Keeping snakes off your property and out of your home is always a proactive endeavor. Taking steps to keep your lawn in order and avoid specific decorations can go a long way. And you can often keep snakes out of your home by eliminating rodent problems and ensuring you’re not giving any reptiles easy entry with holes or cracks in your foundation. But if you’re looking to go the extra mile, you might be able to use some scents to your advantage that have been known to repel snakes.
Of course, it’s important to remember that no one wants to invest in literal snake oil: Experts warn that many items sold at hardware stores marketed as “snake repellent” are rarely effective. Nevertheless, there are still some natural options that are probably already lying around your house that could yield impressive results. Read on to find out which scents experts say can keep snakes away.
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For humans, the smell of fresh cinnamon or clove is usually a sign that a delicious baked good is on its way. But according to experts, snakes have the opposite reaction to the common spices.
“The truth is, snakes have a strong sense of smell, which they use to find accessible food sources,” explains Sholom Rosenbloom, the owner of Rosenbloom Pest Control. “You can take advantage of this trait by using scents they dislike, such as cinnamon and clove oil. These are the only scents recommended by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to repel snakes.”
“Studies have been done on the brown tree snake, and it’s been shown that cinnamon oil and clove oil are effective at repelling this species,” he adds. “But if you plan to use cinnamon or clove oil to repel snakes, just use it in an area that cannot be accessed by pets.”
Some people are surprised to learn that vinegar is one of the most useful items in their homes. Not only is it essential when you’re whipping up a salad or other dishes, but it can also be a fantastic natural cleaner. And now, experts say you can also add “snake deterrent” to that list.
“When it comes to repelling snakes, vinegar is the best option. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that vinegar is an acidic substance,” Jennifer Mecham, a snake expert and writer with ReptilesBlog.com, tells Best Life. “Snakes are very sensitive to acidic substances, and they will avoid anything that is even slightly acidic. Pouring it on the ground can sometimes make them avoid slithering over it.”
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Anyone who has had to protect their precious wardrobe from a moth infestation knows how effective mothballs can be. But it turns out it’s not just the flying pests who have a problem with the unmistakable smell of those pellets.
“Naphthalene—or the chemical in mothballs—has shown some repellent tendencies for snakes,” Roger Dickens, a wildlife technical services manager with Ehrlich Pest Control, tells Best Life. “It does vaporize and dissipate very quickly, so regular reapplications are needed.”
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There’s a reason why we garnish beverages and plates with fresh citrus wedges. The fruit provides an unmistakably fresh aroma and a bright acidic kick to our dishes and drinks with every squeeze. But while humans may dig the sharp bite of lemons and limes, snakes tend to find them less appealing.
“One of the most commonly used snake-repelling scents is citrus,” says Mecham. “Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits contain a chemical called limonene, which is a natural snake repellent. Just place a few slices of citrus fruit around your home, or even rub the peel on the outside of your door and windows.”
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Some people see garlic as a key ingredient in the kitchen. Others see it more as a lifestyle. But whatever your level of passion is for the essential allium, it’s certainly higher than what a snake thinks of it.
“Garlic is a natural snake repellent because snakes don’t like the smell of it,” says Mecham. “But what few people realize is that it’s also good at keeping them away because it is a natural insecticide.”
“It will kill any insects in the area, including the insects that snakes eat,” she explains. “This will make your property less attractive to snakes and make it less likely for them to find food.”
Besides the little bit that might seep out of the fireplace or a slowly smoldering piece of palo santo during a cleanse, having too much smoke in the air can make it hard to feel comfortable, let alone breathe. It turns out it’s not different for snakes.
“Smoke is another excellent snake-repelling scent, and any strong smell of it will keep snakes away,” says Mecham.
Of course, humans don’t want to breathe in too much smoke, either. But it can be effective if you’re looking to coax one out of a hiding place and back outside. “Place a smoldering piece of wood or a smoke bomb in areas you’re afraid might be hosting a snake and see if it doesn’t send them packing,” she advises, adding that it can also be helpful for campsites.
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Essential oils can be an easy way to get a little aromatherapy in your space, especially if you’re using an item like a diffuser. But while you might find them relaxing, one oil in particular can help keep snakes at bay.
“Peppermint oil is an effective natural snake repellent. It works by masking the scents they use to navigate and hunt, making it difficult for them to find prey,” says Mecham. “They also flat out dislike the strong, minty smell of peppermint itself. So it can be a natural, effective way to keep snakes away from your home, yard, garden, or campground.”