Vinegar: Why It Works To Repel Raccoons And How To Use It
It’s late at night, you’re sleeping soundly, but then you’re awakened by a cacophony outside. You sigh and wonder how long these bandits are going to continue to raid your house. Is there anything you can do to repel the raccoons that make a mess and keep you awake every night?
Raccoons hate the smell of vinegar because it overpowers their sense of scent, which they use to find other attractive food sources, shelter, and mates. By using a vinegar spray, or by soaking rags in white diluted vinegar, you can effectively repel raccoons away from your property and garbage.
The first thing to do when trying to repel raccoons is to figure out why raccoons are visiting your house in the first place. Once that is accomplished, remove the temptations, then use the power of vinegar to keep them from coming back. Read on to find out more about why vinegar works to repel raccoons, and how to use it!
Why Should You Repel Raccoons?
Raccoons are cute, right? There is no denying it! These furry little bandits with their eye bands and tiny hands can be so incredibly cute, that you sometimes don’t want to deter them.
The problem is, although these animals look cute, they are also incredibly smart and can cause big damage.
Most of the time, if you’re having a raccoon problem – it’s because they are getting into the garbage. They can upend trash cans and spread the trash all over the yard. They can also tear up yards in the search for food, get into attics and crawlspaces, and cause big headaches for homeowners.
Raccoons have been known to climb into chimneys and get into attics. Inside they can cause extensive damage to the property (if you specifically want to repel raccoons from your attic, check out our raccoon attic repelling guide here.)
Not only can raccoons tear up furniture and belongings while searching for tasty morsels, but their droppings are quite unwelcome too.
Raccoons Love Digging Through Trash
Let’s face it, we throw away a lot of food. We don’t mean to, but sometimes the leftovers from Saturday night suddenly look like a science experiment gone wrong.
They will chew on leftover chicken bones, pizza crusts, and whatever else they find. Then when they have their fill, they leave you with a mess and don’t even offer a tip. Raccoons have absolutely no compunction against eating our even nastiest leftovers.
These little bandits have a keen sense of smell and can sniff out morsels like this from a long way away. Once they find a reliable food source, the raccoons will return night after night to feast on the bountiful, trash buffet.
With their size—raccoons can weigh up to 20 pounds and be nearly 30 inches long—it’s easy for them to knock over large garbage cans.
Their front paws function just like hands, and they are clever enough to lift lids and open latches, and once they have access to all that glorious garbage, they will rip open bags and spread trash all over your yard.
Find out more information on why raccoons love your garbage!
Raccoons Will Ruin A Garden
That prized vegetable garden isn’t off limits to a hungry raccoon and its family. Your corn, peas, strawberries, potatoes, and many other fruits and veggies will be devoured by hungry ringtails.
Raccoons especially love corn. You will see broken stalks and chewed, eaten cobs littering your yard when these hungry critters come to dine.
They are omnivores that will eat nearly anything remotely edible!
Fruit trees and bushes seem to be a favorite too. Berries, grapes, apples, and more are not immune to the ravaging raccoon forays. So, if you have a garden and there are raccoons in the vicinity, they could be tempted to make a massive mess of your hard work.
Raccoons Will Damage Your yard
Insects are a favorite food of raccoons. They are full of protein and fat, and raccoons can’t seem to get enough, especially grubs, earthworms, spiders, and Junebugs. These little beasts can destroy a yard in their search for ground-dwelling bugs.
You may come out to see dozens of divots and holes in your yard when raccoons find juicy bugs to eat. It won’t take long for a group of raccoons to make your yard look like a war zone while digging for grubs and worms.
The good thing is, raccoons are getting rid of the grub, and eventually the Japanese beetle problem. The bad news is it means hours of work and many dollars to get your yard back to normal.
Visit our article to find more reasons why raccoons are attracted to your yard.
Raccoons Can Make Off With Your Chickens
If you’re raising chickens for food, for eggs, or to help keep down the insect population, you’ll probably lose more than a few to hungry raccoons.
If they can find a way in, or work out the door, raccoons will eat the eggs, and chicks, and probably make off with a full-grown pullet or two.
Unless your chickens are securely packed away with locks, or intricate doors, raccoons may be able to make their way inside. They can figure out some latches and knobs. Once they get inside, they’ll continue to come back night after night.
The same goes for rabbits if you’re keeping them outside. Though it is rare, if the opportunity presents itself, a raccoon can eat rabbits. Raccoons are not natural rabbit predators, but they are extremely opportunistic.
Rabbits can easily outrun a lumbering raccoon, but bunnies locked in cages, especially babies can be a tempting treat.
Raccoons will Eat All The Food From Bird Feeders
If you own bird feeders, you know all the other critters who want the nutritious seeds inside. Chipmunks, squirrels, bears, and even raccoons will raid the feeders.
While the smaller pests will simply empty all the seeds, raccoons will utterly destroy the feeders in an attempt to get the crunchy morsels inside. Squirrel-proof feeders are often no match for the grasping hands of raccoons.
Not only will you have lost several pounds of seed to the masked bandits, but you’ll probably have to buy new feeders after a raccoon damages them.
Raccoons Can Cause Damage To Your House
These beasts are great climbers, and when they are looking for a new den, your attic may have a sign inviting raccoons in. If there are trees nearby, or limbs overhanging your roof, raccoons can easily climb onto the roof or find access to your attic.
They have been known to pry open attic vents or peel away siding in search of a warm den to spend the winter.
If raccoons get inside your house, you may be unfortunate enough to host a nursery of raccoons. Raccoons can destroy insulation, chew through boxes and wires, and generally make an astounding mess. And of course, you will have to deal with the waste (feces and urine) they deposit wherever they go.
Basements and crawlspaces can be prime real estate as well when cold weather sets in. While you may not see them much, raccoons have figured out how to live among, and even thrive around humans and our settlements, especially to hibernate!
Raccoons Aren’t Hibernators
Raccoons don’t truly hibernate. When winter hits, raccoons will stay inside their dens as much as possible. To do this, raccoons will pack on the pounds before winter, so they don’t have to be as active.
When temps are mild, or when hunger strikes the masked critters may come out in search of food. Otherwise, they will stay inside and try to sleep the winter away. What a life…
So, How Does Vinegar Repel Raccoons?
Raccoons will use their noses to find food. This is the main reason they are visiting your home. They smell something that signifies there’s a meal nearby.
By using vinegar, you are using their heightened sense of smell against them. You can use this super-powered nasal assault to keep these pests far away.
Vinegar has a sharp, pungent smell that even most of us don’t care for. The strong smell comes from acetic acid, which is what white vinegar is. Most stores carry diluted white vinegar mixed with water for cooking purposes (typically around 5% concentration), which is perfect to use as opposed to a stronger mixture.
The strong-smelling scent of white vinegar can overpower any pleasant smells that raccoons like, such as garbage, and rotting fruit. The smell will also block their sense of taste. It’s like a one-two punch that will easily repel raccoons!
How To Use Vinegar To Keep Raccoons Away
To use vinegar as a raccoon repellent, first, you need to know where these pests are gathering and what they are getting into.
Most of the time it’s obvious because their prints are easy to recognize, and of course, they make a large mess.
Now, to use it – just use a sray bottle like this 32oz Plastic Spray Bottle and mix up white diluted vinegar and water (about half water, and half vinegar) and then spray it wherever you have seen evidence of raccoons. Spray it on your trash cans, and even inside if you choose!
If you want to really send a message, you can add other scents that raccoons hate to the vinegar. Raccoons also don’t like the smell of garlic, hot peppers, and even peppermint.
You can either boil peppers or garlic in water and then add that to the vinegar or use peppermint essential oil.
For more scents that raccoons hate, click to check out our in-depth article with more natural options!
Spray Raccoon-Entry Points
Anywhere you have noticed raccoons breaking and entering, be sure to soak these areas with your vinegar solution. If you see tracks near the fence, or around your garbage cans, spray these areas.
If you have chickens, spray around the coop. Just don’t spray too close as the chickens don’t like the smell either.
Wherever you see raccoon tracks, give that area a soaking.
The smell should be enough to deter them. Also, if they can’t smell the scents that are attracting them because the vinegar is overpowering them, they won’t have a reason to visit anymore.
Spray Areas Where Raccoons Hang Out
Hopefully, this never happens, but if you know these animals have found a way into your house, spray these areas as well to keep them from returning.
If you notice areas where raccoons seem to congregate around your property, definitely give these areas a heavy spritzing. Of course, if you come across a live raccoon, don’t corner it. Just slowly back away and call a professional pest control company.
Raccoons may look cute and innocent, but they can be mean and ill-tempered if they feel threatened. Don’t tangle with one, call a pro.
You can read more on what attracts raccoons to your yard for ideas on where they could be coming in from.
Leave Vinegary Cotton Balls Or Rags In Raccoon-Prone Area
If spraying every few days gets tedious, or you want something a little stronger, you can leave behind vinegar presents.
These aren’t gifts that the critters will be thankful for, instead, they will want to keep them far away.
Either gather up some cotton balls or old rags you aren’t going to use anymore and soak them in vinegar. Next, strategically place these vinegar-soaked presents, wherever you want to keep the raccoons out.
This method may work longer than spraying because there is more vinegar soaked into the rags or cotton balls. You will still need to soak them every so often to keep the smell strong, but you won’t have to do it as often as spraying.
Recharge The Areas With New Vinegar
When using the odorous spray, you will have to recharge the scent about once every three days or so, more after it rains. The vinegar-soaked presents will keep their smell for about a week, depending on the weather.
Just be sure to spray or recharge the rags when you can no longer smell the vinegar. If you can’t smell it, it doesn’t mean the raccoons can’t, but it does mean the smell is fading. It may no longer be strong enough to keep them away.
Use A Multi-Tiered Approach To Keep Raccoons Away
Raccoons don’t really want to come and hang out at your house. Sure, you may be the life of the party, and all your friends and family love your biting wit and great barbecues, but none of this interests raccoons in the least… well, except for the barbecue part.
The reason raccoons are coming to your property is because they can either smell food, or they have found a place to bed down during the day. By restricting access, getting rid of any potential food sources, and using the vinegar deterrent, you can keep these masked night terrors away indefinitely.
Follow the steps below to keep raccoons from being attracted to your house, along with the vinegar tricks to make sure they stay away. If they are hungry enough, even with the smell of vinegar, they may still come in and cause some damage.
Using a multi-tiered approach makes sure you no longer get masked bandits on your property.
Make Your Garbage Inaccessible To Raccoons
Unnatural food sources will attract raccoons to your neighborhood. Garbage and pet food are the most popular things that attract raccoons. People who feed feral cats—no matter how good the intentions—will end up attracting raccoons.
You can spray vinegar around or in your garbage cans to keep raccoons away. Another tactic is to spray the inside of your trash with vinegar to both mask other smells and make it taste bad to raccoons.
Keeping the lids tight on garbage cans can help as well. Unfortunately, unless they have strong latches or are made specifically to keep wildlife out, many trash cans are easy to lift open.
Must-Try Trash Can Lid Locks
That’s where the Trash Can Lid Lock comes in. These are braided steel cables, mechanically attached to garbage cans to keep raccoons, and more from getting into your trash.
The steel cable can’t be chewed through, and the cords are drilled into the container for extra tough durability.
Another alternative, if you don’t want to drill through your trash cans, is the Doggy Dare Trash Can Lock. This trash can lid lock requires no tool for installation. It simply fits over the trash can handles and keeps lids tight so animals can’t get inside.
Keep Your Grill Clean
Can anybody really resist the smell of food being cooked over hot coals? “Not I”, that’s for sure.
These strong scents can pull raccoons into your area where they then start destroying everything in their search for food.
Whenever you are finished cooking that pork shoulder, the barbecue-glazed chicken, or marinated vegetables, be sure to clean up the grates and clean off any spilled food.
With these smells gone, raccoons won’t party crash your area after everyone else has gone home.
Keep Up With Garden Maintenance
Overripe fruits and rotting vegetables put out irresistible scents on raccoons. If you have any fruit trees, be sure to pick up any dropped fruits, especially if they are starting to ferment.
These are favorite foods for raccoons.
The same goes for old vegetables. It may be beneficial to let them rot back into the ground, but if you are having problems with raccoons, throw the old vegetables into the compost bin, and then spray some vinegar around them to keep them away.
Restrict Access To Your House
Make sure there are no access points to your house. If you have overhanging trees that get near the roof, you may want to contact a tree trimming service to cut back limbs that raccoons can use to access your attic.
Make sure roof vents and gutters are in good repair. If they are loose or broken, get them fixed so that raccoons and other pests can’t start squatting in your house.
The same goes for access to your crawlspace and basement. Make sure there are no cracks in the foundation or weak doorways they can squeeze themselves into.
However, if you know you have these raccoons living in your house, we recommend calling a professional pest service to remove them to ensure you and the animal’s safety.
Check out our article to find out more ways raccoons are getting into your house!
Is The Raccoon’s Home Nearby?
Male raccoons typically live in big, grassy areas, however, can roam miles away from their home and claim a large expanse of territory, since females don’t venture out very far.
If you have raccoons visiting your house every night, chances are you have a female with cubs nearby.
Raccoons do typically like to stay near sources of freshwater such as rivers, and streams. If you have a small stream on your property, you could very well have a population of raccoons on your property.
Raccoons have been able to adapt to urban living though. While they like to live near a scenic brook, they have no problem adapting to life in the big city.
Make Sure Your Small Livestock Is Locked Tight
When you have chickens or rabbits on your property, you know you have to watch out for numerous predators. Foxes, hawks, owls, weasels, snakes, and even raccoons will be searching for ways to make a meal of your chickens.
Rabbits have numerous predators as well. While raccoons don’t typically go after rabbits, they can if they are hungry and they have access to the cages. Raccoons have paws that are extremely agile, and they can easily figure out latches and knobs.
The best way to keep raccoons out is to make sure there are no open holes, and the entrances are locked up tight. Just think of the access points to rabbits and chickens like this; if its easiy to open a door, a raccoon can probably work it open as well.
You can learn more about how raccoons use their paws to open doors here if you’d like, its quite fascinating!
Remove The Bird Feeders
You don’t have to get rid of them permanently, just take them away when the birds turn in for the night. When it gets dark, all the birds that visit feeders are in their nests, so there’s really no reason to keep them out all night.
When you are getting raccoon raids in the dark, removing the feeders is the best way to keep them from destroying them and emptying the contents. It’s also one less food source for these clever creatures.
While you can grease the poles with petroleum jelly or employ other methods to deter raccoons from eating all the birdseed, simply taking them down at night and locking them away removes all temptation.
Keep Pet Food Put Away
Cat and dog food will definitely attract raccoons. Cat food especially has a strong odor that carries far and wide. In fact, when people use humane traps for raccoons and other wild animals, they often use cans of cat food to lure them in.
If you leave pet food outdoors for strays or your pets, you could be inadvertently attracting raccoons to your house.
Just like the bird feeders, move this food in from outside to keep raccoons away.
If you have pet food stored outside, make sure it’s kept in airtight containers. When raccoons smell a big bin full of dog or cat food, they will figure out how to get to it. There are a lot of calories and protein in pet food that raccoons would love to gorge on.
Raccoons are crafty and have figured out how to live among humans. They will eat garbage, and pet food, get into gardens, and possibly into your house. You don’t have to put up with this kind of disrespect and destruction though.
By using vinegar as a spray or soaking rags in it, you can repel raccoons!
Of course, finding out why raccoons are visiting in the first place will help to keep them away. If you are having trouble with raccoons, restrict anything that may attract them, then use vinegar to further repel them and you’ll not have to deal with them anymore.
Corman, Lauren. “Getting their hands dirty: Raccoons, freegans, and urban ‘trash.’.” Journal for Critical Animal Studies 9.3 (2011): 28-61.
Stuewer, Frederick W. “Raccoons: their habits and management in Michigan.” Ecological Monographs 13.2 (1943): 203-257.
Barding, Erin E., and Thomas A. Nelson. “Raccoons use habitat edges in northern Illinois.” The American Midland Naturalist 159.2 (2008): 394-402.
Riley, Seth PD, John Hadidian, and David A. Manski. “Population density, survival, and rabies in raccoons in an urban national park.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 76.6 (1998): 1153-1164.
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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