12 Smells Squirrels Hate (Keep Them Off Your Plants)


There’s a reason squirrels are so pesky – they’re looking for food. Squirrels have an incredible sense of smell that can smell food buried underground.

If you use this to your advantage and make your garden or yard unappetizing to them, you’ll be less likely to have to deal with their scavenging.

Smells squirrels hate list
Smells squirrels hate

One way to do that is by using smells they don’t like.

Here is a list of the smells that squirrels hate, and how you can use this information to keep them off your plants.

Why Do You Want to Keep Squirrels Away

Squirrels are not only pesky, but they can also do a lot of damage to your plants and property.

They will eat any type of seed or nut they can find, dig up plants and flowers in search of food, and even rob the bird feeders you keep stocked.

squirrel in tree

Squirrels aren’t dumb. If they know you keep a garden full of food they like, they’ll try to make a home close by.

This could mean taking shelter in your house. But to make a shelter, they have to find a way in.

On their way into your home, they can damage many different parts and things you have including:

  • Siding
  • Floors
  • Wiring
  • Insulation
  • Spare blankets
  • Christmas Decorations

1. Cinnamon

Squirrels don’t like the smell of cinnamon because it is a strong and spicy scent that is not natural to them.

cinnamon against squirrels

When they smell cinnamon, it overwhelms their senses and makes them uncomfortable.

This can scare away squirrels and keep them from your plants.

You can use cinnamon in a few different ways to keep squirrels away from your plants.

  • You can sprinkle it around the base of the plant, or you can put some on the leaves. This should be applied weekly because wind and rain will blow the cinnamon away, making the smell less potent.
  • You can also make a spray by mixing water and cinnamon essential oil together and spraying it on the plants. This is the stronger method of the two because it uses oil rather than powder, and it will last longer.

2. Coffee Grounds

Do Roses Like Ground Coffee
Ground Coffee

Squirrels hate the smell of coffee grounds and will stay away from areas where they detect this scent.

They also don’t like the feeling of coffee grounds sticking to the fur on their paws.

  • You can use coffee grounds to create a barrier around your plants that squirrels will not cross. Simply sprinkle coffee grounds around the perimeter of your garden, or wherever you want to keep squirrels away. Be careful not to add too many coffee grounds directly to your gardens because it will increase the acidity of the soil.
  • You can also soak cotton balls, paper towels, or rags in fresh coffee and leave them in shallow dishes in your garden so the coffee doesn’t affect the soil.

3. Dryer Sheets

Can you compost dryer sheets
Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets have a very strong smell that can be off-putting to many animals, including squirrels.

You can put dryer sheets in your garden in several ways to keep squirrels away.

Keep in mind that the dryer sheets will lose their fragrance quickly and will need to be replaced often or your squirrels will use them to make a nest.

  • One way is to tie them to stakes and place them throughout your garden.
  • Another way is to add drops of cinnamon oil, peppermint oil, or cayenne extract to the dryer sheets to add an extra level of deterrence.

4. Garlic

Can You Plant Organic Garlic From The Store?

is a powerful, natural scent that many animals cannot stand.

For squirrels, the pungent odor of garlic is overwhelming and unpleasant.

  • You can create a DIY spray by adding chopped garlic and cayenne pepper to white vinegar and letting it sit for a few days. Then spray the solution on fences, garbage bins, your deck, or on garden stakes. This solution should not be sprayed on your plants or soil.
  • You can also buy a garlic-scented squirrel deterrent spray that you can use in the same areas mentioned above.

5. Irish Spring Soap

There’s something about this particular soap that repels pests of all types, including squirrels.

Even though nobody quite knows why this makes a cheap and easy method to keep squirrels away.

Depending on how much effort you want to put into getting the soap into your backyard will determine which method you use.

As long as you get the bar of soap outside, the bar of soap will keep squirrels away within a 10-foot radius from where you place it.

You can:

  • grate the bar of soap and leave shavings under your plants, at the base of trees, or on the edges of your gardens.
  • cut the bar into small chunks and place them around your backyard.
  • put the entire bar in a spot you know squirrels like to visit.

The wind and rain will eventually eat away at the bar of soap, but it can carry away the shavings pretty quickly.

6. Mint

How to Get Big Mint Leaves
Big Mint Leaves

Spearmint or peppermint, squirrels don’t like either. Both have a strong smell that can bother a squirrel’s nose.

Mint can be added in a few ways.

  • The first is by growing a mint plant in your garden. This can be done by buying mint plants from a nursery or even better, getting them for free from a friend or neighbor. Once you have your mint plants, simply pot them and place them around your garden.
  • You can also use peppermint essential oil and spray it directly on plants. You can also use the same method as coffee and soak cotton balls, paper towels, or rags in the peppermint oil and leave those in your garden or use them to plug holes in your house that squirrels are using to get in.

7. Mothballs

Will Mothballs Keep Squirrels Away From My Home And Garden?
Will Mothballs Keep Squirrels Away from the garden

Before you run out and buy mothballs to keep squirrels away, you should know that they are poisonous and they shouldn’t be used in a backyard with kids or pets around.

If you don’t have kids or pets living with you or visiting you, you can leave moth balls in your gardens, in your attic, in your garage, or anywhere else you see squirrels.

They will need to be replaced once a month.

8. Pepper

Squirrels do not like the smell of hot peppers.

More specifically, it is the smell of capsaicin in different types of peppers that squirrels don’t like.

Harvesting Shishito peppers guide
Shishito peppers

Capsaicin is an active compound found in chili peppers that makes them hot.

There are three ways you can add pepper to your backyard.

  1. spray your plants with water and then shake black pepper, cayenne pepper, or chili powder onto the dampened plants. The water will help keep the pepper on the plants, but you’ll need to reapply after wind or rain goes through your garden.
  1. Dilute half a bottle of tabasco sauce into 2 liters of water. Spray this mixture on your plants and in your gardens on a cloudy day, otherwise, the combination of sun and hot sauce can burn your plants.
  1. Mix cayenne powder or chili powder with petroleum jelly to create a stickier way to add pepper to the stems of your plants, or fences.

9. Predator Urine

No, don’t rent a cougar for the day hoping it will pee all over your backyard.

Squirrels are prey animals with a superb sense of smell.

They use this sense of smell to figure out how long ago a predator was in the area and will keep away if they’ve urinated nearby.

You can buy predator urine products on Amazon such as this coyote urine spray.

10. Rosemary

The smell of rosemary has to be incredibly strong to keep squirrels away.

Rosemary herb with blue flowers

If the smell isn’t strong enough, it won’t have any effect on the squirrels.

  • The best way to use rosemary is to make a rosemary oil spray. To make the spray, combine 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary leaves with 1 cup of hot water. Steep for 30 minutes, then strain. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and add 1 tablespoon of dish soap.
  • You can also use rosemary oil by itself. Just add a few drops to a cotton ball and place it near areas where squirrels are known to frequent. You’ll need to replace the cotton balls every few days, or when they lose their scent.

11. Skunk

Nobody likes the smell of skunks, including squirrels and your neighbors.

This method should only be used if nothing else is working, and you don’t have neighbors that you can irritate by stinking up the entire block.

Nobody is expecting you to harvest the essence of skunk to use in your backyard, but thankfully you can purchase a bottle from Amazon.

Once you have it, soak cotton balls, paper towels, or rags and leave them around your garden.

12. Vinegar

White vinegar and apple cider vinegar will both keep squirrels off your plants.

The smell of both are so strong that squirrels aren’t going to want to be in the same area as either.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste

Vinegar can be used in a variety of ways, just don’t add it to the soil or you will change the pH of the soil and possibly kill the roots of your plants.

  • Soak cloths in vinegar and leave them in shallow dishes in your garage or attic so squirrels won’t make their home there.
  • Spray surfaces like fences, decks, and the outside of greenhouses to keep squirrels out and away from your plants.
  • Make a vinegar spray by diluting 1 part vinegar in 2 parts water. You can add extra oils like peppermint, cinnamon, or rosemary to make the spray stronger. Apply this spray lightly to plants when the sun goes down so the sun and spray mixture doesn’t burn your plants.

Final Thoughts

There are a variety of ways to keep squirrels away from your plants, some more effective than others.

The best way to find out what works for you is to try different methods and see which one gives the best results.

If nothing else is working and you live in an area where skunks are common, then you can try using predator urine or skunk essence.

Just be sure to use these methods sparingly and not near your home or neighbors’ homes so you don’t end up tasting the skunk smell when you eat your breakfast.

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