15 Scents That Chipmunks Hate (And How To Use Them)
When you see the occasional chipmunk scurrying around your yard – you may think it’s one of the cutest little animals to see. However, no matter how cute they may be, your gardens, plants, and surroundings can often be destroyed by these critters.
Chipmunks have a keen sense of smell, and scents like garlic, vinegar, pepper, mint, cedar, and a variety of plants and essential oils are a few of the scents that they hate. By using these scents strategically and adding them to your outdoor space or indoor spaces, you can keep chipmunks away for good.
If you have a current chipmunk problem and are looking for ways to get rid of chipmunks forever – keep on reading for 15 scents that chipmunks hate, and how to use them to keep them away!
What Is A Chipmunk Anyway?
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, chipmunks are part of the rodent order, part of the Sciuridae family, and most closely related to the squirrel.
With their extremely small size, and some species of chipmunk only weighing about 1.5 ounces in total, although little, they can make a huge impact on your outdoor spaces.
Chipmunks never actually hibernate, moreover, they will go into a longer, deeper sleep in the colder months, and will still get up to eat.
And what exactly do chipmunks eat? Well, chipmunks love to eat fruits, nuts, berries, grain, acorns, insects, and seeds – sounds like your garden and yard are the perfect places for a chipmunk to dine!
According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, chipmunks can gather up to 165 acorns in one day!
Chipmunks are known for their distinct darting movements from place to place. They move around effortlessly, and fast! They are solitary creatures and can be seen in pairs when they are mating, typically during the springtime.
The reason why we often see chipmunks in our yards and gardens is that chipmunks prefer borderlands, rather than deep forests. So, our gardens and backyards provide ideal conditions for chipmunks.
Chipmunks also like logs, stone, or wood piles, and love overgrown shrubbery and vegetation to create nests and tunnels.
Why are Chipmunks a Problem?
So, at face value, chipmunks do their own thing. They don’t bother humans, but they become nuisances because they often destroy due to burrowing and feeding.
Chipmunks will dig up seeds and flower bulbs from your garden and will burrow under your lawns, and even under structural foundations.
Over time, a chipmunk’s burrowing activity can harm structures like decks, pavements, patios and slabs, and any foundational walls.
According to an article written by Penn State College of Agricultural Research, if you have a scurry (large amount) of chipmunks that are burrowing underneath your patio, stairs, retention walls, or foundation – they can cause large structural damage.
Chipmunks present in large numbers can cause structural damage by burrowing under patios, stairs, retention walls, or foundations.
They also may consume flower bulbs, seeds, or seedlings, as well as bird or grass seed and pet food not stored in rodent-proof containers.
So, if you’re having a chipmunk problem, and you want to take your yard back – you may be wondering what do chipmunks hate the most? And one thing that is high up on the list of things they hate is overwhelming scents!
1. Chipmunks Hate Vinegar
One of the scents that chipmunks dislike is vinegar.
Vinegar has an extremely overwhelming scent that completely overtakes a chipmunk’s senses. They hate apple cider vinegar the most, and because of this, it will repel them.
To use vinegar as a repellent against chipmunks, simply mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto any areas where you notice chipmunks hanging around.
Also, you can spray the vinegar solution onto most plants and any structures like decks and patios, to create a vinegar barrier that will help protect your outdoor spaces from chipmunks.
Did you know that vinegar is so strong that it can repel other rodents such as mice and squirrels? It’s an all-around pest powerhouse!
2. The Smell Of Coffee Grounds Deter Chipmunks
There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing, right? Well, WRONG, if you ask a chipmunk!
Chipmunks dislike the smell of coffee and especially hate the smell of fresh coffee grounds.
Taking the coffee grounds and sprinkling them as a barrier around any plants that need extra protection, or if you have located an entrance to where chipmunks are coming in from, will help deter chipmunks away from your surroundings!
If you’re having a problem with chipmunks getting into your house, sprinkling coffee grounds at any holes in the foundation or around the siding, or even leaving a small coffee filter filled with grounds and placing it inside any noticeable holes, will work as well.
Coffee grounds are overall one of our listed best chipmunk repellents!
3. Minty Soap Can Repel Chipmunks
If you’re having a chipmunk problem – run to your linen closet and see if you have any Irish Spring Soap handy, because believe it or not, chipmunks hate the smell of Irish Spring Soap.
Using Irish Spring Soap to repel chipmunks, and actually, a variety of pests is one of the best-kept secrets.
The strong aroma of the soap, which is made from a combination of bergamot, citrus, and other mixed floral and woody fragrances, is way too strong for a little chipmunk to handle.
If you don’t have any Irish Spring Soap hidden in your house, you can easily get some bars online!
To use Irish Spring Soap as a chipmunk deterrent, take a cheese grater, and grate a barrier of soap around any chipmunk-prone surroundings.
You can also take the Irish Spring Soap and cut or break the bar into pieces and add it to little sachets or organza bags. Place the organza bags strategically around your outdoor space, or near any indoor spaces that you notice chipmunks getting to.
Also, adding these little organza bags to your windowsills will help deter chipmunks and any other unwanted pests from breaking and entering.
If you need a good organza bag, we recommend these Premium Sheer Organza Bags. These organza bags are the perfect size to fill up with soap and sporadically place around your gardens or hanging off branches in your trees!
4. Chipmunks Dislike Pepper
One of the most fool-proof ways to deter chipmunks is to sprinkle pepper on your outside surroundings.
Think about it, a little too much pepper in our human-size noses makes us sneeze – so you could imagine how unappealing pepper is to a chipmunk.
Adding pepper around the perimeter of your gardens, trees, decks, patios, foundations, and any other spot that the chipmunks have gotten into – will help keep chipmunks away.
5. Garlic Gives Off An Offensive Scent To A Chipmunk
Arguably one of the best smelling foods while being cooked, and one of the best tasting – hello, garlic bread – to people, is another one of the worst scents to a chipmunk!
Garlic is an offensive scent to a chipmunk as its strong and poignant notes are too much for a little chipmunk to endure. And get this – there is a reason why garlic smells as strongly as it does.
According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, Garlic contains allicin, which is a defense mechanism that the plant has to keep animals from eating it! Can you imagine that?
Allicin is a volatile organic sulfur compound, and the strong odor of garlic is released once its tissue is damaged (think crushing garlic and then being able to smell it). But enough about the science behind garlic right, let’s get to it – how do we use garlic to keep chipmunks away?
There are a few ways you can use garlic to keep chipmunks away:
- Plant garlic in your garden. By planting garlic bulbs, you are introducing the scent underground and within your gardens, where the chipmunks typically would burrow and snack.
It may also deter the chipmunks from eating any other bulbs in the surrounding area. Plus, you will get fresh garlic once it blooms! It’s a win, win.
- Sprinkle garlic powder or crushed garlic around any chipmunk-prone spaces. Creating a barrier with the garlic powder will surely deter chipmunks and other pests, from getting too close.
- Place garlic cloves around your garden. If you don’t have any powder, simply smashing some garlic cloves using the back of a spoon and some pressure, and placing them around high-chipmunk-traffic areas, will also work.
Garlic is an overall effective and cheap repellent that works on squirrels and chipmunks alike. Due to this, it may just be the perfect option for you!
6. Chipmunks Can’t Stand The Smell Of Onions
We all know onions have a strong smell, and of course, we can be mixed as a society when it comes to whether we love or hate the smell.
although we all know they make us cry a bit when we’re cutting them, we can say with certainty that chipmunks hate the smell of onions.
Onions give off allicin as a defense response just like garlic, which is why it has a strong aroma.
To use onions to get rid of chipmunks, you can either plant onions in your garden, or sprinkle onion powder throughout your landscape.
It’s the truth that chipmunks will not want to come near your garden if they smell onions.
7. Chipmunks Are Sensitive To Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne Pepper is another scent that chipmunks avoid.
The spiciness of cayenne pepper is too much for a chipmunk to handle, and because it is so unfamiliar, they will feel there is a threat or danger nearby, and avoid it at all costs.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the spiciness in cayenne pepper is due to Capsaicin, which much like garlic, is a defense mechanism aroma that the plant gives off to keep from being eaten.
To use cayenne pepper to deter chipmunks, the best way to do it is to create a spray or sprinkle solution of equal parts cayenne pepper and baking powder. Mix the two and then add them to the problem areas.
If you’re not in for the DIY and want to pick something up that’s quick and effective, Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Animal Spray Repellent uses Capsaicin in the formula to deter chipmunks and other unwanted pests.
8. Chipmunks Hate Mint
Mint is an herb that you can use to get rid of chipmunks.
Not only is the smell so overwhelming to a chipmunk, but the mint itself is also an unpleasant taste for a chipmunk.
To use mint to deter chipmunks the easiest way is to plant Mint plants sporadically throughout your garden, or near any specific plants that need extra protection.
If you seem to be having a problem with chipmunks getting inside, adding a small Mint Leaf plant to your windowsill in the kitchen, or near any doors, can also help deter them.
9. Peppermint Oil Is Unpleasant To A Chipmunk
With the same scent as mint, using peppermint oil to deter a chipmunk is also an effective method. Some may argue that peppermint oil gives a stronger aroma, which will get rid of chipmunks more effectively.
Using peppermint oil to deter chipmunks is pretty easy! To do so, grab a bunch of cotton balls, and soak them in a peppermint oil and water solution, or you can go ahead and give a cotton ball just a few dabs of peppermint oil.
Once soaked, add the peppermint oil cotton balls underneath any bushes that you may notice chipmunks are in.
Add the cotton balls between plants in your garden, underneath your deck, around your outdoor spaces, or anywhere else that you think needs some protection!
If you need a good peppermint oil to try out, try out Plant Therapy’s 100% Pure Peppermint Essential Oil. This peppermint oil is distilled 100% from natural mint plants and is high quality and affordable.
10. Citrus Smells Too Strong For A Chipmunk
Another essential oil that is strong smelling and may deter a chipmunk is citrus essential oil.
Although citrus smells light and refreshing to us humans, to a chipmunk, the scent of citrus can be poignant and can overwhelm their senses.
By using a lemon essential oil, an orange essential oil, a lime essential oil, a grapefruit essential oil, and any other type of citrus oil, and adding them all to a combined mixture, you can make the perfect citrus-inspired chipmunk repellent.
Taking your oils, adding a few drops of each oil to water, shaking it up, and then using the solution in a spray bottle to spray onto plants, outdoor surfaces, and even the corners of your outside and indoor spaces, can be an easy and effective way to get rid of chipmunks.
If you’re looking for a great set of citrus essential oils this Citrus Essential Oil Set of 6 is a must-try. In this pack, you will get 100% pure cold-pressed oil with no additives or filler.
11. Eucalyptus Oil Deters Chipmunks
Eucalyptus is another extremely aromatic essential oil that you can use to keep chipmunks away.
Eucalyptus is a multifaceted scent, as it has major mint notes, some citrus notes, and sweetness notes from honey, making it a very layered aroma.
And after learning what we know about chipmunks and their hatred towards certain, strong scents and citrus, you can imagine how much they would hate eucalyptus oil.
To use eucalyptus oil to effectively deter chipmunks, you can use the same method we suggested for peppermint oil. Grab a few cotton balls, soak them up with a eucalyptus and water mix, and add the cotton balls strategically to chipmunk-problem areas.
12. Chipmunks Hate Lavender
One of the very pleasing, most stress-relieving scents that many of us have learned to love – you can imagine what we’re going to say at this rate, but chipmunks hate, is lavender!
You can use lavender both in plant form (by plating it around your house), or in essential oil form (by diluting on cotton balls) to repel chipmunks from the area!
13. Use Cinnamon To Deter Chipmunks
I know, here we go with another amazing smell, that we all love, however, chipmunks surely despise – cinnamon. Cinnamon to us may smell like a crisp, fall day, but to a chipmunk – the smell of cinnamon gives them an overwhelming sensation that they will stay far away from.
Taking ground cinnamon and sprinkling it throughout your garden, especially near bushes or flowers or even under your deck and near foundations, will help keep chipmunks away.
You can also use cinnamon sticks to deter chipmunks as well, and place them in the soil of your garden, underneath decks, or in garbage pales, and can even add a cinnamon stick to the middle of each plant.
14. Chipmunks Dislike Cedar Mulch
Since chipmunks are ground-dwelling and are attracted to piles of wood or shrubbery, or overgrown vegetation, you would think a big pile of mulch would be very attractive to a chipmunk.
However, the thing about cedar mulch is that it has a strong, earthy aromatic smell, that chipmunks dislike.
Using cedar mulch in your garden beds, around your trees, and in your flowerpots, would be the easiest way to add a large amount of a scent that chipmunks hate so they will stay far away, and right from the get-go.
Adding cedar mulch to your garden is a great idea because it keeps away chipmunks and a lot of unwanted pests because of the aroma, and it has a function and uses for your outdoor space.
15. Chipmunks Hate Certain Plants like Marigolds, Daffodils, and Hyacinths
Since there are a few plants that chipmunks hate, like Marigolds, Daffodils, and Hyacinth, it goes without saying that if you’re having a chipmunk problem – plants these flowers in your garden and around your home!
The National Library of Medicine claims that Marigold leaf produces an oil called Terpenes, which leaves a strong scent that chipmunks hate.
Daffodils are poisonous to chipmunks, so chipmunks will stay far away from any daffodils, and would not burrow or eat near where they are present.
Hyacinth is a very fragrant and strong-smelling flower, that overwhelms the senses of a chipmunk.
So, if you are having a chipmunk problem, getting some of these flowers and planting them in rows, almost like a fence or barrier, will help protect any nearby plants and surroundings, while also adding color, and beauty to your outdoor space!
What Type of Chipmunk Is In Your Yard?
There are over 20 species of chipmunks found in North America, however, there are two species that are the most commonly seen here and that you may be seeing in your yard: The Eastern Chipmunk and the Least Chipmunk.
The Eastern Chipmunk
According to Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Eastern Chipmunk is found throughout the Eastern United States, west to the Mississippi River, and in the southeastern part of Canada.
The Eastern Chipmunk is a red/orange color and has a single black stripe running down its back. The Eastern Chipmunk also has a double black stripe with a white stripe running down the middle, of each side of its body.
There are no differences between a male and female chipmunk’s appearance, and both grow anywhere from 5-10 inches and can be up to 5 ounces in weight.
The Least Chipmunk
The smallest member of the squirrel family according to the National Park Service is the Least Chipmunk, they are anywhere from 7.5-8.5 inches long and only weigh slightly over an ounce.
Mostly brown with a distinguishable dark stripe on the top of its head to the base of its tail, and then alternating gray and black stripes along its sides, the Least Chipmunk is the most widespread member of the chipmunk family!
How Good Is A Chipmunks Sense of Smell?
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, a chipmunk’s sense of smell is keen.
Chipmunks have very strong senses, and it has been determined through an article in the Journal of Mammalogy that chipmunks and other rodents use odors to determine who and whose not their relatives, thus, showing how precise and strong their sense of smell is.
If a chipmunk can use their sense of smell to determine their family, and use it as a way to even shun a chipmunk that is not its own – this shows that smell matters in a chipmunk’s kingdom.
So, it’s no wonder that chipmunks are highly sensitive to certain smells, and if you’re using smells they hate – there’s a good chance they’re not coming near your property.
All in All – Some Other Ways To Repel Chipmunks
If smells aren’t for you, and you still want additional help in getting rid of the chipmunks you can try a few of these options below:
- Change up your landscape and get rid of overgrown shrubbery.
- Add noise to your outdoor space with windchimes or supersonic sounds to deter chipmunks.
- Add motion-activated sprinklers, or motion-activated lights to the surroundings, as it will startle the chipmunks and they will think there is danger nearby.
- Let your Dog or Cat patrol the yard. There are so many predators out there for chipmunks, so if they sense any animal nearby, or even smell an animal’s hair, they will not come around for long.
If you’re finding chipmunk holes, take a look at our guide on the best ways to seal them up.
Happy chipmunk repelling!
“Chipmunk.” Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Borlinghaus, Jan, et al. “Allicin, the Odor of Freshly Crushed Garlic: A Review of Recent Progress in Understanding Allicin’s Effects on Cells.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 10 Mar. 2021.
Cox-Georgian, Destinney, et al. “Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes.” Edited by Nirmal Joshee et al., Medicinal Plants: From Farm to Pharmacy, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 Nov. 2019.
“Least Chipmunk.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/least-chipmunk.htm.
Mateo, Jill M. “Kin Recognition in Ground Squirrels and Other Rodents.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 21 Nov. 2003.
McCarty, Mark F, et al. “Capsaicin May Have Important Potential for Promoting Vascular and Metabolic Health.” Open Heart, BMJ Publishing Group, 17 June 2015.
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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