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Last updated: May 23, 2023
A guide with ten of the most effective scents and smells to repel squirrels so you can protect the flowers and plants in your yard.
With those big puffy tails and pointy ears, squirrels are certainly cute, but they can also do some impressive damage. They love to dig holes in the garden beds, munch on flowers and veggies, and can even do significant damage to wood on the exterior of your home.
Repelling squirrels from your home and garden is easier than you might think. Because of squirrels’ incredibly sensitive noses, you can easily safeguard your siding, garden, and bird feeder using some well-known scents that keep squirrels away.
A sensitive nose is a good thing when you’re a small critter with many predators. But this sharp sense also means that squirrels are easily put off by strong odors, especially ones that indicate something might be harmful.
Top 10 Smells to Repel Squirrels
Try one or more of the following strong odors to repel squirrels from the garden and around the home.
1. Cayenne Pepper
Of all the scents squirrels can’t stand, cayenne pepper might be the most effective. Not only does cayenne pepper repel squirrels from areas they like to frequent, but it continues to keep them away for days after application.
The trick to cayenne pepper’s effectiveness is a compound called capsaicin. This is what gives all peppers their spicy flavor. And in mammals, it’s what’s responsible for the pain sensation we experience when eating especially hot peppers.
Squirrels experience this same pain sensation when they lick capsaicin or cayenne pepper oil. So, when they smell this spicy aroma, they immediately turn their tail and head elsewhere.
Cayenne pepper powder and oil is the most effective and affordable high-capsaicin product you can find, and it works very well to repel squirrels. Mix the oil or powder with some water and a dab of soap, and spray it on your veggie plants, siding, around your garden, or wherever you don’t want squirrels to go. You can even add the oil or powder to your bird seed to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder.
Garlic is another strong odor that squirrels do not seem to care for. While this smell doesn’t indicate something as spicy as capsaicin, garlic is spicy enough for squirrels to steer clear of. And the smell tends to carry easily and stay strong on surfaces for days.
There are a ton of great ways to put garlic to use around the yard to repel squirrels. If these little critters keep digging up your flowers or chomping on your veggies, try planting a ring of garlic bulbs around your favorite plants or along the edges of your garden beds. Squirrels would rather skip a meal than wade through these stinky stalks.
You can also use minced garlic to make a spray to keep these pests off your house and out of your gardens. Mince three to six garlic cloves and soak them in an equal mixture of water and vinegar (about 1 cup each). After a full day, strain out the chunks and use the liquid to spray around your yard.
If you’re looking for an odor squirrels hate that won’t offend you or your guests, mint is a great choice. Peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm; squirrels aren’t fans of any of them. Something about the strong, irritating odor sends them running in the other direction.
We love to plant live mint in pots and set them around our veggie gardens to keep squirrels from destroying crops. You can also harvest the leaves and smash them with a mortar and pestle and create a spray by soaking them in water and vinegar. Read my guide with plants and flowers that repel squirrels for more options.
One of the simplest ways to utilize mint is to buy the essential oil, mix it with water and a dash of soap, and spray it around your yard. You can also douse cotton balls in peppermint oil and set them in targeted areas.
If squirrels are digging up your plants to bury food, try mixing a few drops of oil with diatomaceous earth and spreading the powder around the base of your plants.
4. Cinnamon and Clove
Like mint, cinnamon and clove both have strong, irritating odors that squirrels prefer to avoid. This might be in part because being around these odors makes it difficult for them to smell predators.
Both of these scents are easy to find in oil form. By mixing that oil with water and soap, you can make a simple spray to use around the exterior of your home and in the yard. This spray can even be applied to plants; just be sure to avoid getting it on the flowers, as these compounds can harm pollinators.
Ground cinnamon and clove can also be used to protect the dirt around plants. Sprinkle some of the powder in the areas where these critters like to dig. They don’t like getting this spicy stuff on their paws and will avoid the area even if the scent has started to fade.
5. Irish Spring Soap
Maybe one of the strangest yet most effective repellers of squirrels is Irish Spring Soap. Something about these bars of fragrant soap offends the delicate nostrils of these rodents.
Some sources claim it makes squirrels nauseous; others say it is simply too strong for them to be around. Whatever the reason, gardeners everywhere swear by Irish Spring squirrel repellent.
The easiest way to use this odor in your favor is to punch a hole in a bar of soap and hang it wherever the squirrels are causing damage. If it’s hot out, the bar will melt, so you’re better off rubbing the soap on some cotton balls and setting those around the yard.
Vinegar is one of those scents most people don’t enjoy being around. The sharp, acidic scent brings tears to the eyes and irritates the sinuses. This is doubly true in squirrels due to their heightened sensitivity.
Using vinegar to repel squirrels is as easy as pouring some of this foul-smelling liquid into a spray bottle and spraying it on the plants, soil, and other items squirrels may be disturbing. Apple cider vinegar is a great natural choice with a slightly less offensive odor to humans. But white vinegar works just as well.
To make this repellent even more effective, try mixing in some garlic or cayenne pepper.
7. Coffee Grounds
Coffee has a strong, bitter scent that squirrels don’t seem to appreciate. But what they appear to hate more is the feeling of those sharp little grounds on their sensitive paws. For that reason, putting coffee grounds around your favorite plants in the flower and vegetable garden can be an effective method to keep rodents out.
So you aren’t wasting money or sacrificing your morning cup of Joe on the project, we suggest using used coffee grounds for this purpose.
In addition to keeping squirrels away, coffee grounds are also a great way to enrich the nutrient content of your soil. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen as well as other trace minerals like calcium and potassium. Your plants will be twice as thankful if you opt for this method of squirrel management.
If you are absolutely desperate to stink squirrels out of your yard, then mothballs are an option.
Garment manufacturers often use these strong-smelling pesticides to keep clothes safe from moths during shipping. But their strong odor and the fact that they quickly turn from solid to gas also give them a number of other uses.
The strong, sickly-sweet chemical scent of mothballs comes from naphthalene or a similar synthetic compound. While this smell is more than enough to drive away squirrels, it can also be toxic to wildlife and humans. For this reason, we suggest trying the other options on this list before you resort to this last-ditch effort.
9. Skunk-Like Odors
Another more “natural” scent you can use in the garden to offend squirrels is skunk odor.
While squirrels likely have less reason to fear skunks than the rest of us, that noxious, heavy odor they leave is enough to overwhelm their noses. And in that way, it can work to repel them.
You can purchase skunk odor at many outdoor stores, pet stores, and on Amazon. But be sure to use it sparingly in areas humans frequent as it is very intense.
10. Predator Urine
Being able to detect the urine of foxes, coyotes, and other predators is one reason squirrels have such great senses of smell. Where predator urine exists, so too do predators; at least, that’s their thinking.
Using these scents in your garden is one sure way to keep the squirrels away. You can purchase this specialty product at your local nursery or home store.
Use it around the garden or yard. Just keep in mind that these are concentrated products and are quite pungent, even to humans.