Hot Sauce And Cayenne Pepper: Why They Work To Repel Rats

Cut Chili peppers show Capsaicin

Not only are rats pretty repulsive, but they can cause quite a few structural problems inside your home. They constantly chew and destroy property, and love to live in insulation. They also leave their ‘lovely’ droppings everywhere, but what can you do to repel them?

Well, lucky for us, rats have an incredible sense of smell so the pungent aroma of hot sauce and cayenne pepper can deter them.

Cayenne pepper and hot sauces contain capsaicin which is the substance that causes that ‘spicy’ sensation in hot peppers. This discomfort is enough to keep rats away when used properly!

When you have a rat problem, there’s no time to wait. The sooner you can get rid of these nuisances, the sooner you can rest easy, so let’s get into how and why hot sauce and cayenne pepper repel rats.

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Is Cayenne Pepper And Hot Sauce An Effective Rat Repellent?

Rats use their sense of smell not only to find food but to detect danger. Their sense of smell is so keen they can tell if a female rat is pregnant or not by smelling their urine!

These rodents use this super-powered sense of smell to sniff out cats, dogs, foxes, and other potential predators. Hot sauce has a powerful smell, and most actually contain vinegar. Vinegar is another rat deterrent because of its pungent odor.

two norway rats in wild

When you add hot peppers and vinegar together, rats get a one-two punch straight to their senses . I love hot sauce, but when I put in a little too much, my eyes burn and water, my nose tingles, and I end up going through a sneezing fit (you should see me when I eat wasbai, yikes!) I can only imagine what a rat would feel.

Vinegar also has properties that can cause irritation to sensitive respiratory organs and the eyes. The smell can permeate small areas where rats like to get in, effectively repelling them.

For a full overview of rat repellent options, take a look at our detailed list of the15 Scents That Rats Hate!

Why Does Hot Sauce And Cayenne Pepper Repel Rats?

Rats are intelligent and they can learn from experiences. They can even learn by watching other rats. When rats see their kin get snapped up in rat traps, they learn to stay away from those things.

When they experience something that irritates or causes pain, they will avoid doing the same thing again. Hot sauce and cayenne pepper can cause severe irritation to rats’ eyes, noses, skin, and feet.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, the capsaicin in peppers can cause skin irritation in rodents, sometimes in as little as an hour, if it gets into a rats eyes, it can cause even further issues to the rat.

Even if rats power past the strong smell of cayenne pepper or hot sauce, it could stick to their skin and feet and cause painful irritation later. Rats can’t turn on the water and wash their hands, instead, they lick their fingers to clean them.

See where this is going? Not only are their tiny feet on fire because they walked across cayenne pepper, but when they try to clean it off, their tiny mouths get set ablaze as well. They soon learn to avoid the smell of peppers and hot sauce.

What Attracts Rats To Your House?

Aside from human food odors, rats may be attracted to pet food. If they smell a bag of dog or cat food, they might come after those. If you leave food outdoors for animals, the rats could be enticed by that free meal. 

If you’re keeping chickens, goats, or other farm animals, you’re probably dealing with or have dealt with rats already. Rats will eat any kind of grain feed, and some will eat eggs and small chicks.

High grass, brush piles, and clutter will attract rats too. They look for shelter and protection, and all these things offer a sense of security for rats.

In addition to using cayenne pepper and hot sauce to deter rats, keep pet foods in airtight plastic containers to keep the smell enclosed. Declutter your house, garage, and storage buildings, and keep your yard mowed and tidy.

You should be extra sure to lean up rock and junk piles, keep lumber and firewood off the ground, and store dried, bagged food, as well as livestock feed in sealed containers.

By using hot sauce and cayenne pepper as a deterrent, while also keeping everything neat and tidy, you may send these persistent rodents packing.

How To Use Cayenne Pepper And Hot Sauce To Repel Rats

We already learned that rats have one heck of a sniffer, so putting strong smelling, irritating substances in their way should turn them away. Have you ever used cayenne pepper in your cooking? It doesn’t take much to feel the heat, and even at arm’s length, you can smell the open container.

Now imagine your sense of smell is 100 times stronger and you get a nostril full of cayenne pepper. I’ve never been pepper sprayed, and I don’t want to, but I bet that’s what it would feel like.

Now we just need to know how to use the hot sauce and cayenne to run off the rats. You don’t want to start seasoning your cabinets with cayenne pepper or mopping your floors with hot sauce.

slices of red pepper with ground peppers (capsaicin)

How To Use Hot Sauce To Repel Rats

You know you have rats when you see the droppings and chewed food containers, walls, or nearly anything else with tell-tale gnaw marks. Instead of pouring an entire bottle of hot sauce in these areas, use a cotton ball and a small container or piece of foil.

Grab a handful of cotton balls, soak them in the hot sauce and put them in a small container, and leave them where you’ve noticed rat evidence. If the area is too small for a small saucer or bowl, you can use a piece of aluminum foil and set a few hot sauce marinated cotton balls on it.

Don’t have cotton balls? Cut some small strips of old fabric or that tee shirt that shrunk and no longer flatters your figure. Now just soak them in the hot sauce and follow the directions above.

A word of caution here, don a pair of rubber, or nitrile gloves before handling the hot sauce. Even if you wash your hands after, the hot sauce oils can stick around or get into your nail bed and make for a spicy experience later when you rub your eye.

Fresh out of hot sauce? Unsure what kind to use? You refuse to waste your artisanal sriracha to keep rats away, no problem. 

Try out Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce, it’s a very hot sauce that has a pungent smell, and it also contains vinegar which is a deterrent all on its own. Unless those rats love having their nostrils burned out by the smell of hot peppers and vinegar, this will keep them away. 

How To Use Cayenne Pepper To Repel Rats

Nobody wants to sweep up powdered, ground, cayenne pepper, and forget about vacuuming the stuff up. Even though they have great filters, the minute particles can still flow through the air and get heated up by the vacuum. 

Come to think of it, vacuuming cayenne pepper may be a great way to run off unwanted visitors (when the mother-in-law has overstayed her welcome…) Just be sure to put on your gas mask beforehand so you don’t run yourself off.

Make Coffee Filter Sachets

To keep the cayenne pepper contained and make cleanup a snap, pour small amounts of the seasoning into coffee filters or empty tea bags. Tie them up with yarn, or leftover bread ties and leave them in areas you’ve noticed rats.

These spicy sachets should send the rats scampering away.

Don’t have coffee filters, and you’re fresh out of tea bags? No worries, find some bottle caps off soda or water bottles and put a few teaspoons of cayenne pepper in them and set them out. Fashion a tiny bowl out of aluminum foil and fill it with the powder.

The thing about hot sauce and cayenne pepper, when it is exposed to air, it starts to lose its potency. After a day or two you’ll have to refresh your secret pepper bombs to keep the scent strong and offensive.

Use Hot Sauce And Cayenne Pepper As A Rat Deterring Perimeter

Don’t like the idea of leaving little gifts of hot sauce and ground cayenne pepper throughout your house? No problem, just sprinkle it around the outside of your house.

That’s right, pour the cayenne pepper directly around your house to keep rats at bay. This will also keep most insects and other pests away too! 

You can also leave the pepper or hot sauce in small containers at small intervals around your house. Spread them about a foot to 18 inches apart, and the smell wafting around your house will keep rats away. They’ll get a whiff of the peppers and go in search of better, less offensive smells. 

The spicy aroma of cayenne pepper might also mask anything that smells good inside, so it’s a double win.

Again, you’ll have to refresh your peppery perimeter every couple of days, or after a rain, as it will lose its efficacy.

If you only have a small amount of cayenne pepper, restock your pantry with Pure heat Indian Cayenne pepper powder. This bag contains an entire pound of cayenne pepper with a heat score of 90K Scoville units.

To put that into perspective, that’s over 10 times hotter than a jalapeno and hotter than typical cayenne which usually tops out at 50K Scoville units. Rats won’t stand a chance against this peppery powder.

Will Cayenne Pepper And Hot Sauce Keep Rats Away Long Term?

chili on fork with spice to repel rats

Rats are incredibly intelligent animals. They will avoid areas with cayenne pepper and hot sauce scents and irritation for a while, but if they really want in, they’ll find a way.

The thing to figure out is why they want in so badly that they’ll either bypass the pepper deterrent or go straight through it. Pests want into our houses because they either smell food or they are looking for shelter.

Because of their incredible sense of smell, rats can smell food in your house from the outside. Repelling them with cayenne pepper will only work for so long, and if they are hungry enough, they’ll suffer through a little irritation to keep from starving.

Determined and hungry rats will either find a way in that bypasses the hot sauce, or they will chew their way in somewhere else. Cayenne pepper and hot sauce may keep rats away for a little while, but to really get rid of them, you’ll have to eliminate the temptation.

These methods are ultimately a temporary fix. If you’re really having a big problem with rats, you’ll have to employ additional methods to get rid of them, such as traps, poisons, or calling a pest control service.

Other Pests Cayenne Pepper And Hot Sauce Can Repel

The good thing about cayenne pepper and hot sauces is they will repel a slew of animals and insect pests. Not only will you be keeping rats away but these creatures will stay away from areas that reek of hot peppers:

  • Rabbits
  • Deer
  • Possums
  • Skunks
  • Raccoons
  • Mice
  • Ants
  • Roaches
  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks—though they could burrow under the cayenne and hot sauce without a problem.

If you have problems with any of these annoying pests in your garden, or they keep eating your flowers, sprinkle some cayenne pepper or hot sauce around these areas. You can even sprinkle cayenne pepper directly onto plants to keep nibblers and insects away.

Sprinkling hot sauce directly onto your plants might harm them, and the ingredients may cause damage to the roots, but cayenne pepper won’t damage most plants. I sometimes use it to keep the cats from eating my houseplants!

Will Other Household Spices Or Seasonings Run Rats Off?

Maybe you or someone in your house is sensitive or possibly allergic to hot peppers, and this really isn’t an option. Is there anything you can do to still use natural substances to deter rats?

Luckily there are plenty of potent herbs and other ingredients you may have in your house that will run rats off. These include:

Using these ingredients on their own, or getting essential oils and soaking cotton balls can help to deter rats.

Other Scents That Repel Rats

There are many other strong scents that will repel rats. Ammonia is a strong household cleaner that has a very strong odor that will keep rodents away.

Menthol is another strong odor that will deter rats, and so is predator urine. Cat, wolf, or fox urine helps to keep rats away. When they smell the urine, it tells them that big predators are nearby, and they could get eaten, so rats will make themselves scarce.

Make It Difficult For Rats To Get Indoors

Another thing you can do is to go around your property, inspect it carefully, and seal any gaps, cracks, or holes you see. Rats can squeeze through incredibly small holes. When they can’t squeeze through, they could quickly chew a bigger hole that allows easier access.

Use expanding foam, balled up aluminum foil, or steel wool. Rats can’t stand chewing through steel wool or aluminum and will avoid these areas. Rats will chew duct tape, FYI, so make sure not to use that.

You can also use expanding foam for deeper gaps because while rats can chew it, they would have to be extremely determined to want to get through the gap (that’s a lot of spray foam to eat!)

Wrapping It Up

Rats don’t only give us the creeps, they can cause property damage and bring in illnesses with them. Don’t let them come in and make a mess of your house.

Keep rats away by utilizing the irritating properties of hot sauce and cayenne pepper. Soak some cotton balls, leave out packets of ground cayenne pepper, or put up a barrier around your house.

Just know that hot sauce and cayenne pepper is a temporary rat repellent. By using these hot seasonings along with sealing up your food, pet and livestock feed, and keeping your property and your house clean you can eliminate your rat problem.


Jensen PG, Curtis PD, Dunn JA, Austic RE, Richmond ME. Field evaluation of capsaicin as a rodent aversion agent for poultry feed. Pest Manag Sci. 2003 Sep;59(9):1007-15. doi: 10.1002/ps.705. PMID: 12974352.

Szallasi, Arpad, and Peter M. Blumberg. “Vanilloid (Capsaicin) receptors and mechanisms.” Pharmacological reviews 51.2 (1999): 159-212.

Prasarnsri, Arnuparb, et al. “Anti-gnawing bio-polymer composites from non-toxic substances extracted from hot chili pepper.” Materials Today: Proceedings 52 (2022): 2449-2454.

Hansen, Sabine C., et al. “Plant secondary metabolites as rodent repellents: a systematic review.” Journal of Chemical Ecology 42 (2016): 970-983.

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