The Best Ways to Get Rid of Mice in Your House and Garage
If you build it, mice will come. Sooner or later, you’ll probably need to get rid of mice. Fall is the peak season for an increase in mice in your house, as they look for winter protection. Small mice can cause big problems. They chew on everything, causing property damage and potential fire risks when they gnaw on electrical wiring and build tinder dry nests in dark corners. Rodents can spread disease, on their own, through the parasites they carry.
How do you know if you have mice?
It’s probably more common to see mouse droppings or mouse damage before you see the mice themselves, as they are nocturnal. Fresh droppings of feces usually are moist, soft, shiny and dark, but in a few days they become dry and hard. Old droppings are dull and grayish and crumble when pressed with a stick. Mouse feces are small, averaging about 1/8 inch long, and are pointed on both ends.
Mice commonly mark their trails with urine (yes, I know, you probably didn’t really want to know that…) so that other mice can follow their tracks to food sources. One source I read said that they produce 50-60 droppings per night – ewwww… Once you’ve found their way into your home, you need to block it, otherwise they’ll be right back in via the pee track highway. They can climb, too – like mini rodent ninjas.
How to Keep Mice Out of Your House and Garage
To keep these critters out and keep your family safe and your goods protected, follow these simple steps.
1. Remove Food Sources: Bird food, pet food and other edible odds and ends (even cardboard) that tend to pile up in garages are like mouse nirvana. Crumbs under the couch are a gourmet treat, and a cookie lost by toddler is a mouse family buffet. Seal all food (for pets or humans) in solid containers, not just in bags. (Rats can and will chew through plastic bins, so be warned. You need to use metal containers to keep them out.) Plastic garbage cans or Rubbermaid tubs will generally keep mice out.
Clean, clean, clean! Gaps between appliances like stoves or refrigerators and cabinets can collect crumbs where they are difficult for you to clean, but handy for mice to dine. Remember, if they can get their heads into a space, their bodies can get in, too.
2. Seal Openings: This is probably the toughest but most effective way to keep mice out. As mentioned above, if a mouse can get its head through, the body can go through as well. The little pests only need about a ¼ inch (0.6 cm) wide opening. They can jump – up to 18 inches, travel upside down, and crawl along an electrical wire. If you can stick a #2 pencil through a hole, a mouse can probably use it to get into your home.
When you find holes, you want to try and seal them as strongly as possible. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management recommends: Steel wool, copper gauze (Stuf-it® brand) or screen wire packed tightly into openings is a good temporary plug. For long-term or permanent repair, mix a quick-drying patching plaster or anchoring such as Fixall® into a wad of Stuf-it® before pushing the material into the hole, and smooth over the outside. If steel wool is used, rust stains are likely to result. Holes 3 inches (8 cm) or more in diameter should be covered or backed with 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) woven/welded hardware cloth prior to filling with a good patching compound.
3. Reduce Outside Habitat: If possible, reduce the amount of mouse habitat outside your home to reduce the number of mice inside your home. Trim trees and shrubs away from the home. Clean up debris, brush piles, and other hiding spots where mice may take cover. Keep your compost bin(s) as tidy as possible.
4. Set up Barricades with Kitty Litter and Peppermint Essential Oil: I used peppermint oil dropped on plain kitty litter. I put a small bag of litter (5lbs.) in a container from dollar store added 4 oz. Peppermint oil. Put lid on and shook it well. I left it over night. Then I put about a tablespoon of the litter in a small piece of old sheet or cloth whatever you have lying around. tie it into a little bundle or sachet. Place these around your house outside about every 2 feet and in garage and basement areas along walls. Lasts longer than spraying the oil and you don’t have to worry about woodwork. Remember mice have a keen sense of smell, after all they can find a lost potato chip behind a cabinet. So even though the smell decreases it’s still working. All I do is add a fresh drop of the peppermint oil to each little sachet every 6-12 months.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Mice that Are Already in Your Home
Your three main options are cats, traps and poison.
Poisons: Poisons do work, but not immediately. The mice will crawl off and die somewhere and potentially smell really nasty, plus who wants mummified mice sitting around their house? Poisons can also be a danger to children and pets.
Traps: Your basic wooden trap is cheap and readily available, but can sometimes be hit or miss. A friend of mine was complaining recently that her mice kept stealing the bait but not getting caught in the trap. We bought a set of Snap-Es, and they are much easier to set than the standard wooden traps. Humane traps are also available, but one site states that you need to take your mouse at least two miles away to make sure it will not return. I am not a mouse chauffeur, and I don’t think it’s right to share my mice with my neighbors.
How to Safely Clean Up Mice and Mouse Droppings
Because of the risk of hantavirus and other illnesses, care should be taken when cleaning up mouse droppings/remains, especially in quantity and/or in enclosed areas. (Information adapted from Environment, Health and Safety Online.)
- Wear gloves, either rubber gloves or work gloves you can wash in hot water
- Spray the droppings first with 3% hydrogen peroxide, then with white vinegar. This will kill 99% of bacteria. A bleach water solution or disinfectant is also and option.
- Wipe up droppings with a paper towel, throw towel in garbage
- Clean area with disinfectant solution or hydrogen peroxide/vinegar combo
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after removing gloves
If dealing with large amounts of droppings, you may need professional help. At the very least, please wear a face mask or respirator. Please be careful! Your county extension office may be able to provide more information on any known rodent related disease outbreaks in your area.
Treat nesting materials and dead mice similarly. Always wash hands thoroughly after touching contaminated materials.
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