Q Is there a homemade solution to get rid of houseplant pests such as spider mites without using chemical or commercial sprays?

A No, there is no homemade solution for treating insects and spider mites on houseplants, said entomologist Jeff Hahn of the University of Minnesota Extension.

Some might be tempted to mix household soap and water to spray on plants to treat these pests. But this probably will burn the plant's foliage, causing the leaves to brown and curl. It's not worth the risk. Other homemade remedies have been suggested, but none has been consistently effective.

Low-impact insecticides to consider include:

• Insecticidal soap (made not to burn houseplant foliage), which is effective against spider mites, scales, thrips and aphids.

• Neem oil, which is effective against whiteflies, thrips and aphids.

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit.