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How to Clean Your Pilea Plant

We have a confession to make: even though we’re all for plant-parenting shortcuts and hacks, we think some plant myths are just old tales that don’t belong in the modern world. And one of the worst offenders in this category is the good ol’ “mayo trick” to clean the leaves of houseplants.

That’s why we’ve decided to tackle this one head on and write a whole article about how you should (and shouldn’t) clean your Pilea leaves. Oh yes, the mayo trick is a myth that needs to go, and we’re here to make that happen. If your Pilea’s leaves are looking a bit worse for wear, here’s how to make them shine again.

How to clean your pilea's leaves

Why should I clean my Pilea plant?

You should clean your Pilea for the same reason you clean your house: to remove dust and impurities from surfaces. However, unlike your furniture, your plants are living things, and they need to photosynthesize in order to continue to be living things. A thick layer of dust will interfere with photosynthesis and clog the pores of the plant (stomata). So will mayo, by the way.

When should I clean my Pilea plant?

The answer to this question depends on how dusty your environment is, of course. You could clean your Pilea whenever you’re dusting the rest of your home. This way, you’ll get on a schedule and you’re less likely to forget about this task.

In our experience, however, people who love plants don’t just have one or two pots around the house; they might have tens of houseplants. So in this scenario, we think a designated “care hour” is the best way to shower your plants with love.

Here’s what we suggest: block off an hour a month in your calendar to do a quick plant cleanup. Inspect your houseplants carefully and pluck out any dead leaves. Rotate the plants and aerate the soil. And of course, dust off the plant leaves.

How should I clean my Pilea?

Our go-to intuitive answer is this: think about how nature does it. In the wild, Pilea plants get cleaned when it rains. In our homes, this can take two forms: a nice shower or a wipe-down.

If you opt to clean your plants in the shower, first remove the pot from the saucer. Then place the pot in the tub and turn on the water on a low setting. You don’t want to blast off the water at maximum pressure and damage your plant. Let the water fall on the leaves and on the surface of the potting mix for 15-20 seconds. Once you’re done, let the excess water come out of the drainage holes. You can leave your Pilea plant in the shower until the water drips off the leaves, or you can gently wipe the leaves with a cloth or a towel.

There’s a second method for cleaning Pilea leaves, which you can use if you have more plants than your tub can handle or if you don’t feel like lugging your plants around.

The wipe-down method is so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of it sooner. Simply grab a sock or a mitten, get it wet (but not dripping) and put it over your hand. Then gently wipe down the surface of your Pilea leaves while supporting the leaf from underneath. You can also wipe down the underside of the leaf, especially if mineral crystals have formed there.

It’s so easy, right?

Here are a few other tips you should know.

First, before you put this method into practice, inspect your plants for any bug infestation (here’s how you can tell). You don’t want your cleaning session to turn into a superspreader event. If you find any signs of infestation, leave that plant for last in your cleaning rota.

Secondly, regularly clean the rag that you’re using if you have to go through a lot of plants. You don’t want to be spreading the dust around.

And third, if your tap water is hard, you might need to wipe it off after you clean. Here’s where the other sock or mitten in the pair comes in handy. Once you’ve cleaned the Pilea leaves with a wet cloth, wipe them down with a dry cloth. This should prevent the hard water spots that can be so unsightly.

You can designate a pair of socks or mittens specially for plants. But if you have none to spare, a damp cloth or a towel will do. You can also fill a clean spray bottle with water, spray the leaves and immediately wipe them off with a dry cloth.

Some people use microfibre cloths, but we don’t recommend them due to the amount of microplastics that they shed in the water stream during their life cycle. It’s better if you repurpose something that you already have.

Should I use anything else to clean my Pilea plants?

We’ve seen a lot of advice floating around in houseplant groups about the best method to clean your houseplants. But as usual, our recommendation is to start with the easiest method first: water. If that works (and we think it will), then there’s no need to complicate things.

Simple methods also mean that you’re less likely to procrastinate on this task, and less likely to invest a lot of money in plant care routines (that means more money saved to buy plants, right?).

However, we would still like to address some of the other methods:

  • Neem oil: you can use this to clean your Pilea’s leaves only if your plant is infested with bugs, but you shouldn’t use it as routine maintenance. Always read the instructions on the bottle to determine how much water to mix it with.

  • Lemon juice: this is too acidic for your Pilea. We don’t recommend using lemon juice on Pilea leaves.

  • A makeup brush: we like this method. You can use it to get into the nooks and crannies of the plant, as long as you’re gentle. Definitely don’t replace it with a painting brush though. That’s not soft enough for Pilea leaves.

  • Beer and water: honestly, save the beer for drinking. It tends to get sticky and this will only attract more dust. Not to mention the fact that your house will end up smelling like a pub.

  • Banana peels, mayo, milk, essential oils: these methods get a resounding “no” from us. They’ll just clog the pores of your plant and will attract bugs and more dust. The dairy might even attract some cats.

We hope these tips were helpful in figuring out the best way to clean your Pilea leaves. Keep it simple and keep it fun.

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