Squirrels can be cute little rodents prancing around at parks and along city sidewalks, sitting on their generous rumps and munching acorns. But when they make their home on your property, they can quickly become a costly nuisance. The good news is, you can use simple, household items like garlic to repel them.
Squirrels have a strong sense of smell, which they use to find food. Most commercial repellents that have been proven effective squirrel repellents contain garlic as an ingredient. Garlic can be used in powder form, grown as a companion plant, or used in a spray to repel squirrels.
If you’re having problems with the local squirrels, we’ve got solutions! Garlic is an easy, natural squirrel repellent that will shoo those pesky critters from your property for good! Read on to find out how to use garlic to repel squirrels.
Does Garlic Repel Squirrels?
As mentioned, there are no specific studies we can refer to regarding the efficacy of garlic alone in repelling squirrels.
But that’s alright because we know squirrels are deterred by many things that have garlic in them. Most of these products are some kind of combination of strong smells that drive squirrels away. And as we all know, garlic has a strong scent.
This characteristic of having a strong scent is the most likely culprit behind garlic repelling squirrels. To a squirrel, something with a strong, strange smell can trigger their instinct for danger.
According to an article in the Journal of Molecules, Allicin is the molecule responsible for garlic’s strong taste and odor. We love it, but squirrels hate it.
It’s this molecule that we put our trust into when we use garlic to repel squirrels, along with a host of other animals and insects. But more on that later…
Using garlic is not a guaranteed solution in deterring squirrels. Other methods may work better at deterring those chittering tree-dwellers.
With that being said, you more than likely have garlic cloves, garlic powder, or SOME form of garlic in your house. So try some garlic out today and see if this low-cost repellent works against your uninvited guests.
How Do You Use Garlic To Repel Squirrels?
So, can we treat squirrels like vampires and simply hang a wreath of garlic bulbs around the yard? Well, not quite.
As we mentioned before, squirrels have an excellent sense of smell. They use this to find food, figure out where the heck they buried food, and recognizing which squirrels are a part of their family, and which ones don’t belong in their territory.
This strong sense of smell means you don’t necessarily need to load up on the garlic scent. There’s no need to go buy 100 bulbs of garlic for this process. You probably have all the garlic you need right in your pantry.
There are four main ways you can use garlic to repel squirrels:
- Make a homemade spray
- Buy commercial repellents
- Use garlic powder
- Plant garlic as a companion plant
Let’s dive in so you can start repelling squirrels today!
Use A Homemade Spray To Keep Squirrels Away
Homemade sprays are great. Garlic sprays, in particular, are simple to make and you usually have the ingredients right in your pantry. If you don’t have fresh garlic cloves, you can still make a spray!
Homemade Spray With Fresh Garlic Cloves:
- 2-4 cloves of fresh garlic
- 2 cups water
- (optional) 1 tbsp hot pepper flakes or sauce
- (optional) 1 tbsp vegetable oil
To make this spray, bring 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, crush the garlic cloves. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and add your garlic cloves.
Optionally, you can add hot sauce, pepper flakes, or vegetable oil to the mixture at this point.
Stir the mixture, turn the heat off, and let it cool. You can let the mixture steep overnight for a more concentrated and powerful spray, or if you need some ASAP, simply strain the mixture and place it in a glass spray bottle.
Use the spray anywhere you want to repel squirrels including directly on fruit and vegetable plants. The garlic spray will not harm your vegetables or fruits, but be sure to wash them off before eating or they may have a garlicky taste (but hey, maybe you like garlic on your fruits?)
Homemade Spray with Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups water
- (optional) 1 tbsp hot sauce or pepper flakes
- (optional) 1 tbsp vegetable oil
The awesome thing about garlic is there are so many different forms. Powder, cloves, minced, chopped, whole. For garlic powder, the ratio is about ⅛ teaspoon for every clove of garlic. BUT, it’s okay to go a little overboard.
Use the same steps as before, boiling the water and adding your ingredients. Strain the mixture and pour the remaining contents into a glass spray bottle.
If you have extra, you can place it in the fridge for storage for up to a week before it will begin to lose its potency.
As with any scent-based repellent, you’ll want to reapply this spray often to keep squirrels away. A good rule of thumb is at least once a week, but it’d be better to apply every 2-3 days for maximum effectiveness.
Use Commercial Squirrel Repellents
If you’re not into homemade concoctions, you have the option to buy commercial repellents to repel squirrels. Many of these mixtures nowadays are safe to use near your plants and are made of natural oils and ingredients.
Nature’s Mace Squirrel Repellent comes in a 40oz spray bottle that is ready to use. This is convenient as you will not have to add water to the mixture or dilute it in any way.
Two of the main ingredients in this repellent are our old friend garlic as well as peppermint. Both are natural ingredients that have strong scents to repel squirrels. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, as the spray needs to be reapplied every day for the first seven days.
This product is an excellent option for keeping squirrels away from bird feeders. You can spray the mixture on poles or on the branches from which you hang the feeder, just be sure not to spray it directly on the birdseed or where birds might sit.
I Must Garden Squirrel Repellent Granules is a great choice if you are looking to protect your flowerbeds, gardens, or ornamental plants.
Garlic is its main ingredient along with a few other natural ingredients like lemongrass oil, white pepper, and clove oil. Whereas sprays are meant to deter squirrels from chewing and eating certain things, granules additionally help stop squirrels from digging.
Squirrels will dig to get at the food they have previously buried, but they’ll also dig to get at seeds. This can be a problem if you are trying to grow certain plants from the seed, as squirrels can stop that party before it even begins. They’ll also go after acorns if you are trying to plant oak trees.
It’s suggested to apply the granules every 2-3 weeks but advised to increase that amount if there is inclement weather or more than the normal amount of squirrels.
Sprinkle Garlic Powder Around Your Home and Garden
Using garlic powder is one of the simplest repellents you can use, but also the one that’s going to be the least effective long-term.
To use garlic powder to repel squirrels, sprinkle the powder directly into and onto areas where you want to repel squirrels. If they’re getting into your garden, you can spread the powder all around your garden. If they’re getting into your attic, try sprinkling it on windowsills or other openings those squirrely rodents may be entering from.
By now, you’ve probably spotted the problem with using garlic powder. How in the world do you get it to stay where you sprinkle it? Unfortunately, that is the downside to using garlic powder. It can blow away with the wind or be washed away by the rain.
Frequent reapplication will be necessary for garlic powder to be effective. Its ease of use and availability may make it worth your while though. You can also try spraying water on freshly-sprinkled garlic to help it stick to the surface.
Plant Garlic Companions to Repel Squirrels
Our final suggestion for using garlic to repel squirrels is to actually grow garlic plants. If you don’t have a green thumb or aren’t interested in growing garlic, you may want to try the other suggestions above.
Gardeners read on!
Companion plants are a relatively new idea that came about when people started getting sketched out about using heavy pesticides and chemicals on edible plants. Totally understandable, right?
Instead of spraying vulnerable plants with stuff we can’t even pronounce, the idea of companion planting came about. Plant something your pest hates next to something it loves. The idea is to use the companion plant to repel the pest from the plant it really wants to eat.
So…you just have to grow a garlic plant? That’s it?
Pretty much. You can buy garlic bulbs from gardening centers, nurseries, or, believe it or not, store-bought garlic. Yep, you can buy garlic at the grocery store and plant it!
This method of companion planting is playing the long game. Garlic should be planted in the fall because it needs to be exposed to cold temperatures (called vernalization) to accelerate flowering.
Come springtime, your garlic will be exploding in your garden, or wherever you planted it. The strong smell of the garlic will overpower the scent of many other veggies and fruits that squirrels may be attracted to, signaling them to stay away.
Will Garlic Repel Squirrels Long Term?
Once you decide which method of garlic you’ll use to repel those pesky squirrels, observe its effects. If it seems to be working and continues to work, great! If it doesn’t seem to hold up against your pest problem, there are a few other approaches we can take.
Garlic in general is okay to use long-term. However, squirrels are pretty smart and it only takes one time of not being harmed by the garlic for a squirrel to learn it’s safe.
This is referred to as habituation and is similar to you living next to train tracks. At first, you probably couldn’t stand the noise, but after a while, you don’t even notice it. The same goes for garlic and squirrels.
Other Animals and Insects That Garlic May Repel
If you have problems with one pest, chances are you have other critter or insect pests. The great thing about garlic is that it can repel more than just squirrels.
When it comes to other pests, you may have to judge garlic’s effectiveness on a case-by-case basis. Some animals may be repelled strongly by it, while others don’t mind having some garlic taste on their fruits, veggies, and flowers.
Some of the animals and insects that garlic may repel include:
- Ground Hogs
Some of these animals and insects may not be a problem in your area, but it’s always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve the next time an uninvited guest makes your property their home.
What Is The Best Way To Keep Squirrels Away?
We know that garlic can repel squirrels, but what’s the best way to repel squirrels? What’s going to keep them out for good?
The truth is, it depends on what you’re trying to keep the squirrels out of. Are they overtaking your bird feeder? Moving into your attic rent-free? Gnawing branches off your beloved trees?
What works for one situation may not work or be feasible for another situation. Let’s look at some of the most common squirrel issues and tackle each one.
Use a Squirrel Baffle on Bird Feeders
Seeing a squirrel sit on its bottom and munch sunflower seeds at the bird feeder can be enjoyable for the whole family. But soon, squirrels are going to be taking over and scaring away the birds that you put the seed out for in the first place.
Many websites and discussion boards will tell you to coat your birdfeeder pole in grease or other slippery/sticky substance. This isn’t recommended. The oily substances can mat a squirrel’s (or other critter’s) fur, leaving them susceptible to extreme weather.
Instead, try using a cone or collar called a baffle. The EasyGo Squirrel Proof Baffle Guard is an easy-to-use product that fits around the poles you use to hang birdfeeders from.
Speaking of bird feeder bandits like squirrels, another way to repel them from your yard is to frequently clean up the fallen seed from your bird feeders.
Deter Squirrels In The Attic
Occasionally, squirrels will make their way into your attic in the colder months. You can use scents and smells they dislike like garlic to keep them out of these areas.
But, instead of treating the symptoms, how about we treat the illness. And by that, we mean stopping squirrels from gaining access to your attic in the first place.
Be sure to trim tree branches, vines, or other highways that squirrels can use to cruise up to your roof. If you notice gnaw marks on your roof, try installing metal flashing to discourage them from chewing.
Use Squirrel Scent Repellents
Another frequent problem with squirrels is their habit of clipping the ends of branches. Squirrels often do this to acquire nest material or to get food. This leaves twigs and branches dotting your beautiful yard.
To combat this problem, your best bet is by using scent repellents on the trees themselves (commercial spray repellents work too), or you can use a metal collar around the tree to prevent the squirrels from climbing it.
If you’re interested, you can read our article on the best scents
The metal collar will only work on trees that aren’t accessible to squirrels via other trees or powerlines. If the squirrel can jump or scurry from one tree to the next, it would be pretty pointless to deter them from climbing up the tree.
It’s hard to find tree baffles that are large enough to wrap around tree trunks. If you’re handy or know someone who is, you can use sheet metal or flexible plastic to make one yourself. Place it about two feet off the ground and make sure it’s at least 18” wide to prevent squirrels from scurrying around it!
Wrapping Things Up
Squirrels can be, well, squirrely. They get into our trees, knock down branches, chew on our fences, eat our veggies and fruits, and chit-chat at six in the morning. Before too long, squirrels will drive you nuts!
You can use garlic to repel squirrels in four different ways. To recap, those four methods are:
- Homemade garlic spray for plants, trees, and building materials
- Commercial repellents to combat digging
- Garlic powder for specific areas
- Companion garlic plants to protect vulnerable flowers and plants
If you’re ever unsure about your squirrel problem or find the problem is too big to handle yourself, get help from a professional. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a wildlife professional in seconds for free!
Now that your brain is packed with squirrel-repelling knowledge, you can combat those little rascals and enjoy a squirrel-free yard in no time!
Borlinghaus, J., Albrecht, F., Gruhlke, M. C.H., Nwachukwu, I. D., & Slusarenko, A. J. (2014, August). Allicin: Chemistry and Biological Properties. Molecules, 19(8), 12591-12618.
Hadidian, J., Manski, D., Flyger, V., Cox, C., & Hodge, G. (1987, October). Urban gray squirrel damage and population management: a case history [Third Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conference]. Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences.
Marsh, R. E. (1998, August). Historical review of ground squirrel crop damage in California. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, 42(2-3), 93-99.
Parker, T. S., & Nilon, C. H. (2008). Gray squirrel density, habitat suitability, and behavior in urban parks. Urban Ecosystems, 11, 243-255.
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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