Spider proof my laundry
May 27, 2015 4:34 AM   Subscribe

What can I add to the washing cycle to discourage spiders from hitching a ride inside via my freshly air-dried laundry?

I'm getting mighty tired of jumping clear out of my skin every time I fold the laundry.

To head things off at the pass, a clothes drier here in Italy is redonkulously expensive and thus tend to be rare as hen's teeth in homes. Drying inside is not an option for space and humidity reasons. And yes, I shake out the clothes before bringing them inside.

As arachnophobic as I am, I don't care for nuclear options as I'm hoping they'll keep down the mosquito population in our garden. They are largely the small black jumping type. Googling merely got me results for treating your clothes when heading into malarial regions, so maybe my google-fu is weak in this case.

To top things off, anything I use should be obtainable in Italy, of reasonable cost and fairly natural/non-toxic/non-irritating to humans. I have a toddler who has occasional sporadic patches of eczema and a cloth diapered newborn, both of whom generate large amounts of laundry.

Thanks in advance!
posted by romakimmy to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the spiders have to get there somehow, so presumably there's a pole/wall/other bug path that makes your clothesline accessible from the ground. Could you paint the very ends of the lines themselves (or the bottoms of the line supports, the edge of the wall, whatever) with some sort of sticky trap, to catch any hitchhikers before they reach the clothes?
posted by Bardolph at 5:27 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Maybe. I hang the clothes on a couple of clothes horses; they're nearby but not touching a wall. Any further from the wall and they're too close to the ivy hedge. And there are balconies above us, so pinpointing a point of access is slightly problematic ::::(
posted by romakimmy at 5:59 AM on May 27, 2015

Do you keep the pegs outside? I've found spiders hiding in amongst the pegs before.

In Australia there's stuff called surface spray. You spray it around access points of houses, window and door frames, and it stops bugs from coming in that way. Works fairly well. If it's available in Italy, I'd spray the clothes horse legs - who am I kidding - I'd spray the whole thing. But doing just the legs might help.

This site recommends vinegar - which is often recommended as a fabric softener - worth a try too.
posted by kjs4 at 6:26 AM on May 27, 2015

If you can run a sturdy line between two points, hang a couple of large mosquito nets from such a line and over the clothes horses. Or, if you are under balconies, maybe you could arrange something with the people upstairs, whereby you tie a line or two to their balcony railing. Zero chemical pollution (other than perhaps in the manufacturing of the nets) and no spiders killed.

When you're not drying clothes, you could use the mosquito nets as mosquito nets. Or maybe you could sit under the nets with the laundry.
posted by pracowity at 6:41 AM on May 27, 2015

You might try treating your clothing with some natural insect repellants like lavender which is commonly used in laundry products or mints---insects don't like aromatics, but your skin might also not respond well either.
posted by effluvia at 6:49 AM on May 27, 2015

I was going to recommend white vinegar as a sub for fabric softener as well. effluvia makes a good point ... I'm not sure how one would "treat" their laundry but maybe making a spray for the clothes horse will work. This site suggests lemon, lavender, peppermint ... some water and essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray the clothes horse when you start your laundry in the washer, maybe, and just hit the places where the clothes will be.
posted by tilde at 7:55 AM on May 27, 2015

I've actually never used it myself but I hear that Dr Bronner's castile soap can be used diluted as both a laundry detergent and as a bug-repelling spray.
posted by onehundredand80 at 8:53 AM on May 27, 2015

What if you give them a better place to go? Spiders like rosemary plants.
posted by aniola at 9:36 AM on May 27, 2015

Response by poster: Alrighty then, based on some of your links, for the next few days as weather permits I shall try a combo of vinegar as fabric softener and spraying the clothes horses with some diluted tea tree oil that I have on hand and wiping them down with some zested lemon rinds from the mega haul of lemons I picked yesterday from the tree in our garden.

If that doesn't seem to work, then I'll hunt down some cinnamon and peppermint oil, try that and report back.

Setting up some mosquito netting contraption I'll save as a last resort because it will entail some engineering to block spider access points, make it easy to hang the laundry when the newborn doesn't want to nap in her crib for more than 5 minutes at a time, and be toddler proof-ish. Ditto the Dr. Brommers because I'll have to find some sources for it - I've never seen it sold anywhere here.

I was already planning to plant some rosemary along with some other herbs, and now I'm of split minds :D But you've given me the idea to search out other spider friendly plants as an alternative.

Thanks again to all and I will report back with what seems to work.
posted by romakimmy at 12:02 AM on May 28, 2015

Perhaps spraying around the affected areas with something like this Lakeland spider stopper. Ships from the UK to mainland EU.

They have several "humane" spider things there.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:20 AM on May 28, 2015

If they are the jumping kind, they will , well, jump off if you vigorously shake the clothes before folding them. Kind of how you'd shake a carpet?
posted by dhruva at 7:34 AM on May 28, 2015

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