What Smells Do Mice Hate The Most?

White-footed Mouse
© iStock.com/Weber

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: July 19, 2023

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Mice are small rodents that can cause big problems. Aside from tearing up your home and leaving their droppings everywhere, they can spread a variety of diseases to humans. Keeping them out of your home can be a hassle, too. Yet, knowing the smells they dislike can give you an edge. So, what smells do mice hate the most? We’ll show you several different smells that mice are known for hating and how you can use them to your advantage to keep these tiny mammals away from your home.  

9 Smells That Mice Hate the Most
Chances are good that you have at least one of these mouse repellants on hand.

What Use Is Knowing the Smells That Mice Hate?

A family of house mice eating spilled cereal off the floor

Knowing what smells mice don’t like can help you keep them away from your home.


The reason that you’ll want to know what smells mice hates the most is for pest control reasons. Using the right smell in a homemade or commercial compound can keep mice out of certain areas.

Mice rely on their senses of touch and smell to navigate the world around them since their vision is so poor. If they are drawn to an area with food, they’re going to find a way to it. After all, mice can squeeze into a space smaller than any coin in your pocket as adults!

Yet, when they encounter some smells, they’ll back off. Their keen senses of smell can be overloaded when they encounter particularly intense scents. That will probably keep them from trying to go through a certain area, but you have to remember that these are tenacious creatures when it comes to food. They will work hard to find another way into your home if it has what they want.

Thus, you can use smells to keep mice away from vulnerable areas in your home. However, the efficacy of doing so is enhanced by using proper pest control methods.

What Smells Do Mice Hate the Most?

baby mouse litter

Mice dislike a wide variety of different smells such as mint, cinnamon, and clove oil.

©Jennifer Thornhill/Shutterstock.com

Mice hate a variety of smells including mint oil, cayenne pepper, dryer sheets, cinnamon, ammonia, clove, vinegar, mothballs, and minty kinds of toothpaste. However, it’s not as though we can ask them which ones they dislike.

The different items that we’re going to list in this section are basically those that have been commonly reported by pest control agencies and people who’ve dealt with mouse infestations in the past. We’ll start by exploring the smells that are commonly used to keep mice away with some certainty. Then we’ll look at the smells that are said to be somewhat effective.

Keep in mind that just because a mouse hates a smell doesn’t mean you can spread it around your home with ease. We’ll show you why some smells that mice hate aren’t feasible to use in and around your home. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what smells mice hate the most.

1. Peppermint Oil

what smells do mice hate

People have used peppermint oil to keep mice away with some success.

©Madeleine Steinbach/Shutterstock.com

Peppermint oil is a popular tool used to fight against mice and rats. If you’ve ever smelled the stuff, you’ll know why that’s the case. This stuff smells great in small amounts, but it can be potent when concentrated.

Peppermint oil is among the smells that mice hate the most, and it’s often used to keep them out of areas around homes. You can buy your own, soak cotton balls with the oil, and place it in trouble spots. Mice will avoid the harsh smell.

Otherwise, you can buy commercial spray bottles of the stuff and treat spray the oil in cabinets and basement entryways. Remember, concentration is key for this oil. The greatest benefit is that the smell won’t bother the user as much as some of the others.

2. Cayenne Pepper

cayenne peppers in a bowl, with ground cayenne in spoon nearby

Cayenne pepper flakes or powder can be sprinkled around your home to deter mice.

©Thanatip S./Shutterstock.com

Cayenne pepper, along with many other types of pepper, is known to make mice avoid an area. Not only is this a strong smell, but it also irritates their nose. The only problem is that you need a way to put down the pepper that won’t irritate you or your family members.

Some people swear by putting flakes or powder down in less-traveled areas of their homes. Others make a concentrated spray with pepper, dish soap, and water. You can also find commercial, pre-made sprays to help you, too.  

3. Dryer Sheets

Hand dropping dryer aromatic sheets in a washing machine

Humans may love the fragrance produced by dryer sheets, mice detest the smell.

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Although we love the smell, mice hate the smell of dryer sheets. They are too strong for the mice to enjoy. The way to use these is simple. You take dryer sheets and rub them along areas where you think mice could be trying to enter your home. Baseboards, inside cabinets, and doorways are all places to use them.

Given their small space, a lot of RV owners swear by keeping dryer sheets in their pantry cabinets.

4. Cinnamon

closeup ceylon cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon oil-soaked cotton balls placed near potential mouse entry points can keep them from coming inside.

©iStock.com/Diana Taliun

Cinnamon is a very powerful smell that can deter and irritate mice. You can’t just throw down some sticks of cinnamon, though. Instead, you need to soak cotton balls in pure cinnamon oil and place them in spots where you think mice are getting into your home. They’ll avoid that area in the future.  

5. Ammonia

what smells do mice hate

Ammonia is a potent chemical, so it must be used carefully.

©Sergio Rojo/Shutterstock.com

Ammonia is an interesting chemical that could scare mice for a variety of reasons. It could make them think that a predator animal, like a pet cat, has urinated in a spot. That would make them avoid the area. Also, the smell is harsh enough on its own.

The only problem is that it’s hard to use this stuff safely. You can put some capfuls of the product in your cabinets, but then you have to deal with the smell. Also, you can’t put ammonia around your home with small children. Use this with caution.

6. Clove

Wooden spoon with cloves on rustic table

Mice hate the strong scent of cloves – make sure that you like it before using it as a repellant.


Clove is a powerful spice that is similar to cinnamon in that it is very strong and bitterly divides people over whether they like it or not. You can use the spice raw, or you can use the essential oil in places where mice travel. This spice is powerful, so you need to like the smell to use it around your home.

7. White Vinegar

white vinegar on the wooden table top

You can spray vinegar as a natural mouse repellant.

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White vinegar is a common household item that can deter mice. You can spray this item or use the cotton ball soaking method to potentially make mice avoid an area. However, white vinegar is one of the less-likely items to keep mice out of an area. It’s potent but hard to concentrate and keep around.

8. Mothballs

Naphthalene mothballs on yellow backgrond.

It takes a considerable amount of mothballs to keep mice away.

©Bowonpat Sakaew/Shutterstock.com

Mothballs are powerful-smelling items that have been used in the past to discourage mice from going into parts of a home. Although mice don’t like the scent of mothballs, you would need to use a lot of mothballs to repel mice. Even then, it may not stop a mouse from entering your home.

A high concentration of mothballs will adversely affect your health, though. So, while mice don’t like the smell of mothballs, it’s not worth the threat to your health.

9. Minty Toothpaste

smells mice hate

Mice don’t like the smell of mint in toothpaste.


Just like peppermint oil, mice can’t stand the smell of minty toothpaste. You can place this around your home in a few ways, but it will probably dry up before it keeps mice away. You’re better off sticking with the peppermint essential oil. Toothpaste can kill mice if taken in large quantities. But the probability of this happening is very low.

What smells do mice hate the most? It seems to be a toss-up between mint and pepper, but other options exist, too. Remember, you should only use these items to form a barrier in a safe manner. That means understanding their potential drawbacks.

Furthermore, mice can hate these smells, but that might not keep them all away. Mice can easily find another, less smelly route into your home. In other words, relying on smell alone to keep mice from entering your house or going into a certain cabinet is not best used as part of a multi-pronged method to deter mice.

Summary of Smells Mice Hate the Most

1Peppermint Oil
2Cayenne Pepper
3Dryer Sheets
7White Vinegar
9Minty Toothpaste

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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