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Are There Smells That Keep Rats Away?

Last Updated: 05.02.23


Rats are almost impossible to get rid of – you can find our selection of high-quality best rat poison here. Contrary to common belief, smells cannot be used to deter rats from one’s home. Even if they show a strong dislike for odors such as peppermint, eucalyptus or cat urine, most rats will not leave the comfort provided by your home when faced with these smells. 


Can smells deter rats?

Because rats and mice have a very sensitive sense of smell, many believe that there are certain powerful odors that they simply hate. Even though rats do not like certain smells, the idea they will be deterred from living in your basement because of a certain scent is bogus. 

Rats use their sense of smell to communicate with one another. For instance, they often use urine markings to transmit information to other rats about their sex, mating status or to warn them about predators that are nearby.

They also use their olfactory abilities to determine whether or not they want to live in a house. However, when they do so, they only consider whether or not a house has a scent that they like. Still, the chances of a rat colony leaving a house because of its odor is close to zero. 

To conclude, it seems like rats, just like mice, are not deterred by smells. Even if they live in a house where there are smells that they do not like, they will most likely just avoid that area, but not leave the house itself. 




One of the most popular substances used by people to drive rats away is ammonia. According to numerous reports, ammonia is, in fact, a substance that these pests simply dread. If there is ammonia in your home, the rats will simply avoid coming into contact with it. However, the presence of ammonia will not cause the rodents to go away.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration when speaking about this substance is the potential danger that it might pose to the residents of the home and their animals. It is a well-known thing that ammonia is dangerous to small children and pets. Plus, you have to keep it away from other substances that might cause it to react.

What is more, ammonia has a very strong smell that, most likely, will interfere with your ability to live your life as expected. Even though rats will undoubtedly hate it, they will not leave the safe environment that they have found in your home just to avoid the smell.

After all, these pests are used to all kinds of scents. Let’s not forget that rats use their urine, that contains ammonia, to mark paths. 



Another very popular alternative that many swear by is using mothballs. This option is recommended because of its affordability and accessibility. Mothballs are recommended to be used when dealing with all kinds of rodent invasions. Nonetheless, this solution is not one that you should count on. 

As you know, mothballs contain naphthalene, a chemical that can inhibit the ability of red cells to carry oxygen. Yet, this chemical is not powerful enough to affect rats and to deter them from your beloved home. After all, these pests are known to enjoy living in sewers!

Using too many mothballs is also very dangerous for the health of the residents of a house. In one documented case, a man that heard that using mothballs can help with a rat infestation placed several boxes filled with mothballs in his basement.

The following day, his wife started to have difficulties breathing and she complained of a chronic headache. She had to be transported to the hospital to receive immediate care.


Bleach and paint thinner

Other people that had to deal with rat infestations have also argued that bleach and paint thinners, as well as other strong-smelling chemicals, can also drive the pests away. Yet, there are no studies that prove or disprove these claims. 

To avoid having to deal with the side effects of using such chemicals, it is best that you don’t purchase them. After all, numerous other residents claim that  they are ineffective when utilized for this purpose.



Peppermint oil

DIY-lovers consider peppermint one of those ingredients that are great to use, no matter the problem. According to them, to get rid of rats, one just has to soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and then place them near the points of entrance that the pests use.

The reason why many people praise peppermint oil has to do with its strong aroma. As expected, this solution is far from perfect. In fact, one seasoned exterminator has argued that he once used peppermint as bait to catch rats. Similarly, you should not try to use other essential oils such as lavender, sage or eucalyptus for the task, as most likely, they will not work.

Even more so, these oils are not effective, especially in the long run, because their smell rises pretty fast. Given that mice and rats like to stay close to the ground, they are not bothered by their scent. 



Citronella is often used to repel, among others, mosquitoes. Some researchers have also argued that the smell of citronella might also be off-putting to rats as it might interfere with how the rat perceives the level of danger in an environment.

After doing numerous tests, researchers have shown that rats tend to keep away from the bait that was treated with citronella oil. However, once again, this does not mean that the rats that have invaded your home will feel the need to vacate your house as a result of you spraying this type of oil around.


Predator urine

Predator urine can be used to scare away rats, at least according to the theories that you can find online. Still, this solution might not yield the expected results, as rats are used to living near dangerous predators.

A study conducted at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has shown that rats do, indeed, hate the smell of urine of carnivores. It seems like meat-eaters have a certain compound in their urine called 2-phenylethylamine that these rodents simply hate. To humans, the smell of urine is only a little offensive. Rats and mice, however, consider this smell dangerous. 

What is more, an article published in The Journal of Neuroscience has shown that rats exhibit signs of aversion when confronted with the odor of predators. For instance, when they sense the smell of a cat, they naturally feel more stressed. 

So, it seems like your beloved fluffy companion might help to deal with any future rat infestations. However, having a cat is not enough to drive a colony of rats out of your basement.




To cater to the needs of their consumers, the specialists have created certain products that include chemicals that can indeed deter rats. Yet, their main disadvantage is the fact that their formula is toxic to both humans and the environment. 

Because these solutions are somewhat dangerous when not used correctly, you shouldn’t use them unless you carefully read the instructions. In most cases, you will probably be expected to leave the house for a number of hours as the products works.

To avoid any accidents, it might be a better idea to hire professional help for the job as exterminators are specially trained to know how to get rid of these pests fast and efficiently.


Prevention is essential

Once rats get inside your home, they are difficult to get rid of. To be of assistance to you, we have prepared a list of tricks that you can try to avoid an infestation.

To start, you should repair any damage to your home. This will prevent these pests from finding entryways to your house. A great material that you can use for the job is sheet metal. This material is very sturdy and almost impossible to chew through.

All the holes that can be used by rats to enter the home should be filled with steel wool. You can use this material to close off vent holes as well as any openings inside the kitchen cupboards.

Last but not least, you should try to keep your home as clean as possible. Because they have a very strong sense of smell, mice and rats are attracted to those homes that are not maintained and where, consequently, food is easy to come by.




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