A light infestation of mealy bugs can be washed away with a steady stream of water. An insecticidal soap or dish detergent mixed with a light concentration of water can be sprayed on the plant. Products with harsh chemicals and unknown additives or perfumes should be avoided.
Soap sprays must be sprayed directly onto the mealybugs to kill them, so it is not an effective preventative measure. The best way to prevent mealybugs is to have healthy, strong plants, which are less prone to infestation. Neem oil can be useful, as it is a natural insecticide, and can be absorbed by the plant. Mealybugs can also be killed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
There are stronger pesticides approved for use on mealybugs, however, as of 2014, there is controversy regarding their use, as they can be hazardous to humans and animals. For this reason, some gardeners choose to use them only in greenhouses.
Another way to prevent and get rid of mealybugs is to release ladybugs into the environment, as ladybugs are natural predators to mealybugs, feeding on them avidly during all developmental stages. Planting bee balm, yarrow or sweet alyssum can attract parasitic wasps, which also feed on mealybugs.