What Smells Do Rats Dislike?

Keeping your home free from rats and other rodents are essential for your health and the health of your family. If you have a problem with rats in your home, place of work, or anywhere else, it is important to know how to repel these little critters.

Rats have a tremendous sense of smell. Just as some smells attract rats, there are also many smells that rats dislike. And knowing something about a rat’s sense of smell can help you deter them from setting up home on your property.

Rats’ sensory organs have the ability to pick up certain chemicals in the environment that affect their behavior. This means that rats instinctively hate certain smells because these aromas mean danger for them. You can, therefore, use this information to your advantage if you discover that you have a rat on your property.

Of course, no one wants to see a rat in their home or to find evidence that rats have infested a basement, garage, or any other living area. The best way to keep rats away from your home is to avoid clutter and dirt. This not only creates aromas that will attract rats to your home but gives them the perfect environment to build their nests and live in.

But what else can you do to make sure that rats are not attracted to your home? Use the various smells that repel rats, of course. So, what smells do rats dislike?

Among the smells that rats hate are chemical odors such as the smell of naphthalene, the stench of rat predators like cats, raccoons, and ferrets, as well as several natural scents such as the smell of citronella, peppermint and eucalyptus oils.

Let’s start by taking a look at the strong chemical smells that keep rats away.

Chemical smells

There are, of course, many chemicals that repel rats and stop them from infesting your home. However, many homeowners are wary of using these chemicals because they are toxic to humans and to the environment. For example, many people claim that rats hate the smell of mothballs.

While the smell of the chemical naphthalene which is found in mothballs may deter rats, you would need to use such a large volume that they would be toxic to humans. This scenario was described in an informational article published by the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).

This article related how one man placed several boxes of mothballs in his basement because he had heard that rats detest the smell of mothballs. The next day, the man’s wife complained of breathing difficulties and developed a chronic headache. After contacting the NPIC, the man learned that mothballs produce a toxic gas that can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and respiratory irritation.

There are also some claims that the smell of substances such as bleach, paint thinner, ammonia or other strong toxic chemicals can deter rats. However, there is no scientific evidence that rats hate the smell of such chemicals.

The smell of predators

One of the smells that rats definitely dislike because it heightens their sense of danger is the smell of their predators. If a rat comes across the odor of an animal like a cat, ferret, stoat, or raccoon, they are likely to stay away.

Evidence of rats’ aversion to the odor of predators has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience and Behavioral Neuroscience. Researchers discovered that smells from cats and ferrets elicit a strong stress response in rats.

They noticed that when rats were exposed to cat and ferret odors, their stress hormones rose and their behavior changed. So, keeping a cat at home to keep vermin away might not be such a bad idea. Cats are not just good at natural pest control, but even their odor seems to act as a pest deterrent.

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute also determined that rats dislike the urine of carnivores. The urine of meat-eaters has a specific compound (2-phenylethylamine) that rodents hate. To humans, the smell of urine is slightly offensive. But, to rats and mice, the smell of urine is the smell of danger.

Of course, it is unlikely that you will want to use the smell of urine to deter rodents. Furthermore, rats living in natural environments live among predators, finding ways to avoid being eaten. If your home is attractive enough (easy access to food and shelter), predator smell may not keep them from inviting themselves in.

There are, however, some natural aromas that may help to keep rats away.

Natural smells

Read on to find out what smells rats hate that will not negatively affect the environment and are safe for humans. We will also let you know if there is any scientific evidence to back up the claims of these natural rodent repellents.

Keep in mind, however, that rats make their homes in many very smelly places, including sewers, so any potentially repellent scents will have limited effectiveness if your home is otherwise attractive.

Peppermint

Many websites claim that rats do not like the strong smell of peppermint while other websites claim that peppermint does not affect rats at all. While peppermint will make your home smell nice, is there any evidence that peppermint can repel rats?

There is actually some scientific research which shows that rats do avoid the smell of peppermint.

For example, researchers in Thailand found that peppermint oil was somewhat effective in keeping rats away. They came to this conclusion when the rats spent less time in areas where there was the smell of peppermint.

Interestingly, the same scientists discovered that bergamot is another smell that keeps rats away. Bergamot is a citrus fruit whose flavoring gives Earl Grey tea its distinct taste. While humans can either like or detest the flavor of bergamot, it seems to be a smell that rats dislike.

Because rats seem to dislike peppermint, you could try using a peppermint spray at the entry points to your home. You could even plant mint in your garden to help deter rats from setting up home in your yard.

eucalyptus and citronella essential oils that repel rats

Evita Ochel/PixaBay.com

Eucalyptus

The potent aroma of eucalyptus oil seems to be offensive to rats and could prevent them from nesting, feeding, or living in your home.

One of the reasons that the scent of eucalyptus can be used as a rodent repellent is that it contains compounds rats hate. A study published in 2014 found that spraying a solution of 5, 10, or 20% eucalyptus oil repelled house rats. The scientists observed that the rats avoided food in a part of their enclosure that had been sprayed with the eucalyptus solution.

However, it should be noted that there was food on the other, untreated, side of the rats’ enclosure, suggesting that the repellent effect may only exist when there is an alternative.

One of the drawbacks of using eucalyptus oil is that you have to spray every day to keep the rats at bay. On the positive side, even though rats do not like the smell of eucalyptus, the pleasant aroma will keep your home smelling fresh.

Citronella

While citronella is known to repel mosquitoes and other flying insects, there is some evidence that the smell can be off-putting to rats.

For example, some researchers found that rats tended to stay away from food in parts of their pens that had been treated with citronella oil, preferring to eat from the untreated side of their pens. The researchers concluded that a daily application of citronella could act as a potential natural rodent repellent.

The same caveat applies here as we mentioned for eucalyptus oil, however. Another study assessed the effects of citronella inhalation on rats and found that it decreased appetite.

There are many smells that rats do not like and you may be able to use these to keep them away from your property. However, any good rat prevention and control method should incorporate a multi-faceted approach to keeping the critters out.

So, first make sure that rats have no way to enter your home through the basement, attic, or openings in external walls.

46 Comments

Trevor

Will a mouse (or rat) enter a shed if the gasoline generator is going an blowing out fumes?

    Karen

    Mice, rats and other rodents will most likely keep away from your shed if you have the gasoline generator going. Not only due to the smell but also because of the fumes as well as noise.

    Carol DL Green

    Rat made a huge hole in my radiator. How to seal it up. The hole is too large for steel wool.

    Insectcop

    We are not experts on fixing radiator damage, therefore you should probably find a professional who could give you more adequate advice.

    Marilyn Moore

    We have rats outside. Our yard is clean, but the neighbors around have a lot of shrubs and oranges. I spray with pure peppermint oil, but they run right through it. We have small dogs and don’t want to use outdoor poisons

    InsectCop

    Here is an article about getting rid of rats. You should check it out to figure out what the best solution to you might be.

    Ash

    You can use vinegar too spray around bed area and furniture then spread that area where you want it spread then you can add vinegar of the door way and spread but leave chucks of vinegar. Rats and Mice tend to not like the string smell of vinegar so it keeps them away.

Larry & Carey Suggs

HELP !!! Rat infestation in my house..In my beds & sofa..I have cronic asthma and cant breath..It’s a living hell..I called Arrow company to get rid of them..they sit out traps..never caught anything..now there telling me and my elderly Dad that there done and all the rats are gone..they have screwed us over..I paid them near two grand and still stuck with rats..Can anyone help ?

    Insectcop

    First of all, I suggest you contact them again because such treatment towards customers is simply unacceptable! It might also be a good idea to look into your options on maybe pressing some legal charges if they don’t fix the problem (and don’t refund the money at the same time).
    At the same time, you can also try dealing with the problem yourself, since having rats around can be quite the trouble! Some tips can be found in this article. Good luck!

    Sondra Faggion

    File a complaint with the Attorney Generals office. It sounds like this company has taken advantage of you as senior citizens. Also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The rats are coming from somewhere, you have to find where they are coming in from and seal the entrance. My moms house had rats and we found a old toilet lipe in the basement had rotted and there was a hole in it that the rats were using as their entrance. It costs hundreds of dollars to get rid of the rats and the filthy mess they made. I wish you the best.

    Luci Kapell

    Get rat bars they cost $39.00 a box. I cut each bar in half place them around the house under beds, cabinets. They eat the bars swell up and die. You can not buy them in California they say they kill digs,but my dogs have eaten them and they were fine.

Bill

Your comment on citronella being a natural repellent may be incorrect. I have a buddy that lives in Cape Coral Fl. area, where palm/roof rats are a real problem. His neighbors palm/roof rats chewed through the screens of his lanai, and ATE the citronella candle on his patio table.. No other damage, just a well gnawed on citronella candle.

    Regina Burnett

    What did your friend end up doing to get rid of them? I have the same issue,luckily they’re not inside,but I want them gone ASAP. Massey’s pest control came a put stuff down ,but in still seeing one fat one!

    AMANDA

    Bill I agree citronella not working nor does the eucalyptus oil mentioned above, they are still scaring the hell out of me parading in my kitchen as if they are paying rent:( I have closed all the holes, no food in site, will try the traps in meantime I hope they will starve to death sorry rodents but I’ve had it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

musabi

Rodents, rats (identified by size of droppings but not seen) and mice (seen) invaded my deceased mothers empty house along with clothes moths. There were bags of spices, curry powder, garam masala which they have chewed through and eaten but otherwise food only in tins. Rodents have chewed at plastic document/sheet holders, bars of soap, detergent boxes, clothes from all materials including manmade cloths (unlike moths which prefer natural materials, wool, silk, cotton paper) stationary, pens, pencils, erasers, wooden picture frames and even some of the plastics containing harmful and other household cleaning products, and much more. My point is rodents didn’t need ‘human’ food here but seemed to excel in chewing almost everything in sight and defecating and urinating over everything. I read that ammonia is supposed to be a deterrent but the smell of their own ammonia and other noxious chemicals from their toiletting, spread throughout each room in the house and saturating the carpets was nauseous and highly unpleasant and obviously didn’t seem to affect or deter them (unless they were working in shifts). Wearing a face mask was necessary and even then the atmosphere caused severe coughing fits within and outside this environment.

Dan anderson

My animals free roam property. I have a few barn rats. Oils and flowers don’t really work. How can I steer them away and not hurt my other critters

    InsectCop

    When it comes to farms where animals are not restricted to certain areas, rodenticides can hurt other animals, traps can also affect them. The safest option would be getting a cat, however, if the population is large, the cat won’t be much of a help, not to mention the cat might as well not be interested in rats at all. It’s also important to think about preventative measures (e.g. sealing up all the entry points). To get a better understanding of your options, you can check out this article.

    Heidi

    I combine white vinegar and peppermint oil equal prop and spray it. They hate it. I do it everyday though.

    DP

    I have a neighbor who is having a terrible problem getting rid of attic rats. Their home is clean and yard is nicely kept. They have sealed up all possible entry points as well as hired at critter specialist. We have cats and have no problems. I thought of offering some of our used litter for them to sprinkle around their house so the rats think cats live there and then they will go away. Any thoughts about this possible solution?

    InsectCop

    This will likely not be their best option, as spreading cat urine around the house is unsanitary. Your neighbors might also not want to have used litter being in their home.

Carolyn Varner

A friend of mine who is native American told me peppermint, onion dryer sheets book them all to gether .take the solution and put it where they are roaming. They can’t stand the smell of it…I’m gonna try it.

    InsectCop

    Rats definitely dislike the smell of peppermint, so peppermint in combination with the pungent smell of onion and the strong smell of dryer sheets might just work. Did you have any luck with keeping the rats away using this method?

Raju Rajak

How to keep rat away from my false ceiling

    InsectCop

    I suggest following the general rules of getting rid of rats. Also, make sure to keep the ceiling clean.

Jenny

Hi. We don’t have rats living outside somewhere but for some reason they have been coming into our walls and chewing on our water pipes. Lots of plumber bills to fix them. Can’t hear them at all. We have 3 cats so they don’t come in to the house, just the walls. We’ve lived here for 9 years and this is the first time its happened. We’ve got to the stage we are going to get the professionals in. We don’t want them to start chewing on electrics, dangerous, don’t want a fire in our house. Prefer the natural way, but enough is enough.

    InsectCop

    Calling professionals really is a great idea! Especially, considering your concern about electrical wires and house-fires being an actual possibility. However, if you want to try anything on your own at the same time, here is an article about getting rid of rats.

Jeffery Ash

My problem wasn’t with rats,but with mice. I assume what I did would work for rats. Anyway, I know this is going to sound crazy,but it works. Get some peppermint tea bags and boil them. Let them drain. I put mine in paper cups. 3 in each cup. Don’t put them around where your animals can get to them. Within 3 to 4 days I had no more mice.

    Susan Cooper

    Thank you, I hate peppermint tea too lol hope it will work with the rats in my wall.

Nancy Samster

The air conditioner in my automobile recently stopped working and an investigation of the problem let to a newly formed rat nest on top of my compressor with two switch wires chewed off. It was obvious the nest was new because the cotton sheeting used to build it was clean and there were only a few droppings in it. The problem is that I park my car outside and it is an electric vehicle that needs to be charged by plugging it in to an electric outlet in my home. I am looking for ways to deter the animal from returning to do more damage. Someone suggested that I move the car to various locations on the street around my home at night to break the habit. How far away do you think I would have to park to prevent them from smelling it? Do you think that will work and how long do you think I should do it? I welcome other suggestions but they are in my neighborhood and my neighbors yards as well.

    InsectCop

    Not sure moving the car around will be the most convenient way to deal with the problem. Read our article on keeping rodents out of your car. It focuses on preventing infestations in cars specifically.

D.D.

We found rats in our condo a few months ago. I told the landlord/owner, and he said it was my responsibility, as stated in the lease. I called an exterminator, and they said they would need to not only look at our condo, but all of the condos in the building that mine is in because they are probably not just in mine. I decided to tackle the problem myself. First, I sealed all holes. Next, I set out those sticky traps and regular rat traps everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I set out rat poison- those little green balls and another kind. I cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned some more. It seemed to be working. We caught about 6-7 rats. Time went by and I thought all of them were gone. Was I ever wrong! They started chewing through the material I used to seal up the holes. I knew this because one night I saw one of the biggest rats I’d ever seen before in my whole life. It scared me so bad. I started searching for more holes, and that’s when I saw they had chewed through the sealed holes. I found a really good deal on tile, so I started tiling up the kitchen walls- it actually looks good. I tiled up the hallway, too. My mother and I laughed and laughed thinking about the future reaction of the landlord after he sees all the tile I used!!! I got rid of the refrigerator, stove, and the livingroom furniture. Time went by and it seemed like that worked. But it didn’t! I began looking for more rat holes. The first holes I had sealed were on the baseboards- the initial holes. The second set of holes were around the box outlets that you plug the refrigerator and washer/dryer into. The third set of holes were around where the plumbing comes into the house. I sealed up one really good with concrete that was behind the toilet. About 10 hours after sealing up that hole, I actually heard the rat trying to claw its way through the almost dry concrete. I ran toward the rat, and the rat ran off when he saw me coming. He left his claw marks everywhere, like people do when they write their names in wet concrete. As I was looking at his claw marks, I noticed another hole behind the toilet. I used so much concrete this time, it looked like a large ant hill. Time went by and it looked like I had gotten rid of them. But I didn’t. I began seeing rat poop in the shower. Low and behold they are around the showerhead pipe. So I tiled around that spot. The tile I had been using is in a tall column in the hallway under the missing smoke detector. A few days later, I noticed rat poop on top of that y’all column. I looked up to where the smoke detector should be and saw another hole there. I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t afford to pay for an exterminator, and I can’t afford to move. There is literally no more food in my house since I got rid of the refrigerator and stove- that I’ll replace if I move. I know there is one rat for sure living behind the washer. Every time I move it to clean, I see rat poop. I do this frequently, and I can’t imaging getting rid of my washer. My house is clutter free and clean, and I also take out the trash regularly. They are literally eating through the walls trying to get back in! I can hear that rat. I have a dog that now tries to chase and kill them, she didn’t use to do that before! I really don’t know what else to do.

    InsectCop

    Hello! Thank you for the long message. First of all, this sounds just outrageous! On certain occasions pest control really would be your responsibility, however, this is most certainly an infestation within the whole building, not just your apartment. You can not be held responsible for what happens within the walls of the whole building! That is just absurd!

    And, quite frankly, sounds like there isn’t really anything you could actually do other than whole building extermination. You already have tried anything you could possibly do on your own, sealing the entry points, setting out traps, etc. It also sounds like the infestation is very severe, considering how many rats you’ve seen. For the time being, you can keep sealing off the entry points, hoping that it will help for at least a while, as well as keep putting traps wherever you think the mice can be seen the most often. Basically, keep doing whatever you’ve been doing so far.

    Have you tried talking to your neighbors about whether they’ve been dealing with the same issue? Perhaps you should all come together and ask whoever is responsible for the building, to finally deal with it? This should not be happening! Good luck resolving the issue!

Hunter

What about these electronics devices you plug into the wall try to put it on every wall as low as possible? I thought the sounds or something in the sounds interfered with their chemistry or something has anybody heard of this has it worked? I have used the device in my garage and it did keep spiders and bugs away. I’ve got pack rats under my house and there must be so many of them. I’ve had poisons down I’ve tried everything. If anybody has any experience with these devices please let me know

Roberta Blewitt

Hi I’m in the UK and have an allotment. We have been told some rats may have been seen nearby…. not sure about the reliability of this information.
However being the secretary I feel I need to take it seriously.
On the radio yesterday a scientist stated that due to the Corona Virus and changes in human life styles and mainly food businesses more rats are being seen although rats are also in decline.
I am advising plot holders to put pot plantS of peppermint, bergamot and lemon balm near their compost bins.
Do you think this might help deter rats.
Thank you in anticipation
Be safe keep well
Roberta

    InsectCop

    It might help to plant the smells they dislike. Whether or not it will be enough to deter them completely is up to question, however, it won’t hurt. Also keep in mind that the actual plants don’t usually give out a strong scent, therefore, using essential oils around these areas would be more helpful.
    If the problem already persists, perhaps it’s a good idea to use some other methods to deal with it.

june mcewen

Hi I live in the uk, we had rats in our loft coming in through the sofits from next door so we put cameras in the loft and watched one large rat coming from the side of the loft , we asked google and was advised to put cotton wool balls soaked in bleach around the entrance from the sofits , that worked for some time but if you dont do it regular they come back, well they did and with young ones, so my husband put sticky pads all around the loft and watched late at night on the camera , but he could not do anything because out loft is in our granddaughters bedroom who was asleep so we watched two rats get stuck on the pads , it ‘s not nice to watch so we switched off and went to sleep ,but my husband had to clear the dead rats away the next day , my neighbour got pest control to put a mesh over the man hole in there garden and that worked for a while but my granddaughter heard scratching behind and air vent over an old fire place so they can get in through the chimney stack which is not covered from the top so now we have to get someone to climb up and put a cover over it ,so this never seems to end does it we cant get a cat due to allergies and they can be quite damaging on there own my friends cat used to defecate al over clothing left in linen baskets or in her bed , and they like to climb up net curtains and slide down using there claws and on funiture so no cats coming hear I would be sneezing all day, plug ins dont work ,but traps do and sticky pads they like ham , cheese peanut butter so feed the traps with food and catch the rats , because pest control just leave sticky pads in your loft which you can do and they put bait boxes ouside the house which you pay for then they come back and take the bait boxes away if you dont report any rat sightings they think there job is done , so just try the bleach and sticky pads and buy bait boxes yourself.

    InsectCop

    Sounds like you’re dealing with an infestation on a bigger scale than just your own flat. If you really want to get rid of the problem, the whole building should be taken care of by professionals. Other than that, your best bet would be sealing off the entry points to your apartment, then again, rats are known to find ways. It should, however, help to some extent. Meanwhile, we suggest reading our article about getting rid of rats to perhaps find the best ways for you to at least somewhat deal with the problem.

chris simpson

how effective would you say the smell of snakes might be to deter rats from a loft space

    InsectCop

    Some studies say snake odor, unlike the case with cats, doesn’t have that effect on mice. You can take a look at this research.

Rachael

I have many RATS due to my neighbor who’s a Horder including garbage. Landlord won’t due anything so now they’re chewing multiple holes per day. These aren’t mouse holes, way to big. I can’t take the constant chewing near my head. I’m a 63 yr old disabled female with no family in a strange town. Everyone takes advantage of that situation. I’m not the source, he is and he has to clean out his place and spray bomb. We will never get rid of them until the source isn’t there to attract them. What can I do but leave.

    InsectCop

    You should read our article about getting rid of rats. There are loads of tips there that you can try out to make your situation better. Still, it’s very likely you won’t be able to resolve it completely without eradicating the problem all over the building (including, dealing with the habit your neighbor has). Though, it appears the landlord isn’t interested in sorting that out, so we would suggest looking into moving if that does seem to be a possibility.

Robin

How do I get rid of rats in my yard

Andy Timmer

I find strong smelling dryer sheets keeps them out of my car engine. I live in a mobile and they are getting into the insulation underneath. I think I will try dryer sheets for that too. I will let you know how it works. My neighbor uses poison and I have had 2 die in the insulation underneath in the last couple of weeks. Sure do hate that smell.

Michelle

I have just tried eucalyptus oil to rid mice on cotton wool balls and placed around and mixed a spray with 100% eucalyptus oil a cup of water and a bit of washing liquid to help mix (seen it on a site) hasn’t worked a mouse is running around inside. Any ideas on what I have done wrong???

Ian (Tomo)Thompson

Rolls of Copper wire braid or stainless steel mesh can be purchased on the internet they hate the copper and SS mesh and won’t chew through it lay it on rapid cement the same as used edit tiling. Block all holes with course wire wool first again can be purchased on EBay

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