There are many common pests out there that can wreak havoc on indoor and outdoor plants. Among the most common of these are spider mites, barely visible plant vampires that will literally suck the life out of your prized plant if they get the chance.
Known for their ability to multiply quickly, spider mites can be killed with various natural and chemical methods.
You might be surprised to find out that everyday rubbing alcohol is one of their deadliest foes – even when chemical options stop working.
What Are Spider Mites?
Let’s begin by taking a look at what makes spider mites such a problem in the first place.
These tiny bugs are actually arachnids and get their name because they’re able to spin webs. In fact, their messy webbing might be the first sign of an infestation because the mites themselves are about the size of a pin’s head.
They build these webs to make getting from one branch to another easier and provide extra protection against potential predators.
These little creatures are piercing insects that puncture the plant and feed on its sap.
One or two will have no direct effects on your plant, but once they begin reproducing, you can quickly find yourself dealing with a massive population explosion that can kill your plants if not dealt with.
A single spider mite can lay hundreds of eggs in its short lifetime, with the egg hatching and developing into a sexually mature adult in just over a week.
The eggs themselves have a protective coating that makes most pesticides ineffective until the eggs hatch.
How To Use Rubbing Alcohol On Spider Mites?
Rubbing alcohol is a contact killer, so to use it effectively, you need to know your enemy and how best to use rubbing alcohol against them.
Note that you can also use isopropyl alcohol instead of rubbing alcohol with equal effect.
What Rubbing Alcohol Does To Spider Mites?
Rubbing alcohol can be a surprisingly lethal weapon against plant pests.
It dries out the protective coatings on their exoskeletons which keeps moisture inside. As a result, the pest quickly dehydrates and dies within a few hours.
It also affects spider mite eggs – if you can spot them. While it won’t harm most plants, the alcohol quickly dries out pests on contact.
Be sure to test the alcohol on the part of a single leaf to ensure your plant isn’t sensitive.
Generally speaking, fragile or velvety leaves are more likely to be damaged by rubbing alcohol than sturdier leaves or those with smooth or leathery textures.
Using Rubbing Alcohol On Spider Mites
One of the big mistakes people make when trying to use rubbing alcohol is to have too much or too little water.
Too much water (especially with an already low alcohol concentration) can prove completely ineffective.
Conversely, having too little water and a high alcohol concentration will prevent the alcohol from soaking into the exoskeleton.
A general consensus is that you should only use 70% percent rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.
Mix 1 part of the alcohol with 3 to 4 parts water, with the weaker solution being used for more sensitive plants.
The application can be made in two ways: spray and wipe.
The spray method works best when a plant has more fragile leaves, such as Swiss cheese plants, that could easily be damaged easily.
Simply pour your mixture into a spray bottle and squirt down the plant, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves.
After 3 to 4 hours, you will want to gently rinse the leaves if you can (for Swiss cheese plants, you may need to use a spray bottle for this).
While this method is best suited for fragile leaves, it’s less effective because you’re likely not going to hit as many spider mites using a spray bottle.
Wiping is best suited for plants with tougher leaves and will let you kill mites more effectively.
To kill them, take a cotton swab or soft microfiber cloth, dip it in your alcohol solution, and wipe the leaves down top and bottom.
Be sure to hold the leaves firm but gently so that you don’t risk tearing them during the treatment.
Also, be sure to get any crevasses while wiping the plant down.
Rinse the leaves off about 3 to 4 hours after treatment to remove the dead spider mites and any remaining alcohol residue.