Although cute from a distance, squirrels can be surprisingly destructive – especially when they set their sights on your home or garden. Squirrels mate and have offspring twice a year, meaning that you could be dealing with a rambunctious family of 2-4 squirrel kits more often than you’d like to.
Squirrels have a strong sense of smell, which they use food sources and shelter. You can repel squirrels using scents they hate such as, capsaicin, white vinegar, peppermint oil, coffee grounds, cinnamon, predator urine, garlic, dryer sheets, Irish Spring Soap, and rosemary.
Read on to learn more about what scents you can use to keep squirrels out of your home and garden. You’d be surprised how many of these options are in your kitchen right now!
What Kind of Damage Can Squirrels Cause?
There are quite a few different types of squirrels, but they all seem to love fir and pine trees.
Having a stand of either type of tree nearby most likely puts you in the immediate area of these heavily populated rodents. Unfortunately, they could see this as an open invitation to your home and food!
The main concern when it comes to squirrel damage is structural damage.
Squirrels have long, lean bodies that fit easily into small spaces. Their dexterous hands – somewhat similar to our hands – have digits that aren’t technically fingers, but still allow them to grasp whatever they want.
Here’s the start-to-finish of how squirrels can get into your home and cause damage:
- Siding: Whether the siding is already damaged or not, squirrels will continue to chew siding once inside. The holes they create are big enough to allow moisture in, which can cause rot or water damage.
- Insulation: Once they’re past the siding, squirrels get into the insulation, where they are more than happy to nest. If you’ve had a squirrel infestation before, you’ve likely heard them banging around in the walls.
- Wiring: These rodents are inquisitive enough that nothing will stop them from chewing, even on the wiring in your walls. Chewing also helps squirrels maintain their dental health, as their teeth continue to grow throughout their lives.
Outside of the home, squirrels are pests to gardens and bird areas. They dig up the soil, chew up vegetables, rob fruit trees, and make raids on bird feeders.
Oh, and squirrels can even eat your grass seed. More on that here.
For such small animals, they’re surprisingly destructive!
Squirrels Stay Away From Capsaicin
Unsurprisingly, squirrels hate spicy and/or hot scents. The capsaicin found in hot peppers is an irritant, which is why people scrunch up their noses, sweat, and get watery eyes when they consume spicy food.
The smell alone is enough to keep squirrels out of areas where you don’t want them. Both white or black pepper and chili powder are great options for sources of capsaicin
Black pepper tends to be spicier than white pepper, but either will work and can be purchased in any grocery store. Chili powder is made up of pulverized chili peppers, of which there are countless varieties.
Pepper and chili powder won’t just keep squirrels away; they’re also used as natural insecticides, so making a pepper or chili powder spray is a great idea for your garden.
You can either make your own spray, or get a ready made product that contains capsaicin
Squirrels coming up against areas sprayed with pepper and chili powder won’t want to hang around too long!
Squirrels Hate White Vinegar
The easiest and most natural way to get rid of squirrels is to create your own sprays. This is a pretty simple process! You’ll need a basic spray bottle, such as R2 Goods heavy duty plastic spray bottles.
Home-made sprays are not only easy to make, but they’re also incredibly affordable. You probably have most of the ingredients around the house already.
The great thing about this spray is that you can also add any essential oils you’d like. See below why peppermint oil is a great choice!
Keep in mind that although natural and beneficial in many ways, vinegar is acidic and can cause damage to delicate plants. If you’re using this spray in your garden, keep a close eye on plants to ensure they stay healthy and undamaged.
You’ll want to make sure that you dilute the white vinegar as well, as pure vinegar will corrode your plants. You should spray an object that can absorb the vinegar and place it NEAR your plants. Reapply as needed!
Additionally, make sure you don’t use apple cider vinegar to repel squirrels. The sweetness in the apple cider vinegar can attract flies.
Peppermint Oil Naturally Repels Squirrels
Aside from having a variety of health benefits, essential oils have been proven to keep pests away from both the home and garden.
Peppermint essential oil specifically is hated by squirrels. To them, the scent is overpowering and they’ll avoid it as much as they can.
There are two ways to use peppermint in your home or garden: as a spray, or soaked into cotton balls or cloth.
Sprays are the obvious choice for keeping pests out of gardens, but cotton balls and cloth are a great option to shore up holes where the rodents might have found their way into your house. Soak cloth or cotton balls directly in the peppermint oil and use them to pack up any unwanted openings.
In the garden, peppermint oil should be diluted for everyday use. For every 16oz of water, add 20 drops of the essential oil. No need to add vinegar or soap – but make sure to keep an eye on your garden and treat it as needed when pests return.
If you’re not up for making your own essential oil spray, products like Mighty Mint’s Peppermint Oil Rodent Repellent Spray are easily found online and work just as well as chemical products.
Coffee Grounds Naturally Deter Squirrels
If you’ve been composting or just simply tossing your already spent coffee grounds, you now have a natural solution to repel squirrels.
Yes, squirrels hate the scents and feel of used coffee grounds. While there is no scientific evidence that coffee grounds repel squirrels, the fact is that used coffee grounds are an unfamiliar scent to squirrels and may signal that humans are nearby.
You can use coffee grounds as an all-natural fertilizer, to boot! Used coffee grounds are great for your garden. Additionally, this is one of my favorite methods for coffee drinkers as really, you don’t need to purchase anything else. Just simply empty your coffee filter by your garden!
For more effectiveness, drink more coffee. LOL.
Cinnamon Keeps Squirrels Away
Ah yes, cinnamon! If you’ve ever accidentally taken a large spoonful of cinnamon to the face, you’ll know just how spicy it can be. In small amounts cinnamon is a delicious spice. However, its’s a spice!
Cinnamon, specifically ground cinnamon, repels squirrels. This is because cinnamon in larger doses can infuriate the sinus cavities of a squirrel. To use cinnamon to repel squirrels, sprinkle a large amount around the area you’re trying to keep the squirrels away from
Ultimately, this method needs to be done in bulk in order to be effective. Additionally, since its a scent purely exposed on the ground, wind can blow the cinnamon away. Plus, you’ll need to apply every 4-7 days.
You can also use diluted cinnamon oil, combine it with a few drops of peppermint oil, spray and soak a rag, and tie it to a tree or post near your garden, tree or area you’re trying to protect. This combination will have a good shot of keeping squirrels away.
Predator Urine Repels Squirrels
While we want to keep it natural in the home and garden, some scents just aren’t worth getting naturally.
For example, predator scents.
Coyote and fox urine will repel squirrels for obvious reasons. They’ll do anything to avoid their natural predators, and thinking that these two animals are roaming around frequently will keep them out of your yard and away from your home.
The easiest way to get this scent is to find a commercial manufacturer. They are surprisingly easy to find in outdoor stores or online. For example, American Heritage carries natural coyote urine in a 16oz bottle for a very affordable price.
All it takes is a few shakes or sprays around the area you want to protect, and squirrels will take the hint right away.
If you’re interested, take a look at our guide on the best coyote urines here.
Squirrels Avoid Garlic
In addition to the options listed above, there’s another common kitchen item that will help you repel squirrels: garlic.
Do you have garlic in your kitchen right now? Well, good news for you is that you can start repelling squirrels right now. The reason squirrels avoid garlic is due to the pungent scent it provides. When applied properly, garlic can overpower the scent of other plants in the garden and make squirrels think that only garlic is prevalent.
You’ll want to finely crush the garlic cloves up and spread them in a concentrated area near the plants you’d like to repel. Keep in mind, the smell will fade after a day or two and you’ll need to reapply the garlic.
Another viable option is to use Colton’s Naturals Small Animal Repellent, which contains a base of garlic oil, peppermint oil, pepper oil, vinegar and water. All scents that squirrels hate!
Squirrels Hate The Scent of Dryer Sheets
Did you know that dryer sheets have been touted as a naturally insect and rodent repellent for quite sometime? Most notably, farmers of orchards would tie dryer sheets along their deer fence to keep deer away.
Additionally, dryer sheets are one of the scents that mice, another rodent, hate as well.
The reason using dryer sheets as a squirrel deterrent is one of my favorite methods is simply because you already have dryer sheets in your home! Even better, if they don’t work for you, then you really haven’t wasted anything to find out that result.
To use dryer sheets to keep squirrels away, tie a good handful of them near the area you’re trying to keep squirrels from! Your attic, on a fence, or nearby your garden are all acceptable areas.
If you have a mint scented dryer sheet or another scented dryer sheet that is one of the scents squirrels hate on this list, thats a bonus. Otherwise, Bounce Dryer Sheets have been found to work quite well to repel squirrels due to their unique aroma.
Irish Spring Soap Can Repel Squirrels
Aromatic soaps ultimately have notes in their fragrance that can repel certain animals. Irish Spring Soap, with its woody aroma, can actually repel squirrels similar to how it repels raccoons.
If you’d like to read more on that, you can apply the same tactics in an article we wrote about using Irish Spring Soap to repel raccoons by reading here.
Rosemary Repels Squirrels
Rosemary can in-fact repel squirrels. Quite simply, squirrels just don’t like the scent of rosemary. You’ll need to be able to get a strong rosemary scent in order to repel squirrels. Otherwise, if there’s just a hint of rosemary scent, it won’t be enough to keep squirrels away.
You can create your own rosemary spray using rosemary essential oil, and properly dilute the scent with water and a carrier oil. There are plenty of recipes available online if you go this route!
Where to Use Repellents
While squirrels are destructive in general, there are a few key areas that they like to frequent where you should be using these scents whenever necessary.
- Attic: Due to the need for ventilation, attics are easily accessible for squirrels and other pests. It doesn’t take much chewing, if any, for them to find a way in and begin nesting.
- Siding: Squirrels are good at finding openings, and they’ll take advantage of any spot where siding doesn’t quite overlap or is starting to wear away.
- Gardens: They might not be the first thing you think of when you think garden pests, but squirrels are notorious for digging up gardens for both seeds and vegetables. It’s in their nature to dig and store, and to them, a garden is a supermarket. Keep an eye out for little piles of disturbed soils and areas that they seem to return to over and over.
Alternative Ways to Repel Squirrels
Squirrels are so prominent these days that the idea of trapping and releasing them seems ridiculous. If you get rid of one family, another will show up and take their place. Your best bet is management and deterrents.
Have a Family Pet
Because they’re prey animals, squirrels are incredibly aware of surrounding predators. While they often out-smart humans, dogs and cats pose more of a threat to these wily rodents, who see them as natural predators.
It takes a very agile dog and a very stealthy cat to actually catch and harm a squirrel. While that shouldn’t be your goal, just having a pet or two at home, roaming around the yard occasionally, will be enough to keep squirrels at the boundary.
Keep Up with Home Maintenance
Owning a home means endless to-do lists, and it’s easy to put some tasks at the top of the lists and others at the bottom. But keeping up with routine home maintenance – at least checking common problem areas – can help keep squirrels at bay.
Here are some tips and tricks to make your home squirrel-proof:
- Weekly checks: Keeping squirrels out of your house can be as simple as walking around the premises once a week and giving the structure a once-over.
- Are there any open holes or areas a rodent could slip through? Are there signs that they might be poking around certain places, looking for a spot to nest?
- Are there any open holes or areas a rodent could slip through? Are there signs that they might be poking around certain places, looking for a spot to nest?
- Focus on siding: Siding is one of the main ways squirrels sneak in, as it’s easy for them to chew a hole. Once inside they’ll start nesting – so make sure you’re familiar with the state of the outside of your home.
- Block entrances: If you notice any spots where they could get in, or where they’ve already gotten in, get to work making those areas inaccessible. You (or a professional if you’d be more comfortable with that choice) can easily plug holes, install grates, and repair siding as needed.
An overabundance of squirrels is a sign of an unbalanced ecosystem. Although having predators such as foxes might seem intimidating at first, they do wonders for keeping the squirrel population under control.
Learn to live in harmony with the wildlife around your home and they’ll take care of the rest. As soon as a coyote starts makings its rounds through the neighborhood, you’ll notice the squirrel population drop drastically.
Whatever you do, don’t feed or try to attract predators. They are still wild animals and should be treated as such.
Sit back, have a coffee, and watch nature take its natural course.
Grow a Garden
We get it, you might not have the space to grow an expansive garden that includes naturally squirrel-repelling plants. If you’re in a tight spot you probably want to focus on the flowers and vegetables you love the most.
Unfortunately, squirrels are just as comfortable in residential settings as they are in rural areas and they move so quickly that they don’t see humans as threatening most of the time.
If you can find a little space to grow some additional plants, the following could benefit you as squirrels naturally avoid them:
- Daffodils – easy to find! These bright yellow flowering bulbs can be dug up or bought and transferred. They don’t take up much space and are native to many areas.
- Hyacinth – a fragrant flower with tight clusters of pastel-colored flowers
- Geraniums – these are definitely subject to the taste of the gardener. Geraniums don’t smell great to squirrels or humans, but their clustered flowers come in a variety of attractive colors, and they can be kept and maintained in hanging baskets.
- Alliums – you may not have heard of this plant before, but if you’ve seen them, they’re hard to forget. Allium stands on tall stalks and grows a ball-shaped cluster of purple flowers. They cover a wide variety of plants and vegetables, including onions, leeks, shallots, and more. A great addition to any home garden.
The above plants are relatively easy to find and inexpensive. Planting them right in the ground, or in planters around the area you want squirrels to avoid, can go a long way in keeping the rodents out of your garden or away from your house.
Call In the Professionals
If all else fails, check in with your local pest or rodent control company to see how they can help you. They may be able to provide guidance as to what exactly is attracting squirrels to your home and yard, and what the next steps are if you’re unable to combat them yourself.
It’s important to keep in mind that you should not touch or handle squirrels yourself, and to protect yourself from bites. A better option is to get in contact with a professional. 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!
If you’re keeping up on home maintenance and come across a squirrel family or colony, wait until they vacate the area before moving forward with blocking entrances and using the deterrents mentioned above.
If you’re interested, here are some more ways that squirrels can damage your home.
Last Words on Squirrel Control
Luckily for you, there are a variety of scents that will keep squirrels away and under control. While these tree-dwelling animals might be cute to watch play around among the branches, they can cause a shocking amount of damage to the home and garden.
The majority of scents listed above can be found in most home pantries or supermarkets. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Black or White Pepper
- Chili Powder
- Peppermint Oil
Additionally, anything hot or spicy that can be turned into a DIY spray is a great option. Hot sauce and garlic are great examples.
Place scents where needed, as needed, and make sure you’re paying attention to when squirrel activity seems to increase. At that point, you might need to re-spray or soak some cloth in the scent once again.
If you’re looking for something a little more heavy-duty, track down some predator urine. While it sounds unappetizing, squirrels are prey animals and will do everything they can to avoid areas where predators seem active.
Throw on some gloves and sprinkle a little urine around the perimeter of your garden or home.
The most important advice we can give when it comes to squirrel invasions is to pay attention!
The signs are there, and usually obvious, but you should be checking on the outside of your house regularly to make sure they haven’t infiltrated anywhere.
If you have a particularly bad squirrel population, take additional steps such as getting a furry friend, growing plants that squirrels naturally hate, or bringing in the professionals if the task gets overwhelming.
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Nevraumont, Peter N. (1998). Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis. Princeton Press.
Stroud, Dennis C. (1983). An Evaluation of Burrow Destruction As a Ground Squirrel Control Method. University of Nebraska – Lincoln.