How to Get Rid of Spiders and Keep Them Out of Your House

·5 min read
Photo credit: RussieseO - Getty Images
Photo credit: RussieseO - Getty Images

With hundreds of types of spiders in the U.S. that may occasionally end up indoors, chances are you’ll see one in your home from time to time. Along with gnats, fruit flies, and cockroaches, most people don't like to cohabitate with these critters. But how do you know if you have a spider problem? “For some people, one spider is too much,” says Rick Vetter, retired research associate and arachnologist at the University of California, Riverside. “However, most spiders are harmless to people with the exception of the brown recluse and black widow. If you live in areas with these spiders, you should be aware of what they look like and how to deal with them.”

Here’s what else you need to know about how to get rid of spiders.

Why do I find spiders indoors?

“It’s just random movement,” says Vetter. “But if they find a reliable food source, they may stay.” Common harmless types that end up indoors include cellar spiders, which construct a loose, irregular-shaped web in a dark corner in damp places such as the basement or crawl spaces; funnel web weavers, which build funnel-shaped webs, often in the corner of basement windows; and wolf spiders, which are large (up to 1 3/8 inches long) and fast movers. They’re actually hunters and may scare you due to their large size, hairy appearance, and rapid movements; however, they’re not aggressive toward humans.

Brown recluse spider bites can be dangerous.

If you live where brown recluse are indigenous, which is primarily in the Central U.S. ranging down to the Gulf Coast, brown recluses are a real threat. Check the map here to see their range across the country. If you don’t live in one of these areas, it’s highly unlikely that you have a brown recluse, says Vetter. Many other harmless spiders are often misidentified as brown recluse when they’re not even found in a region.

But if you do live in areas where brown recluses dwell, you should know the signs of a brown recluse bite: Reddened skin with a blister; mild to intense pain or itching at the site within the first eight hours; and possibly an open sore that develops a week later. Most brown recluse bites heal on their own in a week. However, some people have a whole-body reaction including fever, chills, vomiting, or skin rash. If you have any concerns, call your doctor immediately.

Black widows also are dangerous.

Different kinds of black widows are found all over the U.S., mainly in the south and west. The good news is that they’re relatively timid and typically make their webs in out-of-the-way places such as garages, sheds and basements, so bites from this type of spider are uncommon. Signs of a black widow bite include pain followed by redness and swelling; two tiny fang marks; and muscles spasms, chills, and nausea that start within an hour following a bite. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a black widow, seek medical help immediately.

What should I do if I find a spider in my house?

Place a clear plastic cup over it and a piece of cardboard underneath and escort it outdoors, suggests Vetter. However, if you’re feeling less generous, it’s fine to suck them up with the vacuum or smash them with a tissue or fly swatter. But when it comes to brown recluse, you may need to call a professional pest control company. “If they get indoors, usually in the attic or garage, they don’t want to leave and their population can boom into hundreds or thousands,” says Vetter.

In the meantime, reduce the chances of being bitten by brown recluse spiders by removing bed skirts from beds and moving your bed away from the wall (that way, they can get up only by crawling up the legs). Sticky traps also help. When you store things in the garage, basement, or attic, use plastic zipper lock bags or sealed plastic containers to keep them out. Don’t leave clothes on the floor, and don’t forget to check before sticking your hands or feet into places they like to hide such as gardening gloves, boots, baseball gloves, roller skates, and so on.

How do I keep spiders out of my house?

This might not be what you want to hear, but you’re never going to eliminate spiders completely, says Vetter. After all, spiders are beneficial predators that reduce pest populations of insects such as flies! But if you’d rather they live happily ever after somewhere else, here’s what to do to cut down on the likelihood that any kind of spider will make your home sweet home theirs, too:

  • Clean up clutter. Spiders love to hide in boxes and under piles of cardboard or tarps.

  • Tape storage boxes shut or use plastic lidded containers to store things such as holiday decorations.

  • Make sure window screens have no holes, check weather stripping around windows and doors, and caulk around cracks and crevices in your house’s foundation.

  • Don’t stack firewood up against the house, and remove vegetation and outdoor debris from up against the house. Spiders like to hang out in these areas, and that will increase the chances that they’ll get indoors.

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