It is unclear whether sulfur is a useful snake repellant. There are no scientific studies proving any usefulness of sulfur to deter snakes, yet it is still regularly used in commercial snake repellant products.
For decades, sulfur has been used as a snake repellant. This is because people believed that the strong odor produced by sulfur scares them away. People will often place powered sulfur along the foundation of a house or the fences around a yard.
In its pure form, sulfur does not contain the features necessary to make it an effective deterrent for snakes. However, it has occasionally been used with mothball flakes or naphthalene to improve their effectiveness.
Disclaimer: FaunaFacts does not encourage or condone the use of unregulated or home remedy animal repellents. Animal repellents must be used in accordance with the product labels and local regulations. Placing pesticides and chemicals around your property may be dangerous and can contravene local laws. Do not approach wild animals. Consult a pest control professional for advice on what’s best for your situation.
Does Sulfur Work to Deter Snakes?
There have been several debates on the efficacy of sulfur to keep snakes away. Some snake handlers claim that sulfur is an excellent snake repellant and has been popularly used for many years.
On the other hand, others profess that sulfur does not cause a significant behavior avoidance in snakes. According to them, snakes can detect the chemical but do not stimulate a behavior change like moving away. Therefore, they don’t believe that sulfur can any produce desired outcomes.
Scientifically, sulfur is unlikely to repel snakes. This is because sulfur in its pure form is odorless, tasteless, and is a very mild irritant. That said, some compounds of sulfur do produce a very potent smell while some don’t.
For example, sulfuric acid, which can kill snakes, is odorless. Therefore, if you want to use this product, you can only use it as a corrective measure to kill snakes. However, it is impractical to use it as it will damage your yard. It is also very dangerous and may contravene local laws.
How Could Sulfur Repel Snakes?
Powdered sulfur is a common component in many types of commercial snake repellants. However, sulfur alone is not very effective. While some of these manufacturers specifically indicate the presence of sulfur, it is not necessarily the sulfur that is repellant to snakes.
Most major manufacturers combine sulfur with more potent deterrents such as naphthalene. This combination could produce a powerful scent that deters snakes.
Snakes have powerful senses of smell and can detect scents of their surroundings from afar. Because of this, they dislike strong scents.
It is also important to note that despite common belief, pure sulfur is odorless. The stink comes from many of its compounds. For instance, the rotten egg smell comes from hydrogen sulfide.
Therefore, only sulfur compounds produce any scent that can repel snakes. Its powder is also a little bit corrosive and may make a snake’s skin itch, causing it to avoid crawling through it.
All in all, sulfur on its own cannot be an effective solution to keep snakes away. It has to be combined with other elements to make it applicable.
Why is Sulfur Used in Commercial Snake Repellants?
When using sulfur as a repellant, pest control companies seldom use it in its pure form to ward off snakes. That is why they often mix it with other chemicals. The majority of commercial snake repellents have sulfur as a component.
Sulfur is occasionally used with mothball flakes or naphthalene. A specific concentration of these substances may affect snakes. Their mixtures perform best as they exude a strong smelly concoction that snakes detest.
Tip: There are disclaimers on the usage of naphthalene, mothball, and sulfur substances. Naphthalene and mothball flakes have been related to having the potential to cause diseases in people. Hence, using these substances outside your house could be against product labeling and endanger your family and pets.
Therefore, you should take caution as certain naphthalene and sulfur products are not safe. That is why only specific naphthalene and sulfur products are licensed.
Is Sulfur Harmful to Humans, Pets, and Plants?
Sulfur is classified as a low toxicity product. In its pure form, it is not that harmful to humans or pets. Ingesting too much sulfur, on the other hand, may result in a burning feeling or diarrhea. Sulfur dust can irritate the airways and induce coughing. It can also irritate the skin and eyes.
Nonetheless, single interactions with small amounts of sulfur usually have minimal effect on both humans and pets. Also, sulfur does not readily react with other compounds to produce a potent substance.
The main time sulfur is particularly dangerous is when you burn it. The combustion of sulfur produces a toxic gas known as sulfur dioxide. Inhaling this gas is hazardous for both pets and humans. Also, when the gas combines with water, it creates sulfuric acid that can damage plant leaves.
All Articles in our Snake Repellant Series:
Overall, there is no scientific proof that shows sulfur has the power to deter snakes. For any product to be an effective repellant, it has to produce an odor that snakes do not like. It should also be an irritant. Sulfur in its pure form is odorless, tasteless, and is a very mild irritant.
Depending on the problem and scenario, sulfur can be used with other chemicals to form a potent concoction that effectively keeps snakes out. It is occasionally used with mothball flakes or naphthalene but under disclaimers. It’s best to use a commercial snake repellant product.
While sulfur may discourage snakes, it can be hazardous when it changes chemical composition. Therefore caution should be observed when using it to deter snakes, and it should only be used as the label suggests. Although sulfur is extremely low in toxicity, it is always best to keep pets and children away from it, as it may be harmful if they are exposed to too much of it.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.