Ask LH: How Can I Keep The Spiders Away?

Dear Lifehacker, Recently I have been confronted with a staggering number of various spiders (high levels of rain mean lots of insects and hence lots of spider food). I am not bothered by the majority of spiders, but red backs, funnel webs and other poisonous specimens are a little unnerving. What's the best thing to repel or kill them, other than straight poison from the hardware store or a large boot? Can I use plants or eucalyptus spray or mint or moth balls or something harmless to humans? Thanks, Metebelis Three

Spider picture from Shutterstock

Dear MT,

All species of spider have taste receptors in the hairs at the ends of their legs. They will therefore try to avoid pungent or acidic substances upon contact. Some spiders also have a sense of smell, which is primarily used to locate mates by tracking the release of pheromones. In other words, there are at least two 'spidey-senses' that you can target in a bid to keep arachnids away.

Popular natural spider repellents include lemon juice, lavender soap, mint leaves, chestnuts, dish washing liquid, moth balls and various natural oils (peppermint, tea tree, citronella, etc.)

Here's a typical spider spray recipe that we spotted on the US blog 7 Gen:

  • Add up to 5 drops of essential oil (lemon is my favorite and spiders detest it) and up to 5 drops of dish washing liquid to 1 qt. of water [around 950ml].
  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake well.
  • Spray the mixture on cobwebs, around doors and windows, around the lawn and garden and on any surfaces where spiders lurk. In addition to having a pleasant aroma, this mixture is nontoxic.
  • Oils may stain or cause spots, so be sure to test the mixture on a small section of carpet or upholstery before spraying an entire surface.
  • Reapply the spray once a week during peak "spider seasons."
  • There are various other recipes online that follow the same basic principle. We can't vouch for this concoction's success rate as we've never tested it, but a lot of people seem to really swear by it.

    Otherwise, your best approach is to act like a wrathful God — destroy their natural habitats (woodpiles, thick plant growth, etc) and demolish every web you can find with a broom. Also be sure to seal off any cracks or crevices around the house to stop them from infiltrating your home.

    Just be aware that the spiders in and around your abode are probably keeping the insect population down, so it's probably not a good idea to go completely genocidal.

    If any readers have spider-ridding tips of their own, let MT know in the comments section below.

    Cheers Lifehacker

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    Poor spiders.

    Last edited 01/10/13 2:11 pm

    You could also try running a line of diatomaceous earth around your house:
    It won't get whatever is in the ceiling, and it's not effective when wet but works again when it dries.

    flamethrowers, weed, a jar of milk, assassin bugs, or get used to them...(and not necessarily in that order)

    You could always contact a pest management technician. If you are getting species like Redbacks, they are able to be removed effectively. Most pestie's offer warranties for their work, and will be happy to give you some info to reduce spider populations by methods other than just pesticides.
    Also, an important thing to remember - poisonous means if you eat it, you will get sick, where venomous means it's bite is more of an issue :P

      Actually, Macquarie lists poisonous and venomous as synonymous in this context. (Also, poisons don't have to be eaten -- they can be inhaled or injected.)

        Thanks for the reply Angus!
        They might be the same thing in the dictionary, but we were always taught that they were used incorrectly.
        That link outlines how i was taught, but I'm happy to stand corrected :)

        It's somewhat akin to the vegetables/fruit debate -- the more precise usage favoured by scientists doesn't necessarily reflect how the terms are ordinarily used.

          Fruit has seeds, that's the difference. So stuff like Pumpkins, Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Capsicums, which are commonly considered to be vegetables, are actually fruits.

          Last edited 01/10/13 11:27 pm

            Again: only in strict science terms. Common usage is around culinary deployment. In that context, everything you list is unquestionably a vegetable :)

    I have to try some of those lemon and dish washing liquid solutions. Some spiders build webs at night and about face height so its not a pleasant meeting. As far as controlling insects, spiders don't seem to do much at all around my place so I am sure its ok to exterminate with extreme prejudice. Go godfather/terminator on them.

    Given the handle, I'm surprised no one suggested making sure there were no blue crystals in your house or garden. :)

    One thing I've struggled with is where you get "lemon oil". I can get "orange oil" and "lemon juice" from the hardware store and supermarket respectively, but lemon oil has proven to be very elusive (or else I'm looking in the wrong places).

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