Peppermint Oil: Why It Works To Repel Rats (And How To Use It)

peppermint essential oil bottle with peppermint to repel rats

Rats are probably the number 1 house guest you don’t want to entertain, even outcompeting the dreaded cockroach or spider. They’re sneaky, and can cause quite the large amount of structural issues in your home. Luckily you can keep rats away from your home using peppermint oil!

Rats and mice rely heavily on their noses to help them find food and mates. Luckily for us, peppermint oil has a strong odor due to the menthol it contains.

You can use this to your advantage by placing peppermint around your home to overwhelm a rats’ sensitive nose to keep them away from your house!

While there are several other management options when it comes to rats, this article will focus on how you can repel them using peppermint oil. However, we’ve also included a brief overview of the other methods you can use to control rats around your home at the end. Let’s dive in and learn all about repelling rats with peppermint oil!

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How Do Rats Get Into Buildings?

You’ll need to know how rats get into buildings if you want to make sure you effectively repel them with peppermint oil. It’ll save you time (and money) if you know exactly where to spray repellents, rather than just spraying them everywhere all willy-nilly. There are a handful of entry points around your home that rats will use which is where you should focus your efforts.

Rats can squeeze through an opening as small as 1/2 across! Here are a few places they can find openings this size around your home, allowing them to get inside.

  • Gaps and cracks around windows and doors
  • Holes in door or window screens
  • Openings around where utilities enter or exit your home (water, electricity, cable)
  • Gaps and cracks around the foundation of your home
  • Floor drains and sewer pipes
  • Through heating ducts
  • Openings to your attic like vents

These are the areas where you will want to make sure you spray your repellent to keep rats out.

You can further narrow down where you need to concentrate your rat elimination efforts by determining what species of rat you’re dealing with. More on that next.

Roof Rats Vs Sewer Rats

The two most common rats that are likely to get into your home are the roof rat and the sewer rats. Roof rats tend to hang out in higher places like attics and ceilings because they’re great climbers. Sewer rats are more commonly found in lower areas like basements and crawl spaces because they love to burrow.

If you see a rat or any signs of its presence, like nests or droppings, you can use the table below to figure out which species it is. If you know which species you’re dealing with, you’ll know which area they’re most likely to try to enter your home.

Norway Rats vs. Sewer Rats

Scientific NameRattus rattusRattus norvegicus
Other Common NamesBlack rat, house rat, ship ratNorway rat
Body Length (inches)7-88-10
Tail Length (inches)7-105-8
Fur ColorTypically black, can be brownish or grayishBrownish-gray
Dropping Size (inches)1/4 to 1/23/4 to 1
Dropping ShapeBanana-like shape with pointed endsBlunt ends
Preferred HabitatGood climbers, commonly found nesting in attics or trees. They can occasionally burrow as well.Good diggers, commonly found burrowing along foundations, under garbage, or in thick vegetation. Will nest at ground level in places like basements and crawl spaces.

Does Peppermint Oil Repel Rats?

Scientists have shown in several studies that peppermint oil can repel rats from areas where they are applied. One study completed in 2010 showed that when peppermint oil was sprayed in a field, it significantly reduced the amount of time rats spent foraging there.

Rats rely on their strong sense of smell to find food while foraging. The strong smell of menthol, which is present in peppermint, overwhelms them and keeps them away. Therefore, spraying peppermint oil around the exterior of your home can make them think twice about entering.

While the strong odor can help deter them, rats can be quite determined when it comes to getting in your home. Using smell as a deterrent tends to be a short-term solution that rats may eventually overcome.

For a more long-term, permanent solution you may need to consider more drastic measures. These include trapping and sealing up entry points to get rid of rats permanently. We provide more details about using these methods later in the article.

Okay, so peppermint oil can definitely repel rats. But how do you use it to keep rats out of your home?

How To Use Peppermint To Repel Rats

Since researchers have proven that peppermint oil repels rats, some companies have developed repellents you can purchase which contain peppermint. One product we recommend is Mighty Mint’s Rodent Repellent. It comes in a 1-gallon jug with an easy-to-use handheld sprayer.

You can also make your own repellent which may be more cost-effective. Here are a few ways you can use peppermint oil around your home to deter rats from entering.

Make A Peppermint Oil Spray To Keep Rats At Bay

It’s easy enough to make your own peppermint oil spray. Using a spray will also give you the best coverage when you apply peppermint oil. This may make it more effective in certain situations.

To make your own peppermint oil spray, you’ll need to purchase some peppermint oil. We like this 100% Pure Peppermint Oil because it comes with an easy-to-use dropper for making your spray. You’ll also get 4 oz. of oil which will allow you to make all of the spray you could possibly need.

To make your rat-repellent spray, you’ll need a spray bottle, pure peppermint oil, and water. Add 1 cup of water to your spray bottle first. Then, add 10 to 15 drops of pure peppermint oil. Shake the mixture up well, and you’re ready to go!

Spray your new repellent around your home anywhere rats might get in. You’ll likely have to respray it once or twice a week since the smell will begin to wear off after it dries. You may also need to spray it more often if it rains.

Rats Hate Peppermint Oil-Soaked Cotton Balls

If you don’t like the idea of spraying peppermint oil all over the place, you might want to try the cotton ball method instead. It’s super simple! All you need is peppermint oil and some regular cotton balls.

Simply soak the cotton balls in the peppermint oil and allow it to absorb into them. This will use more oil than making a spray.

However, they likely won’t have to be replaced as often since they will hold more of the peppermint scent for longer than the spray.

Place the cotton balls around your home near any opening larger than 1/4 where rats might enter. You’ll want to check them once a week to make sure you don’t need to add more oil or replace them.

While it doesn’t specifically contain peppermint oil, BugMD’s Vamoose contains a mixture of cornmint, citronella and linseed oils along with diatomaceous earth in a nice, compact pouch that you can place around your home.

If you’d like a better understanding of how citronella can repel rats, there’s actually a good amount of research on the subject! You can read our guide on using citronella as a rat repellent to learn more.

Use Peppermint Oil Infused Wax Melts

If you want a rat repellent that is a little less messy than using liquid-based solutions, consider using wax melts. We typically use wax melts in our homes to provide a lovely fragrance as they melt over a tea candle. However, they can also be used to keep rats from entering your home.

Peppermint-infused wax melts will work just as well repelling rats. They also tend to hold their scent for longer than peppermint oil spray or peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls. 

Since the wax doesn’t dry up, the scent stays active for much longer than other options. That means you won’t have to spend as much time reapplying the oil and can simply sit them out and forget them (for a little while).

These Fresh Peppermint Wax Melts will work great against rats. Each pack contains 6 cubes which you can place around your home where rats might get in. You can also order them in bulk if you know you’ll need more than 6.

Their scent should last for several weeks before they will need to be replaced. You can check them periodically to see if they still produce a peppermint scent. If you can smell the peppermint, rats can too.

Peppermint Plants Will Deter Rats

peppermint plant to repel rats

Just like peppermint oil, peppermint plants give off a wonderful minty smell that rats can’t stand. You can plant peppermint around your house to help keep rats away.

Peppermint plants will take a little while to grow, but thankfully they’re perennials. That means they will come back each year so you only have to plant them once. Peppermint plants are perennials in hardiness zones 5 to 9. 

If you live further north, you may still be able to use peppermint plants. You’ll likely have to replant them each year since they won’t survive the winter.

You can plant peppermint around areas near your foundation where utilities enter your home to keep rats away. You can also plant peppermint plants in a pot and place them near doors to deter rats.

Peppermint plants can also be used in your garden if you’re having issues with rats stealing your veggies! If you have issues with rats near your swimming pool, you can plant some peppermint around your pool as an added scent barrier (although, you’ll need a lot!)

Peppermint plants will take a little time to grow and establish around your home. However, they’re the most long-term peppermint repellent method you can use against rats. You’ll also be able to use the leaves in the kitchen for cooking or making tea which is an added bonus!

Peppermint Toothpaste Can Work In A Pinch Against Rats

If you don’t have time to order or go purchase peppermint oil, there may be other items in your home that you can use short-term. Peppermint toothpaste can be a great substitute if you find yourself in a pinch and need to act fast. Really any menthol-flavored toothpaste will do since menthol is the repellent component of peppermint.

To use toothpaste against rats, just squirt a little bit on a cloth. Place the cloth around your house where you know you need to keep rats away from. The toothpaste won’t hold its scent for long after it dries, so you’ll need to replace it every couple of days for the best results.

peppermint plant fresh and up close (rat repellent)

Rats Hate Other Minty Smells Too

Peppermint isn’t the only mint that contains menthol. Other repellents with menthol include wintergreen, spearmint, and even bergamot mint. A study from 2010 showed that both wintergreen and bergamot mint worked to repel rats from food sources.

There are also a ton of other scents that can be used to keep rats away. For a full list, check out our article on scents that rats hate and how you can use them

You may want to consider combining several rat-repellent scents together which may make them more effective. 

You can either make your own concoction or try something like Tomcat Rodent Repellent. Tomcat combines peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, and garlic oil to repel rats and other rodents around the home.

How To Keep Rats Out For Good

While scent repellents are a great short-term solution to avoid rats in your house, you may want to consider a more permanent method. There are a few things you can do to permanently keep rats from getting into your home.

Habitat Modification Works Great Against Rats

There are three things that rats are typically looking for when they get near your home. Food, water, and shelter. If you can eliminate these things, it will help you keep rats away for good.

Make sure you keep trash containers tightly sealed to keep rats out. If you notice any chewing on plastic trash bins, you might want to consider upgrading to metal bins that rats can’t chew through.

Keep any thick vegetation and wood piles away from your house if possible. Rats tend to try and burrow under these to build their nests. When rats begin nesting near your home, their numbers begin to multiply increasing the chances they’ll find their way in.

Prune back any trees or vines from your house. Roof rats love to climb and stay up high. They will use vegetation like trees and vines to gain access to your attic for nesting.

Once you’re done modifying things outside, you’ll want to take a look inside your home.

Indoor Sanitation Will Help Ensure You’re Not Attracting Rats

As mentioned above, rats rely heavily on smell to find food. You want to practice some indoor sanitation measures to make sure you aren’t sending them an invitation to enter your home.

Try to keep all food in your kitchen cleaned up, especially before you go to bed. Rats are most active at night which is when they primarily forage for new food sources.

Make sure you don’t leave any food out on the counter and wipe up any spills or crumbs.

Make sure your dishes are rinsed clean and don’t leave any food scraps in the sink. It’s also a good idea to have a lid on your trash can to help contain any food smells.

It’s also a good idea to reduce as much clutter as possible from your home. Rats love to build their nests in cluttered spaces. Clutter can also make it more difficult to notice if you have a rat problem. 

By keeping your house tidy, you’ll be able to notice if you have a rat more quickly. This will help you avoid them building a nest and starting to breed which will just multiply your rat issue. You’ll also want to be sure to keep your yard tidy to deter rats as well!

Exclude Rats From Your Home

Exclusion for rats means sealing up any holes or gaps they may use to enter your home. Rats can squeeze through openings as small as 1/2 inch. They can also gnaw at smaller openings to make them big enough for them to get through.

Rats can chew through wood, rubber, duct tape and plastic so you’ll have to use something stronger to keep them out. Metal and concrete work best since rats can’t chew through them.

Consider using hardware cloth or metal mesh to exclude rats to close up larger holes. For smaller gaps around utility lines going in your home, use concrete to seal them up tight.

Make sure you keep an eye on any newly installed rat exclusion materials. You want to check them periodically to make sure they’re doing their job. Look for any signs of chewing around the barriers you install and reinforce them if damage is detected

You can also use spray foam for deeper points of entry. While rats can chew through it, they would have to be very determined to get from point A to B as they would have to eat through quite a large amount of the foam.

Trap Rats To Get Rid Of Them For Good

Rat traps are really the most effective way to reduce rat populations around your home. They are easy to set up and most are pretty cheap to purchase.

You can use wooden snap traps which can be used more than once. Alternatively, you can use plastic, single-use traps which are easier to clean up. Once they trap a rat inside, you simply throw out the entire apparatus.

You can use dried fruit, dried meat, or a piece of pet food as a lure for rat traps. They work best if you attach the bait to the trigger with a small piece of string. This will help ensure the rat sets off the trap if it tries to grab the bait.

Where you set the traps is the most important factor when it comes to their effectiveness. Look for signs of rat activity such as nests or droppings and place traps nearby. Traps also tend to be more effective when placed along walls which rats tend to run along when out foraging.

Hire A Professional

If you’re already dealing with a rat infestation, don’t hesitate to contact a professional to get them under control. Once rats have set up shop in your home, getting rid of them can be a nightmare. A professional will get the job done quickly and completely for you.

If you don’t already have a pest control professional, or if yours doesn’t offer extermination services, we’ve got you covered. Check out our pest control professional locator to find an exterminator near you!

That’s A Wrap!

Let’s face it, no one wants to deal with a rat problem in their home. The thought can leave you feeling squeamish and disgusted. You can use repellents to help keep them out and keep your mind at ease.

Depending on the type of rats present around your house they may get in through the lower levels or through the attic. Repellents should be used around any opening around the exterior of your house where rats might get in.

Peppermint oil makes a great rat repellent and you can use it in a variety of ways to protect your home.

  • Make a peppermint oil spray
  • Soak cotton balls in peppermint oil
  • Use peppermint oil wax melts
  • Plant peppermint around your home
  • Use toothpaste if you’re in a hurry and can’t wait

While peppermint can help repel rats, you should consider combining it with other prevention methods to ensure rats stay away permanently. Consider using habitat modifications, sanitation, exclusion, and rat traps.

If you feel like you’re in over your head when it comes to dealing with rats, or you already have rats in your home, consider hiring a professional to take care of them for you.


Kalandakanond-Thongsong, S., Daendee, S., Thongsong, B., & Chavananikul, V. (2010). The efficacy of pure natural repellents on rat responses using circular open field. The Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 40(4), 411-418.

Kalandakanond-Thongsong, S., Daendee, S., Thongsong, B., & Chavananikul, V. (2011). Evaluation of cardboard coated with natural substances in combination with ink on rat repellency. The Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 41(2), 205-212.

Srivani Maddala, V. K. (2019). Green pest management practices for sustainable buildings: Critical review. Science Progress, 102(2), 141-152.

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