Home » What Smells Do Rats Dislike? [17 Scents Rats Hate]
smells that keep rats away

What Smells Do Rats Dislike? [17 Scents Rats Hate]

(Last Updated On: February 22, 2023)

Many of us are turning to natural pest deterrents to drive rats away.

While rats have poor vision, they have a good sense of smell. So, rats can pick up a wide range of scents, including some smells that humans can’t detect.

However, if the smell of a deterrent begins to dissipate, rats will no longer be affected.

What Are Some of the Scents that Keep Rats Away?

Rats have about 1,700 olfactory receptors, while humans have 350 olfactory receptors.

Their large number of odor receptors means that rats can pick up scents easily. This means that rats can become overwhelmed by pungent scents, such as the following:

Castor Oil

The strong smell of castor oil is known to deter rats. Although rats are adaptable and can eventually overcome the smell, it will cause them to stay away.

That’s why it’s best used to drive rats toward the bait, making it the more appealing option than whatever the castor oil is protecting. This vegetable oil can be mixed with water and sprayed in areas you want rats to avoid.

Do Rats Hate Mothballs?

Mothballs are used to keep rats away due to an active ingredient, naphthalene. It has been used for years to deter fabric pests such as moths and silverfish.

It also works well against rats because they dislike the pungent smell. However, mothballs alone aren’t an ideal way of eradicating a rat problem.

The number of mothballs needed to repel rats would be toxic to humans and the environment. Rats can adapt to strong smells that would otherwise overpower humans and other pests.

After all, they can survive in sewers and plumbing pipes, notwithstanding the stench. So, even though mothballs might work briefly to keep rats away, they are not an effective solution for a rat infestation in the long run.

Naphthalene, if the rats inhale enough, is toxic. For humans, pets, and rats alike, a strong enough amount can lead to breathing difficulties and other complications.

Do Rats Dislike Peppermint?

Peppermint oil is often touted as one of the best repellents against rats, mice, and other rodents. This is because it is non-toxic to humans, and it doesn’t have an offensive smell to us. For rats, it can be overpowering. Rats spend less time in an area where the smell of peppermint oil lingers.

Rats find the smell of peppermint oil unpleasant. However, its effectiveness as a rat-repellent varies because peppermint oil evaporates quickly when exposed to air. In other words, it might only keep rats away in the beginning.

In a temporary sense, rats usually steer clear of places and objects that have been treated with peppermint oil. The concentration needs to be high. Fortunately, peppermint is a natural compound that is non-toxic to humans. You can use it in high concentrations and reapply it often without negative effects on you or the environment.

scents that drive rats away

Do Rats Hate Garlic?

Garlic is a popular home remedy for rat infestation since it has a strong scent that rats find repugnant. Sprinkle some ground garlic along the pathways rats normally use. You should also rub or place cloves near areas you want to protect, such as pantries and kitchen counters.

Unfortunately, this method isn’t an ideal way to keep rats away. They may find alternative routes to avoid the smell while remaining in your house. As the smell of garlic dissipates over time, its effectiveness will also gradually lessen. Eventually, it will stop working as a deterrent against rats.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a strongly-scented kitchen spice that can be used as a home remedy for rodent control. Rats and mice dislike cayenne pepper because it irritates their nasal cavity and eyes.

The base scent itself is not only repulsive. If they happen to sniff too closely, they can inhale the spice. This can lead to inflammation, sneezing, pain, and respiratory infections.

That can make it an effective deterrent but not a method of eradicating your pest issue. Like most scent deterrents, rats may adapt and learn to avoid the cayenne pepper by finding alternate routes.

Chili Powder

Much like cayenne, chili powder irritates a rat’s nasal cavity when inhaled. To keep rats from infesting your home, sprinkle chili powder near their nests, passageways, and holes, where you suspect rats go to hide.

Scent of Ferrets

Rats hate the scent of their predators, even if they are not in the vicinity. In fact, according to the Journal of Neuroscience, when rats were exposed to the scent of ferrets, their stress hormones increased significantly. If a rat picks up on the scent of one in a particular area, it is likely to steer clear of that location completely.

Keeping such a pet can discourage rats from nesting in your home. You should also bear in mind, however, that some rats can become aggressive.

Do Rats Hate the Smell of Cats?

Rats cannot stand the smell of cats and other predators, such as raccoons, because they signal danger. The pheromones of a cat also trigger an increase in stress hormones in rats.

A cat’s natural odor, urine, and saliva marking your home can drive off rodents. As such, keeping a cat works as an effective natural deterrent against rats. They will avoid nesting in any location where a predator is lurking.

Lemon Citrus Oil

The lemon citrus oil is a popular rat control option. It’s too pungent for most rats, and it offers a scent that lasts longer in the air when compared to other natural remedies. Eucalyptus oil and garlic tend to fade sooner.


While citronella is commonly used as a natural repellent against mice, it is also effective against rats. The scent has been proven to interfere with the appetite of rats, thus causing them to eat less.

According to Nutrients, rats exposed to the smell of citronella oil experienced a remarkable reduction in body weight due to a decrease in appetite.


Ammonia is one of the best rat deterrents. It gives off a smell that is similar to the urine of predators, such as cats. It can work as a natural cleaning product, helping you to remove any bacteria rats leave behind. As you do, you’re also deterring future rats from poking around those areas.

Does Bleach Keep Rats Away?

Rats don’t like the odor of bleach. They tend to avoid areas where this chemical has been sprayed. When consumed accidentally by rats, bleach can be deadly. It causes internal bleeding and may also affect oxygen consumption.

Spraying bleach in entry points and pathways that rats normally use, for instance, is guaranteed to send them running. You can also use bleach to disinfect rat nests and other areas where they like to hang around.

To create bait, you can mix the bleach with peanut butter. Peanut butter will help to mask the smell of this cleaning produce, luring the rats into eating the mixture. Of course, the ratio of peanut butter to bleach should be higher to accomplish this.

Do Rats Hate the Smell of Vinegar?

Rats find the smell of vinegar unpleasant and will steer clear of places where vinegar has been smeared or sprayed. For this method to be effective, you need large amounts of vinegar to produce a strong enough scent to deter them.

It is also important to apply vinegar in constricted areas to prevent the smell from dissipating quickly. As the smell reduces in potency, it becomes less effective at deterring rats.

odors that repel rats

Clove Oil

Rats hate the strong smell of cloves and won’t dare spend time in an area where this scent lingers. This makes clove oil an effective, humane, and chemical-free agent for getting rid of rats.

Do Rats Hate the Smell of Lavender?

While humans find the smell of lavender pleasant, rats hate it. As such, lavender oil is an effective deterrent against rats when applied correctly.

To drive rats away using lavender, soak small balls of cotton in the oil and set these in locations where rats tend to spend their time. As the lavender diffuses in the atmosphere, the strong odor will discourage rats from staying in those areas.

Do Rats Dislike Onions?

Humans are not the only species that find the smell of onions overpowering. Rats, mice, and other rodents cannot tolerate the smell. This makes onions one of the best natural deterrents against rats.

Bearing in mind that the smell of onions tends to fade with time, this method only works against rats temporarily. Once the smell dissipates, rats will come out of hiding once again. They may even feast on the onion once the smell has adequately faded.

Do Rats Hate the Smell of Eucalyptus Oil?

The potent smell of eucalyptus appears to repulsive rats and can prevent them from nesting in your home. Some homeowners prefer this essential oil because it’s natural and non-toxic to humans. It also has a scent that most humans find pleasing, so its application won’t cause sensory discomfort.

The above scents are disliked by rats and can be used to drive them away. Refresh the scents often, and combine them with bait or rat traps to get rid of an infestation long-term.