A combination of the above scents are present in commercial snake repellents that you can buy off the shelf and distribute around your garden.
However, in our experience, and a shown in several studies, snake repellents do very little to actually deter snakes. In fact, snakes usually just cruise on over snake repellent smells without much of a behavioral effect at all.
So, generally, if there’s a snake about your property, you would need to call a pest control company to get the snake professionally removed. There’s not much else you can do.
If you’d like to try some of the natural remedies listed here around your garden, there’s probably no harm. A snake may choose not to nest near the smells. As for the non-natural and harmful remedies like naphthalene and ammonia, I’d probably avoid them.
Remember not to approach a snake or its hiding place unless you’re a professional!
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.
How Do Snakes Smell Things?
Snakes’ ability to smell is strong. They have evolved this ability to smell so they can locate food easily. They have an organ named “Jacobson’s organ” that offers them this ability.
The Jacobson’s organ is located at the root of the animal’s nasal cavity. It also has two ducts that extend to the top of its mouth.
To smell, the snake literally licks the air, then places their tongue onto the Jacobson’s organ to ‘taste’ the smells in the air.
The reason we hypothesize that snakes hate some smells much is, simply, that their sense of smell is so powerful. So, the strong scents of some essential oils and plants could theoretically bother them. But, I’m not convinced that any of the below known repellents will actually work.
Scents that Repel Snakes
The following snakes are known to be irritable to snakes and used in snake repellants that you can buy off-the-shelf in stores. However, I don’t find any of them to be particularly effective!
Ammonia is a scentless, invisible, and dissolvable gas that can even kill snakes by irritating and burning their skin.
Because snakes hate the odor of ammonia, some gardeners use it in a spray to repel snakes. It can be sprayed around a house, under doorways, and over rocks where you know snakes frequent, in order to discourage them from coming near.
Another option for using ammonia it is to cover some scraps with it and put them in an enclosed bag. Leaving the bag in the same places will repel the snakes.
However, one should be careful with ammonia because it is not only harmful to snakes but also humans. Even breathing it may result in serious health issues.
2. Cinnamon Oil and Clove Oil
According to The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), cinnamon and clove oils have a chemical named eugenol, which has a smell that snakes do not like.
These oils can be used by putting them together in spray bottles and diluting them with water. This spray may agitate the snake if it’s sprayed directly onto the snake’s skin. However, it’s common for people to use this as a ‘natural remedy’ in the garden by spraying the mixture around to discourage their presence.
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Onion contains sulfonic acid, which is the chemical that makes us cry while cutting an onion.
Not only does sulfonic acid irritate human eyes, it’s also very irritable to snakes.
Given that snakes don’t have eyelids, it may be particularly irritable to their eyes.
So, onion (and also garlic, which similarly contains sulfonic acid) can be used as natural snake repellents. The smells of garlic and onion are, simply. too strong for the sensitivity of snakes’ senses.
Onions and garlic bulbs can be smashed together and mixed with water to use in a spray bottle. Instead of using small spray bottles, some prefer using fish emulsion to save time and energy.
However, it is also possible to create a barrier by spraying the mixture around the boundary of the yard or the house instead of spraying it to the whole area.
4. West Indian Lemongrass
West Indian Lemongrass is a specific type of lemongrass that snakes stay away from due to its strong citrusy smell.
In fact, it’s also used to create citronella candles which, similarly, produce a strong scent that repels mosquitos.
Lemongrass plants are easy to find, easy to take care of, drought resistant, can be used as a spice while cooking, and have a smell that snakes do not like. They’re truly a remarkable and useful plant!
Even though it does not cause damage to them, the fragrance of naphthalene supposedly bothers snakes very much.
It can be used by placing the mothballs in the places where snakes can be found.
However, one should keep in mind that the ingredient is harmful to humans, children, and pets. Furthermore, I’ve not found much success in having the naphthalene actually repel snakes. So, in general, like many of the repellents on this list, I find it to be ineffective.
Smoke has been used to repel some animals for centuries. Because they have the instinct to protect themselves, they usually stay away from it.
The smell of smoke supposedly bothers snakes, which is why people think having an open fire in campgrounds may protect them.
Even a small fire pit made with pieces of wood and rock may scare them. Again, I’m not fully convinced by this argument, especially due to the fact snakes are cold-blooded and will often be attracted to heat!
Marigold is also often used as a natural snake repellent. Snakes, along with many other animals, supposedly do not like this smell.
Some people therefore plant marigolds to keep snakes away while. The yellow and orange colors of marigolds are also beautiful, so even if they don’t repel snakes, they’re worth having around!
8. White Vinegar
Vinegar is frequently used in cooking and cleaning. White vinegar is also often used to repel snakes due to its potent smell.
It can be applied by pouring it around the circumference of your garden. It may irritate snake skin if they come close, but again, I’m yet to see conclusive evidence that this works.
All Articles in our Snake Repellant Series:
Because their special organ called Jacobson’s organ makes them sensitive to strong odors, we do believe snakes may dislike some smells.
However, it’s not clear whether snakes are actually deterred from travelling into your garden if those smells are present. In fact, several case studies show otherwise.
Overall, I’d personally avoid using harmful chemicals like ammonia and naphthalene in my garden or around my house. It may do more harm than good. The natural remedies likely won’t do much harm, but they probably won’t truly repel snakes either.
So in general, we may need to learn to live with snakes and, if they’re a dangerous pest to ourselves, our animals, or our children, then the best course of action is probably to contact a pest control professional to deal with the problem.
Related: Do Snakes have Taste Buds?