Stray domesticated and wild animals that roam freely are drawn to the scent of food waste in garbage cans. Raccoons, squirrels and neighborhood dogs will knock over and rip open bags of trash, leaving a dirty, smelly mess to clean up -- sometimes spread over a wide area. Keep animals out of your garbage with a few homemade sprays that will deter, but not harm, the animals.
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Hot Pepper Spray
Raccoons and squirrels are infamous nocturnal creatures that rummage through garbage. Make a hot pepper spray with one chopped yellow onion, one chopped Jalapeno or Habanero pepper and a tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Mix it with two quarts of water, boil for 20 minutes, cool and strain. Fill a garden pesticide spray or spray bottle and spray around the area where trash cans sit, inside and outside of the can and lid and on top of the bags. Reapply after three or four days and avoid spraying edible garden vegetables.
Squirrels, skunks and raccoons will avoid areas where predators are present. Collect dog, cat or human urine and fill a spray bottle. Since this scent is also displeasing to humans, keep the trash cans at a distance and away from populated areas. Avoid spraying on plants and lawn, as ammonia and urine will kill plants. To lessen the odor, spray inside the bags just before tying them closed. If animals rip the bag open, the scent will drive them off. The trash collectors will also appreciate this.
Vinegar or Ammonia Spray
Mix a solution of vinegar and water and pour in a spray bottle. Spray the ground around trash cans and on the outside of cans and lids. Alternatively, use ammonia, with a similarly strong scent, full strength or diluted with water, to make a spray. Avoid spraying on gardens and lawns as vinegar and ammonia will kill plants. Reapply after a rainfall. These odors are not as offensive to humans, even at full strength, so use these them around trash cans near the house.
Dogs and skunks especially dislike the smell of citrus fruits. Make a solution of lemon, orange, grapefruit or lime juice and water to spray on the outside of trash cans and inside the lids. As you add bags to the can, spritz the tops. Reapply the citrus spray around the outside of the cans after a rainfall if the can is outdoors and exposed to rain. Alternatively, use citrus oils and water to make a spray, shaking well before each application.