Do natural spider repellents really work?

Spiders are a part of life, but while some people marvel at the beauty of their webs, others shudder at the sight of the creatures.

For spider expert and enthusiast Dr Geoff Oxford, honorary secretary of The British Arachnological Society, spiders are invaluable – not least because they perform the vital task of eating hordes of creepy-crawlies that you don’t want in your house.

“Spiders do a great job as a natural insecticide, and provide food for numerous other organisms – mammals, reptiles, amphibians, predatory insects and birds,” enthuses Dr Oxford. “Their venom is increasingly being investigated as a source of natural insecticides, and their silk can be used in medicine, for example as the scaffolding for artificial joints. The sheer aesthetic beauty of spiders themselves, and their webs, goes without saying.”

Still unconvinced? For those who dislike or fear spiders there are many theories on how to persuade them to leave your house – and it’s certainly not by squashing them because that’s just cruel and unnecessary. Kinder theories are often centred around spiders avoiding certain smells, particularly citrus.

But do they work? We asked bathroom design expert George Holland and Dr Oxford for their (often contrasting) thoughts on how to gently encourage spiders to scuttle off elsewhere. Here is what we discovered.

1. Make your own anti-spider spray
Mr Holland says the key natural ingredient for keeping spiders out of your bathroom and home is citrus, and points out that while supermarkets can charge highly for ready-made spider repellent, it’s much cheaper and easier to make your own, by mixing about 20 drops of juice from a citrus fruit such as a lemon or lime, or essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, peppermint or cinnamon, with water in a spray bottle. Then spray corners of your bathroom or any moist areas that are likely to attract spiders, he advises.

“Taking two minutes to make your own spray using a citrus fruit such as lemon is cheaper, efficient, and it makes your bathroom smell amazing,” Mr Holland says.

But Dr Oxford says there’s no proof this will work. “Nothing wrong with doing this, but there’s absolutely no evidence that this or any other ‘remedy’ will repel spiders.”

Read: When bugs are better

2. Take them out in a tumbler
Dr Oxford says that if someone really wants to remove a spider, the best way to do it is to simply put a tumbler over it, slide a piece of card between the surface and the tumbler to trap the spider inside, and then let the spider go outside at some distance from the house.

3. Use lemon peel rub
“This is a favourite trick of mine,” says Mr Holland. “Rub lemon peel all over the windowsills or anywhere spiders may perch, including behind the toilet or cabinets. The citrus will repel them and will give your bathroom a nice scent.”

While not disputing the appeal of the resulting lemony aroma, Dr Oxford says he’s not aware of any evidence that rubbing lemon peel acts as a spider repellent.

Read: How to banish odours from your home

4. Seal any cracks and openings around windows and doors
Mr Holland says spiders have to get in our homes somehow, so sealing any cracks or openings around windows and doors will reduce the chances of an initial invasion.

Dr Oxford agrees that this will reduce spiders’ home-making opportunities. “Reducing the number of cracks and crevices will limit the places in which spiders are likely to set up home – although some don’t use retreats of this kind,” he says.

5. Keep rooms clean and tidy
Mr Holland says spiders hide in corners and small spaces because they don’t like to be in the open, so keeping your home uncluttered and clean can help keep spiders away. “Keeping rooms organised and clean will reduce the chance of a spider putting up a web, and cleaning will remove the dust and small insects and food particles that attract the spiders inside,” he says.

However, Dr Oxford argues that while having a bare, uncluttered house will certainly reduce the number of niches spiders can occupy, there’s nothing to suggest they deliberately come into homes, and he points out they eat living prey rather than food particles. “There’s no evidence that dust or food particles serve to attract spiders inside,” he says.

6. Citronella air fresheners/candles
While you may want to use your homemade repellent to target specific spider-prone areas, to help keep spiders away from entire rooms, Mr Holland advises using an air freshener or burning a candle containing citronella – but Dr Oxford is unconvinced, saying he is not aware of evidence it will work.

Read: Keep spiders out of your home

7. Add spider-repelling plants
“Plants such as mint, lemongrass or eucalyptus will not only elevate your bathroom interior but they’ll help ward off spiders as they hate these kinds of aromas,” says Mr Holland.

However, Dr Oxford says: “I’m not aware that any plant acts as a spider repellent by exuding a scent. Some plants, in gardens, certainly offer better support for spider webs than others, but that’s not what we’re talking about.”

And as for using mint as a repellent, Dr Oxford points out that several spider species often use the leaves of mint species as retreats in which to produce and guard their egg sacs, even though other, non-aromatic, plant species are available.

Do you mind the odd spider or two running around? How do you keep spiders out of your home? Let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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