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Anna I Peña

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What Scents Do Cockroaches Hate

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Home > Blog >  What Scents Do Cockroaches Hate

One thing that you don’t want to spot in your home or commercial property is a cockroach. You know they don’t travel alone, they multiply rapidly, and they’re difficult to eliminate after settling into a cozy new home. That’s why preventive measures like using natural scents are a great idea. 

Roach crawling in the trash

You can use some natural, non-toxic smells to make roaches think twice about moving into your property. While it’s never a guarantee that you will never see a bug in your home or workspace, it’s a simple action you can take to decrease your chances of experiencing a difficult-to-eradicate infestation. 

So, how do you repel roaches with scents? We have some suggestions to help you select the right natural cockroach repellent for your property. 

How Can Scents Repel Roaches? 

Many natural scents can repel roaches because they have a strong sense of smell. They use that sense to find food and maneuver their environment individually and as a group. When they smell something that is a potential danger, they have the instinct to move away from it. 

When those dangerous substances are associated with your property, they’re likely to search for a more suitable place to settle down. The catch is that the more suitable place may still fall on your property if you only place the scents in one room or a select area. You may need to use multiple scents in different areas, depending on foot traffic from humans and pets in some rooms. 

Are Cockroaches Able to Smell? 

Cockroaches have a strong sense of smell and use it to communicate with one another and find safe food sources. In a scientific study exploring how the human brain might pick up on a smell and then create spatial information to determine its location, researchers identified some fascinating information about how smell works for the American cockroach. 

Roaches have two sophisticated antennae that probe their surrounding environment for smells. Those antennae then create images in the roach’s brain as to the physical location and form of the object smelled. It’s why roaches know exactly which crevice and crack to squeeze into when searching for safety, warmth, food, and water. 

It’s also why smells are an effective deterrent for roaches. While more severe infestations may require fast attention from a professional pest control service, it helps to know how to prevent cockroaches from finding your property attractive. 

Can Using Air Freshener in Your Garbage Can Really Deter Cockroaches? 

Before we discuss what natural scents can help repel cockroaches naturally, we want to answer this question. There are a lot of people dropping air fresheners in their trash cans under the belief that the smell will offend roaches and send them running. Not only does it almost never work, but some scents may attract cockroaches and other pests. 

Roaches have an incredibly sharp sense of smell, so they’re likely to detect the contents of the trash even with the air freshener in the can. If the smell isn’t something the bugs associate with a lethal toxin, they’re probably going to rummage in the trash to find the good stuff they detect anyway. If they find the smell attractive, then you’re just assuring they stop by for dinner. 

Can Scented Trash Bags Keep Roaches Away? 

They now make trash bags pre-scented with mint or other scents known to repel cockroaches, mice, and other common trash invaders. These bags may prove effective because peppermint, winter mint, and spearmint are among the strongest odors to deter various bugs and rodents. 

When you purchase repellent trash bags, the scent is built into the plastic and is much stronger than the aroma you may create with a simple air freshener. If you don’t want to buy pre-scented bags, you can use mint essential oil in and around your trash cans as a deterrent. 

We’ll talk more about mint scents in a moment, along with a variety of natural resources you may find useful for keeping the creepie crawlies out of your home and place of business. 

What Natural Scents Keep Roaches Away Safely? 

The best natural cockroach repellents do the job without creating potentially toxic conditions for humans and pets. To deliver the best options for your home or business, we started with one important question: What scents do roaches hate? 

We found a long list of scents that answer that question, but they weren’t all safe for human and pet exposure. Following is a list of the best options that are both effective at deterring roaches and non-toxic for humans, cats, and dogs when applied properly.  


If you don’t have time to experiment with various natural pest repellents, mint is the perfect starting point. Not only are there some scientific studies that back the use of peppermint for pest repelling, but many people have tried it with consistent success. 

There are a couple of ways to use mint effectively in your home or even in a workspace: 

  • Grow fresh mint plants. The aroma will spread through the room, freshening up your environment while warning bugs to stay away. You can use the plants for cooking, adding flavor to your favorite dishes. 
  • Mix peppermint, winter mint, or spearmint essential oils in a spray bottle with water. You can use around 10 drops per cup of water or just keep testing it to get the right potency for the size of the space you’re treating. Spray the mix around baseboards, windows, doors, and other areas that bugs might use to enter your property. 

Of course, you can always leave dishes of peppermint candy around your home as well. It’s a great way to occasionally treat the little ones while presenting the offensive smell to roaches. 

Essential Oils 

Essential oils are more readily available now than ever, and many are effective at driving away cockroaches and ants, spiders, and even mice. They’re easy to store at home safely, even if you have children and pets running wild. 

You can mix them into unique aromas that provide enjoyment for your household while telling the roaches to look elsewhere for shelter. 

What are the best essential oils to repel roaches and other pests? Start with the mints because they’re the most effective, but you can play with some of these as well: 

  • Citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Tea tree 
  • Bergamot
  • Cypress
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus

Bay Leaves 

If you’ve heard people talk online about crushing bay leaves and spreading them around their kitchen cupboards, you may have a question: Why do bay leaves repel cockroaches? Or is this just another virtual trend that does nothing when tested in real life? 

It turns out bay leaves are one of the oldest natural cockroach repellents and work incredibly well. They have a strong aroma that roaches don’t like. While they can help discourage roaches from coming around a select area, they won’t kill roaches already in your space. 


Cucumbers contain chemicals that are natural roach repellents, and researchers have known it since the 1980s. A curious researcher and professor conducted a study in 1982 that proved cockroaches turn away from the smell of cucumbers as long as they’re sliced. If you dice them up into smaller pieces, they’re even more effective. 

The study included bay leaves, which provides a little backup for those as well. The downside to cucumbers is you need to leave them out freshly sliced or diced. Most people don’t want to do that routine in their homes or businesses, but it’s something to consider if you want to keep pests away while enjoying a picnic outdoors or for short periods during special events. 

Coffee Grounds

Are roaches attracted to or repelled by coffee grounds? That’s a complicated one to answer due to competing information: 

  • Many people swear by using coffee grounds to repel roaches. It’s one of the safest options, so many people are willing to try it at home. 
  • Some roach baits use chemicals derived from coffee grounds in their solutions. 
  • Research studies have shown coffee grounds ineffective at repelling cockroaches. One study used doses up to 15 grams had no effect on the activity of roaches. 

Where does that leave us? Right with everyone else who has tried this at home. Coffee grounds are safe, and you may produce them as household waste daily. Using the ground alone is definitely a healthier option for members of your household than using baits, sprays, and traps that may contain chemicals from coffee plus other potentially toxic ingredients. 

If you want to try redirecting roaches, you can place small piles of ground in corners or along windowsills. 

Some people also create their own roach traps by mixing coffee grounds and water in a jar with openings large enough for the bugs to crawl in and hopefully drown. Does that sound like the coffee invites them in more than keeps them out? You’re not alone, which is why we say it’s difficult to say with certainty that roaches will turn and run from coffee grounds. 

Tips for Repelling Cockroaches with Natural Scents 

We’ve discussed the best options for creating DIY roach repellents at home. It’s time to discuss the limitations of using these preventive measures and what you can do to get the most out of any natural pest control solutions you try. These quick tips will help you fight the little invaders before they make their next attack. 

Location, Location, Location 

It’s important in real estate as well as pest control. Where you place a natural scent is critical. You want to stick close to areas where you believe roaches may visit while ensuring everything is safe for children, pets, and others in your household or place of business. 

Also, consider the smells you may endure in your living space if you use some items with strong aromas. You don’t want to suffer in the name of roach deterrence. We provided enough options that you can pick and choose what you place where, when, and for how long. 

Reapply Often 

Roach prevention is an ongoing process. You should place your deterrents and then clean them up routinely. Some items may start to lose their chemical potency with time, while others stay fresh but don’t look appealing after some time. You can watch your deterrents to determine how many hours or days you can leave them for maximum potency, effectiveness, and cleanliness. 

Mix Your Own Sprays 

Spray repellents are among the simplest to use at home or in the office because you don’t have leaves, grounds, or other debris littering your environment or waiting for cleanup. You can mix oils, water, and other fragrant ingredients in spray bottles and spray them in areas you want to deter pests. 

Make sure to respray every few weeks to a month. Try a variety of essential oils that may add an enticing aroma to your living or workspace while preventing cockroach intrusions. 

Do You Still Need Professional Pest Control Services? 

If you’ve applied natural scents to repel cockroaches and are still seeing pests on your property, you may need the help of trained professionals. Established roach populations are difficult to eliminate, and they can continue to come back for months or even years once they’ve staked their claim on your home or business. 

Natran Pest Control is always one call away! As a trusted and established provider of pest control services in Austin, Houston, and surrounding areas, we take pride in eliminating pests and helping clients prevent future infestations. Contact us today at (281) 326-9913 to discuss your current needs.

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