Deer are prevalent creatures in North America. Living in wooded areas, they sometimes venture into our yards. They munch on our garden vegetables and nip the buds off our growing landscape saplings. So, how do we keep these vegetable thieves out of our yards and gardens? The answer is dryer sheets!
There is no scientific evidence that dryer sheets themselves deter deer. However, what dryer sheets are made of (perfumes & fatty acid) has been known to repel deer. You can use dryer sheets to deter deer by tucking them into bushes, placing them under rocks, and hanging dryer sheets from trees.
Below we’ll talk about dryer sheets, how and why they repel deer, and how you can use them to keep those pesky (but admittedly cute) animals out of your yard. Let’s get started!
Will Dryer Sheets Keep Deer Away?
The first section of the article and we’re already answering the big questions! So, will dryer sheets keep deer away?
The answer isn’t all that satisfying: it depends. It depends on how heavy the deer pressure is, the time of year, and what else is available.
If deer pressure is high, meaning there are a lot of deer around and possibly not enough resources to sustain them all, dryer sheets might not work by themselves. Even if they do, the best form of deterrent for any pest is to have more than one deterrent.
If deer pressure is low, dryer sheets might be enough to keep that lone deer away from your garden or favorite ornamental tree. Wondering, if bears will keep deer away? Read our post: Will the Presence of Bears Keep Deer Away.
Changing Of The Seasons
The success of dryer sheets may also depend on the season. In late spring, summer, and early fall, deer are living the good life. There’s plenty of food, the weather isn’t too harsh, and predators aren’t too desperate for food.
As winter approaches, food becomes scarce, and deer can become desperate for food themselves. It’s during the colder seasons that deer are likely to ignore deterrents like dryer sheets. The pressure to get to food is just too high, and deer are willing to trot past your wall of dryer sheets to get to a tasty treat.
Luckily, most gardeners are resting during this season anyway. What’s really at risk during those cold winter days are woody or evergreen plants such as arborvitae.
Availability of Other Foods
If your local deer has the choice between a twig and a delicious apple tree, it’s going to choose the apple tree, dryer sheet or not. And can you blame it?
Depending on what else is available, deer may break through your vail of dryer sheets to get at certain foods simply because there’s nothing else around. This can be due to habitat loss, deforestation, forest fires, or other natural causes.
Deer are pretty smart. They know how to avoid danger by using their noses to smell for scents that warn them of danger. But even if they smell your dryer sheets, if there’s nothing else appetizing around, they’re going to ignore it and hope for the best.
How To Use Dryer Sheets To Deter Deer
Dryer sheets may not be the strongest deer repellent out there, but they’re inexpensive, easy to use, and you don’t have to worry about any crazy chemicals. So give them a try. Here’s how to do it:
Tuck Them Into Plants and Bushes
This tactic works great if you have those menacing deer chomping down on your bushes, flowers, or ivy.
Deer love wintercreeper, arborvitae, and yew shrubs. They’ll munch on rhododendrons, hostas, tulips, and daylilies. They make a meal from English ivy as well. These are all great examples of plants that you can use this method of dryer sheet deterrent.
To do it, simply take a dryer sheet and tuck them into your vulnerable bushes, ivy beds, or flower beds. It’s not a bad idea to rub the dryer sheet on the plant to get some of the scent and chemicals from the dryer sheet’s surface onto your target plant.
This tactic isn’t the best for garden crops, as it’s hard to tuck the sheets anywhere specific. It’s also not the best method for protecting trees. But don’t worry, we have solutions for those too!
Tie Them To Stakes For Your Garden
You can’t exactly tuck a dryer sheet into a lettuce plant. And you certainly can’t shove it somewhere on a tomato plant. Instead, try using stakes.
To use this method, you’ll want enough stakes to space them about 3 feet apart in every direction in your garden. Next, simply attach one dryer sheet to each stake.
You can staple the sheets on there, tie them to the stake with a bit of twine and a nail, or any other clever way you can think of. Just make sure your stakes aren’t too far apart. To really encapsulate your garden in the scent, you’ll want them to be 3 feet apart at most from each other.
As with any scent-based deterrent, you’ll want to replace the dryer sheets frequently. Scents typically need to be replaced every 7-10 days, but you can always test them out and see how long they work before replacing them.
Hang Them From Trees
It’s not just fruit trees that deer go after. Balsam Fir, White Cedar, European Mountain Ash, and Norway Maple are favorites of deer as well. And pretty much any tree trunk or low-hanging branch is vulnerable to male deer during the velvet season.
Try hanging dryer sheets from the branches to deter deer from making a meal out of your favorite ornamental tree. This will create a scent barrier that will protect your tree from browsing deer.
To use this method, simply hang up the dryer sheet with a bit of twine, rope, or whatever else you have available. Space them out about 3 feet apart. You don’t need to hang them any higher than 6 feet, as deer cannot reach above that height anyway.
When using scents to deter deer, the recommended distance between deterrents is always 3 feet. According to the Vertebrate Pest Conference proceedings, this is the minimum distance for odors to remain effective repellents for deer.
If you’re interested, take a look at our guide about keeping trees safe from deer here.
Place Them In Cheesecloth Bags
Our last method for using dryer sheets to deter deer gives you a little more mobility. Dryer sheets aren’t biodegradable and aren’t great for the environment if you just place them on the ground in your garden or flower bed.
Instead, you can cut them into pieces and place those pieces into cheesecloth bags. With a little ingenuity, you can use these anywhere to deter deer. Bushes, flowers, crops, and trees.
Start with a cheesecloth bag like Boao’s Cheesecloth Bags. Take a dryer sheet and cut it up into small pieces about 1-inch x 1-inch. Here’s where this crafty invention diverges. If you plan to hang it from trees or stakes, you can simply fill it with the dryer sheets and proceed.
However, if you want to simply throw them in your flower or garden bed, you’ll need to fill them with something to weigh them down. You can use anything you like – pebbles, dirt, marbles. After you’ve put some weight in it, place your dryer sheet pieces on top and cinch the bag closed.
This is a great option if you are looking for a deterrent you can place on the ground to keep deer away. As with any scent, it will need to be replaced every so often to continue deterring deer.
Other Animals And Insects That Dryer Sheets May Repel
Did you know dryer sheets repel more than just deer? According to the Journal of HortScience, dryer sheets contain the chemical linalool. Linalool is present in a few plant species such as lavender, basil, and marjoram (part of the mint family).
It’s this specific chemical that gives dryer sheets their multi-animal repellency ability. Some of the other animals and insects that might be repelled by dryer sheets include:
- Spider Mites
So while you’re out there patrolling your garden with your arsenal of dryer sheets, consider placing a few in your cupboards, food stores, and closets to keep the bugs and mice at bay too!
Alternative Deer Deterring Solutions
The BEST way to deter any pest is to have more than one deterrent. Deer are no different. There are plenty of options out there, so choose the one that works best for you.
If you have close neighbors, using a radio cranked up at night might not be the best option. Conversely, if you’re trying to protect an entire field of corn, a simple homemade spray isn’t going to cut it.
Use this list as a guide and choose the deterrent that is convenient and effective for your specific situation. Pair it with your dryer sheets and watch those white-tailed menaces bother someone else’s yard!
Also, you can read our guide on the full list of scents that deer hate here!
If you’re willing to pay the price, store-bought products are available. They’re pre-made and typically ready to use as soon as you open them from the box, or they just need to be diluted before using.
They usually come in the form of a spray or granules. This is a good option if you want to deter deer from eating specific plants. It’s not a great option to deter deer from your yard entirely, or for large properties.
- Deer Out uses natural ingredients that appeal to the deer’s sense of taste and smell. Garlic and peppermint oil are two things that deer do NOT like smelling or tasting, and they are the main ingredients in Deer Out. This product must be diluted before use.
- Bobbex Deer Repellent uses similar tactics. It’s made with putrescent egg solids, cloves, wintergreen, garlic, and a few other ingredients that deer can’t stand. If you decide to go with this repellent, just note that you have to dilute it with water first.
Both of these options can be applied directly to the plants you are trying to protect. Bobbex does warn against use on certain plants, so make sure to always read the label of the product you’re using.
Deer are pretty skittish creatures. If they think something sketchy is going on, they’re likely to bolt. For this reason, frightening devices are handy to have around to keep deer at bay.
Frightening devices are a great choice if you’re trying to repel deer from certain areas, or even your whole yard if it’s small enough.
- Windchimes: Sudden sounds like windchimes can startle deer, and sometimes even scare them away. It’s an easy, passive scare tactic. You can also use old pie tins, plastic bottles, noisemakers, and pinwheels in the same fashion.
- Motion sensor lights: If the majority of your garden or crop damage is happening at night, consider investing in a motion sensor light like Aootek’s Solar Motion Sensor Lights. These work great, require no electricity, and have three different settings to fit your needs.
- Motion-activated sprinkler: This is a great option if your deer seem to be persisting through other frightening devices. Sprinklers like the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer are motion-activated and can be set to a timer so as not to spray you during the day.
Make Your Yard Unattractive To Deer
If the choice is available to you, modify your yard so it’s less attractive to deer. Change your landscaping, plant trees they dislike and avoid plants they love.
This is a good option if you wish to repel deer completely from your yard. Don’t give them any reason to enter your yard in the first place!
- Avoid planting trees, flowers, and vegetables they like: The Rhode Island Fish & Wildlife has a whole list of plants to avoid, as well as what you can plant instead.
- Pick up fruits as soon as they fall to the ground: This will avoid the fruits from rotting, sending the pungent odor out into the surrounding area to alert deer (and other critters!) to its location.
- Build a fence: Expensive and time-consuming, yes, but also extremely effective. According to the University of Vermont, deer can jump up to eight feet high. This isn’t a practical height for a fence, but even a five-foot fence is likely to make a deer think twice.
- Alternatively, make it so the fence is not see-through. Deer aren’t likely to risk jumping over a fence if they can’t see that the other side is safe.
Combine Multiple Deterrents
I know I know, we’ve said it before. But it’s worth mentioning again that using multiple deterrents is the way to go.
If you’ve tucked dryer sheets into your bushes AND have a motion-activated light, you’re more likely to frighten and deter that deer away from your garden than if you only used a single deterrent.
Combing visual, auditory, and olfactory cues will appeal to all the deer’s senses. Deer are smart enough to keep testing the boundaries, so make sure you switch up your deterrents often and keep the scents fresh.
That’s A Wrap!
That’s all we have on using dryer sheets to deter deer. It may not be the most effective repellent, but when combined with other deterrents it can make a difference.
Dryer sheets are more complicated than they appear and are specially made with chemicals, fatty acids, perfumes, and surfactants that all work together to keep your clothes free of static and smelling fresh.
These same chemicals tend to deter deer, especially the perfumes and the chemical linalool. These scents warn deer that whatever they’re smelling should not be eaten.
To recap, there are four ways to use dryer sheets to deter deer:
- Tuck the entire dryer sheet into bushes and ivy.
- Hang them from stakes in your garden.
- Hang them from trees to protect buds and fruits.
- Place them in cheesecloth bags for flowerbeds and garden beds.
Hopefully, these deterrents will help manage those pesky deer, and keep them from destroying your prized vegetables and trees!
If you’re interested, you can also use epsom salt to repel deer as well!
Belant, J. L., Seamans, T. W., & Tyson, L. A. (1998, January 1). Evaluation of Electronic Frightening Devices as White-Tailed Deer Deterrents [Proceedings of the Eighteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference] [Vertebrate Pest Conference Proceedings Collection]. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/vpc18/3/?a_aid=3598aabf
Cloyd, R. A., Marley, K. A., Larson, R. A., & Arieli, B. (2010, December). Bounce Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets Repel Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. nr. coprophila (Diptera: Sciaridae), Adults. HortScience, 45(12), 1830-1833. https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/45/12/article-p1830.xml
Connelly, N. A., Decker, D. J., & Wear, S. (1987, October 18). Public Tolerance of Deer in a Suburban Environment: Implications for Management and Control (3rd ed.) [Third Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conference] [Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences]. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/ewdcc3/8/
Nolte, D. L., & Wagner, K. K. (2000). Comparing the efficacy of delivery systems and active ingredients of deer repellents. Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference, 19. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0m08r8pv#author
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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