Why Vinegar Repels Chipmunks (And How To use It)

How to use vinegar to repel chipmunks

Chipmunks can be cute little animals that scamper about and stuff acorns, peanuts, sunflowers seeds, and whatever else in their cheeks. But when they start eating your plants or digging tunnels through your yard, you just want them gone. Is there anything that will naturally repel chipmunks?

The strong, sour smell of vinegar works wonders to repel chipmunks. Chipmunks hate the smell of vinegar, and it can be used in a spray bottle as a perimeter spray to send them away. You can also soak vinegar in rags or cotton balls to make chipmunks pack up and leave.

Instead of resorting to traps, poisons, or harmful chemicals that can affect your pets, using all-natural vinegar to repel chipmunks works wonders! And, today, we’re going to tell you exactly how!

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How Vinegar Repels Chipmunks

Little chipmunk (Eutamias sibiricus) or Siberian squirrel searching for food in the forest in Noord Brabant in the Netherlands

Now that you’ve had first hand experience with the tremendous damage that chipmunks can do, let’s figure out how to send these pests packing their bags.

You don’t have to get tons of expensive equipment, or spend a lot of money, just use what you probably have in your house already.

Grab some white vinegar, a spray bottle, and some cotton balls or old rags. White distilled vinegar will work great in repelling chipmunks.

You can get two gallons of vinegar right here with Member’s Mark Distilled White Vinegar. This should be enough to bother the chipmunks’ sense of smell in your entire neighborhood. Hey, and when you’re finished here, you can pickle some of your veggies!

Do you need spray bottles? If so, these Uineko Plastic Spray Bottle (4 Pack, 24 Oz, All-Purpose) Heavy Duty are perfect for making your vinegar solution! Here are four, 24-ounce bottles to pour your vinegar solution in to repel those annoying chipmunks. 

1. Chipmunks Have A Strong Sense Of Smell – Which Makes Them Hate Vinegar

Chipmunks have a very keen sense of smell. They use their tiny noses to sniff for food and to seek out predators. They can smell foods such as berries and nuts, things that don’t typically don’t put out a lot of odor.

These little striped rodents can also smell predators before they even see them.

There are a lot of animals that make meals out of chipmunks so they have to be able to sense danger before it gets too close. Foxes, snakes, owls, weasels, and many others will prey on chipmunks – it’s nature!

Having an extraordinary sense of smell is essential for their survival. So, when their noses are clogged by cloying scents such as vinegar they are at the mercy of these predators.

Not being able to smell food or predators will make chipmunks very nervous, and may cause them to seek safer refuge.

2. Vinegar Irritates A Chipmunks Mucous Passages

Vinegar is made up of acetic acid and mixed with water to dilute the solution. On its own, acetic acid is very corrosive. White vinegar has a pH of 2.4, which is very acidic; that’s why it’s always diluted to a weak solution.

This acid can be irritating, hence why when you smell vinegar, your eyes will water, and your nose may sting.

Imagine what the smell of vinegar would be like if you had a sense of smell that was 50 or even 100 times stronger! One slight whiff could be enough to knock you off your feet.

If chipmunks actually touch or run through vinegar it could irritate their sensitive skin and feet. Chances are, this would not happen, because they would smell it first and run in the opposite direction, but the irritating sensation could work as a double deterrent.

Armed with this knowledge, let’s get into how to use vinegar to repel pesky chipmunks.

How To Repel Chipmunks Using Vinegar

Don’t despair if you have a population of chipmunks living in your yard or digging around through the ground.

chipmunk on wood and pine needles

You can use plain vinegar to send these rodents scurrying to the next county.

If you can see their tunnel entrances around your yard, one of the best ways to send the signal that chipmunks are no longer allowed around is to soak cotton balls in vinegar and place the cotton balls around the tunnels.

Drop Vinegar Soaked Cotton Balls Wherever You See Ground Entrances

Be sure to locate any of their holes and drop some vinegar-soaked cotton balls into them. Keep checking for new holes and drop some vinegar bombs into the new ones if they show up.

Eventually, the vinegar will degrade and the smell will disappear so you’ll have to replenish the vinegar every several days or so.

After heavy rains, go ahead and soak some more cotton balls and drop them back into the holes. Keep doing this until you stop seeing chipmunk damage, and you no longer see them running around everywhere.

Don’t have cotton balls laying around your house, no problem, you can order these Cliganic Organic Super Jumbo Cotton Balls. These cotton balls are jumbo-sized to hold even more pungent-smelling vinegar, and are biodegradable!

2. Put Out Vinegar Barriers Where You Want To Repel Chipmunks

You don’t have to only drop vinegar scent bombs in their tunnels.

You can leave smelly cotton balls anywhere you don’t want chipmunks frolicking, digging, and being nuisances. The harsh odors will keep them away from your flowers, your house, your vegetable garden, or wherever you deposit them.

If you want to keep chipmunks away from your shed, garage, or house, place the vinegar-soaked cotton balls around these areas.

They will be sure to avoid any of these areas. If you don’t have cotton balls, you can soak rags or strips of fabric and do the same. 

3. Pour Vinegar Straight Into Their Burrows

Vinegar is very inexpensive compared to other methods and repellents.

If you’re wanting to make chipmunks pack their bags quickly, you can pour straight vinegar into their burrows. The strong smell could expedite their eviction.

Keep in mind that vinegar can damage some plants, especially their roots. Sometimes, vinegar is used as a natural weed killer, so if you want to keep your grass or other plants, be careful where you pour the vinegar.

The good thing about vinegar—well, one of the many good things—is that it breaks down quickly.

4. Leave Dishes Of Vinegar Out

If you don’t like the idea of soaking cotton balls or rags with vinegar for whatever reason, you can put out shallow dishes of vinegar.

The smell will still be the same, and it will still have the same repelling effects, but you won’t have cotton balls or chunks of fabric laying around.

Just check on the dishes or containers every few days and top them off when the smell weakens. Of course, just be mindful of any pets you have and try to keep the dish out of reach.

5. Use A Vinegar Spray To Keep Chipmunks Away

Another way to keep chipmunks away is to mix up a one-part vinegar to one-part water mixture in a spray bottle.

Now take the bottle and spray everywhere you want to prevent chipmunk activity. To keep them out of your house or other buildings, spray the solution around your foundation every few days.

Go around and refresh the spray every few days so these rodents get the hint. A strong odor of vinegar will quickly tell the chipmunks they are not welcome there.

If you’d like some non-vinegar options, take a look at our piece on the best chipmunk repellents here!

Why Are Chipmunks Bad To Have Around Anyways?

Striped funny chipmunk with full cheeks eating cedar nuts from pine cone on tree trunk and procures food for winter. Portrait of cute rodent close up on blurred forest background. Forest wildlife

Maybe you enjoy seeing the little striped critters scamper about in their hurried manner. The truth is, Chipmunks can be entertaining and very cute, but lying behind all that cuteness is the ability to cause a lot of damage—cue menacing music.

Remember that your favorite movie chipmunks were housetrained, and though they could make a mess, these three didn’t destroy your garden. Real chipmunks, though no less cute, can be monumentally destructive.

According to the University of New Hampshire, chipmunks will eat a variety of foods, including mushrooms, roots, and even bird eggs! They also seem quite fond of strawberries, tomatoes, and tulip bulbs.

When chipmunks are left to multiply, they can quickly and efficiently reduce the production of home gardens.

Chipmunks Like To Dig

Squirrels live in trees and often come to the ground to find seeds, nuts, and other edibles.

Chipmunks on the other hand live in the ground and will dig elaborate tunnels and leave behind holes everywhere. These tunnels can be unsightly and dangerous.

The holes aren’t very big, but when chipmunks constantly go in and out and dig the holes more and more, these holes can become tripping hazards.

If you’ve been noticing a lot of holes lately, check out our article about how to seal up chipmunk holes for good! By first ensuring the chipmunks are out of the holes (and we recommend contacting a professional before you do this), and then sealing them up with caulk, mesh, and a bunch more materials – you can keep them away for good!

These Holes Can Damage Foundations

Chipmunks will often tunnel under foundations or sidewalks. While there are conflicting reports about whether they can do damage to foundations, these tunnels can certainly cause sidewalk cracks. And these repairs can become expensive!

The USDA Wildlife Services Department comments on the destructive habits of chipmunks.

Chipmunk burrowing and tunnels have been known to damage ditch banks, and canals, and mess up irrigation systems. Chipmunks can also cause damage by burrowing under stairs, patios, and retention walls.

To keep water out of their homes, chipmunks will often burrow into sloping banks so that water drains out. This can cause damage to retain walls and make drainage ditches weak.

Chipmunks Will Eat Your Plants

Whether you have plants in pots or a beautiful flower garden, chipmunks can uproot plants while searching for food and ruin your potted plants. They also like to eat flower bulbs.

While they don’t tend to like daffodils, if you have tulips or crocus chipmunks will greedily devour these.

If you plan on growing veggies and fruits, the chipmunks will be there to devour these plants and goodies too.

Chipmunks love tomatoes, celery, and leafy greens. That is, if they let these plants even start to produce food, often they will eat the tender new plants before they grow to full size.

Chipmunks Have An Intense Sense Of Curiosity

When a chipmunk and its family set up a colony on your property, they consider it their area. Chipmunks certainly believe that possession is the law. So whenever you go digging new plants, add mulch, or do something different to your yard, chipmunks will go out and inspect. 

If you’ve planted new bulbs, plants, or seeds, they will smell the newly turned earth and check it out. Once there, they may eat your bulbs, devour the seeds you just planted, or dig up your new plants.

When you add a new bed of mulch, they could go check it out and start tunneling through your hard work. They can make a mess, spread your mulch all around and out of the beds, and disturb your flowers, all because they are terribly curious.

Guard Your Bird Feeders – Chipmunk Love Them!

Just like those pesky squirrels, chipmunks love to visit bird feeders.

Some of their favorite foods include nuts, berries, and seeds; all things that fill bird feeders.

When a chipmunk gets into a bird feeder, it will eat its fill, then fill its cheeks and store the seeds in its burrows. Then they will invite their family and friends to the feast.

I’ve seen several chipmunks run up and down feeders and empty them out in a matter of hours!

I Don’t Have A Garden, Are Chipmunks Still A Nuisance?

chipmunk on concrete block

They certainly can be! It’s not often they get into your house if they have a nice burrow in the ground, and have a stable food source.

But there are times when chipmunks get into your house, garage, storage shed, or other building.

Inside your house, they can get into your basement, crawlspace, attic, or even live in the walls.

Like mice, chipmunks are also rodents. They have the same type of teeth as mice and rats that need to be worn down – so they will chomp away!

Chipmunks Can Chew Through Most Building Materials

Chipmunks have to constantly gnaw on things to keep their teeth from growing too long.

Their teeth don’t stop growing, so they constantly chew on wood and other building materials to keep them worn down.

While they are gnawing on materials to wear down their teeth, they can easily chew through walls. Once they get inside, they find a warm place that’s safe from predators. Here they can continue to cause damage, multiply, and cause more damage.

They Chew Through Insulation And Wires

When these pesky rodents get inside your house they will tunnel through insulation, making it less effective.

Like mice, they will urinate and defecate here causing odors, mold, and other problems.

They can also chew through plumbing pipes and electrical wires.

However, it is so important that if you are noticing chipmunks around your property always contact professional help immediately. What may seem like a little problem, can actually be way bigger – and you may need a variety of professional exterminators to help you.

That’s All We Have!

If you have chipmunks as neighbors, they can be cute to watch, but more often than not, they end up a nuisance.

They can dig extensive tunnels that cause a lot of damage. Chipmunks also can ruin your garden, whether it’s decorative, or for food, they will ruin your hard work.

By utilizing the pungent smell of vinegar, and turning that against the chipmunk’s keen sense of smell, you can make them search for sweeter-smelling pastures.

Keep a good supply of white vinegar in your house, and you shouldn’t have to worry about chipmunk damage ever again. If you’d like more options, take a look at our piece on the scents that chipmunks hate!

References:

Thomas, Kim Rutherford. “Burrow systems of the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus pipilans Lowery) in Louisiana.” Journal of Mammalogy 55.2 (1974): 454-459.

Vander Wall, Stephen B., and Stephen H. Jenkins. “Plant—animal interactions and climate: Why do yellow pine chipmunks (Tamias amoenus) and eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) have such different effects on plants?.” Ecoscience 18.2 (2011): 130-137.

Wall, Stephen B. Vander, Elaine CH Hager, and Kellie M. Kuhn. “Pilfering of stored seeds and the relative costs of scatter-hoarding versus larder-hoarding in yellow pine chipmunks.” Western North American Naturalist (2005): 248-257.

Müller, Sara Savage. “RODENTS OR GNAWING ANIMALS.” The Museum News (Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences) 8.6 (1913): 87-91.

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