Can You Kill Rats With Salt?

rat crawling
Eric Isselee/

Written by Lex Basu

Updated: September 22, 2023

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Rat infestation is one of the biggest concerns for American homeowners. Existing data shows that roughly 14 million U.S. households currently face the wrath of rodents such as rats. While using rat poison may seem like an immediate solution, it can be pretty harmful to the pets that live in your home. It’s definitely not a risk worth taking.

So, what are the alternatives?

If you’ve looked around the internet for possible ways to kill a rat without an over-the-counter rat poison, you will have certainly come across salt. As bizarre as it may seem, you can kill rats with salt. However, it’s not as straightforward as leaving a bowl of salt for the rat to feed on.

How Does Salt React on Rats?

According to presently available information, rats can take up to a day or less to die after consuming salt. However, they will need to have eaten at least 80 grams (0.17 lbs) of it for the salt to be fatal. Rats cannot survive with more than 70 to 75 grams (0.16 lbs) of salt in their bodies.

Any additional amount of salt can cause severe neurological problems such as muscle paralysis, deafness, blindness, and overall weakness. This is in addition to ailments like gastroenteritis and general inflammation of the system.

To make matters worse for the rats, any excess salt is consumed much quicker due to their small bodies. So, any negative impacts of salt will start to show significantly faster than, say, humans. But rats may be able to reverse the impact of excess salt by drinking water. So, while salt may do the trick if used correctly, something as basic as water could reverse the effects of salt consumption.

The American Psychological Association says that rats generally don’t prefer salted foods. Sodium chloride is not a common choice of food for rats, except when consuming items that have it by default. Keeping this in mind, rats don’t seek out more salt as they get enough already from existing foods.


Any amount of salt can cause severe neurological problems in rats, and, with enough of it, death.

Is It Illegal to Kill Rats in the US?

Killing rats is certainly inhumane, but it’s a worthy sacrifice considering the damage these rodents can do to your home. Not to mention the illnesses they carry. In several U.S. states, killing rats is encouraged, while some states require residents to take a different approach.

For example, Washington D.C. law states that exterminators have to trap these rodents and release them into the wild. The District of Columbia also restricts rat glue traps and snap traps, pitching for the relocation of rat families using a wildlife rehabilitator.

While all 50 U.S. states permit the use of cats or dogs to hunt down rats, it is illegal to do this for sport in many states. Some states also have strict laws for the way rat poison is packaged, and rightly so, because rat poison can be harmful not only to your pets but also to the children at your home.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Salt to Kill Rats


  1. It’s cost-effective: Using salt to deter rats is one of the most cost-effective methods of keeping these rodents at bay. Salt is readily available in most homes and hence doesn’t require you to purchase additional products.
  2. It’s safe: As we’ve discussed above, trying to kill rats with rat poison can be fatal, especially for dogs or cats at home. It is generally recommended to keep these away from kids as well. But salt is not as fatal to your cat or dog as it is to a rat, and since it’s an already available condiment at home, using it makes a great deal of sense.


  1. It kills rats slower: An over-the-counter rat poison will do its job quickly, but the same can’t be said about salt. While it is certainly effective, salt can take between 18 to 24 hours to show its full effect on the rat. Additionally, salt could prove ineffective among large rat populations. Since rats tend to breed fairly quickly and in large numbers, your home could soon be overrun with rodents if not dealt with accordingly.
  2. Water defuses the salt’s efficiency: Using salt in the right proportion with your bait is certainly a good way to get started on getting rid of rats. However, you will have to ensure that there is no water around. Rats can pretty much counter the effects of salt by consuming water if it is available nearby.

How to Build an Effective Salt-Based Bait?

Salt may be a readily available commodity, but rats won’t eat it as it is. So, homeowners can consider items that are traditionally known to be delicacies for rats, such as cheese. Another effective way to lure in your bait is by using rat chow, which is used primarily to feed lab rats.

Although cheese is generally depicted as being a rat’s favorite food, it’s far from the truth. But rats do consume cheese when provided the opportunity, given that they’ll eat practically anything to survive. But one key advantage of using cheese in your bait is that it provides a scent that can be quite appealing to a rat, particularly given the rodent’s heightened sense of smell.

Use a standard slice of blue cheese with at least 80 grams of salt. Depending on the intensity of the cheese’s odor, the rat may choose to eat the entire slice. This would be a win since the primary objective is to get rid of these rodents from your home.

As we’ve touched on above, it’s also important to remove any traces of water from the surroundings. Preferably, you would set the salted slice of cheese somewhere outdoors (away from the reach of pets and kids) so that the rat won’t stink up your home.


Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not a rat’s favorite food. However, it will still eat it, given the opportunity.

What is the Best Homemade Rat Killer?

To create a rat deterrent mixture, simply combine 2 to 2.5 cups of ammonia, 100 to 200 mL of water, and 2-3 spoonfuls of detergent in a bowl. Afterward, place this mixture in areas where rats are commonly spotted. The strong ammonia odor can swiftly deter and potentially harm rats.

In addition, it’s important to note that the only truly safe and effective method for an instant rat kill is a snap trap.

Poisons may take up to a week to be effective, and other types of traps can cause prolonged suffering without providing an immediate kill. Further, leaving out poisons may cause harm to other critters or pets. Please be self-aware and careful regarding which method you choose.

Killing Rats With Other Types of Foods

While using cheese is a pretty simple way to kill a rat, you can also alternate between other food items like bacon, fish, and so on, provided they have a strong enough scent while ensuring you use at least 80 grams of salt.

Rat chow can also be used to mask the effects of salt. However, it may not be feasible for a small number of rats. But if you decide to go this way, rat chow can be found in a pet food shop or most online marketplaces.

Peanut butter also serves as an effective bait and may dissolve the salt easily due to its creamy texture. This is another item that is readily available in most homes, thus serving as an effective bait against rats.

Salt Is Ineffective for a Larger Rat Population

Salt will do just fine for one or two rats that are lurking around your home. However, it won’t quite do the job when the rats are present in larger numbers. Creating bait for a whole bunch of rats is a time-consuming (and often expensive) process. This is where using commercially available rat poison or other forms of rodent control is possibly a safer bet. You can also contact an exterminator to get rid of the rats for you.

Tips to Avoid Rat Infestation in Your Home

Setting up your own rat bait using salt and other household food items will certainly do the trick. But an even more effective method is to prevent them from coming into your home in the first place. Here are some things to ensure the rodents stay out:

  1. Take out the trash frequently. Make sure you offload the day’s trash judiciously to make sure there’s nothing for the rat to consume. Rats generally thrive on waste, including trash. So, emptying your garbage regularly is one way to keep them from ever coming.
  2. Keep your home clean. This one goes without saying, but rats can be kept away by practicing basic hygiene in your surroundings. Try to vacuum or sweep the floor every other day. Make sure there are no clothes or other items lying around on the floor. Since rats prefer hiding, it’s generally best to keep all corners of your home as clean as possible.
  3. Make sure any openings or holes are patched. We already know that rats like good hiding places. Therefore, it is only logical to get rid of such areas within the home. If you spot an opening on the wall that seems big enough for a rat to pass through, ensure it is patched quickly.
taking out the trash

Taking out the trash regularly is a good way to prevent rats from infesting your home in the first place.


Salt is among the most commonly found ingredients that can be used to make homemade bait/poison for rats. But using it in the right quantities is what makes it effective. So as long as you’re mixing at least 80 grams of salt with cheese or peanut butter, it will work just fine. Homeowners also have to be mindful to keep all sources of water closed and discard any existing water that may exist in the sink. This method has its limitations. However, it is the best way to go, especially if you only need to get rid of relatively fewer rats.

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About the Author

Lex is a green-living, tree-hugging, animal-lover, who at one time was the mother to twenty one felines and one doggo. Now she helps pet owners around the globe be the best caretakers for their most trusting companions by sharing her experience and spreading love.

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