Can you tell the difference between a mouse and a rat? Well, rats are usually larger and have longer, fatter tails that are pale on the underside. They also have smaller ears and blunt, rounded noses compared to mice. They still have a lot in common though, so you can use similar methods to repel them. So what smells do rats hate? Let’s look at a few examples.
What Smell Do Rats Hate?
As a cleaning agent, bleach works in two ways. One, it kills germs and bacteria. And two, it discolors stains and makes them ‘disappear’. The dirt may still be there, but you can’t see it, which is why you have to rinse the bleach off and follow it up with a strong soap or detergent.
Never mix bleach with soap though. The resulting gas is toxic and potentially explosive so you should always rinse between bleach and soap cycles. That said, bleach has a distinct smell that rats hate so wiping surfaces or spraying it in infested areas is a good rat repellent.
Capsaicin is the active agent in all types of chili, from Tabasco sauce to black pepper. Birds and reptiles can handle capsaicin effortlessly. But most mammals avoid it because our taste buds interpret it as pure heat. That’s why it makes us sweat, cry, burn, and sometimes roar.
While some humans enjoy this painful sensation, other mammals avoid it, including rats. It’s why plants, powders, and oils containing capsaicin can keep rats away. You can use cotton balls dipped in chili oil or make a spray with boiled jalapeños, pepper powder, or spicy oils.
To humans, cinnamon smells like warmth, vanilla, and comfort. It also has slightly fruity notes and just a touch of pepper at the back, which is what gives it that sweet sting. You can find it in stick form when the bark is peeled and dried so that it coils into cute little quills.
These curly sticks can also be ground into cinnamon powder. But while we love this aromatic goodness, rats are easily overpowered by the potency of the smell. It also disrupts their scent trails so they stay away from it. Planting cinnamon sticks near rat nests makes them migrate.
A four-leaf clover is a sign of good luck because you’ll only find one for every 5,000 to 10,000 regular clovers, and they’re often carefully bred. For reference, normal clovers have three leaves, and the four-leaf variety is a genetic mutation. Five-leaf ‘rose’ clovers are even rarer.
But regardless of the number of leaves, clovers have cute flowers and a pleasant scent – at least to humans. Rats hate it! So if you’ve spotted traces of rat communities in your garden, consider planting some clovers to move them out of your neighborhood. Or use their juice.
Cloves and clovers are only one letter apart, but they couldn’t be more different. Clove is a sweet-and-sharp spice that comes from the dried flower buds of the clove plant. You can dry and toast them whole or grind them into powder for a concentrated, longer-lasting version.
The flavor is syrupy, with bitter notes at the back. Traditionally, it’s a remedy for toothache, and it’s commonly used to spice tea and aromatic rice dishes. Humans love its scent but it’s overwhelming to tiny rat noses so they’ll avoid it when they can. Clove oil is called eugenol.
If you’ve smelled eucalyptus, you know how recognizable that sweet sticky scent is. And the chemical component in the plant is called eucalyptol or cineole. In large doses, it’s poisonous to most living organisms, including bacteria. But you can use a little in a muscle balm or tea.
That said, because rats are so much smaller than us, it only takes a small amount to mess with them, so their little rodent brains warn them to run the other way. You can plant it in infested areas, use candles and diffusers, or make a spritz of eucalyptus oil and warm water.
If you have philosophical leanings, you may have heard the arguments against free will. They imply that organisms don’t ‘decide’ to do anything. Instead, our actions are just responses to stimuli. For example, you don’t choose to move your hand from fire, it’s pure biological reflex.
In that sense, because garlic is an antibiotic and rats have so many pathogens, maybe they react to this potential killer by engaging the rat’s muscles to sprint in the opposite direction! Either way, rats hate the smell of garlic, so you can plant some bulbs or sprinkle the powder.
8. Household Ammonia
In agriculture, ammonia is used as a fertilizer because it’s rich in nitrogen. Farm manure carries tons of it because animal wastes contain a lot. Unrelated, you can use ammonia in the house for cleaning. It can break down grease, dissolve stains, and is an abrasive substance.
But the reason it sends rats packing is its intense smell. Rags soaked in ammonia can repel all sorts of rodents including squirrels and raccoons. But humans hate the smell just as much as rats do. And it can be bad for your health if you’re exposed to highly concentrated fumes.
Mothballs are made of naphthalene, or sometimes paradichlorobenzene. They work by suffocating moths, silverfish, and other pests. And while most people prefer to stuff them in closets, this can be risky because your clothes are in there too, so you could be contaminated.
It’s not just bugs that are susceptible to mothballs. Their smell is equally abhorrent to rats, though humans can be inadvertently affected as well. To safely use mothballs against rats without bothering nearby humans, stuff them in old socks and put them in outdoor hotspots.
Onions are related to garlic. They both have allyl sulfide aka allicin as a defense against the insects and rodents that like to eat them. That’s why they give off that pungent stinging juice that makes your eyes water and your nose run. For humans, we have workarounds and tips.
But for rats, the smell of both garlic and onions can mess with their internal systems so they avoid it altogether. You can spread garlic flakes or onion powder in places where you’ve seen rat feces. An easy solution, pun intended, is to mix chili or pepper with onions in hot water.
Citrus is such a popular scent that we psychologically associate it with cleanliness and fresh feelings. That’s why it’s so common in chilled drinks and washing-up products. But out in nature, citrus fruits have a sharp, tangy, sometimes sour flavor that rodents aren’t fond of.
This is partly why oranges, lemons, limes, and lemongrass are things that rats detest. You could sprinkle their juice in rat-filled spaces, but the smell won’t last long. It’s smarter to use essential oils, diffusers, cleaning products, or just good old-fashioned rinds, peels, and slices.
Most softwood trees are evergreen conifers. They’re nice to have around the house because they retain their leaves and their vibrant color even when everything else has turned orange and dropped, leaving piles of snow and scraggly twigs. Conifers also have refreshing scents.
While these aromatic hedges are appealing to humans, rats hate them. So adding them to your yard is a sure way to keep rats away. You can plant live fences and shrubs, use cedar shingles for sheds and buildings, burn cedar chips, or use Pine-sol for that scent deterrent.
13. Predator Scents
You already know rats are afraid of cats. But they also get rattled by owls, hawks, canines, and mongooses. So you could lace their favorite area with predator pheromones to scare them away. You can find cat hormones at pet shops while the rest are in hunting stores.
Try other related items like clumps of shed cat for, worn-in puppy toys, lightly used kitty litter, owl and hawk feathers, or even weasel wee. If you have old beds or blankets from your pets or from an animal shelter, you can cut them into bits and scatter them among the rats.
Aromatic herbs and spices are another clever way to manage rats. Their beauty is you can find them in tons of iterations from infused teabags to dried buds to living plants. Rosemary is easy to find in grocery store aisles, but it also makes a lovely scented hedge for your lawn.
Lavender is an equally user-friendly option, whether you’re tossing teabags in rat-filled basements, planting shrubs on the perimeter of your backyard, or using lavender-scented cleaning products for toilets, crawlspaces, and sewers where the rats are known to hide.
15. Used Coffee Grounds
Even if you’re into Starbucks and other coffee shops, you can save a lot of money by brewing your Cuppa Joe at home. And coffee grounds have so many other purposes. You can throw them over your flowers and potted plants as a form of organic manure that also repels rats.
You can work them into exfoliants, face masks, and hair conditioners for their anti-oxidant content. You can even use them as natural pigments for painting and art projects, or bake them into muffins and cakes. In all those forms, that rich aroma will send the rats skittering.
These days, a lot of people prefer Substitute Vinegar because it has the same flavor with a much milder scent. But original vinegar is high on the list of smells that rats hate, so if you’re using it for cleaning and/or pest control, you’re better off getting the truly pungent version.
In addition to irritating those ratty noses, the acidic content of vinegar can dissolve the dirt, grime, and stains that would otherwise attract those household rodents. It also kills bacteria, thereby reducing the nasty smells that rats enjoy. Plus, vinegar works in ants and fruit flies!
Mint is a popular ingredient in desserts, cocktails, and cosmetics. It’s also a pretty addition to your garden, and you have more than 20 varieties to choose from. The thing that gives them their distinctive smell is menthol, and while wintergreen isn’t mint, it smells similar.
You can also use spearmint or peppermint, the two stronger members of the mint family. They’re all available as flavors for teabags, candy, air fresheners, and diffusers, so those are easy ways to access them. Or you could drip their concentrated essential oils on cotton balls.
Do you know any other smells that rats hate? Tell us about them in the comments section!