What Smells Repel Cockroaches: 10 Most Effective Smells

What Smells Repel Cockroaches

Tired of dealing with cockroaches in your home?

If so, you’re not alone. 

These pests are a common problem for homeowners and renters alike, and they can be difficult to get rid of once they take up residence in your home. 

While chemical pesticides can be effective, they can also be harmful to your family and pets.

So what can you do to get rid of cockroaches without resorting to harsh chemicals?

Believe it or not, certain smells can be effective at repelling cockroaches

In this article, we’ll explore 

Do smells repel cockroaches? And if so, what smells can repel and how to apply/use them?

All the way from essential oils to household spices, the range of scents includes the refreshing aroma of citrus and the pungent smell of garlic.

Ready to begin your war against roaches, using scents as a weapon

keep reading!

Table of Contents

Do smells repel cockroaches?

Certain fragrances found in nature have been known to be effective in deterring roaches due to their heightened sense of smell.

Roaches rely on this sense to locate food and navigate their surroundings, both alone and in groups. When they detect something that could pose a threat, they automatically move away from it.

The Science of Scent and Roaches

Roaches have a keen sense of smell which they use to navigate and find food, but when it comes to repelling roaches it’s not clear which scents repel them. 

Not all odors will have the same effect on cockroaches. Some may avoid certain scents, such as bleach, while others may ignore them. This is due to the cockroach’s resilience and ability to adapt to their surroundings. 

According to the Journal of Experimental Biology, roaches have a strong sense of smell, but how can roaches smell anything when they don’t have a nose, well they use their antennae to detect chemicals in the air and track down the source of an odor.

As roaches are resilient creatures, so If they smell something that poses a potential danger, they will move away from it. But if they are hungry enough, they may return to the area to see if they can overcome the smell and find food.

Also, roaches can quickly adapt to new smells, which makes it hard to keep them away permanently.

What smells can repel?

Scents that are pleasing to humans can actually repel cockroaches. 

In the kitchen, certain aromas such as cinnamon, bay leaves, garlic, peppermint, and coffee grounds can be used as deterrents

In the bathroom and garage, using strong-smelling disinfectants like vinegar or bleach can help keep these pests at bay. 

One of the most powerful options for repelling cockroaches through scent is essential oils, such as eucalyptus or tea tree oil.

Now, that we know what certain scents can repel roaches.

let’s dive into each scent individually.

10 Most Effective Smells for Repelling Cockroaches:

1. Garlic

Garlic smell repel roaches

Garlic is known to have a strong odor that can repel cockroaches and is used as a natural alternative to chemical pesticides to keep cockroaches away from your home. 

The pungent smell of garlic can mask the scents that cockroaches use to locate food and shelter, making it difficult for them to navigate and survive in areas where garlic is present. 

To use garlic as a cockroach repellent,

  • Crush fresh garlic cloves and spread them around your home.
  • Use garlic oil or a garlic-based spray. 
  • Use garlic powder in areas where cockroaches are commonly found.
  • Place whole cloves in strategic locations in the kitchen.

Furthermore, incorporating garlic into your cooking can also help to deter cockroaches from entering your kitchen.

Pro Tips: Fresh garlic cloves are the most effective option, as they have stronger pungent aroma than garlic oil or powder. 

Leaving cloves in the kitchen for an extended period will result in the loss of their odor and potential rotting, which can attract other pests. 

To avoid this, it is recommended to replace the cloves every 1-2 weeks to maintain their effectiveness.

2. Vinegar 

Vinegar smell repel roaches

Vinegar has a strong acidic smell, but it is not an effective repellent for cockroaches. 

A more effective approach is to combine vinegar with essential oils and other scents to create a more potent repellent. 

However, vinegar can act as a natural disinfectant and aid in preventing the spread of infections and bacteria caused by cockroaches, offering a safer option compared to bleach.

To use vinegar as a cockroach repellent, 

  • Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it in areas where cockroaches have been seen or known to frequent. 
  • Also, you can apply vinegar to surfaces that cockroaches come in contact with, such as the legs of tables and chairs to make it harder for them to crawl and climb. 

Note: Using vinegar alone may not completely eliminate cockroaches and should be used in conjunction with other extermination methods.

3. Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds smell repel roaches

Does Coffee grounds attract roaches or repel roaches? 

Well, whether roaches are attracted to or repelled by coffee grounds is a complex one to answer as there is conflicting information on the subject.

Some roach baits use chemicals derived from coffee grounds in their solutions,

while a study conducted by the International Journal of Science and Healthcare Research used doses of up to 15 grams that had no effect on the activity of roaches.

However, the caffeine in coffee grounds can be toxic to cockroaches, which can help to repel them or even kill them if ingested.

Coffee grounds, The fresher the grounds, the more effective they will be.

That’s why it is important to note that instant coffee will not have the same effect as freshly ground coffee beans.

Coffee grounds, specifically ground-up coffee beans, which can be easily accessed, have both a strong smell and coarse texture that is believed to repel roaches.

To use them as a deterrent, 

  • Simply spread fresh coffee grounds in areas where roaches commonly congregate such as in cupboards or under appliances.
  • Clean and refresh them once a week to maintain their effectiveness. 

It is important to note that you should replace the grounds regularly as the smell fades, 

Otherwise, cockroaches will become used to the odor and move past the grounds in search of food or may turn to the grounds as a food source if they can’t find enough food elsewhere.

Note: Important to note that coffee grounds should not be used in place of professional pest control methods, but as an additional measure to help deter cockroaches.

4. Bay Leaves

Bay leaves smell repel roaches

The one that stands out the most to me…

Bay leaves have a long history of being used as a natural pest repellent, particularly against cockroaches. They are not only cost-effective but also versatile and useful ingredients in the kitchen. 

Due to their broad repellent properties, bay leaves can be used as a general solution when the type of pest is uncertain. 

They have moderate effectiveness against various pests including cockroaches, flies, mice, moths, earwigs, and roaches. 

To use bay leaves against pests, crush them and then:

  • Scatter crushed bay leaves in areas where pests are present.
  • Apply crushed bay leaves on clothing or fabric as they won’t leave stains and can be easily removed.
  • Keep small bowls filled with bay leaves in areas you want to protect from pests.

The aroma of bay leaves is not enough to kill pests, but it does deter them from living or nesting in areas with the smell. 

Good locations to place bay leaves include kitchen counters, kitchen entrances, and pantries. 

Pro Tip: If you are a plant enthusiast, consider growing bay leaves as a natural and ongoing pest deterrent, although the smell will be less pungent.

5. Cucumber

Cucumber smell repel roaches

Cucumbers are known to have natural chemicals that act as repellents for cockroaches. This was first discovered in a study conducted in 1982 by a researcher and professor. 

The study found that cockroaches avoid the smell of sliced cucumbers and that diced cucumbers are even more effective. 

Bay leaves were also included in the study as a backup solution. 

However, it is important to note that cucumbers must be kept fresh and sliced or diced to be effective, which may not be practical for long-term use in a home or business. 

But it is a great solution for outdoor picnics or short-term events.

6. Citrus

Citrus smell repel roaches

Many people enjoy the refreshing aroma of citrus, At least I do…

But did you know that cockroaches can’t stand it? 

Utilize this to your advantage by using citrus-scented cleaners in areas where cockroaches linger such as your kitchen and bathroom. 

Also, placing citrus peels in strategic places around your home can also act as a natural repellent. 

Keep in mind that you will need to refresh the scent every couple of weeks for optimal results,

But believe me, it’s a small price to pay for a home free of roaches.

To maximize the effectiveness, 

Consider placing slices of fresh citrus or their peels (orange or lemon peel) in areas where you frequently spot roaches or find their feces and traces

Also, be sure to replace the rinds on a weekly basis to ensure they retain their fresh and potent scent.

Another alternative is to combine citrus oil with lavender oil to create a spray.

Mix citrus oil and lavender oil together to make a spray. 

Use this spray to treat the exterior of your house as a way to prevent roaches from entering. 

Regularly treating the outside of your home is an effective barrier against roaches.

7. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus smell repel roaches

Eucalyptus has been shown to be effective in repelling not only insects and pests but also mold and fungi due to its potent and long-lasting smell.

To deter insects and pests using eucalyptus, I would recommend following the below steps for achieving maximum results:

  • Obtain fresh or dried eucalyptus leaves.
  • Crush the leaves into a powder or small pieces.
  • Spread the crushed leaves in areas where you commonly find insects and pests, such as corners, molding, and on fabrics.
  • For the strongest scent, use fresh leaves that have been crushed.

Other scents for repelling roaches.


Chalk can repel cockroaches when it’s drawn around the areas where they are commonly found

Soap solution: 

Mixing a few drops of dish soap in water and spraying it on suspected cockroach areas can repel the roaches due to their smell.


Borax has a strong smell that repels cockroaches and other insects. It can be used to make a paste or solution to apply to cockroach-prone areas.


Well, caulk can’t repel roaches but it can be used to seal cracks and gaps where cockroaches may be entering the house, preventing them from being able to smell food and shelter.

Technically you can say, it is used for preventing roaches to enter.

Do You Still Need Professional Pest Control Services? 

If natural scent methods for repelling cockroaches are not working for you and roaches are still ruling on your property, then professional pest control service is necessary.

Large infestations of cockroaches can be challenging to eliminate and may require ongoing treatment to prevent their return.

Is scents the best method for repelling roaches?

As you read this, you may think using scents to repel cockroaches is the best method.

But it isn’t,
In fact, it’s just the most pleasant one.

As It doesn’t require dealing with the dead or using lethal poison.

But if it doesn’t help, you’ll have to switch to complex methods.

One advantage of this method is that the money spent is not wasted as a pleasant scent is always beneficial.


Do dead cockroaches attract more?

Yes, cockroaches are attracted to dead cockroaches as a food source.

Other than that, cockroaches have a strong reaction to smells given off by other cockroaches, including the death scent (Oleic acid), which is emitted by cockroaches when they die and serves as a chemical warning or a source of food to nearby cockroaches.

Roaches have been shown to flee areas where the death scent is emitted, but if there is no other food source available and they are hungry enough, they will overcome their fear and feed on the carcass.

Do roaches like the smell of vinegar?

Roaches do not particularly like the smell of vinegar, but it is not toxic to them so they will not actively avoid it. 

Some people use vinegar as a natural deterrent for roaches by cleaning surfaces with it or by spraying it directly on roaches, but it is not a guaranteed solution. 

What smells do cockroaches like?

Cockroaches like the scents of food, particularly items that are high in starch, sugar, grease, protein, and fermented items.

They also like the smell of rotting fruits and vegetables, as well as the odors produced by certain types of bacteria and molds.

What smells do cockroaches hate?

Cockroaches are known to dislike certain smells, such as the strong aromas of essential oils like peppermint, spearmint, and citrus. They also dislike the smell of bay leaves and cucumbers.

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