If you live in the north, winter may actually be a welcomed break from the pesky rodents and insects that plague summer. But if you happen to live in a warmer climate, these unwanted guests can become a year-round problem. For most, pest infestations may begin to feel like a predicament even the best natural pest control solutions can’t fix.
This problem is so big, in fact, that North Americans use close to 136 million pounds of pesticides on their lawns and gardens and even in their homes every year! That’s 10 times the amount of dangerous chemicals the average farmer uses according to Environment and Human Health (1).
It’s also safe to say, according to this same organization, that most wildlife poisoning, including surface water contamination from pesticides, is a direct result of the chemicals we use in and around our homes.
Think about it: do you really want to expose your family to chemicals that kill other animals? And you and your family are not the only ones at risk—family pets often become collateral damage in the war on bugs!
If you’re like most people, then using traps and poisons to kill mice and rats is simply not a humane option. Luckily, nature has just what you need to make your home a pest-free environment and its 100 percent safe for everyone.
Natural Pest Control
One look on the Internet for natural pest control remedies and you are bound to see an array of options. It is confusing at best, especially when many of these remedies are either ineffective or extremely costly.
But there is actually one option you have likely already used hundreds of times in your home for everything from a nice cup of tea to effective medicinal remedies that range from upset tummies to migraine headaches. And this wonder remedy is none other than . . . mint.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of mint. While some are better than others for culinary purposes or even medicinal remedies ,they all have one thing in common—they are extremely aromatic, which gives them powerful insect and rodent-repelling properties.
It really doesn’t matter what type of mint plant you choose—peppermint, spearmint, lavender mint, pineapple mint or even chocolate mint—mint plants are one of the best plants for repelling pesky insects, especially biting bugs like mosquitoes (2, 3). They are also a little-known repellent for mice, although certain varieties like spearmint, seem to work better than others for this purpose.
Using aromatic herbs as repellents is nothing new. Mothers and grandmothers alike have been passing down this tried and true remedy for centuries. And you don’t necessarily need to have a green thumb to take advantage of this natural pest control option either, although there are some tips that will help to make it more successful, depending on what type of pest you are looking to repel.
Mint to Repel Insects
If you have an insect problem, there are several ways mint can help. Spearmint, for example, is known to repel fleas, moths, ants, beetles, aphids, squash bugs, and cabbage loopers. Peppermint, while it will also repel aphids, cabbage loopers, fleas, beetles and squash bugs, is better for repelling whiteflies (4). Your best option is to have a variety of mint plants that will assure you repel all unwanted insects.
While you can certainly buy pre-made natural mint repellents, you should consider growing your own mint for a variety of reasons:
- It will save you money.
- You will always have a fresh supply on hand.
- You can use fresh mint for cooking, tea as well various medicinal remedies.
- Simply growing mint plants will help repel pests in any area you plant them.
One of the biggest problems you will encounter when growing mint, however, is that it is a highly invasive plant, meaning it will take over any area in which it is planted. A good option is to plant mint in large flower pots. This will keep the roots confined but still allow the plant to grow without endangering other nearby plants.
Place a variety of different types of mint around the boundaries of your property to keep insects at bay. To prevent pests from entering your home, keep a few flower pots near doors, windows, and other entry points.
How to Use Mint to Repel Insects
Now that you know how to grow mint, there are several ways to utilize its bug-repelling properties.
1. Sachet Bags
Start off by buying empty linen pouches from your local craft store. Reusable tea bags will also work as long as they can be properly closed. To make the bags, start by drying the mint by hanging it for several weeks or putting it in a dehydrator if you have one. Once dried, stuff the mint leaves into several of the sachet bags. Break the leaves up as you do so to release their active oils.
Put a number of these sachet bags around your house in key areas where the insects are most problematic.
2. Live Plants
Simply allow your mint plants to flourish and they will do the rest. Mint likes plenty of sun, but they also need periods of shade, so chose a spot that has direct morning sunlight and partial afternoon shade. Also, to get the most out of your mint plants, harvest the mint sprigs before the plant flowers and always pinch off the flowering buds as they appear (5). Most importantly, don’t overwater mint.
As a tip, cut your outdoor mint plants to the ground and then cover them with compost at the end of each growing season. This trick also works to keep mice away!
3. Dried Leaves
For a quick and easy insect repellent, simply crush some of your dried mint leaves and sprinkle them in areas where you have the most insects. The mint will deter the insects, so make sure you place the leaves strategically. You can also use fresh mint or store-bought mint tea bags for this purpose.
4. Insect Repellent Spray
You can easily make a natural pest control repellent by using a ratio of five parts rubbing alcohol to one part peppermint oil (5:1). Another successful recipe calls for 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (ACV), 1/3 cup witch hazel , and 5 drops peppermint oil (6). You can also find a recipe at the end of this article .
Spray your homemade insect repellent on your body before going outdoors. Make sure not to get it in your eyes, however, as it is very strong and can irritate sensitive tissues. You can also use this spray on your dog, but be wary of using essential oils on cats in general as they lack an important detoxification mechanism, known as glucuronidation, which is present in most other mammals. Some oils are okay to use on kitty, but you should always speak to a professional before using any of them on your cat (7).
If you do not want to make your own essential peppermint oil, you can simply use fresh peppermint leaves and the rinds of a few citrus fruits (oranges or lemons). Place everything in a small pan and cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to sit overnight, straining it in the morning. Mix the mint-scented water with equal parts rubbing alcohol and put it in a spray bottle. You now have a safe, natural insect repellent.
What to Do When you have Mice
While mice are definitely a lot cuter than spiders or other insects, they can create their own kind of havoc in your home. For one, they can chew through electrical wires and can cause fires. They’re also known for getting into your pantry and chowing down on anything they can get at. If that wasn’t enough, these tiny rodents not only leave behind considerable amounts of urine, feces and saliva, but they are also carriers of a variety of diseases and bacteria. Some viruses can be passed along by simply smelling the saliva or urine of these pests (8).
If you don’t want to resort to poisons like warfarin or inhumane traps that maim or kill the pesky invaders, mint is the perfect solution.
How Does Mint Deter Mice?
Concentrated essential oil from peppermint works by masking the pheromone trails mice leave behind. It also masks the smell of their food sources. The menthol in peppermint essentially irritates their sensitive nasal cavities, so they will avoid it and move on. While there is much debate about this method, a study was done on the effectiveness of various natural repellents, including peppermint oil and it was scientifically proven that peppermint oil does, in fact, deter rodents (9).
Using Mint to Repel Mice
The first thing you should understand if you decide to use mint to repel mice is that it is not a miracle fix. While it will definitely work to repel any new mice from taking up residence in your home, if you already have an infestation, it may not be as simple. You will likely have to call a professional to remove them humanely.
Once the infestation is gone, and you have thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the area, however, use peppermint to keep them away.
4 Ways to Use Mint to Repel Mice
The trick to using mint to repel mice is to use a high quality, undiluted essential peppermint oil. Nothing else will do. Once you have your oil, you can use one of the following methods to end you rodent problem for good.
1. Cotton Balls
This is one of the easiest and most effective methods for deterring mice with peppermint. Simply place about 5 drops of pure peppermint oil on several cotton balls. Determine where the mice are entering and leaving your home. Put a cotton ball in each of these areas. The key to using this method is definitely location.
If you already have mice, you will want to mask the pheromone trails they leave by placing cotton balls near these areas. A good way to find where the mice are going is to look for their droppings. Putting a few peppermint soaked cotton balls in these areas can prevent the mice from continuing to explore further.
It’s also a good idea to keep some in your pantry or storage area, where they may be tempted to make their nests.
To assure you keep the mice out, you will need to refresh the cotton balls every month or so.
2. Mix a Little Peppermint Oil in Your Cleaners
Just add a few drops of essential peppermint oil to any of your regular household cleaners such as your floor or bathroom cleaner. Now, every time you clean, you will add a little peppermint oil that will keep the little critters at bay.
3. Peppermint Spray
To freshen your air and add a little essential peppermint oil to larger areas, you can simply make up a solution of water and essential oil. All you need is a few drops (about 10-15) in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. If you have fresh peppermint, simply steep up a strong batch of tea, let it cool and pour it into a spray bottle instead. This is not only a great way to keep mice away, but it serves as a natural air freshener you can use anytime. You can even lightly spritz your sofa cushions or blankets to keep them smelling fresh!
Why is Peppermint not working for me?
Studies do show that mint is an effective remedy to deter mice, so if it is not working for you, there are a few things you should check:
1. Are you using a pure, undiluted essential peppermint oil? With the growing popularity of aromatherapy, there are a number of companies that sell cheaper, diluted oils to save money. These inferior oils will not be as effective at deterring mice. These animals are persistent and unless the odor is strong enough to bother them, they will continue to make your home their own.
2. If you do have the correct oil, are you using enough? Are you changing the delivery method routinely to assure it has a strong enough aroma to deter the mice?
3. Do you have a bigger mouse problem than you originally thought? If so, you will have to call in a professional to remove them as the oil may not be enough to deter them.
If you already have an infestation, the mice will simply move to an area where there is no peppermint. So, unless you are able to cover every area in your home, you will still have a mouse problem. Peppermint works better to repel new mice than to remove an already situated infestation.
How to Make Peppermint Essential Oil
While you can buy a readymade peppermint essential oil, if you prefer, you can make your own without too much trouble. You can use this basic recipe with any herb or flowers to create your own essential oil (10). For a natural pest control recipe using mint, you can use a store bought plant or one you grow yourself.
- Fresh peppermint
- Base oil (olive oil works well)
- Mortar and pestle
- Jar with lid
- Cheese cloth
- Small dark bottle to store the oil
- If you are using your own plant, the best time to collect your leaves is in the morning when the peppermint oil is the strongest.
- Clip the sprigs then rinse them with cold water and gentle pat them dry.
- Take your mint leaves and place them in your mortar and pestle. Gently push on the leaves to release the oils (bruise them).
- Warm your oil in a saucepan, but do not let it boil.
- Place your leaves in a jar and then pour the warm oil in to fully cover them.
- Use a spoon to stir the mixture well and ensure the oil is equally spread throughout the leaves.
- Seal the jar and allow it to sit for 1 month at room temperature.
- Slowly pour the oil through a cheesecloth or coffee filter, allowing the infused oil to fill a storage bottle.
Tip: To infuse your essential oil faster, you can add more fresh mint leaves and replace them every few days with new ones. Make sure to release the oils first with your mortar and pestle. Repeat this process at least three times to have an essential oil in about one week.