How to get rid of mice and keep them away

  • Mice are relentless in foraging for food; If you found it in your house, it doesn’t mean it is dirty.
  • The best way to remove mice is to seal up any possible holes in your house.
  • Simple mousetraps work well and should be the main line of defense instead of rat poison.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference Library for more stories.

There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to the quiet, scurrying sound of a mouse frantically running through your house. It feels like an invasion and it will almost certainly cause you to lose sleep until you deal with the problem at hand.

Mice are relentless in search of food, warmth and shelter. They are always trying to find a way in, especially in the fall and winter, and once inside they aren’t very keen to face the eviction.

Whenever you are dealing with mice in your house or apartment, it is important to come up with a plan to face the situation. It’s also important to understand that the sight of a mouse in your home doesn’t necessarily mean that your home is dirty. Mice have mastered the art of finding their way into a warm shelter, but it is possible to throw them out for good.

Signs you might have mice

  • Feces. If you suspect you may have unwanted visitors in your home, you should carefully examine the area around each room in the house to see if there are feces or urine.
  • Gnaw marks. Carefully examine the contents of your kitchen – especially the pantry – for damage and bite marks.
  • Scratching noises. If you think you might hear scurrying or scratching noises on the walls or ceiling, there is a good chance you are dealing with a rodent infestation.
  • Traces. Look for mouse trails along the sides and edges of your walls as mice and other rodents tend to travel there when foraging.

Quick tip: If you are wondering whether the unwanted guest is a mouse or a rat, the easiest way to decipher the two rodents is by size and shape. Rats have a scaly, rubbery tail and a body much larger than that of a mouse. Most mice are light brown or gray in color, while rats are typically much darker brown and even black.

How to get rid of mice

Once you’ve noticed the signs, it’s time to act. There are a handful of clever ways to get rid of mice that will make sure they don’t come back anytime soon.

Note that traps are generally preferred over bait because they are more humane and pose no threat to pets, children, and other wanted wildlife in the back yard and neighborhood.

Conversely, if you are dealing with a severe infestation, consider calling a professional pest control company to assess the situation and deal with it once and for all.

Eliminate any opportunity for them to get in

A mouse in the crevice between rocks.

Mice can snake their way through openings as small as a ballpoint pen.

Sandra Standbridge / Getty Images

Mice are very smart and agile, so one of the best lines of defense is to eliminate all possible avenues of entry. If there is a hole small enough to insert a regular ballpoint pen, a mouse can go in too. Seal any holes or tears that mice could get through. Consider filling the holes with a steel wool scouring pad – it has sharp edges that mice and other rodents cannot chew or dig through.

Set mousetraps

Mousetraps come in a variety of styles, including traps for quickly killing mice and human live-catching traps. Traps differ in cost and design, and the choice depends on your personal preference.

  • Snap Traps: Snap traps are designed to snap shut a rodent and kill it instantly.
  • Glue traps: A glue trap is designed to trap rodents using an industrial grade sticky paper. Sticky traps should be avoided whenever possible as they lock the animal in without killing it. Note that these types of traps are also illegal in some parts of the United States.
  • Live animal traps: Live animal traps allow you to catch and release the mice or other rodents in your home. This is the most humane form of trapping, but may not work if you are dealing with a larger infestation.

“Traps should be placed in areas where mice are most active,” says Sharalyn Peterson, Healthy Wildlife Manager at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. “Look for tracks, droppings, or gnaw marks. If you’re not sure where the mice live, you can sprinkle a thin layer of flour and then look for tracks the next day.”

Peterson suggests setting traps no more than ten feet apart and moving them every few days if they don’t catch mice. “Place them so that the trigger pops easily and with the trigger near a wall,” she says. “There are also successful locations behind objects and in dark corners.”

Peterson also recommends casting the traps with bait, but not setting them until the bait has been caught at least once; then bait again and set the traps to start catching mice. Peanut butter, chocolates, dried fruit, and bacon are good baits.

Quick tip: If using a humane trap and then releasing the captured mice, keep in mind that mice have returned to their homes from distances of up to miles. Take them as far away as you can.

Consider natural rodent predators

A cat looking into a hole in the wall with two white mice on the other side.

Use caution when using cats to get rid of mice, as the cat can transmit disease by eating an infected mouse.

Michael Blann / Getty Images

Natural rodents can be a great way to deter mice from visiting in the first place, as they don’t want to move into a house where predators live or patrol the neighborhood.

“Having a cat is the most classic method you can think of, and it’s very effective at reducing rodent populations,” said Nicholas Martin, founder and entomologist at Pest Control Hacks. “However, many pest control experts do not recommend it in homes because cats can transmit disease if they eat infected rodents.”

For the most part, the mice in a home do not carry diseases that can affect a cat, but it is probably best not to send them on a hunting mission. The scent of a cat and hers

Litter box

should be enough to keep mice at bay, says Martin.

In rural areas, hawks and owls can help control rodents outside the home. “Hawks and barn owls eat a lot of mice, especially when they are feeding their young,” says Peterson. “If you live in an area suitable for owls, placing a nesting box will encourage barn owls to raise their young near your home.”

Here’s how to keep mice from coming back

Whether you’ve done the job of getting your unwanted house guests away for good or just want to make sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent them in the first place, here are some easy ways to keep mice out of the house.

  • Store food properly: Food should be stored in plastic or metal containers. It’s also good practice to keep groceries in regularly cleaned places like stoves, fridges, and cupboards.
  • Seal all possible openings: Dr. Nancy Troyano, a certified entomologist at Ehrlich Pest Control, also suggests putting brush strips on the bottom of the doors to prevent entry, especially in older homes where the doors may not fit as well. Also, consider covering all vents with fine galvanized wire mesh and repairing damaged roofs with wire mesh.
  • Keep your garden clean: Cut back branches from the house and avoid plants growing on the sides of your property. “Overgrown vegetation near walls offers mice shelter and potential nesting sites,” says Dr. Troyano. “Keep your grass short-mowed to reduce shelter and seeds for food.”

Cleaning up after mice

Cleaning up after keeping mice in a house is as important as clearing them out in the first place. Mouse feces and urine can be toxic to humans and should not be left anywhere in the house.

  • Ventilate the room: Consider giving your space time to breathe after all is said and done. Create cross ventilation by opening all doors and windows for half an hour before starting.
  • Use rubber gloves: Do not touch anything without proper protection. Use rubber gloves when cleaning up everything from feces to dead mice, and consider wearing a face mask as well.
  • Spray on bleach and water: The CDC recommends creating a mixture of about 50 percent water, 50 percent bleach and spraying everything off, including surrounding areas that look undisturbed. You’ll want to make sure the entire area is covered with this disinfectant before you start sweeping or disturbing nesting areas.

Insider tips

The best way to approach a rodent infestation is to address the problem head on. Change any habits that might promote an infestation (e.g. sealing plumbing and holes on the outside of your home) to make sure they don’t come back.

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