Why You Shouldn't Kill Spiders in Your Home (And What to Do Instead)

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated April 21, 2022
Girl observing a spider in a glass container
Photo: Elva Etienne / Moment / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Spiders provide many valuable services, including killing other pests. 

  • Most spiders are harmless, aside from giving a non-poisonous bite.

  • Capture it in a jar and release it outside instead of killing it.

  • Contact an exterminator to verify potentially dangerous species.

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Sure, spiders may be creepy. They hide in dark places, scurry about on eight legs, and muck up your basement with webbing. But beyond that, these eight-eyed beasties are relatively harmless and even helpful in certain scenarios. In other words, before crushing them with a rolled-up newspaper, consider how spiders serve humankind and learn better ways to handle them.

Friend or Foe: Reasons to Save Spiders

There are several reasons to spare the lives of poor, misunderstood spiders. 

They Eat Pests

Has spring moisture brought pests to your home? Consider spiders your natural exterminator. These predators feast on household insects like cockroaches, flies, mosquitos, moths, ants, and even dreaded bedbugs. As a matter of fact, seeing a spider in a web is a sure indicator it’s well-fed, as arachnids only post up in highly trafficked parts of the home.

Also, they eat a whole lot of bugs. According to a study published in The Science of Nature, spiders eat a whopping 800 tons of pests annually. Hungry humans only eat half that amount of meat and fish each year. 

They Help Various Industries

Woman in a clothing store looking at a silk blouse
Photo: Ridofranz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Silk is one of the most fashionable and comfortable fabrics around, so we can thank spiders for that. Despite being lightweight and spongy, spider silk is incredibly strong, with some manufacturers using it to make bulletproof vests and other protective body gear.

Also, health care professionals have a long history of creating antivenom, anticoagulant, and antibacterial substances with spiderwebs and spider venom. Modern medical researchers are even developing treatments that use venom to combat chronic pain, brain cancer, pancreatitis, and abnormal heart rhythms.

They Aren’t That Dangerous (Really!) 

A common misconception regarding spiders is that bites lead to serious health consequences, but that’s only true for a small handful of household species in the U.S. (namely black widows and brown recluses). The vast majority of spiders pose no serious risk to humans or pets besides an annoying (though non-poisonous) bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spiders aren’t aggressive, and most bites occur because they're trapped or accidentally touched.

What to Do Instead of Killing Spiders 

So, spiders are valuable members of the planet's ecosystem, in addition to pruning your home's insect population. Still, that doesn't mean you should open up your home to every spider that crawls through a crack in the insulation. Here are some ways to handle Charlotte and her friends without killing them. 

Capture and Release

Person at home capturing a spider in a glass
Photo: LeoniekvanderVliet / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The fastest and easiest way to remove spiders from your home is via catch and release. Lure the spider onto a piece of paper and trap it in a heavy jar or another container. Holding the paper from the bottom, bring the spider outside—far from your home.

There are also contraptions you can purchase for safely catching and releasing spiders.

  • Manual grabbers: They boast long handles to reach ceiling-based spiders and those in other out-of-way locations. Pull the trigger to capture, release to trap, and pull the trigger again to release once outside.

  • Insect vacuums: These gentle vacuums suck up bugs without harming them, allowing for a safe release outside. 

  • Plastic traps: Handheld plastic traps feature a handle and a clear plastic box to scoop up and house the spider. Once contained, bring it outside, open up the box door, and let that spider loose.

Use Essential Oils

Adding essential oil to a diffuser
Photo: microgen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If manually catching and releasing spiders gives you the heebie-jeebies, try diverting them from your home using essential oils and other aromatherapies. Spiders detest certain smells, so try these out.

  • Cinnamon oil: Dilute 15 or 20 drops of this essential oil in a spray bottle, filling the rest with water. Mist wherever you see spiders. An essential oil diffuser also works here. 

  • Cinnamon sticks: Seeing a theme? Spiders hate cinnamon. Place cinnamon sticks in populated areas or even light cinnamon-scented candles. 

  • Vinegar: Spiders also avoid vinegar since the pungent odor drives them away. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar, and spritz where you see arachnids. 

  • Citrus: Rub orange or lemon peels under entrances or cracks to the outside, like windowsills and underneath doors.

Remove Their Food Source

Woman cleaning spilled coffee on the kitchen counter
Photo: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The primary reason spiders hang out in your home is ready access to food. Divert them to another location by removing their food source, like throwing away overripe bananas and keeping your house clean, decluttered, and the sink free from dirty dishes. Watch for crumbs and stagnant pools of water.

How to Handle Poisonous Spiders 

As previously mentioned, household spiders are rarely poisonous, but exceptions exist. Black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders are the two prevalent species worth worrying about. Black widows live primarily in the South and West, while brown recluses thrive just about everywhere. 

You can remove black widows on your own using the jar trick, but make sure to cover your arms and hands beforehand. For brown recluse spiders, call an entomologist for identification or a top-rated pest control pro near you since they travel in swarms.

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