What Do Cockroaches Hate?

If you have ever had or worried about having a cockroach infestation, you might be wondering “what do cockroaches hate?” Finding some things that these critters really dislike will help you to deter them from entering your home, and could help get rid of them if they are already there.

The best things to keep cockroaches away from your home include many of the scents that people find pleasant, which is great news if you want to keep your home cockroach-free and smelling good. Try scents such as bay leaves, coffee grounds, peppermint, and cinnamon, or essential oils such as tea tree oil. You can also use things like loud noises and bright lights to frighten cockroaches.

Do Scents Really Deter Cockroaches?

Yes, scent can put cockroaches off your home, especially if the scent is strong and one that they seriously dislike. Cockroaches detect scents using their antennae, and they can follow odors around using these sensors.

It is thought that they are very sensitive to smell, and although there are other things that they hate, scents are one of the most effective ways to get cockroaches out of your home or discourage them from entering it in the first place.

While smell alone is unlikely to get rid of a serious cockroach infestation, strong scents can help to make your home an uncomfortable, unattractive place, and can be used in conjunction with other control methods.

It’s worth noting that many cockroaches are adaptive and will, over time, come to ignore a smell in many cases. What works to begin with will eventually become less effective, particularly if the cockroaches are hungry and want to expand their territory.

Scent will not work indefinitely to keep cockroaches away, so it’s important to make sure you are doing other things to deal with or discourage the insects too.

You should also be careful about using essential oils if you have pets; some are toxic to cats and dogs. Always check before sprinkling oil around your home.

So, what smells do cockroaches hate?

What do cockroaches hate?

Scent One: Lavender

Lavender is a good deterrent for many insects; it is a smell that people enjoy, it is readily available, and it will get rid of all kinds of insects.

You can use lavender in multiple different ways. Some people choose to plant lavender in their gardens, deterring cockroaches from coming near the home in the first place. For this to be successful, you will need to plant a lot of lavender and wrap it around the whole home, or cockroaches will find a way in.

Few people will go this far just to deter cockroaches (although lavender is also bee-friendly and very beautiful) but it is a good option for decreasing the chance of encountering cockroaches in your home and is a lasting solution year on year.

You can also use lavender within the home, of course. Lavender plants don’t really thrive indoors, but you can instead cut and dry lavender, which can then be sprinkled into bags or dishes and placed around the home.

Putting lavender bags in dark corners and in clothes storage is a good way to deter all kinds of bugs, including clothes moths – and cockroaches.

Lavender spread around the home in this way may need to be refreshed from time to time as its scent and effectiveness fade. Refresh your lavender on a regular basis to keep it effective.

Alternatively, consider using lavender essential oil. Mix this with a carrier oil and spray it on surfaces or in dark corners to help make them unappealing to insects. You will benefit from the sweet scent at the same time as discouraging cockroaches. If you find that cockroaches are present in your home, consider spraying their favorite spots to discourage them.

Overall, lavender in any form is a great way to cut down on insects of all kinds, not just cockroaches.

Scent Two: Eucalyptus

Another great plant solution, eucalyptus is very effective when it comes to deterring cockroaches. You can plant it in your garden, or cut the branches and bring them inside. They look beautiful in flower arrangements and will help to keep your home cockroach-free.

Like lavender, these sprigs will need refreshing from time to time in order to maintain their effectiveness. You can also use dried eucalyptus leaves, or dried and powdered leaves, sprinkling the powder around your home.

You may find it helpful to rub eucalyptus leaves on your furnishings. The oils in the leaf will transfer the scent to your furniture and discourage the cockroaches from walking on the furniture.

You can also use eucalyptus oil, spraying it around the home as you would with lavender to make the dark corners unappealing to insects.

Scent Three: Cinnamon

If you love the scent of cinnamon, you’re in luck, because it’s high on the list of “what do cockroaches hate?” However, it’s thought that the cockroaches don’t actually hate the smell of cinnamon – they hate the feeling.

Cinnamon is gritty and coarse, and many cockroaches seem reluctant to crawl over it. You may find that spreading a thick line of cinnamon in a doorway or around a dark corner is a great way to prevent cockroaches from crossing over the border.

However, this is not a guarantee. Remember, hungry cockroaches are very determined and will rarely be deterred by anything for long, so don’t depend too heavily on cinnamon circles to keep them away.

You should also check that your cinnamon is pure cinnamon and doesn’t contain any added sweetener. Sugar or another sweetener could attract cockroaches, rather than deterring them.

Although cinnamon is often a good repellent, it will quickly lose its scent and the line is likely to get disturbed, so this is a method that needs frequent applications in order to be effective.

Scent Four: Citrus

Many insects and other creepy crawlies dislike the smell of citrus, and this can be an excellent way to deter cockroaches from taking up residence in your home.

There are quite a few different ways in which you can use citrus to keep cockroaches away. One of the most obvious includes using citrus-scented cleaners for your kitchen and other parts of your home.

Most people enjoy the scent of citrus, especially for cleaning with, and if you like orange, grapefruit, lemon, or one of the more obscure citrus smells, you’re in luck. Just choose a cleaning spray that you like the smell of and get scrubbing.

Combining cleaning – which helps to deter cockroaches by ensuring there is little food for them to eat – with a strong scent they dislike is an effective way of getting them out of your home. You may also find bug sprays with a citrus scent, and these will work for getting rid of cockroaches too.

Secondly, if you eat citrus fruits, you can use the peels. The simplest way is to just scatter them around the home, and refresh them every few days. Just don’t forget about them and leave them to go moldy!

It is a good idea to place them on a saucer or a piece of cardboard so that they don’t stain your floor. Place these saucers of peel around the home in high-traffic areas and the cockroaches should start to avoid those spaces.

Some people like to infuse vinegar with citrus smells. Vinegar makes an excellent cleaner and is non-toxic (which is great for kitchen surfaces), but the smell is unpleasant and very strong. It will deter cockroaches as well, but you might find it too overwhelming for that.

Infusing citrus in the vinegar will help to disguise its strong smell and allow you to use it in your home. This makes an excellent alternative to commercial citrus cleaners if you want something natural that will combine cleaning with a deterring scent.

Cockroaches in the kitchen at night

Scent Five: Bay Leaves

Very popular for cooking, you might be surprised to learn that bay leaves can also serve as an insect repellent. They have a strong fragrance and are highly unpopular with bugs like cockroaches, so they are a great way to drive these creatures from your home and stop them from coming back.

You can use fresh or dried leaves; either will help. Many people prefer to crush them so that the maximum scent is released. You will often find that cockroaches avoid going near crushed (or even whole) bay leaves.

You can make barriers using bay leaves, but remember to refresh them from time to time to keep the scent strong. This may prove a less messy solution than trying to spread a line of cinnamon or citrus peel.

You might find that keeping bay leaves in your pantry or other areas where food is stored is a good idea. It will discourage the cockroaches from exploring these spaces as much, although you should bear in mind that this is not foolproof, and hungry cockroaches will tolerate the smell in order to get food.

Scent Six: Garlic

Another option for keeping your pantry cockroach free, garlic is an excellent deterrent, and it’s likely that you already have some of this to hand, so it’s a great solution if you need something quickly.

Many people find the smell of garlic less appealing than the other scents listed here, but it is still a reasonably pleasant smell to have in the home as far as most people are concerned. You can always swap for a pleasanter smell later.

You should peel the garlic and rub the cloves on door frames, floors, shelves, etc. You may find that it helps to cut the garlic up a bit so that the juices can flow out and leave the garlic’s aroma around your home.

You can also set out dishes of crushed garlic to discourage the cockroaches from exploring, but rubbing the garlic in strategic spots is probably the most effective way to deter the insects.

Whole, unpeeled garlic cloves are unlikely to make a significant difference to cockroaches; they will often ignore these because the scent is weak. For garlic to be effective, it needs to be cut or broken so that its scent spreads.

Scent Seven: Mint

Like lavender, mint is a very good cockroach deterrent (and indeed, is disliked by many other insects too). You can grow mint easily if you want a ready supply of it available and, of course, it has many other uses too.

Mint is a popular alternative to some of the harsher chemicals that are occasionally used to deter cockroaches. It tends to be viewed as harmless to people and pets, and you’re likely to have access to some in your home, even if you don’t have fresh mint leaves.

If you are trying to find something quick to deter cockroaches, almost any form of mint will do, but popular options include fresh or dried mint leaves, or mint essential oil (often peppermint). Any of these will work to upset the insects and make your home less hospitable to them.

If you have fresh mint, cut several stems and lay them around the home. It’s a good idea to crush the leaves slightly to release the scent and make sure it repels the cockroaches.

Not everyone has access to fresh mint, however, and essential oil will work very well too. Mix it with a carrier oil and spray it in dark corners and around doorways that you don’t want the cockroaches to go through.

You can also wipe down surfaces using peppermint oil. Remember that cockroaches are excellent climbers and will get up high in your kitchen, so don’t neglect the tops of cupboards. Wiping your whole kitchen down with peppermint oil should help to deter cockroaches from feeding there, at least for a while.

This trick has the additional advantage of putting off other insects, too!

Other Tips: Loud Noises

Among the other things that cockroaches hate, loud noises come pretty high on the list. These insects can be frightened back to their homes by clapping, banging, and shouting. Stomping around in your home will also make it unpleasant for these insects.

You can combine this with high-frequency noises. Many pest repelling systems are based on this; a lot of insects find noises up to 100 kHz intolerable, and high-frequency waves can even prove fatal to them.

If you are struggling with a cockroach infestation, consider getting a noise-based insect repeller. The frequency will be above 20 kHz, which is the point at which humans stop being able to hear it, so it shouldn’t bother you, but it will certainly upset your cockroach guests.

However, be careful about using this kind of system around pets, as these often have more sensitive hearing than humans do, and extended high-frequency noises may upset them as well as the insects. It is a good idea to check whether the system is considered suitable for use in homes with pets before purchasing one.

Stomp around your home, make a lot of noise, and bang about particularly in areas where the cockroaches are active. This sort of noise will not deal with an infestation on its own, but it will add to the list of reasons that your home is unappealing, so it’s worth doing.

Other Tips: Light

The idea that cockroaches hate bright light has been voiced over and over again, and it’s true to an extent, but it does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Cockroaches don’t hate light as much as many people believe that they do.

That means simply leaving a light on in your home is not a sufficient deterrent. It may work for a while, but after a while, the cockroaches will grow accustomed to it and start to venture into the light when they are hungry. After a while, they will probably not seem concerned with it at all.

You may still find that cockroaches scatter when you turn a light on, but this is usually due to the suddenness of the light appearing, rather than the light itself. The light indicates to the cockroach that they are now visible and they need to hide before a predator spots them.

This will send them scurrying for cover, but won’t work when they get hungry and decide to venture out for food. Hunger will also override their nocturnal instincts, so you can’t deal with a cockroach infestation simply by lighting up your home and waiting for them to starve.

They may leave or they may adapt – but either way, light isn’t the best form of deterrent. It can be used to make the home less comfortable for the insects, but you will still need other ways to discourage them too.


So, the answer to “what do cockroaches hate?” is mostly strong scents that we love to smell when we’ve been cleaning! If you are having trouble with cockroaches or you’re afraid of an infestation, one of the first things that you need to do is clean.

Do so with the scents listed above, or lay sprigs of them around your home, and you’ll soon find that cockroaches go and look for a better spot to live.

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