Despite the fake cobwebs and fun, sparkly spiders people love to put up every Halloween, no one seems to like the real thing. Plastic arachnids might bring a smile, but barely glimpsed, eight-legged critters scurrying across your bedsheets evoke entirely different emotions—from annoyance to existential terror.
We get it! But while many people are afraid of spiders, the creepy critters are usually a benign presence in your home, and one of the easier pests to get rid of.
We spoke to spider and pest experts to get all the details on why these insects enter our homes and how to eliminate them. Here’s everything you need to know to make your house spider-free (except for decorative purposes) this season.
Why does my house have spiders?
If you’re one of those people who have true arachnophobia, you might want to stop reading now— because you’re definitely not going to like what entomologist Nancy Troyano, of Ehrlich Pest Control, has to say.
“Only 5% of the spiders you see inside have been outside,” she says. “Most of the spiders you see around your house have probably been living there for a while.”
They also tend to come out of their hiding places in fall and spring to mate. So if you’re suddenly seeing more spiders in your home, it doesn’t mean they’ve invaded. You’re just finally becoming aware of them.
As for what keeps these unwanted housemates hanging around, it’s simple enough: food. And in the case of spiders, that means other bugs. So having them around can actually control the numbers of other insects in your home.
“Spiders will always prefer making a home in a quiet and calm environment where they can live undisturbed, and have access to food and warmth,” says Natalie Barrett of Nifty Pest Control. “They also feel safer in cluttered spaces. In homes, their most preferred areas include garages, basements, storage rooms, and attics.”
Besides cozy clutter and an ample supply of bugs, spiders are also attracted to warm and humid environments, like bathrooms.
The good news about indoor spiders
There’s good news for spider haters—sort of. Despite how repellent they may look, most indoor spiders won’t actually hurt you.
“The vast majority of common house spiders rarely, if ever, bite people,” says Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies. “Out of the 40,000 spider species on Earth, about 12 can hurt you.”
In fact, in the U.S. there’s really only two types you need to worry about: the brown recluse (brown with a fat body and skinny legs) and the black widow (black with a distinctive red hourglass mark on its abdomen).
“Black widow and brown recluse bites are rarely lethal to humans,” says Spicer, “but they could very well require medical attention.”
How to get rid of spiders
While spiders are apparently a benevolent force in your home, keeping the bug population under control, the reality is that most of us don’t want them around. And while you can just smash them as you see them, there are less messy ways to get rid of spiders.
The best way to get rid of spiders, experts agree, is actually the simplest: Eliminate the ones you can see, and then work on making your place a less appealing environment.
“Start by using a vacuum to remove spiders, their webs, and egg sacs,” says Troyano. “To prevent spiders from being attracted to your home, you should also practice good sanitation. Eliminate clutter, and store boxes off the floor and away from the walls.”
If you want to keep spiders out, it’s also a good idea to make sure your outside clutter is far from the house. Wood and rock piles, for example, make great hiding spaces.
And then, of course, cut off their food source. Seal doors and windows where other bugs might enter, and avoid leaving lights on and doors and windows open at the same time, which will attract them.
The bottom line
If getting rid of spiders the “natural way” isn’t your style, you can also try the various spider traps and sprays that are on the market. Just remember to read labels, and avoid using things that might be toxic to people or pets.
If you’re concerned you might have a serious, out-of-control spider infestation in your home, call a professional to take a look.
“Having a spider problem can be scary,” says Kristiana Kripena of InsectCop.net. “Arachnophobia is a real fear, and even disliking spiders is valid. No matter what others say about leaving spiders in your home—if you don’t like them, get rid of them.”