Houseplants, Scale, & Alcohol

How I Get Rid of Scale on My Houseplants

A few days ago I noticed my houseplants had scales. This isn’t the first time, and I know it won’t be the last time I fight against these little insects.

Scales are pesky little creatures that can  literally suck the life out of your houseplants. They are usually hiding beneath their hard outer shell. This shell is what makes them difficult to get rid of. They only crawl at a certain stage in their life cycle. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever seen one crawl, nor have I ever seen a picture of one crawling. I’ve only read about them crawling after they hatch.

Here is a picture of the scale on my plant

The round little bumps are the scale.

These insects will kill your beautiful houseplants if you don’t take care of the problem. It’s also gross to think about insects all over your plants in the house. Cleaning your houseplants is a must if you want long living, beautiful, healthy plants.

More pictures of scale on different plants in my house

Symptoms of Scale Infestation

Scales are sneaky and they usually go unnoticed until your plant is looking sad, yellowed, and droopy.

The first thing people usually notice is a sticky sap like substance called honeydew on the surrounding area of the plant. You may also notice the stickiness on the leaves below the leaf with the scale. This stuff can ruin drapery, couch fabric, carpet, and wood. It’s not easy to remove the honeydew if you leave it sitting too long before cleaning it up.

I use the mixture I kill the scale with to clean the floor around my plants too. I have acid stained cement floors in my living, and dining room, so I don’t have to worry about  carpet being damaged. I also use the solution on my wood floors around my stairs to clean the sap off.

The best thing is to catch the scale before the honeydew gets onto any of your floors or furniture and ruins them.

Home Remedy For Getting Rid of Scale


I have used this solution on my plants many times without any damage to my plants. However, I strongly suggest testing on a couple of leaves before using this on your entire plant. If you don’t test, don’t blame me if your plant dies. You have been officially warned LOL.

I also like to use rubber gloves so my skin does not absorb the alcohol or dry out my hands. If your plants are too big to take outside make sure to protect your floors and furniture. This stuff will drip off the plant.

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Recipe

1 quart water
1 tsp detergent (I used a generic brand, you can also use plain Dawn)
3 Tbsp Isopropyl Alcohol 70%

Mix all the ingredients in a spray bottle and you are ready to go.

I use a moistened  microfiber cloth to wipe the plants.

Spray one section of the plant at a time saturating the entire leaf with the solution. Then carefully wipe each leaf to remove the scale and sticky residue. I go leaf by leaf. This can be a bit time consuming, but I found this works best for  my plants. Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies.

Here is a picture of a couple of the plants I had to work on. The tall one I used to take outside, but now it’s too big so I work on it in the house.

It’s a good idea to check your plants weekly or at least monthly to see if new scales show up. In my case they seem to come back in full force every few months. I try to catch them before there are too many. I just had to do major surgery on one of my large plants because I waited too long. Now it sits outside with one remaining leaf. It may end up in the trash, time will tell.


Here is a picture I took today, August 11, 2017. The plant continues to be healthy and happy. Also I mentioned earlier in my post that I don’t take this plant outside to clean because it was too big. I’ve changed that, now I do take it outside with help from my husband. It makes it so much easier to clean because I can spray it with water. I still go leaf by leaf and gently clean off all the dust and any pesky bugs that might be hiding.


I hope this post helped you

I’m not a plant expert, just someone who has loved houseplants since I was a kid.

Do you have problems with scale? I would love to hear how you get rid of them.

I love comments, so please feel free to leave one.


29 responses to “Houseplants, Scale, & Alcohol

  1. I only have one plant in my house, sadly. My cats eat plants and get sick. Yours look beautiful, though! Pretty!

    • OH, that’s not good if the cat eats them.None of our animals ever ate any. Now we are animal free. At least for now. We do have a goldfish out in the pond if that counts lol.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I have 2 or 3 houseplants left and those are slowly dying…. I had tons but they’re so much work! LOL! I used to forgot to water them all the time.

    • Hi Jackie,

      Yes they can be a lot of work. You have to really enjoy caring for them. I used to over water mine. I think watering is the hardest part.
      Thanks for stopping by. Tamara

  3. to kill scale, mealy bugs, spider mites etc you need to add oil to the mix. 20 ml canola oil with 5 ml liquid dish soap will kill anything. You can use mineral oil instead of the canola oil. The oil suffocated the insects and eggs, it has no chemical action and canola and mineral oil are light enough they won’t clog the pores of the leaf. You MUST mix the oil and soap before adding it to the water. It has to turn white. Once it is white indicating the oil has emulsified, it can be added to 1 L of slightly warm water. If you add the oil and soap to the water without premixing, the oil will seperate and float on top of the water. For a few houseplants, use a 2 L sprayer and spray the plat till it is soaked. Under the leaves, top of the soil, top of the leaves, down the stems where the leaves join. You can not over spray the plant. Do not spray plants in hot sun, wait till evening and rinse the plant off before the heat returns the next day. In about 12 hours insects will be dead and can be washed off with a strong spray from the nozzle. If you can’t take your plants outside, spray them in the shower. Repeat about 2 weeks later.

    • Thank you Conrad,
      I will try adding the oil to the mix for the plants I can take outside. My larger plants have to stay in place which makes it a bit more difficult.

      I appreciate your detailed advice very much. I would love to kill all those pesky bugs for good. Scales love my indoor plants and it’s a constant battle.


  4. I read through your helpful hints, but unfortunately how to get rid of the sticky stuff from carpet was not covered – can you guide me in the right direction……..Nina

    • Hi Nina,

      I don’t really have any helpful tips about getting sticky stuff from carpets. I don’t have any carpets so it’s not a problem. I would check out some carpet cleaning sites and see if they can offer you some advice.

      Thanks for stopping by,

    • In my 40 year experience with plants getting insects like scale and mealybugs, reading up heaps of (& spending hours trying) solutions, most of the time it is due to plants becoming root bound. If they are not overwatered or dying from drying out or a light problem, they usually get sick from their roots getting too big for the pot. That makes them very vulnerable to attack (another sign is their leaves dying or the plants getting very thirsty(.

      Lots of authors recommend you get a bigger pot or “very gingerly” trim the roots back. I buy my plants to live in a certain pot in a certain area and find that I don’t have to trim the roots back only “gingerly.” I can cut the roots off with a bread knife by half the depth and 1/2 the width, then fill up with new potting mix, soak them in a sink for a while and drain. THEN spray or scrub all your scale and other stuff off (and remove any badly infested insect residues) and spray with white oil and/or soap.

      I have brought many plants back from death’s door and they sit up so happily the next day! They are very grateful.

      However at present I have a small palm I just discovered covered in scale and the new carpet underneath is full of honeydew! I’m sure it is rootbound. However from other sites it seems I must try either warm to hot water and soap OR isopropyl alchohol. Sure hope it works – will try a test patch first.

      • Hi Monica,
        Thanks for your comment. My plant is doing great. It was not root bound, but I did cut way back on watering. The scale has stayed away. I hope you have luck with the honeydew coming off the carpet.
        Good luck,

    • Nina (from the bottom of my other reply below),
      At present I have a small palm I just discovered covered in scale and the new carpet underneath is full of honeydew. I’m sure the plant is pot bound. However from other sites it seems I should try either warm to hot water with soap OR isopropyl alchohol. Hope it works without the latter damaging the carpet – will try a test patch first.

      Did you get anywhere since you posted this 18 months ago?

  5. I just encountered scale on one of my plants.. Took it outside and left it overnight, and the next day I noticed flies and small bees all over the plant. They are eating the scale!! No more sticky stuff either! Took off some the badly infested leaves and my plant is almost scale free!! Will use the alcohol spray anyway, just to make sure..

    • Hi Donna. I was wondering where you live, as in the UK, it’s too cold for insects to be flying around in October, especially bees etc. I have a large Schefflera plant and don’t want it to die as this particular kind is difficult to find. If it last til the spring, I will indeed put it outside. Thanks for that suggestion. In the meantime, I will try Conrad’s recipe as I’m not sure I can get rubbing alcohol here and I understand that ordinary alcohol shouldn’t be used on plants.

  6. I let the wasps come in and they eat the scale insects… love them

    • I guess that is one way to get rid of scale. I’m not so fond of wasps inside my house. Another thing I learned is that I was watering too much. I cut back a lot. Now just 1 cup a week. No scales in the last several months.

  7. I just sprayed and cleaned my Kaffir Lime plant leaf by leaf with the home solution I found on your site to get rid of the scale. I would like to know if it worked for you and how often do I have to do this? Thank you for your response.

    • Hello Laure, I needed to clean mine about every 3 months and yes it worked. One thing I did that helped was to water my plant less. I found I was watering too much which made the plant weaker. I’m not an expert, but I did have an expert come to my house and they told me about the watering.
      Good luck on your plant.

  8. witteveenphotography

    Thank you Conrad, I have never seen scales on my plants before, I was just looking for flower buds when I noticed them.. I am trying your solution right now and hope they are gone tomorrow. I only had a few and never experienced and dew from them thank goodness. Wish I could post an image showing the little buggers.

  9. I have been battling these nasty creatures for a while now. Because scale is so diverse I don;t recognize it immediately when it shows up on other plants looking completely different. I have been using alcohol and water sprayed on the plants which has done nothing but dry my hands. I am going to use the recipes listed here and hope I can save my plants. At the same time, I am dealing with powder mildew on my begonias. I had quite a large and lovely mix of cane begonias until the mildew showed up last summer. It’s almost worse than scale. I will report back on my success (positive thinking) with scale recipe.

  10. Hi! .
    So about a month ago I purchased a small schefflera plant. Today after repotting it I noticed the scale. I don’t have as much time invested into this plant as I do my others (7) but it would kill me to have to throw it out. Hubby has a huge issue with bugs in plants and this is the very first time I’ve ever had any issue with any kind of pests. My schefflera is currently in my bedroom as that’s where it receives the right amount of light and a comfortable temperature, so it’s away from my other plants. (Peace lily, dragon tree, prayer plant, lucky bamboo, creeper and an ivy) my question is how fast would the alcohol mix work? I’m terrified of bugs inside (I know I picked the wrong hobby) and I’m wondering if cleaning with the alcohol mix will be worth it for me.

    I’m not over watering. (Twice in the last month) I always check the soil every second day to make sure. The plants not in a cold environment. Gets lots of indirect sunlight. The only problem I can see causing the scale is lack of humidity. I’m not really sure how I’m suppose to fix that in the middle of a newfoundland winter though

    • Hello and sorry for the slow reply. I hope your plant is doing OK. For me the alcohol works immediately because I wipe all the bugs off by hand after I spay the leaves and bugs. The plant I show in my post is now lush and thriving with no scale. Seeing your comment reminds me I need to take the plant outside where I can spray it down with water to wipe all the leaves. It is a labor of love, because my plant is about 7 feet tall with many leaves. I wipe off the dust on both top and bottom leaf by leaf. After the leaves are shiny and beautiful. My husband and I tackle it together so it goes pretty fast. It takes about an hour and a half but it is well worth it to keep my plant looking beautiful and bug free. I hope this helps.

  11. Hi Tamara — I have a beautiful Schefflera Plant that has had the sticky version of these miserable scale things. I tried a spray called Safe Soap and it did ZERO. I’ve heard of using Mineral Oil. But I’d like to try your method first.

    One Question: Can you add this mixture to the soil of the plant or will it be toxic to the plant. I ask about the soil as I’ve heard it’s good to get the solution into the plant’s circulatory system so the scales die this way as well.

    denise & Schefflera

    • Hello Denise, I’ve never tried to use the solution on the soil. I don’t think I would try it. I know there are some insecticides you can buy to put on the soil. I wish I could be more help.

      Best of luck with your plant,

    • Hello Denise, I’ve never tried to use the solution on the soil. I don’t think I would try it. I know there are some insecticides you can buy to put on the soil. I wish I could be more help.

      Best of luck with your plant,

  12. I’m surprised you have such a turn around with your Schefflera as the nasties looked pretty advanced. I’m going to give your alcohol solution a try. Happy Thanksgiving. ❤

    • It did take a bit of time. I went leaf by leaf and gently wiped each leaf to remove the scale. Another thing I did was decrease the amount of water I give it. We give it 1 cup of water every Tuesday. We were way overwatering it before. We clean it every 3-6 months depending on how it looks. Here is a picture of the plant I took 3 months ago.
      Happy Thanksgiving

  13. I’m going to try your mixture. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Every other site says to burn the plant, so I’m hoping this works. Thanks for posting your solution.

  14. Charlotte Knox

    I just did this exact same thing only I used half and half alcohol to water and a few drops of dawn. And, it took two days to complete. The first day I sprayed and wiped most every leaf well. Today I sprayed all of the plant with the solution and used a q-tip to wipe off any remaining scale.
    I hope this isn’t going to be a continuing problem. If so, I may end up getting rid of this plant in favor of saving my time and my other plants. This schefflera is more than 8 ft tall and lush. It was quite expensive so I would hate to lose it. But,…….

    • Thank you for your comment. I hope it works long term for you. I agree it is a time consuming process. We haven’t had anymore problems with scale. We still take the plant outside 2-3 times a year to give it a good cleaning. We also cut down on the amount of water we were giving it when it had the scale problem. We give it 1 cup of water weekly. Our plant is 8-9 feet tall. I would be very sad if we ever lost this plant to disease.

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