Rats are ubiquitous pests that can be found infesting homes and buildings around the world. Getting rid of rats, however, is not always easy. An effective way to deter rats without using toxic chemicals is by exploiting rats’ sensitive sense of smell. There are several pungent scents that rats hate and will avoid. Read on to learn about 7 smells that rats detest and how to use them to repel rats humanely and drive them away for good.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell that can be exploited to repel them.
  • Scents like ammonia, mint, vinegar, and mothballs overwhelm rats’ nostrils and drive them away.
  • Place these smelly deterrents along rat entry points, nesting zones, and potential food sources.
  • Use natural scents like essential oils and garlic indoors and reserve chemicals for exterior use.
  • Replace smelly repellents frequently as the odors fade over time.
  • Eliminate food attractants and seal up holes and cracks around your home.
  • Take safety precautions like ventilation when using powerful smells.

The Sensitive Sense of Smell in Rats

Rats have an exceptionally strong sense of smell thanks to the millions of scent receptors in their noses. Their sense of smell is so powerful that they can detect some odors at concentrations of only a few parts per trillion. To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to detecting a single drop of odorant in over twenty Olympic sized swimming pools!

This sensitive nose helps rats find food hidden in walls, garbage cans, storage areas, and other out-of-sight places. Rats leave scent trails from their urine and feces that other rats can follow directly to the source of food. Their powerful noses also enable rats to identify the scents of other rats and determine information like health, age, and reproductive status. Rats rely on scent marking to communicate and send messages to members of their pack.

Rats’ keen sense of smell also helps them detect and escape from predators and dangers in their environment. They can sniff out the scents of cats, dogs, and other rodent predators and will avoid those areas. Rats can also smell traces of toxic chemicals and likely steer clear of them.

Exploiting this sensitive sense of smell through the strategic use of pungent scents that rats hate is one of the most effective DIY ways to repel them from your home or property. Rats will avoid setting up nests in areas where they encounter smells that irritate their noses. If you need rodent control in Las Vegas, call us now!

7 Smells That Rats Hate

There are several strong smells that rats find overpowering and cannot tolerate. Here are 7 scents that you can use to drive rats away:


The strong, pungent odor of ammonia is irritating and overwhelming to rats’ sensitive noses. Place bowls containing ammonia at common entry points like cracks and holes in walls, around the perimeter of your home, and near trash cans and other potential food sources. Make sure the ammonia is diluted with water first to between 1-3% concentration. Pure ammonia can be hazardous.

Peppermint Oil 

Rats dislike the strong and minty aroma of peppermint. Soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and place them along rat runways, in wall holes, under sinks, and other areas rats frequent. You can also mix peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spritz it around baseboards, windows, and doors.

Eucalyptus Oil 

The pungent scent of eucalyptus reminds rats of predator odor. It’s a natural essential oil derived from the eucalyptus plant. Mix a few drops of eucalyptus oil into water and spray it around known rat zones. Or soak cotton balls in the mixture and place them in infested areas inside or outside.

White Vinegar 

The strong acidity and sour odor of white vinegar is unpleasant and irritating to rats. Make a solution of one part vinegar diluted in 3 parts water. Use this to wipe down countertops, cabinets, baseboards and anywhere else rats frequent. It removes odors that attract them.

Cayenne Pepper 

Sprinkle powdered cayenne pepper in attics, crawlspaces, or along walls where rats travel. The spicy heat of cayenne pepper aggravates rats’ highly sensitive noses. Be careful not to inhale it yourself!


Place mothballs along fences, around the exterior perimeter of sheds and barns, and anywhere rats may find an entry point into your home. The odor encourages them to build nests elsewhere and avoid that area.


Rats dislike the pungent scent of garlic. Peel several cloves of garlic and place them around known entry points. You can also crush garlic and sprinkle the remains in rat zones. Over time, they’ll associate that smell with your home and avoid it.

Using these natural yet unpleasant scents throughout your home and property can effectively repel rats and prevent infestations without the use of harmful poisons. Be sure to replace the smelly deterrents regularly, eliminate food sources, and plug up holes to make your home as unappealing to rats as possible. With diligence, these 7 scents can drive rats away for good.

Tips for Using Smells to Repel Rats Safely

When using scents and smells to repel rats, there are some safety precautions you should take:

  • Test smells in inconspicuous areas first: Before deploying smelly deterrents around your entire home, sample them in a small, low traffic area first. This will allow you to check that the smells don’t cause any unanticipated effects to people, pets, or furnishings in your home. Stop using any smell that seems to cause sensitivities or reactions.
  • Never mix chemical products: Household chemicals like bleach, ammonia, acids, etc. can react and create dangerous toxic fumes if mixed. Never combine chemical repellents or cleaners.
  • Apply oils carefully: Essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus are concentrated and can stain furniture, floors, and other surfaces. Use cotton balls to help control and contain the oils in one area.
  • Replace smells frequently: Smells tend to fade over time, especially when exposed to air and sunlight. Replenish smelly deterrents like mothballs every 2-3 weeks to maintain their potency.
  • Limit indoor smells: Only use natural smell deterrents like oils, vinegar, garlic, and pepper indoors. Avoid extensive use of mothballs, ammonia or other chemicals inside to prevent overwhelming odors in your living spaces.
  • Strategically place smells: Only apply smells along the exterior perimeter of your home, near entry points, and suspected rat zones. Avoid scattering them indiscriminately indoors and outdoors.
  • Eliminate attractions; Ensure there are no food scraps, open garbage cans, or other food sources that could be drawing rats near your home. Removing these attractions is key.
  • Ventilate properly: When using powerful repellents, make sure to air out confined spaces like basements or crawlspaces to allow for proper ventilation. Never occupy a space that recently had ammonia or other chemicals deployed.

With some careful planning and these safety tips, you can harness the power of scents rats hate to drive them away without causing any harm to your family or pets. Use smells strategically and safely to eliminate your rat problem.


What smell keeps rats away?

There are several pungent smells that can effectively repel rats and keep them away from your home or property. Strong odors like ammonia, mint, vinegar, garlic, and even mothballs overwhelm rats’ sensitive noses and cause them to avoid areas that are scented with these smells. Natural scents like peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, garlic, and white vinegar are safe to use indoors. Chemicals like ammonia and mothballs work best outdoors or in confined areas away from living spaces. Using these offensive odors throughout your home helps make the environment inhospitable to rats.

What keeps rats away permanently?

While smells can be effective rat deterrents, there are a few additional steps you need to take to keep rats away from your home permanently:

  • Seal up entry points so rats can’t access your home at all. Fix any holes, cracks, open vents, etc.
  • Eliminate outdoor food sources like fallen fruit, compost piles, chicken feed, etc. This removes attractions drawing rats to your property.
  • Clean up clutter like piles of wood, debris, trash, etc that rats can hide and nest in.
  • Set out traps or use responsibly applied rodenticides to decrease the existing rat population.
  • Deploy smelly repellents at regular intervals so rats don’t become accustomed to the odors.
  • Ensure there are no indoor food sources rats can access, like open pet food or garbage. Store food in sealed containers.

Following these steps along with using scents rats hate provides the best chance of permanently evicting rats from your property.

Can salt kill rats?

Table salt alone does not kill rats directly. However, rats cannot properly digest salt, so a heavy concentration of salt can dehydrate rats and eventually kill them over time. Mixing salt with other dry ingredients that rats like to eat, such as flour or oatmeal, tempts them to ingest the salt so that it has a fatal effect. While salt can be lethal to rats in the right circumstances, it’s not a quick or guaranteed way to kill them. Rapid rodenticides or traps are more effective options if you need to quickly eliminate a rat infestation.

What is a natural killer for rats?

There are a few natural ways to get rid of rats without using poison or other chemicals:

  • Place rat traps baited with peanut butter or bacon to catch and kill rats humanely. Check traps frequently to dispose of dead rats.
  • Use peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, garlic, and other natural scents rats dislike to drive them away.
  • Allow natural rat predators like cats, dogs, owls, or snakes onto your property. They will hunt rats and keep populations under control.
  • Sealing entry points to cut off rat access and cleaning up food sources also prevents infestations naturally without killing rats directly.
  • You can also fertilize your garden with blood meal fertilizer. The bloody odor repels rats naturally.

While scents and deterrents are ideal, traps allow you to promptly eliminate nests of rats in a safe, organic way when natural repellents are insufficient. With diligence, you can keep rats away without using any synthetic chemicals or poisons.


Rats may be persistent pests, but taking advantage of their hatred for certain smells is an easy, affordable way to drive them from your home. Ammonia, peppermint, and other scents create environments too odoriferous for rats to tolerate. They will avoid returning to areas where they encounter these unpleasant smells. By using a combination of harsh smells, sealing up entry points, and removing food sources, you can effectively make your home unfavorable habitat for rats. With diligent use of these smell deterrents, you can repel rats and prevent future infestations in a safe, humane, and eco-friendly way. Your home will become a place where rats are deterred by the overpowering scents of the pungent smells they hate most.