How To Get Rid of Mice
17–20 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
As cute as a pet mouse can be, wild mice create serious problems for humans. Hiding in sewers and underground subway systems, these pests often invade homes once the weather grows colder.
They will chew their way through your home, leaving feces and tracking bacteria and disease. Along with a host of health hazards, there are known neurological and emotional effects resulting from a mouse infestation.
To address an infestation, your first move to determine just what you’re dealing with. It’s important to distinguish mice from rats and to identify the specific species that is causing you problems. Once you learn about several common species of mice that are found throughout homes, you can take steps to rid your property of them and prevent more from returning.
Mice range from small to medium in size. They generally grow to around two to three inches as adults, not including the length or their tails. Some can grow five to seven inches. Different species can vary in color, but most mice are grey, brown or black. They all have small paws with nails, and their heads are characterized by whiskers and large eyes and ears.
While mice can bite if they feel threatened, their main danger is in the diseases they transmit, including salmonella, hantavirus, and forms of meningitis. Mice teeth never stop growing, so they’re constantly gnawing and chewing on rough materials in order to file them down. This causes them to chew through wiring and insulation inside homes.
Differences Between Rats and Mice
- Mouse are more curious than rats and more likely be seen running around.
- On average, most mouse species are smaller than rats.
- Mice like to burrow within walls, while rats dig under buildings and plants.
Common Species of Mice
True to its name, house mice like to situate themselves inside human homes, where it uses all the materials it can find to feed and build nests. They’ll use shredded material like paper, cloth, and cardboard for nests but will also eat glue, soap and residue. House mice are also known to transmit typhus, salmonella and bubonic plague.
How To Identify:
- 1/4 to 1/2 inch
- Reddish black
- Found throughout the U.S.
- Can destroy wet and decaying wood
- Pose a serious structural threat; consider seeking professional help immediately
Deer mice are known to transmit Hantavirus, which is a potentially fatal respiratory disease. They’ll often be found in outdoor structures, such as sheds and barns, and they can be prevented by sealing up common hiding spots. Keep an eye on small holes, cracks and crevices around your property.
How To Identify:
- Slightly larger than the average house mouse, on average.
- Can grow to 5” to 8” long
- Light to dark brown with white feet and white belly
- Found throughout the U.S., but tend to cause the most problems in rural areas around outdoor garages and sheds
- Known to chew through wires, insulation, furniture and clothing
White footed mice are known to make their way inside homes once the temperature begins to drop, so closer to Winter and Fall. Like other rodents, they can spread bacterial diseases after coming in contact with food, and they are also known for spreading lyme disease through ticks that they pick up in the brushy, forested areas they live in.
How To Identify:
- Average adult length is 6” to 8”
- Fur color can range from light to reddish brown, with white feet and bellies
- Found in colder regions, such as the Northeast United States and Canada
- Tend to thrive in brushy, forested areas
- Omnivorous diet that includes insects, wood, seeds, nuts and fruit
| Updated for 2018 What's In This Guide Dangers of Having a Mouse InfestationDamage to Property and PossessionsExposure to Viruses and Diseases Possible Fire HazardsGet Rid of Mice with Peppermint Oil It’s a nice, sunny morning and you are just...read more
Signs of a mouse infestation will be obvious for a variety of reasons. While mice do like to hide, they will also scurry about your house in plain sight.
Even if you’ve seen one or two, you’ll want to develop a treatment plan quickly as they can breed rapidly and cause an enormous problem in no time. Look for any of these additional signs as well:
- Small footprints among the dust in your house
- Small droppings
- Gnaw marks on furniture and clothes
- Small burrows or holes along your walls
- Foul odors
- Scratching noises in your walls
- Signs that your food has been tampered with or eaten
Gather the Tools You’ll Need
a good flashlight
For peering into dark corners
To avoid scratches and disease
clear eye goggles
To protect your eyes
a breathable face mask
So you aren’t breathing in fumes
Step 1: Prepare Yourself for Safety
Mice spread bacteria and disease and can even bite if they feel threatened. Keep safety a top priority when you begin your property inspection. Dress in long sleeves and pants, socks and closed-toed shoes to cover as much skin as possible. Wear goggles to protect your eyes and a face mask to protect yourself from breathing in foul odors from mouse waste.
Step 2: Check Your Entire Property
Shine your flashlight along your walls and in areas where you may have heard scratching noises or seen mouse droppings. You’ll want to look for any holes or chew marks that are signs of entry points toward the mice’s hiding place. Because most species of mice are nocturnal and averse to bright lights, the flashlight can scare many of them away. For that reason, you’ll be more successful inspecting at night. Remember that all species have been known to make their way inside human property, but some species like deer mice and white-footed mice tend to stay outdoors and inhabit outdoor structures like barns and sheds.
Step 3: Clean and Develop a Treatment Plan
If you haven’t caught site of the mice invading your property, you can still try to identify them by their droppings. All species will require similar treatment plans, but knowing the species can help even more by providing insight into their size and habits. Since mice breed so quickly, it usually isn’t encouraged to use DIY methods. Contact a professional rodent control expert while taking it upon yourself to properly clean and sanitize your home.
If you’ve ever been startled by a mouse in your kitchen, you may have hoped you could just ignore it until it went away.
But if you see even one mouse in your home, it’s a good bet that you’ve got entire families of mice—in your walls, in your attic, in hard-to-reach spaces in your garage, and in other hidden places. And even if you don’t already have a lot of these resilient pests in your house, spotting that one mouse indicates that you probably will soon.
- Mice tend to live in groups, which is why it’s so important to begin a treatment method the moment you see any evidence of them.
- On average, female mice can have five to ten litters each year.
- Like insects and other pests, mice use pheromones to communicate and leave trails to their nesting areas. Part of a successfully integrated pest management plan should include disrupting these trails and making it harder for the mice to communicate.
Why is Getting Rid of Mice a Priority?
According to a government publication from the UK:
- Wild mice become sexually mature at only six weeks of age.
- Litters usually contain up to eight baby mice, and females can reproduce up to eight times each year.
- One pair of breeding mice can produce up to 64 direct descendants a year, and meanwhile all of their descendants can begin reproducing within six weeks. This means that a few mice can multiply into a huge population in a short time.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified a few diseases that mice and other rodents can transmit directly to you or your family:
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome:People typically contract this serious respiratory illness from breathing dust that has been mixed with rodent droppings.
- Rat Bite Fever:Mice are usually too timid to scratch or bite people, but you can also contract this disease by drinking or eating food or water that mice have contaminated with feces.
- Salmonella:Even the common house mouse can spread a strain of this dangerous bacteria. That’s one reason why many health professionals caution families against keeping pet rodents when they have very young children in the home.
Besides spreading disease, mice aggravate allergies through their dander and droppings. They also bring in fleas, opening the door to another type of infestation and all the risks that come with it. Mice will spoil stored food, destroy property, and contaminate your home. They will also chew holes in essential structures and in electrical wiring and insulation, and so pose a risk to your safety as well as your health.
According to Cornell’s Dr. Hermanson, even relatively clean houses may provide attractive nesting and hiding places for mice. These tiny creatures can survive on leftover food in a pet dish or a few crumbs that have been swept into a corner.
Before you begin using the natural repellent of your choice, you should first take a tour of your home inside and out to identify any areas where mice are likely to get in. This could mean small holes, cracks and crevices that you may not have seen before, especially in your garage, basement or attic. You might also want to check your roof, especially if you have a fireplace and a lot of trees which mice could climb up to gain access to your home. Once you’ve identified each entry point, it’s time to create and execute a mouse-proofing plan.
You can place permanent barriers at common entry points, such as around pipes and electrical lines entering the home, and holes in the siding. You can also find products like spray foams, or use metal, wood, or plastic to fill in gaps where mice are coming in. Invest your time and energy on this first line of defense — once mice have made a home for themselves inside your house, other mice will be attracted by their scent. The fewer opportunities you give mice to enter your home, the less need you will have for repellents and traps.
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Mice in the home have been a problem for as long as there have been indoor dwellings, so it is no surprise that there are many different opinions on how to get rid of them.
Many traps on the market are quite effective, but it is important to choose one with your specific circumstances in mind. Mouse poison is be dangerous for pets and children, while live mouse traps require extra effort on your part to be emptied and reset for catching more mice. You also need to consider the level of mouse problem in your home. If you have hundreds of mice in the walls, it may be more practical to bring in a professional exterminator. Popular treatment options include:
Traditional Mouse Traps, Snap Traps, and Beyond
Traditional traps use bait and a spring-loaded bar to attract and kill mice. They have been around a long time because they work. But the rodent control arsenal has grown to include the snap trap—mechanical jaws that close on the mouse when it springs a trigger. But these types of traps only kill one mouse at a time, and even the snap traps can be challenging to set without hurting yourself. Both traditional and snap traps require you to detect and dispose of each dead mouse before you can use them again. Bait boxes, poison, live traps and high-tech models use gas or electricity to kill mice – improvements worth paying extra for. Find out which of the best mousetrap options, both standard and electronic, are ideal for you.
Live mousetraps use bait to attract mice and trap them alive. While effective, they can only catch one at a time. You must dispose of live mouse yourself, usually by releasing the captive mouse in an area far from your home.
A glue trap is designed to trap mice who walk across it by using glue boards, leaving the mouse stuck until you can dispose of as you see fit. Studies have shown, however, that glue traps are most effective for catching younger mice who have not learned to avoid them. Adult mice may be more cautious around traps of all kinds and are therefore less likely to get caught.
Many people who want to avoid the dangers of poison prefer glue traps. But glue traps are considered less humane. You cannot extract a mouse once it has become entangled in the glue, and it can survive for days in the trap — an outcome many find unnecessarily cruel. Glue trap users also often find themselves needing to dispose of live, struggling mice along with the trap. As anything that touches the trap becomes stuck to it, families and pet owners must use extreme caution with them.
A bait station is typically a plastic box designed to hold mouse poison or other types of poison. Used around the world both in homes and in the wild, the bait station box is designed to mice to enter and take the bait, but makes it difficult for other animals to access the poison. This solves the problem of keeping poison out of the reach of pets and children.
Mouse bait is anything you use to attract mice to your traps. Poison bait is bait that includes poison, too – attracting mice to eat it and ingest the poison at the same time. But if you do not to use poison bait, you will need to choose something that is highly desirable to mice. Some good choices for baiting include peanut butter, wet pet food, chocolate, and soft sweet candies, like fruit gummies. Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not a good bait for mice. Mice are much more likely to seek out peanut butter or chocolate as a food source than a piece of cheddar.
Learn which types of bait or bait stations might be the best options for your particular mouse problem.
There are a number of different mouse repellents available, both chemical-based and natural, non-chemical options. There are also sonic repellent options out there, but current research is on the fence as to whether or not these devices actually work. It appears that the sonic mice repellents currently on the market are not capable of driving away mice as well as devices specifically built by scientific researchers.
There are a variety of poisons on the market designed to kill mice and other rodents. Most mouse and rat poisons are anticoagulants, which thin the mouse’s blood and cause internal bleeding. Mouse poison is definitely effective and can eliminate large populations in a short amount of time if placed correctly. But keeping children and pets from ingesting them is always an issue. Poisoned mice are also poisonous to any animal that eats them — including pets and wildlife — which is why the EPA has worked to limit the sale of mouse poison in recent years.
Traps and poisons for mice are also effective for rat control. We’ve outlined some of the best mouse poisons on the market to fit your needs, whether you have a big infestation, a small one, or have children or pets at home.
Natural and Herbal Mouse Repellents
Natural oils have been shown in studies to effectively repel mouse and rat populations, and through these and other means you can avoid using hazardous chemicals to keep the mice away. Your repellent will be most effective if you place it in the areas where mice will enter the home, as opposed to applying it randomly. Here’s a partial list of DIY mouse repellents and herbal mouse repellents that are not only effective, but natural and safer for you and your family.
Pure Peppermint Oil
Pure peppermint oil can be combined with water or witch hazel in a spray bottle to create a mouse repellent. You can spray this liquid to create a perimeter where mice will not want to cross. You can also soak cotton balls in pure oil and place them in areas that mice frequent, or near the places you suspect they’re building their nests, for an even more powerful deterrent. Another option that is supposed to last even longer than cotton balls is combining peppermint oil with diatomaceous earth. The diatomaceous earth tends to hold the smell longer, and can be reactivated by adding more water when the mixture dries out.
Peppermint Repellent Recipe
- 1 cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 2-3 drops of peppermint oil
The mixture created with this recipe can be stored in containers that you should open and leave near the places where you’ve seen mice congregating. Look for 100% pure peppermint oil, as you want the strongest oil you can find. The oil’s potency will diminish over time, so you will need to reapply at least once a week for protection.
Some people report success using soap in repelling mice. But don’t just reach for whatever is sitting in your soap dish — the most successful repellents consist of strongly smelling soaps like Irish Spring. It’s not clear why mice avoid deodorant soap, but it’s likely they work for the same reason as peppermint oil. The same powerful, fresh smells that humans enjoy are ones mice seem to hate. Cut a bar or two of the soap into smaller cubes and place it in areas like your crawl space or attic where you think mice are coming into your home.
The idea that cat urine and other strong smells put out by predators would repel mice makes sense. If you don’t want cat urine wafting through your house, strategically place their litter box near a site where you’ve seen mice.
Many pets do catch and kill rodents out of instinct. It’s also likely that rodents will exercise some caution around these larger predators. But many domestic pets are neither hungry enough nor bred for the task of hunting rodents. There have been plenty of stories about mice stealing food right out of the cat’s dish while the cat watches curiously. Dogs and cats that roam outdoors may train their offspring to hunt, but pets raised only by humans do not have the benefit of this education.
Either way, having a cat or dog in the house will either have a positive or neutral effect on a mice infestation, and definitely won’t be a negative. Having pets just means you’ll have to pay special attention to the types of traps and baits you’re using so that they aren’t harmed in the process.
Many of the most effective natural repellent approaches are specific to mice, so keep in mind that they may not help with a rat problem in the same way some traps and poisons will. Here is a more comprehensive list of the best mouse repellents you can purchase immediately if you’re in need of a treatment right away and don’t want to fuss with any DIY methods.[amazon table=”41567″]
Mouse-Proof Food Storage
The most effective natural mouse repellent is to stop feeding them. Mice are attracted to human houses because they are warm, dry, and filled with easy meals. Look carefully at all of your packages and other storage containers to identify these food sources. Even if everything is in containers, mice can chew through paper, cardboard, and plastic to get to your food. Mouse-proof storage protects your food and discourages rodents from visiting your kitchen.
Amateur attempts to rid homes of rodents can sometimes backfire, with the invaders simply moving to a more secure location. If you’re not sure how to get rid of mice in your home, that’s another reason to rely on a professional.
Regulations in some places like the State of New York require landlords to have licensed commercial exterminators apply pesticides inside occupied rental units. Tenants in these areas may be free to use their own measures, but they probably also have the right to ask their landlord to take care of a problem that arises.
You should also be sure to contact a mouse control expert if you’re seeing widespread signs of an infestation, such as mouse droppings, home damage, and other significant signs of mice and rats.
Remember that exterminators can’t end your mouse infestation if you don’t take their advice. If your pest control technician applies traps or poisons, but you will still need to heed their suggestions to seal up tiny entrances, keep dirty dishes from piling up, and store food properly. By working with exterminators as part of a team, even a rapidly multiplying mouse infestation can be controlled.
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