Does Vinegar Repel Deers? Best Natural Deer Repellents

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Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by Tony Manhart

Does vinegar repel deers? Let’s have a look at a few things we can do, both natural, and man-made remedies and interventions to keep deer out of our gardens – or at least away from our plants. Deer and other wild animals that sneak into our gardens and graze plants are a disaster, and learning to control and repel these unwanted but beautiful visitors is part of the gardening journey.

When we garden, the object of gardening is to be the apex herbivore in our garden. You choose what gets eaten, and what does not, what gets trimmed and what does not. When deer wander into your garden and eat your plants this damages that balance, as you have a new apex herbivore in your garden, and the situation will deteriorate rapidly. Probably the only animal more destructive in a garden than a deer is a goat or a baboon. But those are not the topic of this article.

Deer are skittish animals – mainly because they are delicious – and a lot of predators are after them. They have an exceptionally acute sense of smell. This means they are both aware of predators’ scents and do not wish to attract predators. The predators that hunt deer have acute senses of smell too – and they use this to find where the deer are.

Plants have over time been able to exploit this dynamic to protect themselves from being eaten. Terpenes are a class of very strong-smelling chemicals that some plants produce. If a deer touches these plants, they will release a strong odor, and this will both stick to the deer, and also waft in the wind and any predators will hence know that there is something damaging plants upwind of where they are.

Good examples of plants that produce terpenes are mint, lavender, coriander, and catnip. Ok, so now we know how plants repel deer – but does vinegar repel deers? If we understand the biology of how odor deters deer then we can apply this knowledge to deterring them from our plants. Vinegar can be used in this process.

Failing that, we can resort to using technology! Which is always fun.

Best Natural Deer Repellent

As we have mentioned, deer are scared of predators and try to avoid strong odors. In this regard, we can use this knowledge to repel them.

Grow Deer-Resistant Plants

When it comes to food, just like us humans, deer have preferences.  They eat what tastes, smells, and feels good. Deer are heavily predated upon. To avoid predators, they need to be able to have a relatively low odor presence. Predators lurk in forests and detect changes in odor – this can indicate the presence of herbivores that are damaging plants, or herbivores that have actually walked through plants. Herbivores in nature outnumber predators, hence, predators can use these simple odor clues to detect the presence of food.

If we plant plants such as Lavender, a deer will immediately notice that contact with this plant releases a cloud of strong terpene odors into the air. The odor will also stick to the deer, so now it knows it has released an alarm to attract predators, and it has also painted a smell arrow over its head to say “I am here!!” The result is that a Lavender hedge can help deter deer. To an extent. If conditions are dry and food is not available in the forest, they will bypass your lavender, but in a good year, lavender boundary planting can help a bit.

Planting plants that have a strong terpene profile can help create a small wall between your garden and the outside world. You may think roses are thorny and will repel deer – do not make this mistake – rose leaves are really tasty, and deer will make their way around the thorns to enjoy your roses. Deer are more easily repelled by odor than thorns.

Useful Deer Repelling Herbs

These herbs can be planted into the ground, or in pots, and dotted around your garden near deer-sensitive plants. You can create hedges of herbs as well, that will help.


As mentioned is a useful deer-repelling plant due to its strong terpene profile.


This fast-growing herb is actually quite beautiful and if you plant it in the right place, you can enjoy its big bushes of white or pink flowers. These flowers attract a lot of pollinators. If you allow it to go to seed, it will come up everywhere, and soon, you will have a forest of cilantro. To start, you can get a seed pack such as this and after you have allowed it to go to seed, you can harvest some seeds and plant again the next year.


This spreading plant grows very well in wet areas. If allowed to grow in the soil, it will sort of take over. It is quite a pest, but if you plant a barrier of this in a larger garden, the deer will not pass through it. It will eventually become a dense bed about one to two feet deep.

Getting catnip started can be a problem, as cats will gnaw the plant off at the ground when they find it. I found that starting my catnip off indoors, and then planting it out under a cloche really helped survival rates. Plant the plants quite densely, and when you remove the cloches they will be growing so fast that any cats that are around will not be able to graze them as fast as they grow. Your cats will love you for this – my cat goes and hangs out in the catnip patch every day, and it seems to help her mood somewhat.


This refers to quite a big family of plants that have basil leaves that can be used as a herb. Read more in an article I wrote here. If you buy a mixed seed bag such as this one you will see that it includes Tulsi/holy Basil. This is the sacred plant of the Hindu people, and it is a very strongly scented perennial plant. Once you have a plant growing, you can take cuttings and root these. A hedge of holy basil will deter deer.

If you live in a cooler climate, grow this plant in pots and move it out in spring, and place it around plants you wish to protect. You could even grow a lot of cuttings and root them in spring and let them die in fall. They will do their job in between.


Mint is one of those plants that, much like Catnip, can take over. If planted in a large garden, you can grow a barrier bed of mint that deer will find difficult to walk through. In pots, it can be scattered around near deer-sensitive plants.

If you want to plant “aesthetic” plants other than these and many more herbs listed above, you can plant deer-resistant plants.

Try these Deer-resistant plants:

  • A) Stokesia (Stokesia ‘Honeysong Purple’)
  • B) Deutzia
  • C) Obedient plant
  • D) Coneflower
  • E) Mealycup sage
  • F) Garden phlox
  • G) Lily of the Valley
  • H) Chaste tree

Best Natural Deer Repellent



Commercially Available Sprays

Many off-the-shelf products are deer deterrents. These have two main modes of action. They can smell strongly, and deter deer much as herbs do. Or they can make plants taste terrible – normally bitter, or hot. Some can be a mix of the above.

Products such as this deterrent work by placing an odor on the areas you apply it to. This in a way allows you to turn plants that are smelly into smelly plants and make them repellant to deer. The product is basically a peppermint solution that mimics the effect of a plant that makes its own terpenes.

Some products contain egg, which has been allowed to be putrefied – this is a good example. Some sprays are made from hot pepper – but research suggests that deer get used to these. There used to be products containing Denatonium benzoate (Bitrex) which is the most unpleasant-tasting thing ever created – but I cannot find any of these listed anymore. There must have been a change of laws. This compound could infiltrate into groundwater, and the water would become bitter and undrinkable as a result.

DIY Home Made Deer Spray a Natural Deer Repellent

At this point we get to the fun bit and answer our question “Does Vinegar Repel Deers?” Well we know vinegar has a bit of a stink to it. There are many types of vinegar on the shelves. Some of these are made by taking industrial ethanol from distilleries and reacting that with a catalyst to produce spirit vinegar. These kinds of vinegar contain acetic acid and water. They are not of much use for making deer repellent as they have very little smell, other than the smell of acetic acid. Natural vinegar, such as this cider vinegar is produced by a broad range of microbes, that make the vinegar have a far stronger smell.

Vinegar is composed of about 5% by weight organic acids – in the case of natural vinegar this is mainly acetic acid, and a few other organic acids, notably propionic acid which smells like sweat. This is why natural organic vinegar has a slightly “sweaty” nose to it. If you spray these directly onto plants, you will burn the plants.

When we make a homemade deer spray, the main logic is that the vinegar is acting a bit like a solvent, and can help us make some terpenes dissolve in water. Many recipes call for the addition of a bit of egg – this will have a two-fold effect – the egg will rot and smell – and it also contains lecithin, which works with vinegar to emulsify your terpenes.

Here is a really simple deer repellant that you can make with vinegar, water, and some essential oils. It combines the benefits of the smell of live vinegar with the smell of essential oils. There are a lot of recipes on the internet for homemade deer repellants, but I think many of these bypass the science. This one does not.

This works on a basic unit of one cup. Add a third of a cup of live natural cider vinegar, and twenty drops of essential oil (eg mint, thyme, rosemary, or a mix of all of them), and then make the volume of the cup up with water. I use a blender to emulsify this mix. If you want to be fancy, you can add a quarter spoonful of lecithin to your mixture.

Lecithin is an emulsifier, so in addition to the work the vinegar will do in dispersing the essential oils, the lecithin will help to keep the droplets of essential oil dispersed and maximally available for dispersion when you spray your mix. You do not want to end up in a situation where all the essential oils rise to the top of your sprayer bottle and you are spraying water onto most of your plants!! If you use lecithin, you have to use a blender to get it dispersed so it can work its emulsifying magic.

Spray this mixture onto your plants – you will need to reapply quite regularly, and in this regard, I suggest planting deer-deterring plants as a more effective long-term solution.


Create Barriers

If you can’t stop deer from eating almost anything in your garden, barricade them. Block their view with a solid fence that will obstruct their view. Of course, they can’t eat what they don’t see. 

You can achieve this by putting up a layer of fence high enough(about 8 ft), that they can’t jump over.  There are other tricks you can use, such as spanning fishing lines and hanging tin cans from these so that deer will bump into “invisible” things and make rattling noises, etc. My experience with animals in general is you can fool them for a bit, but not forever.

Best Natural Deer Repellents Create Barriers


Also, you can install a deer-proof electric fence.  If you go down this path, it is important to remember buying an electric fence energizer is like buying a motor vehicle. Buying some no-name brand thing made in a sweatshop somewhere will result in wasted money. Buy a good well tested well researched brand – I like this brand. I have used these energizers in the past to protect my bees and can confirm they are reliable, well-built, and give very little trouble. I bought other things as well, and they are all in my “to fix one-day” box in the attic.

An electric fence such as this one is quite useful as it will also keep other problem creatures – bears – stray humans – stray dogs – and the like out of your garden. It is useful to check your local by-laws to find out what signage is required for your fence so that if you do happen to give a stray human a jolt, they do not come and sue you for “infringing their rights” while trespassing on your property.

Scare Tactics

With the rise of AI and semi-intelligent deterrents, we can expect to see many useful ways to deter deer from our gardens in the neer future.

Before these super high-tech items are on the market in a user-friendly form, we can at least use water!! These simple motion-activated sprinklers work quite well for deterring various things from your garden. I have tried one of these in the past but my garden is too overgrown and many tall plants wave in the wind. I live in a very windy area, and I found this results in the sprinklers getting triggered by waving plants. If you have a low garden, with a wide sweep of view, this may be the option for you – for me, it just resulted in a very wet garden!!

Will Moth Balls Keep Deer Away/Do Deer Like Mothballs?

Mothballs are balls of Naphthalene (common) or Para- Dichlorobenzene (less common) that slowly evaporate releasing toxic gasses of these compounds. These chemicals are very bad for humans, and for many of the creatures that we actually need in our gardens. I am sure that they will deter Deer, as the chemicals stink, and stinky things deter deer, but I feel it makes sense to find something that is not toxic and stinky to achieve this objective.

Natural Deer Repellent: What Works, Fits Best

Does Vinegar Repel Deers? Yes, especially if it is a stinky natural vinegar that has a bit of propionic acid in it! White spirit vinegar will not have this chemical, but a natural organic cider vinegar will – that gives it a nice sweaty smell – something deer do not like. Use the vinegar, together with water, preferably lecithin, and some essential oils to create an emulsified spray that will cover your plants and deter the deer further.

Plant barriers of terpene-rich herb plants, such as mint, coriander, rosemary, catnip, and other “stinky” plants keep deer out. Use a bit of technology – light the deer up with an electric fence – blast them with water cannons. A combination of these methods should help keep the numbers in your garden down, and the damage to a minimum.

Feel free to ask questions if you find this post helpful.  Don’t hesitate to comment. 


How do I keep deer out of my vegetable garden naturally?

First, you will need plants that deer do not like such as herbs and vegetables that deer cannot eat. Next, create physical barriers such as fences, hedges, and trees. Finally, put up an offensive smell or sound that will deter the deer from entering your garden.

What do deer hate the most?

Deer are animals that can cause a great deal of damage to your garden and landscaping if you leave them unattended. You might think that deer don't care about plants, but they actually hate the smell of plants.

Deer hate the smell of mint, so all you need to do is put some mint leaves into a pot with water and leave it by your door or windowsills, and they'll run away from that smell. You can also plant mint around other plants or in between rows of flowers - deer hate that too! Some deer repellents can be used as well as traps to keep deer away from your garden without harming them. It's important to remember not to put out food for deer or feed wild animals in order to avoid attracting unwanted guests into your home.

Does vinegar repel deer?

Vinegar is a natural deer repellent. Probably the smell of vinegar drives deer away for the same reason that people use it as an insecticide and as a cleaning agent.

In order to make sure that your garden is safe from deer, you should make sure there are no sources of food nearby. You can also sprinkle vinegar around to drive them away.

It is a widely used weapon to deter deer from entering gardens in the springtime when they are hungry and looking for food. Vinegar can be mixed with water to make a spray that is effective at this time of year (when deer are more likely to come).

Deer repellents can be purchased online or at gardening stores, but an effective deterrent is vinegar mixed with water as a spray.

Does Irish Spring soap repel deer?

Irish Spring is a brand of soap that claims to repel deer. Does it actually work?

Irish Spring is a brand of soap that claims to repel deer. Does it actually work? Irish Spring is a soap that comes in bars, liquid, and bath salts. It has also been known as one of the most expensive bars of soap on the market. The ingredients for the best-selling bar include glycerin, water, coconut oil, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide and the fragrance Irish Green Tea (a mixture of lime peel oil and melon). The company originated from New York in 1892.

Yes! Irish Spring does indeed repel deer away from your property or garden with its smell!

Will moth balls deter deer?

Moth balls are a popular scent used around the home to deter deer and other unwanted animals. Deer are very sensitive to smell and they can detect these scents from miles away.

Does coffee grounds repel deer?

It is well-known that coffee grounds are quite toxic. They are a source of harmful chemical compounds and can be quite dangerous when ingested by humans.

However, we cannot always trust what people say they know. While most people believe that coffee grounds repel deer, it has not been proven yet.

Find more information about Sunflowers Deer Resistant: How To Prevent Deer From Eating Your Sunflowers

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