“There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: ants…rock badgers…locusts… The spider skilfully grasps with its hands and it is in kings’ palaces.” So wrote Solomon in the Biblical book of Proverbs (chapter 30 v 24’28). However, Proverbs said nothing about the slave or other worker who had to deal with the spiderwebs in odd corners of the palaces and lesser homes (hang on – maybe this person is the superwoman character described in the next chapter).
Spiderwebs are almost a cliché of neglect and poor housekeeping that have a haunted-house, attic or Miss Haversham air to them. For this reason, most housekeepers wage war on them incessantly. And it’s certainly undeniable that old spiderwebs filled with bits of dead flies, dust, fluff and other rubbish look ghastly.
Some people are nervous about spiders, even if they’re short of full-blown arachnophobes. In the UK, at least, this is something of an unfounded fear. Few spiders in Europe are poisonous; the black widow of France, Italy and Spain being the major exception (two others, the sac spider and the violin or recluse spider are known to be dangerous). Even the fearsome-looking tarantula isn’t particularly poisonous and most spiders, if they bite you at all, will do no worse than a wasp sting. (However, if you visit Australia, you will have to be more cautious, as they have a lot more poisonous spider species).
However, there are some good things to be said about spiders. A fresh and perfectly formed spiderweb is a masterpiece of design and delicacy – a spiderweb covered with dew or (rarer but even more exquisite) hoarfrost is a breathtaking sight, especially if sunlight catches it. Spiders are a completely environmentally friendly of killing flies, although you’d need a lot of spiders in order to control flies completely. And spiders are also a sign that your home does not contain too many toxins. If you can, get out of the mindset that spiders mean you are a poor housekeeper – be proud of the fact that your home has some biodiversity and can sustain a tiny ecosystem (especially if the spiders build webs on your houseplants). Children can often be fascinated by spiders, especially if they have read Charlotte’s Web.
If you are spider-friendly, all you need to do is leave the spider alone until it reaches the end of its life – apparently, they eat their old webs when they need to make a new one. You may need to dust up the wings and other inedible bits that the spider will let fall after eating a larger insect. Once the spider has departed this world, then clean the web away.
The best way to clean a web away is with an old-fashioned feather duster, or else with a broom. Most of the people do that within the weekly house cleaning, but you may prefer doing it every month. If you have to clean a large number of old webs off a ceiling, then use a soft-bristled broom. Some people wrap a duster or soft cloth around the head of the broom to make removal of the webs from the broom easier, and this method also prevents smears of dust getting onto the ceiling.
If you don’t want spiders in your house, don’t kill one if you come across one. It won’t hurt you (unless you are in a holiday home in France, Spain or Italy and suspect it’s a black widow or some other nasty – learn what they look like from an online guide before you go. As a rough guide, black widows have red spots on a big black abdomen, sac spiders are yellow and have huge fangs, and violin spiders have very long legs). Scoop it up on a sheet of paper, a dustpan or even your hand, if you’re brave enough, and take it outside.
If you do have the misfortune to encounter a more fearsome spider when holidaying overseas, don’t panic. You have the advantage of size, strength and intelligence. Tarantulas can be encouraged out the door with a broom (or find someone to take you up on a dare to remove it bare handed) or ignored – some people keep tarantulas as pets. Poisonous spiders should be killed before anyone is bitten, especially if you have small children, elderly people or invalids in your house. Don’t use flyspray – this can infuriate some species – but squash the spider with the underside of a shoe, a broom or any other handy object.
Nick Vassilev founded Anyclean, his London based domestic cleaning company, back in 1998. Nick is an expert on cleaning and loves to help people with his cleaning tips, articles and knowledge. If you would like to know more about his cleaning company, please visit http://www.anyclean.co.uk.