Raccoons can quickly go from cute little bandit seen at a distance, to the bearer of destruction for your garden. These opportunistic feeders will take advantage of an easy meal, and it takes a lot less energy to eat corn, watermelon, and apples from a garden or fruit tree than it does to scavenge and hunt.
So, what can you do to keep these masked strangers from your garden?
Raccoons have a strong sense of smell; while there is no scientific evidence that Irish Spring soap will deter raccoons, it’s been studied to deter deer and found to be quite effective. Many of the same smells that deter deer, such as capsaicin and mint, also repel raccoons. In general, Irish Spring soap can be an effective raccoon repellent.
For the most part, you’ll never see a raccoon munching in your garden. They are nocturnal and feed at nighttime. Because of this, you’ll have to find ways to deter raccoons in your sleep. Literally! So, is Irish Spring soap really useful for deterring raccoons?
Does Irish Spring Soap Deter Raccoons?
As we mentioned before, there are no specific studies done on the efficacy of Irish Spring soap in deterring raccoons from your property.
But it would be a bit odd for researchers to request grant money for that kind of study.
Instead, we’ve delved into the impact Irish Spring soap has on other mammals and used that to figure out if it’s effective for raccoons, too.
If you’ve never smelled a bar of Irish Spring soap, then you may not know how scented this soap is. It has a distinct odor that some candle and soap companies have tried to recreate with bergamot, citrus, and herbal and woody fragrances.
To be quite honest – there isn’t anything telling as to what specifically in Irish Spring soap keeps raccoons away. However, since raccoons and deer are effectively deterred by many of the same scents, and that research is prevalent for soap repelling deer, there’s a good chance that soap can repel raccoons.
With that being said, using Irish Spring soap is not a guaranteed solution in deterring raccoons. There are other, more effective ways of deterring raccoons.
However, using Irish Spring soap is cost-effective, and it’s available at almost any store that sells soap. This way, you can try it today or tomorrow and see if it works.
How Do You Use Irish Spring Soap to Deter Raccoons?
For a long time, Irish Spring soap had one scent. And truly, that scent didn’t even have a name. It was just called ‘original,’ or internally referred to as ‘Ulster’ fragrance.
This mysterious unnamed fragrance is what we’re hoping will deter raccoons. Since we know raccoons have no problem digging through garbage, we can’t simply use smelly things to deter raccoons. Instead, we have to appeal to their sense of danger.
Things that smell good to us humans such as peppermint, garlic, and mint, often send a warning signal to raccoons and other mammals. The taste and smell of these scents are unpalatable.
Irish Spring soap works in the same way, sending signals to the animal that it is inedible and unpalatable, and therefore should be stayed away from.
So, how exactly do you use Irish Spring soap to deter raccoons?
This will depend largely on your situation. Are you trying to protect your trees? Protect your corn stalks? Or maybe you want to keep raccoons away from your watermelons and other garden vegetables?
Here’s how to do it:
Using Irish Spring Soap to Protect Your Trees
If you’ve noticed claw marks on your trees, raccoons are probably the culprit. They are excellent climbers and will scuttle up trees to get at fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Contrary to popular belief, raccoons don’t typically build nests in trees. They use burrows or the hollow part at the base of trees to build dens. So, if a raccoon is up a tree, it’s most likely foraging for food.
To repel raccoons from your trees, cut your bars of soap in half. Drill a hole through the center of the halved soap bar and use string, twine, or rope to tie through the soap.
Hang the soap from your trees, keeping the soap away from the trunk. According to the University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science, It’s suggested to space the soap bars 3 feet apart.
But you can always start further apart and see how successful it is.
It’s important not to let the soap run down the trunk of the tree in hot weather. This can attract insects to the scent.
Hanging the soap bars 3 feet apart away from the trunk will create a small barrier around the tree, repelling deer, raccoons, and other small mammals that might think your fruit tree is a free dinner.
If you’re worried about the soap making a mess, you can place the halved bars in a mesh bag and hang the bag from the tree instead. The scent will still reach beyond the mesh bag, and there’s less chance of a messy cleanup.
If you need a mesh bag, check out Champion’s Mesh Sports Equipment Bag here.
Using Irish Spring Soap to Protect Your Crops and Garden Plants
If you grow corn, you probably already know how destructive raccoons can be around harvest time. They’ll scoot up stalks and tear them down trying to get to your corn.
Gardens often fall victim to nighttime raccoon visits too, especially with sweet or citrusy fruit such as watermelons, berries, and cherries.
To keep these bandits from stealing the veggies you put such hard work into, try a similar approach to protecting trees: cut your soap bars in half and place them in a mesh bag. Use stakes placed about 3 feet apart and attach the mesh bags to the stakes with string or a staple gun.
You can place the stakes near your vegetable plants, or place the stakes around a garden fence perimeter. If one doesn’t work, try the next option.
Will Irish Spring Soap Repel Raccoons Long Term?
Because there are no scientific reports or evidence to support deterring raccoons with Irish Spring soap, the longevity of its effectiveness can only be answered by experience.
Regularly observe the effects the soap is having on your raccoon problem. If it works long-term, that’s great news! Your raccoon problem is now a raccoon solution!
However, there are other surefire ways to prevent raccoons from snacking on your fruits and vegetables. We’ll get more into that later.
The problem with using scents as a long-term solution is that the scent will eventually fade, or the raccoon will get used to it through habituation.
Once a raccoon realizes that the scent of the soap is not actually going to harm it, they may choose to ignore it.
Raccoons are incredibly smart and adaptable to their environment, and it won’t take them too long to figure out if something is dangerous or not.
Additionally, there’s one other VERY important thing here.
From wherever you’re trying to keep raccoons out from, it’s important to note that if the smell of the surrounding area overpowers the smell of the soap, then it’ll be difficult to keep pests away.
Using Irish Spring soap is an option that we hope will appeal to a raccoon’s keen sense of smell. However, if they decide one day to be daring and try a piece of fruit inside the soap barrier anyway, they’ll quickly learn it’s still safe to eat and keep coming back.
Other Animals and Insects That Irish Spring Soap May Repel
Irish Spring soap is an easy, inexpensive way to repel raccoons from your garden and fruit trees. But there’s a bonus – it also repels other mammals that could invade and snack on your plants.
Please note, Irish Spring soap should not be used to repel insects. You will need other sprays, scents, or insecticides to take care of those pests.
Irish Spring soap is meant to repel mostly mammals but will have to be observed on a case-by-case basis to truly see its effectiveness.
Some of the animals that Irish Spring soap may repel are:
The only animal that’s really been studied are deer. They are definitely NOT fans of Irish Spring soap. However, squirrels, rabbits, and even raccoons can be inferred not to like this soap scent either.
In addition to being an olfactory-appealing repellent, hanging soap bars in your garden or from your fruit trees will be something different to raccoons. New, unknown objects or noises are likely to scare raccoons away on their own for a few days.
Other Benefits to Using Irish Spring Soap as a Deterrent
There’s no surefire scientific example in using Irish Spring soap to deter raccoons. But the soap is much easier on the environment than chemical pesticides and sprays, and it’s certainly less expensive.
No Harm to Non-Target Species
Possibly the best benefit to using Irish Spring soap to deter raccoons is that there’s no chance of harming non-target species.
This can happen with alternative deterrents such as chemical repellants or traps that are specifically designed for raccoons.
According to the University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory, using live-animal traps to catch raccoons will not discriminate between catching raccoons and other species such as domestic cats, small dogs, foxes, woodchucks, rabbits, skunks, pheasants, robins, minks, and foxes.
Alternative Raccoon Deterring Solutions
It’s never a bad idea to combine more than one deterrent method. This significantly increases the likelihood of repelling raccoons and keeping them away for good.
Here are some alternative raccoon-deterring solutions that can be combined with hanging Irish Spring soap.
If you have a raccoon problem, there’s a reason they are stopping by so often. In addition to seeking your prized vegetables as a snack, they may be attracted to the scent of garbage, pet food, or a cozy corner of your attic.
Keep your garbage lids secure. This will prevent raccoons from accessing yet another easy snack that they’ll keep coming back for.
Keep your pet food inside at night. Pet food that is left out overnight is a super easy food source for raccoons. Make sure to pick it up and bring it inside at night when raccoons are most active.
Trim your trees. Trees are like a highway to raccoons, especially if the branches are close to your roof. This gives raccoons access to your attic space, and they’re definitely capable of damaging your roof to get inside.
Cover your koi ponds. If you have a koi pond, be sure to cover it at night if you value your fish! Koi are easy prey to a raccoon, and ponds are typically shallow enough for a raccoon to wade into.
Remove fruits as soon as they fall. A raccoon’s sense of smell is pretty keen. A rotting piece of fruit will signal to raccoons (and many other animals) that food is nearby, and attract them to your yard.
Use Scents and Scare Tactics
There are plenty of scents that raccoons hate, which you can use to your advantage!
Essential oils such as peppermint, garlic, and cinnamon have shown promise at repelling raccoons. Using Epsom salts, hot peppers, and predator urine has also shown potential at either repelling or scaring raccoons away from your yard.
As mentioned before, anything new in your yard can be used as a scare tactic to a raccoon. Wind chimes, pinwheels, a new birdbath. Pretty much anything new or different.
This tactic isn’t a long-term solution, however, as the raccoon will eventually get used to the new object and realize it isn’t going to harm them.
Radios set to a human conversation or predator sounds have a similar effect to new objects. They will probably scare the raccoon away initially, but it will eventually get used to the sounds and realize they are not a threat.
Motion-activated sprinklers and lights such as the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer are a relatively new way of humanely repelling animals such as raccoons, deer, and rabbits. When activated, it sets off a sprinkler system.
If you have a garden, you’ve probably already done this to deter deer. However, raccoons are a little different – they’re excellent climbers and diggers.
A regular fence won’t cut it with a raccoon. To keep them out, be sure to install a fence that has an ‘L’ shape that reaches beneath the soil. This prevents the raccoon from simply digging underneath to get to your tasty vegetables and fruits.
Using fence material that is smooth and hard to grasp is an even further deterrent to raccoons. Alternatively, you can install a low-voltage electric fence, but this may not be feasible and can hit non-target species such as local cats and small dogs.
Other Practical Ways to Deter Raccoons
If you’re looking for a quick solution to give you time to prepare for a more long-term solution, try some of these suggestions:
- Install noise-makers to your garden fence or fruit trees. Pinwheels and windchimes are a scare tactic that you probably have lying around your house right now!
- Use companion plants. Planting garlic or mint next to the plants you wish to protect can deter raccoons from eating them.
Wrapping Things Up
Whether you decide to use Irish Spring soap bars or not, it’s always a good idea to combine several different tactics to repel raccoons from your yard.
Combining auditory, visual, and olfactory repellents are your best defense against these mischievous little bandits.
If you’re ever unsure about how to handle a raccoon problem, ask for help! Check out our nationwide pest control finder to get connected with a wildlife pro near you in seconds. Using our partner network helps support pestpointers.com!
Huxoll, C. M., Messmer, T. A., & Conover, M. (2010). Raccoons. Logan: Cooperative Extension Work.
Keammerer, W. R., & Hassell, W. G. (1995). High Altitude Revegetation Workshop No. 11. Colorado Water Resources Research Institute (p. 211). Fort Collins: Colorado State University.
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. http://dx.doi.org/10.5070/V419110308 Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0m08r8pv
Stelloh, R. T. (1994). Deer: Beauties… or Beasts?.
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.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.