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What smell does mice hate?

What smell does mice hate?

Mice can be a troublesome pest for many homeowners. Their ability to squeeze into tiny spaces and reproduce rapidly allows them to spread quickly once they’ve invaded a building. While traps and poisons are certainly an option for controlling mice, many homeowners prefer to use repellents and deterrents first before resorting to lethal methods. When it comes to driving mice away without killing them, using smells and scents that mice hate can be an effective strategy. But what types of odors do mice avoid? Here is an in-depth look at the smells that send mice running.

Why Smells Are an Effective Mouse Deterrent

Mice, like many other rodents, have a very strong sense of smell. Their noses contain around 1,000 odor receptors, allowing them to detect and process scents very effectively. Strong odors can easily overwhelm mice’s sensitive noses and cause discomfort or irritation. This makes the use of pungent aromas an easy, natural way to deter mice from areas where they are not wanted. Smells can also trigger mice’s instincts to flee from potential predators or unfamiliar places. Introducing certain scents that are foreign or unpleasant to mice sends a clear signal that an area is not safe for them to inhabit. Using smells and scents to influence mouse behavior and movements doesn’t rely on traps or toxins, making it an animal-friendly way to control mice.

Smells That Repel Mice

Many different types of smells are known to deter mice and send them running. Here are some of the top scents that mice want to avoid:

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint essential oil is one of the most commonly recommended smells for repelling mice naturally. The strong minty aroma overwhelms mice’s sensitive noses and is unpleasant and unnatural for them. Peppermint oil also contains compounds that are toxic to rodents if ingested, further deterring mice from places where it is used. The oil can be used by soaking cotton balls and leaving them along known mouse routes or entry points. It can also be added to cleaning solutions and used to wipe down areas frequented by mice.


Ammonia is another potent smell that quickly clears out mice from homes and buildings. The powerful, pungent odor irritates mice’s respiratory tracts and forces them to flee an area to breathe easier. Ammonia can be placed soaked into cotton balls, mixed with water in spray bottles, or combined with other deterring ingredients. It should always be diluted properly before use and kept away from food surfaces and children.


The distinct smell given off by mothballs makes them a traditional trick for driving mice away. Mothballs contain concentrated oils and chemicals that produce a strong, unpleasant odor that mice don’t like. Their fumes can irritate mice’s noses and lungs. Mothballs also remind mice of the scent of predator urine, triggering their instincts to escape. They can simply be placed undisturbed along known mouse activity spots. Just be sure to keep them away from areas frequented by pets or children, as the chemicals can be toxic if swallowed.

Cayenne Pepper

Ground cayenne pepper sprinkled in and around mice’s points of entry can effectively repel them with its strong aroma. The spicy scent is unpleasant and unfamiliar to mice. Cayenne pepper also irritates mice’s noses, airways, and skin on contact. The non-toxic nature of cayenne pepper makes it safe to use around food preparation areas. However, its spiciness can be an irritant to pets as well, so keep it away from their food and sleeping areas.

Cinnamon Oil

Like peppermint, cinnamon oil has a strong aroma and flavor that mice try to avoid. The sweet but spicy smell overwhelms mice’s senses, causing them discomfort and deterring them from areas where cinnamon oil is used. Soaking cotton balls in cinnamon oil and leaving them in problem areas is an easy method. Cinnamon oil can also be used to scent cleaning solutions and wipe down surfaces. Just make sure to properly dilute the oil first before applying it.


Whole cloves contain a potent aromatic oil that gives off a distinct, powerful scent. Mice are not fond of the strong smell, finding it irritating and pungent. Cloves can be used whole by leaving them along known mouse trails and entryways. They can also be ground up to make clove oil. The antimicrobial properties of cloves also help deter mice by eliminating scents that would normally attract them, like food odors.


Garlic’s well-known strong and lingering aroma puts mice off entering areas where garlic is used. Mice have a natural aversion to garlic’s sulfurous compounds, avoiding places where the smell is detected. Garlic oil and powder can be made into solutions for repelling mice. Chopped garlic cloves or pieces of garlic peels can also be left in affected areas. Garlic also masks food smells that would normally draw mice in. Just be aware that the pungent garlic smell can also linger around your own home.


Plain white vinegar has a strong sour and acidic smell that mice don’t like. Its scent is released especially well when vinegar is heated, making it great for using in cleaning solutions. Mice tend to avoid areas that have been wiped down with vinegar cleaning products. Vinegar can also be soaked into cotton balls and left out as a repellent. Mixing vinegar with water in a spray bottle is another easy method for applying it. It helps eliminate traces of urine and food smells that attract mice as an added benefit.

Essential Oils That Deter Mice

Many different essential oils contain the types of strong smells and aromas that send mice running away. Here are some of the top essential oils for repelling mice:

Essential Oil Scent Description Repelling Power
Citronella Strong, grassy aroma Highly effective
Eucalyptus Minty, medicinal scent Potent deterrent
Lemongrass Strong lemon aroma Works very well
Lavender Floral, perfume-like scent Moderately effective
Tea tree Intense, medicinal smell Powerful repellent
Thyme Pungent, herbal aroma Helpful deterrent

These essential oils all contain concentrated plant compounds that create strong smells unpleasant and overwhelming for mice’s noses. The oils also mimic animal and predator scents that mice instinctively avoid and flee from.

How to Use Smells to Repel Mice

Now that you know what scents mice detest, here are some easy methods for using them to drive mice away:

Soak Cotton Balls

Soaking cotton balls in essential oils, vinegar, or ammonia and leaving them in areas of high mouse activity is one of the simplest ways to harness their smells. Refresh the cotton balls every few days as the scents fade. Peppermint, citronella, and eucalyptus oils work particularly well prepared this way.

Spray Liquid Solutions

Making liquid solutions with essential oils, vinegar, garlic, or ammonia diluted in water allows you to apply the smells easily over large areas. Use spray bottles to reach smaller spaces and cracks. You can spray along baseboards, window sills, attic areas, and anywhere mice may enter or travel. Reapply every few days.

Use Scented Cleaning Products

Look for all-natural cleaning products scented with essential oils, vinegar, citrus, and other smells mice dislike. Use them to wash floors, countertops, cabinets, and anywhere else mice could be active. The lingering scents will continue deterring mice away between cleanings.

Leave Out Dry Repellents

Repellents like cloves, garlic, pepper, and mothballs can be used dry by simply leaving them in strategic locations around the home. Place them along baseboards, in cabinets, attics, garages, and crawlspaces. Replace them every 2-3 weeks as the scents fade.

Use Scented Sachets

Small sachets filled with repellent smells are easy to tuck away discreetly in drawers, cupboards, attics, and other spots mice may frequent. Sachets containing lavender, mint, and cedar oils can provide ongoing odor-based protection against mice in confined spaces.

Grow Scented Plants

If you want a more natural outdoor mouse deterrent, plant things like mint, garlic, onions, marigolds and other strongly scented plants around your house. These can establish repellent scents in entryways and potential mouse nesting spots in your yard.

Tips for Using Scents Effectively

Follow these tips to get the most mileage from smell-based mouse deterrents:

– Alternate scents frequently so mice don’t acclimate to any one smell.

– Use the most potent, concentrated forms for strongest effects.

– Directly apply smells along known mouse activity routes.

– Use smells preventatively before mice move in. It’s harder to evict them once settled.

– Look for signs of mice retreating like absence of droppings or nests to know smells are working.

– Be sure scents are pet and child safe before using in homes. Many can irritate if inhaled directly.

– Test scents in small areas first if concerned about lingering odors bothering you or family members.

– Combine deterrent smells with exclusion methods like sealing cracks and holes so mice have fewer ways to sneak past smells.

Caution When Using Scent Repellents

While smell deterrents are generally safe, non-toxic ways to drive mice away, take these precautions when using them:

– Don’t directly inhale concentrated odors, which can irritate lungs.

– Keep ammonia and mothballs away from children and pets, as ingesting can be toxic.

– Read and follow all label safety directions if using store-bought repellents.

– Test scents in discreet areas first if concerned about staining or residue left behind.

– Avoid getting oils, juices, or deterrent liquids directly on surfaces or furnishings.

– Don’t use smells as a shortcut for addressing sanitation and clutter issues that also attract mice.

– Monitor children and pets when first using deterrents to ensure they don’t accidently ingest anything toxic.


Mice rely heavily on their sense of smell to interpret their environment and make decisions. Using scents and smells that mice hate interrupts their ability to comfortably inhabit an area. Strategically placing mothballs, ammonia, essential oils, and other strong odors encourages mice to leave and deters them from returning. Just be sure to take safety precautions when using concentrated chemicals and oils around your home. With some clever use of odor repellents though, you can drive mice away the natural way without needing to resort to hazardous poisons or traps.