Is Rubbing Alcohol Safe to Use on Tropical Plants?

Tropical plants take a lot of time and patience to grow and keep alive.  Some are more sensitive than others, but most eventually will have a time when they become infested by pests such as scale or mealybugs.  If that’s not the case, some plants may simply need to have their leaves cleaned with a rubbing alcohol solution if they have collected too much dust in your home or office.

But since you have put so much effort into raising your exotic plants, you may be cautious and wonder whether rubbing alcohol is safe to use on tropical plants in the first place?  The answer is yes, it is safe to use on tropical plants as long as mixed in the right proportions and tested first.

The safe solution to use is 70% isopropyl alcohol mixed with water – around a 50/50 mix.  So if you made a total of 2 cups, you would use 1 cup water and 1 cup of the 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Before you begin, let’s research this a little further, as there are a few more important tips you will want to know.

What Type of Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol Should I Use on Plants?

As mentioned above, you should use 70% isopropyl alcohol.  70% means that 70% of the contents in the bottle is alcohol and 30% is water.  Here is an example of the correct type of rubbing alcohol to buy.  There are many different brands.  Generic brands are perfectly fine.

Is it OK to spray alcohol on plants?

Yes, it is.  Before you spray the entire plant, be sure to test on one or two leaves first.  Unless it is a situation where the bugs or other pests are going to win the battle if you don’t take action soon.

Make your mixture of half water and half rubbing alcohol and pour into a spray bottle.  If you have pests like scales or mealybugs, try spraying them on a small section of the plant or one or two leaves.

Not all plants are alike, so obviously some will be way more sensitive than others.  This is why testing is vital.  Inspect the plant closely to make sure there is no damage from the test area.  If the solution hasn’t killed the leaf you have sprayed after a couple days you should be able to proceed treating the rest of the plant.

Can Rubbing Alcohol Kill Bugs?

Yes, it can be very effective killing scale, mealybugs and other pests on your plants.  You can spray the solution on the pests as mentioned above or apply it directly with a cotton ball or swab.  This may require a bit of patience, but your plant will be thankful.

But why does rubbing alcohol kill bugs and other plant pests?

The alcohol kills bugs by dissolving the bug’s cells as it is a solvent.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good way to go.  😀

It also dries out the bugs as it evaporates.   And the best part about it, is this is nice, safe alternative compared to the many dangerous chemical products that are out there.

What Plant Pests Can be Killed with Rubbing Alcohol?

In general, rubbing alcohol can kill a wide variety of bugs not just plant pests.  For the purposes of this article though, the solution is effective against aphids, mealybugs, scale, red spider mites, fungus gnats, white flies and more.

Will Alcohol Kill My Plants?

As long as you test the mixture first – on a small section of your plant such as one leaf and dilute the mixture properly as outlined above, it should not kill your plants.

But, there is no hard and fast rule on this as there are too many plant species to give a general answer.  Some plants are simply super sensitive and the slightest disruption may have a disastrous cascade effect.  Others, will have no problem at all.  Test, test, test.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Scale?

Yes, this 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water can be very effective against armored or soft scale.  Both types of scale have a protective coating – armored secrete a hard protective coating – sort of like it’s own little house on the plant.  Soft scale have a waxy coating that is connected to their body.

The alcohol is effective at killing the scale as it dissolves their protective armor and then proceeds to kill the bugs.

Here’s a video demonstrating the application of rubbing alcohol on the scale pests.

Can You Clean Plants with Rubbing Alcohol?

Yes, you can.  If you have plants in your office or at home, over time the leaves will get dusty and need to be cleaned to ensure the plant can breathe properly – as well as look their best!

As always, it’s best to test a leaf before cleaning the entire plant.  Once you have ensured that the plant you want to clean has passed the initial test, then simply use a cotton ball soaked in the rubbing alcohol mixture to wipe the dust off the leaves.


If you love your tropical plants and value the months or even years of effort you have put into them to keep them alive, you will want to keep a sharp eye out for pests that can undo all of your work in a short amount of time.  Even worse, they can wipe out other nearby plants if you don’t take action.

To take effective action, use this safe and simple rubbing alcohol/water solution to get rid of the pests on your plants.  You won’t have to spend a lot of money and you won’t have to worry about mysterious chemicals with scary sounding names.

If you have any comments, tips or suggestions, please let me know below.  Good luck!


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