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3 August 2023 / Laura Garvin Gomez

How to Use Citronella Oil for Rats

Learn the best ways to utilise Citronella Oil for rat control and create a rodent-free environment effortlessly.

Citronella stems with a small glass of citronella oil next to them

Rats are not the friendliest of creatures, and even though they do not intend to cause us any harm, their presence is very rarely welcome.

If these large pests are in or around your home, you could learn how to use citronella oil for rats in the hope of scaring them away.

Citronella oil offers a kinder alternative to using poison that will harm and eventually kill them, and if you have any children or pets, you may feel safer using a natural method. Here we explain how effective citronella oil can be, how long it lasts and how to use it.

Does citronella oil repel rats?

Citronella can be effective at repelling rats and a whole host of pests and insects, mostly due to the oil’s distinct fragrance.

For many years this was only ‘proven’ via anecdotal evidence, although reputable studies have been carried out that appear to confirm this claim. found that when rats inhaled citronella over a five-week period, they lost appetite and body fat.

After a while, the fragrance eventually overwhelms the rat’s senses, causing confusion so they struggle to carry out basic survival tasks, such as eating and searching for sources of food and shelter near the scent.

Three small rats in a small wooden bowl. One grey, one grey and white, and one black and white

What are the benefits of using citronella oil for rats?

Using citronella oil to repel and ward away rats offers a few important benefits:

1. It blocks potential rat attractants

Rats use their nose to find and lock onto scents that help in their survival. But laying down citronella helps to block out the scent of food and other rat pheromones, so they lose the ability to track. Not being able to use their nose properly also makes them feel unsafe, so they will not linger for too long.

2. Citronella oil suppresses a rat’s appetite

When you place a high concentration of citronella around your home it will start to work as an appetite suppressant. found that less food was consumed by rats in areas where the oil was present compared to other locations where it was not. It also stated that applying the oil in concentrations of at least 10% everyday helped to repel rats.

3. Can cause feelings of pain

Some studies have also suggested that some smells are transmitted into the rat’s olfactory system, which not only causes confusion but also sensations of pain. This leads to rats associating the scent with the discomfort they experience, so they avoid it wherever possible.

Citronella grass with moisture droplets on them

How to use citronella oil for rats

There are a few different ways you can use citronella to repel rats.

  • Soak cotton balls in citronella oil to repel rats: An easy way to ensure the scent is able to circulate around your home is to soak some cotton balls in the oil. Place them in areas that show evidence of rat activity or in areas that could prove inviting in the future (room corners, window sills, air vents, entrances etc.). Cotton pads, cloths or rages also work just as well.
  • Make a citronella spray to keep rats away: Another option is to make your own citronella spray so you can spritz it whenever you need. So, whether the rats are in your home, garden or external building (garage/shed/garden room) you’ll always be one step ahead. We explain how to make a homemade citronella spray in the section below.
  • Use some citronella plants to scare away rats: If the spray or cotton ball method isn’t quite enough, you could also try going straight to the source. Lemongrass and citronella plants produce a strong scent that can help to repel rats and even mosquitos.
  • Burn citronella candles around your home to ward off rats: You can either buy or make your own citronella-scented candles to ensure the rats are aware of the presence of citronella. If their nest is outside your home, you can also use the candles outside, or try tiki torches filled with oil around the perimeter of your home.

Studies have found that using concentrations of at least 10% proved to be most effective. This means 90% of the mix should be either water or rubbing alcohol.  

How to make a citronella rat spray

To make a citronella rat spray, gather together the following:

  • Glass spray bottle
  • Distilled water or rubbing alcohol
  • Citronella oil

Steps on how to make a homemade citronella rat spray

  1. Fill the glass spray bottle to the three-quarter mark.
  2. Add one-quarter of water to finish filling the bottle.
  3. Add the citronella oil to the bottle.
  4. Place the top and shake well.

The oil to water/alcohol ratio should be at least 10% in order for it to be effective, so bear this in mind when mixing everything together.

How long does citronella spray work for?

Citronella essential oil offers a short-term solution for repelling rats, although it is not able to keep them away from your home forever. This is true of all rat repellents, as they are only designed to scare rather than eliminate them.

Rodents can also become accustomed to the scents around them, so if the nest is a particularly large one, then using citronella may not be enough to keep them away for long.

If you are experiencing an infestation of rats then we advise that you contact a professional pest control company who will be able to provide a suitable, long-term solution for the problem.

Black and white illustration of a bunch of citronella

Citronella oil offers an effective short-term solution for keeping rats away from your home. There are few different methods you can use, such as soaking cotton balls, making your own spray or burning citronella-infused candles. However, it is not something that will keep a large pack of rats away for too long, so if you feel it is not being effective or the infestation continues to grow, contact a professional pest control company as soon as possible.

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