Outdoor PestsWildlife

What to Spray on Garbage to Keep Bears Away

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In many regions around the world, bear encounters are a common concern. One of the main attractors of these wild creatures is the scent of garbage. If you live in a bear-prone area, it’s crucial to know how to properly manage your garbage to deter bears and keep your property safe. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss what to spray on garbage to keep bears away, as well as other preventative measures to bear-proof your home.


While there isn’t a specific spray designed to deter bears, you can use substances like ammonia, diluted apple cider vinegar, bleach, and pine scent to mask the smell of garbage and reduce bear attraction. However, these methods are not as effective as using bear-resistant trash cans or storing your garbage in a secure area. It’s also important to take safety measures when applying these deterrents, such as wearing protective clothing and avoiding inhaling the fumes.

Understanding Bear Attraction to Garbage

Bears are opportunistic feeders with a keen sense of smell. They are primarily attracted to garbage due to the scent of food and food-related items. The main culprits include human food scraps, pet food, fruit and vegetable waste, birdseed, and cooking grease or oils. Bears can detect food and food odors from over a mile away, making unsecured garbage and recycling bins an easy target.

Effective Bear Deterrents

While there are no specific sprays commercially available designed to deter bears from garbage, there are some methods that can help mask the smell of food and reduce bear attraction. These include using ammonia, diluted apple cider vinegar, bleach, and pine scents. However, it’s important to note that these methods may not be as effective as using proper bear-resistant trash cans or storing your garbage in a secure area.


Pouring ammonia on your garbage can help decrease the likelihood of a bear being attracted to the smell. However, always be cautious when handling ammonia as it can cause skin and eye irritation, and its fumes can be harmful if inhaled.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Water

Dilute apple cider vinegar in water and spray it around possible points of entry for bears. The strong smell of vinegar can act as a deterrent.


Like ammonia, bleach has a strong smell that can cover up the scent of food in your garbage. Sprinkle or spray a small amount of bleach onto your garbage bags and inside your garbage cans.

Pine Scent

Pine scent can also be effective in deterring bears. You can use pine-scented cleaners or air fresheners to spray your garbage cans.

Safety Measures When Applying Sprays

When applying these deterrents, it’s crucial to take safety measures. Always wear protective clothing, such as gloves and eye protection, and avoid inhaling the fumes. Do not use more product than necessary, and ensure you provide adequate ventilation if using the products indoors.

Other Preventative Measures

In addition to spraying your garbage, there are other steps you can take to deter bears from your property:

  1. Use bear-resistant containers: Invest in bear-resistant trash cans or enclosures. These are designed to prevent bears from accessing the contents.
  2. Store garbage indoors: If possible, store your garbage cans in a garage or other secure area until the morning of trash pickup.
  3. Clean your garbage cans regularly: Regular cleaning can help reduce lingering scents that might attract bears.
  4. Secure pet food and bird feed: Store these items in airtight containers and avoid leaving them outside.
  5. Install motion-sensitive lights: The sudden illumination can scare away bears that venture too close to your home.

By following these tips, you can effectively reduce the risk of bear encounters on your property. Remember, the goal is not only to keep your home safe but also to prevent bears from becoming reliant on human food sources. By making your home less attractive to bears, you’re helping to keep them wild.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other scents can deter bears from my garbage?

Besides ammonia, apple cider vinegar, bleach, and pine, other strong scents like citrus or peppermint can also deter bears. However, effectiveness can vary and these are not foolproof solutions.

Can I use commercial bear sprays on my garbage?

Commercial bear sprays are designed to deter aggressive or charging bears and are not intended for use on garbage. They contain capsaicin, which can irritate bears’ eyes and respiratory systems, causing them to retreat.

What should I do if I encounter a bear near my garbage?

If you encounter a bear near your garbage, do not approach it. Make yourself appear larger by standing on your tiptoes and spreading your arms, and make loud noises to scare it away. However, if the bear is habituated to human presence and does not retreat, it’s best to slowly back away and contact local wildlife authorities.

Are there other ways to manage food waste to deter bears?

Yes, composting can be a great way to manage food waste, but it should be done correctly to avoid attracting bears. Avoid composting meat, fish, and sweet-smelling fruit scraps. Turning your compost regularly and covering it with a layer of leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips can help reduce odors.

How effective are motion-sensitive lights in deterring bears?

Motion-sensitive lights can be effective in startling and scaring away bears that wander close to your home. However, some bears may become accustomed to the lights over time, so it’s best to use this method in conjunction with other preventative measures.

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