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Fresh and Frugal: How to Use Peppermint Oil for a Pest-Free Kitchen

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At some point, everyone finds bugs or other pests invading their kitchen. Having lived in military housing and then the Midwest, I’m no stranger to them. But I don’t like using strong pesticides around food, especially with pets and kids around. That’s why I use peppermint oil to keep pests out of my kitchen naturally.

The key to using peppermint oil for natural pest control is putting it where it can repel would-be invaders and eliminate the scent trails they leave to guide others.

There are several ways to do this. But heads up if you have pets: you need to follow a few safety measures to protect them from direct exposure to the stuff.

Pests Repelled by Peppermint Oil

  • Ants: the smell of disrupts the scout ant’s trail.
  • Rodents: mice especially find it toxic and avoid it.
  • Cockroaches: rely on scents to look for food but the menthol in peppermint prevents this.
  • Spiders: their unique respiratory system makes them vulnerable to it so they steer clear.

4 Ways to Use Peppermint Oil for Kitchen Pest Control

1. On Cotton Balls

A couple drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball can keep the scent going for days. Put the cotton ball on a piece of foil or in a shallow open container to protect surfaces. Then, stick them in places where pests like to hide and replace them when the scent fades:

  • Corners of cupboards
  • Inside drawers
  • On top of cabinets
  • Behind items on open shelves
  • Before adding the bag to garbage cans
  • In gaps before adding steel wool to keep mice out of your home

Safety Tip

Essential oils contain volatile organic compounds, so don’t stash cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil near open flames. Avoid putting them behind or beneath your appliances for the same reason.

2. Peppermint Oil Gel Capsules

Gel capsules are a convenient way to use peppermint oil to keep pests out of your kitchen, especially in areas where sprays might not be convenient. These capsules break down over time, so they last longer than other methods, too.

Put 2-3 peppermint gel capsules on a glass saucer or in an open, shallow bowl or jar. Then, set the container on your counter, near entry points, or in any of the spots where you’d put the oil-soaked cotton balls. Replace them as needed, typically once a month.

The Peppermint Gel Capsules I Use

3. In Diffusers

You can also diffuse peppermint oil in an aromatherapy diffuser or oil-safe humidifier to repel pests. Most diffusers cover medium-sized rooms (200-400 square feet) and humidifiers cover even larger spaces.  

Skip this method if you have pets, though, for reasons I cover below. Also, if you live in a humid area, you’ll want to skip this in warmer months. Unfortunately, that’s when pests are at their most active. 

4. In a Cleaning Spray

This spray doesn’t smell overwhelming to humans, but bugs and rodents have much more sensitive noses. So use it freely while cleaning, and you’ll be naturally controlling pests in your kitchen, too. Here are some of my favorite areas to use it:

  • Kitchen counters, backsplashes, cabinets, and furniture.
  • Window sills and jambs.
  • Daily to clean the sink.
  • On trash day to clean the kitchen trash can inside and out. 

Peppermint Oil Cleaning Spray for Pest Control

Using peppermint oil in a simple cleaning spray is an easy and effective way to keep pests out of your kitchen naturally.
Type of Recipenatural pest control
Use AsSpray
Keywordshomemade cleaner, kitchen

Equipment and Materials

  • Spray bottle


  • 12 oz water
  • 2-3 drops liquid dish detergent
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil


  1. To a spray bottle, add the ingredients in the amounts indicated.
  2. Shake gently to combine.
  3. Spray then wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
  4. Shake again as needed to keep the oil and water mixed.


Insects and rodents are more sensitive to smells than humans are, so there is no need to add more peppermint essential oil to keep pests away than what’s called for. Using too much will leave a greasy film.
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Pro Tip

If you don’t have pets, try adding peppermint essential oil to my homemade floor cleaner recipe!

Peppermint Oil Safety Tips for Pet Owners

Peppermint oil is toxic to dogs and cats if they consume it or breathe in a heavy concentration. Cats are especially susceptible to the phenol and phenolic compounds in peppermint oil. So, if you have pets, it’s important to exercise caution. 

  • Skip diffusers, since dogs and cats have more sensitive respiratory systems.
  • Do not use peppermint oil on surfaces your pet may walk on, since they lick their paws.
  • Use good ventilation and keep pets out of the area when spraying cleaning products that contain peppermint oil.
  • Put oil-soaked cotton balls and peppermint gel capsules where your pets can’t reach them.
  • Make sure pets have the option to leave an area if they find the smell of peppermint bothersome.
  • Don’t use any form of peppermint oil near pet feeding or sleeping areas.

Since I have both a dog and a cat, I don’t diffuse peppermint oil. But during peak ant season — which is March through April here — I use the peppermint spray cleaner above on my kitchen counters, window sills, appliances, and cabinets. 

Then I keep a jar with peppermint gel capsules on the pantry shelves, under the kitchen sink, and above my kitchen cabinets year-round. Those are spots my pets can’t reach, but stashing peppermint oil there keeps pests out of my kitchen. Let me know how it works for you!

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  1. I’ve gotta say, your recomend for just 2 -3 drops of dish detergent is so much better than when I used to use castile or even sal suds for cleaners. Cheaper too!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Soap and detergent are so counterintuitive, aren’t they? We think that more is better but more often just makes a mess.

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