8 Scents That Spiders Hate (and How to Use Them)
Spiders are usually not a welcome sight inside the home. Their small bodies and ability to crawl up walls and ceilings means it can be pretty hard to keep them out of your house without proper planning. But did you know you can use certain scents to repel them and discourage them from entering your home?
Spiders use their strong sense of smell to distinguish between edible objects, non-edible objects, and to find mates. You can take advantage of a spider’s strong sense of smell by using scents that will repel them, such as vinegar, mint, catnip, cayenne pepper, citrus, marigold, and chestnut.
Below you’ll find scents that spiders are repelled by and the best technique to use them. Keep reading to learn more about how you can keep these scuttling arachnids out of your house and property, and keep them out for good!
Why Do You Need to Keep Spiders Out?
There are over 45,000 different species of spiders, but most of us only know about the most commonly heard of ones: black widow, brown recluse, tarantula, jumping.
These may make the headlines, but the truth is most spiders we see in the house are just common house spiders or wolf spiders.
What many people misunderstand about house spiders is, they don’t come into your house from the outside. House spiders typically do not have a population of spiders outside, so it won’t do any good to put a spider outside – it’s likely their colony is inside your house.
A little unsettling to think about, sure, but it’s manageable! Spiders don’t like to come in contact with people. If you see one, it’s most likely a mistake as a spider tried to make it from one crack or crevice to the next one.
That’s not to say that every spider you see in the house is a house spider. Some do come from outside, and there are easy ways to repel them and keep them from coming indoors.
One way is to use the most popular outdoor spider sprays on the market (you can read our article on that here.)
Another is to use plain ol’ easy to find scents that are lying around your house, which we’ll get to that in a second.
In general, if you leave spiders unchecked, they may cause problems in your home, including:
- Spider webs are undesirable in the house. Spider webs and cobwebs are the sign of an unkempt house and can give a bad impression when seen.
- Spiders are a sign of a deeper problem. Spiders are predators. They feed off of insects and other small bugs. If you have an abundance of spiders, there’s likely a bigger pest problem in your house to be able to feed them all.
- Spiders that bite may be venomous. Spiders rarely bite humans, but if they feel threatened or are protecting their eggs, they can and will bite. Oftentimes, even bites from highly venomous spiders such as the black widow or brown recluse can be treated with OTC medicine and rest, but the bites can be painful, some even leaving deep scars.
These are the most common problems associated with spiders. Infestations of certain species of spiders can be more of a problem than others.
Using scents is your first line of defense against spiders. It will create a barrier that repels spiders from certain areas and keeps them away.
PLEASE NOTE: scents are not as reliable as physical deterrents for deterring spiders. This may be because they require frequent reapplication. Regardless, scents can still get the job done.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about a spider infestation, leave it to a professional to handle it. Check out our nationwide pest control finder to get connected with an exterminator near you in seconds for free. Using our partner network helps support pestpointers.com. Thanks, bunches!
Use Vinegar to Keep Spiders Away
White vinegar has many uses around the house. We put this option first because almost every household is bound to have some stored white vinegar.
This acidic liquid attracts some insects, such as fruit flies, but it repels others, namely, spiders. To use it, make a 1:1 solution such as 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar. Place the mixture into a glass spray bottle for storage and distribution.
Glass spray bottles are a better alternative to plastic, as glass is less porous. This means less residue left in the container if you want to use it for something else later.
Once you have your solution, spray it in areas where you have seen spiders or areas you want to keep them out of. Pay special attention to doorways, windows, and other openings.
When spiders crawl over the solution, they can sense the acidic smell through their legs and are likely to be repelled from the area.
Be sure to reapply the vinegar spray often, at least once per week, to make sure the scent remains strong and continues to repel spiders.
Combine Mints to Deter Spiders
Mint is an effective repellent for a number of pests, including deer, raccoons, rabbits, and spiders. This includes peppermint and catnip as well. Most animals find mint unpalatable and will stay away from it.
The good news is, humans, tend to like both the taste and the smell of mint and peppermint, so having it around the house isn’t a big deal.
You can combine mints to keep spiders away. Consider planting catnip around your house (if you have cats, they’ll appreciate it!). Use peppermint and mint essential oils in a spray and use them around the house to keep spiders at bay.
As with other essential oils, you can combine 10-15 drops in water to make a spray.
If you’re looking for a ready-made spray, one that comes highly regarded is Mighty Mint’s 16oz Spider Repellent Peppermint Oil as it’s made with a high concentration of peppermint oil.
Cayenne Pepper Irritates Spidey Senses
Capsaicin is the main ingredient in cayenne peppers. It’s what gives our mouths the tingly hot feeling when we eat hot sauce.
When Cayenne peppers are consumed, it actually triggers pain receptors. We, humans, tend to like the spicy taste of cayenne, but most other mammals do not and will tend to stay away from it.
Spiders do not have a good sense of taste (After all, they eat bugs, right?), but cayenne pepper is still an irritant to spiders. It can irritate their sense of smell and their eyes. This will repel them from the area and keep them away.
To use cayenne pepper to repel spiders, simply sprinkle it over areas where you don’t want spiders. Be sure to reapply often as the flakes can get dislodged or blown away over time.
If you don’t normally have cayenne pepper around the house, you can easily find it in your local grocery store or purchase Happy Belly Cayenne Red Pepper here.
Citrus Shows Promise at Repelling Spiders
A study was done in May 2020 by the McPherson College Department of Natural Science to determine the effectiveness of citrus essential oils at repelling spiders.
They used fumigation techniques and a maze to determine if spiders were repelled by steam distilled citrus essential oils. While the study did not show any significant repellent by fumigation, the trial did confirm that citrus essential oils showed promise for further studies in spider repellents when they came in direct contact with the spiders.
Essential oils are basically very concentrated versions of smells such as citrus, peppermint, lavender, and lime.
The acidic nature of citrus is most likely the reason it repels spiders. These eight-legged arachnids are no fans of acidic smells, scents, and tastes.
To use citrus essential oil, combine 10-15 drops with water in a glass spray bottle. Spray your mixture on window and door openings, as well as any areas you want to repel spiders from.
An added bonus, citrus is a great cleaning agent and leaves your home smelling fresh!
Marigold Essential Oil to Deter Spiders
In the same study done on the citrus essential oil, marigold was also tested. As with citrus, using steam/fumigated marigold did not repel the spiders with any significance.
However, when the essential oil was used in direct contact with the spiders, they tended to be repelled when sensing it with their legs.
So, what exactly does all that mean? It means if you want to repel spiders with marigold essential oils, you’ll want the spiders to crawl over the scent, not just smell it in the air. This will give you the highest chance of repelling spiders using this essential oil.
To use marigold essential oils, combine 10-15 drops with water in a glass spray bottle. Spray directly on surfaces where you want to repel the spiders.
The downside to using marigold to repel spiders is that it must be reapplied often. The scent in the air will not repel spiders on its own; the spider needs to come in contact with the spray.
Use Chestnuts to Keep Spiders Away
Chestnuts as a spider repellent are one of those old tales passed down through generations that no one is really sure if they’re true or not. Well, the National Center for Biotechnology Information decided to test the theory.
In this study, they used the three most commonly cited spider repellents from google searches: lemon oil, peppermint oil, and chestnut fruits. They used brown widows and orb-weaver spiders as their test subjects and found that both chestnuts and mint were highly effective at repelling spiders.
Lemon oil? Not so much. When given a choice between a control substance and lemon oil, the spiders didn’t show any aversion to either one. Chestnuts, on the other hand, were not spider-friendly.
With this information, how exactly do you use them? The first thing you want to do is make sure you have the right chestnuts. Horse chestnuts are what you want. They are inedible, so don’t try to eat them. In fact, they contain a poison called esculin, which may be why spiders are repelled by them.
Place the horse chestnuts in areas where you want to repel spiders. Baseboards and window sills are great placement ideas.
Where Should You Use These Scents?
If you want the above scents to be as effective as possible, you’ll want to be specific about where you place them. All of these scents will be less effective if you place them in the wrong areas.
You’ll want the scents to be close to where you want to repel spiders. Spraying them in a crawlspace or attic may not be the best idea since house spiders will not go outside. They’ll simply find another area to live, one that might be closer to where you frequent in the house.
Instead, use the scents in areas where you most often sit or dwell in the house. This will help avoid encounters with spiders and keep them in the cracks and crevices and out of sight.
Try these areas:
- Kitchen Counters. Nothing is worse than having spiders (or any creepy crawler) on your kitchen counters. Many of the scents above double as a cleaning agent, so spraying your counters will help clean them and repel spiders.
- Pantries and other storage areas with food. Spiders can’t really tell the difference between a dead fly and a filet mignon. They won’t go after your food, but pantry items are often kept in cool, dark, dry areas. The perfect environment for a spider. Spraying around the baseboard of pantries can help control spider infestations.
- Entry points such as doors and windows. Although some house spiders do not come from the outside, there are still spiders that accidentally make their way into your house from the outdoors. To prevent this, use sprays around doorways and windowsills.
- The perimeter of your house. This can be extremely time-consuming, but you can spray the outside of your house baseboards, similar to what you would do with pesticide sprays. This prevents spiders from crawling into your home at any entry point.
Clean Before Spraying to Effectively Repel Spiders
Spider webs in movies and TV shows usually indicate an area that hasn’t been disturbed in a long time. This isn’t a Hollywood-made-up fact: spiders like areas that aren’t disturbed, where they can thrive in peace.
Frequent sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning of the house will confine spiders to areas where you won’t be able to see them. The fact is, no house is completely spider-free. But you can eliminate your encounters with them with proper cleaning.
Pay close attention to the corners of ceilings. These areas are often missed by the vacuum cleaner because no one really expects there to be anything to vacuum above our heads.
Basements are the most likely area to find spiders. It’s typically cool, dark, and less disturbed than upstairs rooms.
Reduce Clutter to Keep Spiders Away
A closet rarely used is a spider’s safe haven. Any area that is undisturbed, quiet, and cluttered is likely to attract spiders.
If you really want to rid your house of spiders, consider de-cluttering your closets, basements, garages, and attics. Clutter gives spiders a hiding place and an area to build webs if they are web-weaving spiders.
Stacked firewood and other building materials around the exterior of the house can attract spiders as well. Make sure to keep these items away from the foundation of your house, where spiders like to hang out.
Clutter doesn’t just mean physical items. Shrubs, trees, and vines that grow big enough to touch the exterior of the house are providing a bridge for spiders to get to your house. Be sure to keep them trimmed and away from the house, if possible.
Reduce Your Local Bug Population to Repel Spiders
Spiders are carnivores, catching and eating a variety of bugs in their webs and by hunting methods. They’re not picky, eating whatever bug is available.
You can use this knowledge to your advantage by reducing bug populations in and around your house. Bugs are attracted to food, even spoiled food left in the garbage, so be sure to keep your garbage cans properly closed and sealed.
Outdoor lighting tends to attract moths and other flying bugs, so consider installing yellow light or sodium vapor light bulbs instead of white light. This will reduce the flying bug population, therefore providing less food for spiders.
These LOHAS Bug Light Bulb Yellow LED Bulbs will help do the trick to keep bugs away on your porch.
With bugs in mind, it’s good to note that spiders actually eat a lot of disease-carrying insects such as ticks, flies, and mosquitos. If you tend to have problems with these insects, having some spiders may be beneficial for you.
That’s a Web! I Mean…Wrap!
All this talk of spiders may have your skin crawling a bit, but don’t worry, there are plenty of solutions out there to help you with your spider problems.
To recap, a spider’s sense of smell can be used to your advantage. Use scents they don’t like to keep them from areas of the house where they’re unwanted. So, like, everywhere. 😊
Here are the best scents to use to deter spiders in your house:
- White vinegar spray
- Mint plant or essential oil
- Catnip plants on the exterior of your house
- Cayenne Pepper flakes irritate their senses
- Citrus essential oil
- Marigold essential oil
- Peppermint essential oil
- Horse Chestnuts around baseboards
Fischer, A., Ayasse, M., & Andrade, M. (2018). Natural Compounds as Spider Repellents: Fact or Myth?. Journal of economic entomology, 111(1), 314–318. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/tox339
Owen, G. (2020, May). Effectiveness of essential oils from citrus Sinensis and calendula Officinalis and organic extract from fruits of Maclura pomifera as repellants against the wolf spider Rabidosa punctulata. Retrieved from McPherson College: https://archive.mcpherson.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2020282024-OwenG.pdf
Potter, M. F. (2018, October 4). Eliminating Spiders Around Homes and Buildings. Retrieved from Entomology at the University of Kentucky: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef623
Pritchett, A. H. (1904). Observations on Hearing and Smell in Spiders. The American Naturalist, 862-866.
Schalau, J. (2017, September 20). Backyard Gardener. Retrieved from University of Arizona: https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/catnipandcatmint.html
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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