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What Smells Do Rats Hate? (11 Rat Repelling Scents & How to Use Them)

Rats hate many smells found in plants or household products, which you can use to get rid of them. Among the most potent odors to repel rats are peppermint oil, garlic, vinegar, or ammonia. You can also plant clover in your yard to keep rats away.

Rats have a highly developed sense of smell that helps them find nearby food and water. When they make their nest, rats guid by their developed sense of smell. 

While their sense of smell is an important asset, it can also be their enemy.

In trying to get rid of rats, people have found all kinds of odors that drive them away. Many of these are found in most homes.

Repelling rats with pungent odors is an ethical alternative to killing them.

In this article, you will find out what smells rats hate, how you can keep them at bay with these smells, how to get rid of rats, and much more.

What Types of Rats Infest Homes?

Two types of rats infest our streets and homes: brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and black rat (Rattus rattus). Brown rats build their nests in basements, garages, or sewers, and black rats in attics or trees.

There are two types of rats that infest streets, gardens, and people’s homes:

  • The Norway rat (brown or sewer rat)
  • The black rat (roof or house rat). 

Brown rats are usually found at lower levels, such as garages or basements. Black rats like to build their nest in high places such as upper levels, bridges, or trees.

This is important to know when trying to get rid of rats.

If your home is infested with Norway rats, you have to apply rat repellent to the lower levels of your house. The opposite is true for black rats, as they live in high places such as attics.

You have to take measures according to the type of rat infesting your home.

What Types of Rats Infest Homes

What Smell Do Rats Hate the Most?

Rats hate the smell of cat urine or other predators the most. On top of that, they are also repelled by the smell of mint, citronella, mothballs, and ammonia. Dilute ammonia with water and spray the mixture in areas frequented by rats if you want to repel them.

Through trial and error, people have tried different methods to eliminate and repel rats; some are effective, and some are not. 

Among the most effective methods to get rid of rats is spreading odors that have a repellent effect.

Scents that have proven effective in keeping rats away are:

  • The smell of predators (such as cats).
  • The smells of some plants (such as garlic or various essential oils).
  • The smell of substances with domestic use (such as bleach and mothballs.

The pungent smells repel rats. They do not kill them. If you want to kill rats, use rat poison or other methods designed for the purpose.

What Smell Do Rats Hate the Most

List of Smells Rats Hate

Rats have a highly developed sense of smell, and some pungent scents have proven to be effective in driving them away.

Here are the smells that rats hate the most:

  1. Essential oils (especially peppermint, citronella, and castor)
  2. Clover flowers
  3. Spices
  4. Garlic
  5. Onion
  6. Coffee Grounds
  7. Ammonia
  8. Mothballs
  9. Bleach
  10. Vinegar
  11. Predators

1. Essentials Oils

Essential Oils Flea Spray

Rats hate the smell of some[1] essential oils:

  • Peppermint
  • Citronella
  • Castor
  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus

How to Use Essential Oils to Repel Rats

There are several ways to repel rats with essential oils, including spraying them around the house or placing oil-soaked cotton balls in rat-infested places.

Method 1:

  1. Mix two teaspoons of oil and one cup of water (or 30 drops of oil and three cups of water) in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray in areas frequented by rats or where you see traces once a week.

Method 3:

  1. Mix one part of water with 1-3 parts of essential oil.
  2. Soak cotton balls in the solution.
  3. Place the soaked cotton balls in areas where you want to repel rats.
  4. Repeat the process when the cotton balls dry out.

2. Clover Flowers

Clover Flowers

The four-leaf clover is considered a sign of good luck. On top of that, clovers are also effective rat repellants.

Clover is easy to sow in your yard, and it grows quickly. Rats are particularly repelled by the smell of clover flowers.

How to Use Clover to Repel Rats

Clover can be used in several ways to keep rats away.[2]

Method 1:

Plant clovers in areas frequented by rats or in places where you want to keep rats away. You can either plant it in your garden or plant it in small boxes to move around.

Method 2:

  1. Soak blooming clover in water for a few hours.
  2. Pour the water into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray in areas frequented by rats to keep them away.

3. Spices

ground cayenne chilli pepper on a grey ceramic plate

Rats do not like the smell of the following spices:[3]

  • Chili peppers
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Black pepper

You can also try to keep rats away with Tabasco sauce.

How to Use Spices to Repel Rats

Method 1:

If you want to use Tabasco sauce, the most recommended method is to use it in the garden or places where you won’t mind the smell and mess.

  1. Mix two oz. Tabasco sauce with four cups of water and a teaspoon of dish soap in a spray bottle (dish soap is used to make the mixture stick to surfaces).
  2. Spray in places where you want to repel rats (house entrances, loose roof tiles, trees, sewer openings, etc.).

Method 2:

Sprinkle spices in places where you’ve seen rats roam around or in areas where you don’t want them to go.

Rats are driven away by the strong smell of the spices. If they mistakenly consume the spices, they will know not to pass through a second time.

4. Garlic


Many plants have developed protective mechanisms to keep them safe from animals. Garlic is one of these. The distinctive smell of garlic is caused by allicin. 

You can use garlic’s natural defense mechanism to repel rats by placing it around your house.

How to Use Garlic to Repel Rats

You can use both whole garlic, diced garlic, or garlic powder to repel rats.

Method 1:

Place whole garlic cloves in areas you don’t want rats to go. Replace them when they spoil or dry out (roughly every two weeks).

For this method, you can also use garlic powder, if you don’t have fresh garlic.

Sprinkle the powder in the areas of interest. Repeat every week.

Method 2:

  1. Boil four cups of water.
  2. Add one chopped onion and 2-4 garlic cloves/garlic powder.
  3. Let them boil for five minutes.
  4. Let the mixture cool.
  5. Strain and pour the liquid into a spray bottle.
  6. Sprinkle where needed.

5. Onion


Besides garlic, onions also repel rats. Onions’ strong smell is a result of the sulfur, which is also what makes us cry when we cut them.

The smell of onions repels rats temporarily. They get used to the scent as the onions age and dry out.[4]

Besides the vegetable’s repelling properties, onion is also toxic to rats. 

How to Use Onion to Repel Rats

  1. Cut an onion in half and leave it in the areas where you want to get rid of rats.
  2. Replace it when it spoils or dries out (every week).

6. Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds have a strong smell and a bitter aroma. This combination works great to repel and keep rats away.

How to Use Coffee Grounds to Repel Rats

Sprinkle coffee grounds where you’ve spotted rats or place bowls with coffee grounds near their access entrances to your house.

If the rats consume the coffee grounds, they can develop heart problems (rapid heartbeats and arrhythmia), which can lead to death by cardiac arrest.[5]

7. Ammonia

Image Source

The pungent smell of ammonia keeps rats away. Rats confuse the smell of ammonia with that of predator urine.

Ammonia is a chemical substance with a strong smell. It is used for cleaning and often comes in the form of ammonium hydroxide.

This substance can also act corrosively. When rats come into contact with ammonia, it damages their respiratory system.[6]

Always use ammonia in well-ventilated places and prevent inhalation.

How to Use Ammonia to Repel Rats       

Method 1:

  1. Soak cotton balls or rags in ammonia.
  2. Place them in open bags or containers.
  3. Place them in the areas where rats roam to drive them away.
  4. Place them at the front door, in the attic, and in the garden to keep these pests away.

Method 2:

Pour ammonia around the perimeter of your house.

Method 3:

Pour ammonia into a spray bottle and spray it on hot spots or on the access points to your house.

8. Mothballs

Image Source

Mothballs are not as effective as other methods but are worth a try if you don’t have massive rat infestations. 

The naphthalene in mothballs is effective in killing moths, eggs, and larvae, but can also repel rats from mothballs. It has to be present in large quantities to be effective against rats though.

Do not use mothballs outside as they contaminate the environment.[7]

Another downside of using mothballs to repel rats is that you can expose yourself and your family to toxic chemicals.

How to Use Mothballs to Repel Rats

Place mothballs in narrow places, such as holes or cracks where rats run by. Only use mothballs in areas where other people and pets do not have access to prevent potential poisoning.

9. Bleach


Bleach is a chemical substance used for cleaning. It has a strong, pungent odor that repels rats.

How to Use Bleach to Repel Rats

Pour bleach into the holes where you suspect rats are hiding.

You can also spray and disinfect the walls and floors with a mixture of chlorine diluted in water.

How to Make Bleach Poison for Rats

  1. Mix a tablespoon of bleach with two tablespoons of jam or peanut butter.
  2. Place the mixture near the holes or cracks rats use to get in or out.

10. Vinegar

What Is Vinegar

Vinegar, especially white vinegar, has a strong and repulsive smell that is great at repelling rats. The vinegar will also sting the tongue and mouth of rats that lick or swallow it.

How to Use Vinegar to Repel Rats

Method 1:

  1. Soak cotton balls in vinegar.
  2. Place them in the spaces where rats roam.

Method 2:

  1. Dilute vinegar with water in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray the mixture in the spaces where rats roam or where you want them not to reach.

It is recommended not to use vinegar inside the house as the pungent smell is unpleasant to people as well.

11. Predators

Rat Predators

Rats have many natural predators and have a natural fear of these. The urine of predators is especially effective at keeping rats away.

Some people use cat urine to keep rats away or repel them, while others resort to snake droppings.

What Noises Do Rats Hate?

Rats hate loud noises and high-pitched noises. They have a well-developed sense of hearing, and new and loud noises drive them away.

In addition to a sensitive nose and a strong sense of smell, rats also have a highly developed sense of hearing. 

As nocturnal animals that carry out their activity during the night, they have poor vision. Therefore, rats have adapted and developed their other senses.

Rats communicate with each other through high-pitched sounds that the human ear can’t always perceive.

Because of their great hearing, rats hate loud sounds, including those produced by anti-rodent devices.

Loud sounds represent danger for rats. The noise scares them and makes them run away. If exposed to repeated loud sounds, they get used to them.[8]

Anti-rodent devices use ultrasound to repel rats. The loud sounds these devices emit cause stress to rats and make them come out of their hiding place.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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