What smells do rats and mice hate? 5 scents to help deter these pests

Protect your home from these unwanted visitors

Peppermint oil on glass table
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In most cases, rats and mice are not normally wanted nor welcome in our personal space, and there are many different methods you can try to help warn these pests away from your home. 

Along with sealing entry points, using traps, or in severe cases, hiring professional pest exterminators, incorporating certain scents around your home to get rid of mice and to get rid of rats can also help with your pest problem.

Here, we explore five different smells that rats and mice hate – many of these items you will already have in your home, so it is an easy and effective pest control method to try.

What smells do rats and mice hate?

We've asked a collection of pest control experts to share their advice on the smells that rats and mice hate and how you can use them around your home.

1. Essential oils

Essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, cedarwood, and clove oil have powerful scents that can help to repel rodents. 

According to Brett Bennett, director of operations at PURCOR Pest Solutions, you can dilute such oils, such as these Essential Oils from Amazon, in water and spray them in the areas where rodents have been discovered, their entry routes, nests, and near baseboards.

Nicole Carpenter, president of Black Pest, also says that using peppermint oil is considered one of the most potent natural repellents against rats and mice.

‘The smell of it is too strong and overpowers their sensitive olfactory system, which makes it impossible for them to navigate and find food sources,’ says Nicole. ‘To keep rodents away using peppermint oil, soak cotton balls in the oil and place them strategically around entry points, nesting areas, and other areas where rodents are active.’

Try placing cotton balls, such as these Cotton Balls from Walmart, behind appliances, inside cabinets, under sinks, etc. The smell permeates without being overpowering for humans. Replace monthly for best effect. We explore how to use peppermint oil to get rid of mice in our dedicated feature.

You can also purchase handy sprays, such as this Mighty Mint Peppermint Oil Rodent Repellent Spray from Amazon.

2. Mothballs (Naphthalene)

Mothballs contain naphthalene – a chemical compound known to have a strong odor, which repels rodents. There are a number of different mothballs on the market, such as the Fasderceg Rodent Repellent balls from Amazon. These moth balls also contain concentrated peppermint which helps when combined with the naphthalene. 

However, mothballs can be toxic to both humans and pets, so it is advised to use them in more enclosed spaces, such as attics, basements, or crawl spaces where rodents are frequent visitors. If you are using mothballs, use them cautiously and according to the safety guidelines set by the manufacturers.

3. Ammonia

Ammonia diffuses a sharp, pungent smell that rodents find quite obnoxious and irritating. Ammonia should be mixed in equal parts with water in a spray bottle and applied to areas that are either infested or suspected, such as entry points, nesting sites, and along baseboards. We recommend using a multipurpose ammonia cleaner, such as this one from Amazon.

However, ammonia should be used safely; exposure to highly concentrated ammonia fumes for a long period could again be dangerous for both humans and pets. Always read the instructions on your ammonia cleaner bottle carefully and aim to use this solution in small doses. 

4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has a strong scent as it contains capsaicin, which tends to give rodents a burning sensation in their noses and mouths, thereby discouraging them from entering the treated area.

Cayenne pepper powder, such as this Cayenne pepper from Amazon, should be sprinkled along the perimeter of buildings, near entry points, and in areas where food is kept. However, the pepper needs to be reapplied regularly, especially after rainfall or watering, since it tends to lose its effect over time.

You can always plant a few cayenne pepper plants in your backyard so you dry them out and have a steady supply for when you need the powder.

We look at more scents garden pests hate in our separate feature.

5. Vinegar

Vinegar has a strong, acidic odor that can help repel rats and mice. A good method is mixing vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle; then spray the solution into areas where rodents frequent, such as countertops, baseboards, and around trash cans. 

Cotton balls soaked with vinegar and placed strategically in areas where rodents frequent also work well as a deterrent to keep them away. 

You can also use a vinegar spray, such as this All Purpose Cleaning Vinegar Multisurface Spray Cleaner from Amazon.


How do I get rid of mice and rats ASAP?

To help get rid of mice and rats ASAP, it is always worth calling in professional pest exterminators, however, while you are waiting for them to attend to your home, trying out DIY pest control methods, such as using scents that rats and mice hate, using traps and attempting to seal entry points can help to keep the rodents at bay.

Note that, though these smells will tend to repel rats and mice, they are not perfect and efficient in eliminating an already existing infestation. If the rodent problems are serious or persistent, it is always better to contact professional pest control to develop a comprehensive eradication plan tailored for your particular situation.

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.