, I can kind of take a few months off and just let everything grow (and I'm sure some of them will die). I can hopefully finally get to a few of the things I never seem to be able to get to.

I feel quite confident that at least some of my plants will make it. Some of the plants I re-potted at the beginning of the week are already showing signs of new growth, which is very encouraging. Some of them that looked fine when I re-potted them don't look so fine now, especially any tender, new growth.

I finished re-potting and cleaned everything up this afternoon - so it took almost exactly 7 days. I started with 660 plants and now have 394 plants. That's still a lot of plants. It feels so much more manageable though and I really think that once they recover in a few months I will be able to make more money with less work.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.