No matter if you're a renter or home owner, just moved in or lived in your current place for years, there's never a good time to learn that a rodent has moved in to your home. Whether you've discovered mouse droppings in your bathroom or nibbles from your packages in the kitchen pantry, the entire situation is a big, fat shudder-inducing disaster that nobody ever want to deal with.
So, now that you have an unwanted pest guest, how do you kick him or her to the curb? While you might think you have an idea of how to do this (more so than say, how to get rid of a snake or how to get rid of drain flies), you might be surprised by some of the myths around how to catch a mouse.
We spoke with Kevin Carrillo, senior project manager for M&M Pest Control, about his best tips and tricks for making your living situation completely mouse-free. You'll be surprised to know that there's a whole world beyond leaving out traps and bait. And, if you're trying to figure out how to get rid of a rat, which requires similar but slightly different steps, be sure to check out those instructions too.
Why do I have mice in my house?
Whether you live in a studio or standalone dwelling, Carrillo notes that every residence has small structural openings, which contractors typically make to accommodate your water, gas, electrical, and data lines. Mice, from either the dirt or sewer, can actually travel through these lines into wall and floor cavities and pop out into your house. Believe it or not, they're capable of squeezing into spaces as small as a quarter of an inch (yikes).
Lack of sanitation
This point is pivotal—any old trash or unsealed food can quickly beckon rodents. "Even if you keep your kitchen spotless, if you have last night’s dinner in your garbage can, that’s still generally an accessible food source for a mouse," warns Carrillo. To that note, he also adds that the furry critters favor dry goods, like breads, pastas, crackers, and junk food. Put all those Castile soap uses to work and scrub your kitchen down until it's sparkling clean.
If your neighbor managed to permanently chase the mice out of their house or apartment unit, that unfortunately means they might migrate to yours. "Sometimes, it’s just a matter of relocation more than attraction," says Carrillo.
What's the best way to get rid of mice?
For a low-level, very new rodent problem, Carrillo says trapping is the most tried-and-true method. But know that if you've caught one mouse, there's a high chance it's not alone, and you probably haven't solved the issue fully. "Mice do tend to travel with their entire family, as well as with their best friends," says Carrillo. "Even if you think you’re seeing the same mouse over and over again—they do look really similar—you could have upward of 20 mice living in the wall cavity."
How do you get rid of mice in the walls?
Speaking of wall cavities, Carrillo's company specializes in installing small panels with a door into your wall. A trap is placed just inside the door, and once an animal gets caught, you can easily extract it. Carrillo advises against using bait: You run the risk of a mouse consuming the poison, dying, and getting stuck too far in your wall to remove, leaving you with a horrible smell. (If you are stuck with that unfortunate smell, try Joanna Gaines's 5-ingredient scent trick to mask it instantly!)
How do you catch a mouse fast?
The fastest, most permanent fix, according to Carrillo? Structurally repairing (aka pest-proofing) your home to block off entry points. This usually starts with an assessment from a pest specialist, who will come up with a game plan for your specific residence. "It’s basically closing off all those holes in the walls and the floor that are leading to the building envelope—the area where most pests are traveling and sleeping," adds Carrillo.
From there, the team uses a combination of construction-grade materials, like fast-drying cement, heat-resistant expanding polymer foam, a steel wall, or quarter-inch construction steel mesh to seal the gaps, followed by paintable, water-resistant silicone caulk and plaster to finish.
The whole process could take about a day, at most, and ultimately sees the best long-term results. "With baiting and trapping, it's not a quick solve," says Carrillo. "The only thing that’s really a quick solution is the structural repair. We basically tell people you go from having mice one night to not having them the next morning because they can no longer gain entrance to your apartment or your house."
How do you catch a mouse without killing it?
It's totally understandable if you want to steer clear of harmful chemicals or find a more humane way to shoo out the little guys. Structural repair stands firm as the most all-natural, nonchemical solution, but Carrillo notes another hack that's proven successful on farms. For this DIY mouse trap, you'll need to find a 5-gallon bucket and put a metal wire across the top (like from a dry cleaning hanger). Then, cut a small hole in one side of a soda can, run the wire through it, and smear peanut butter on the can. Mice will climb up and walk across the wire to get the bait, but the can will spin and they'll fall into the bucket. Voilà!
How do you get rid of mice naturally?
In addition to the bucket trick, there are some natural remedies you can use to prevent or deter mice. There are several scents that are said to keep mice at bay since they have a strong sense of smell.
You can try dousing cotton balls with peppermint oil and leave them near spots you think mice are getting in. Or, fill cheesecloth sachets with cayenne pepper, cloves, and mint—other aromas they dislike—and scatter these about as well. Ammonia has also been said to work, which you can leave out in capfuls by problem areas.
How do you know when all the mice are gone?
There are some obvious signs that mice have finally vacated the property, including a lack of droppings and no more scratching or scurrying noises. Generally, once a week has passed without a sighting of droppings, you should be in the clear. You can spread flour or talc in the areas where you saw mice to test if they're gone (note: you must use odorless talc, because mice will avoid the smell). If there's no evidence of tiny footprints, you should be rodent-free.
How do I keep mice away?
Pest-Proof Your Home ASAP
Beat the problem head-on by having your residence structurally repaired. This way, you'll eliminate potential mouse entry points before they start to become an issue.
Put Sweeps on All Exterior Entries
This rubber trim prevents rodents (and bugs!) from sliding beneath your door.
Make Food as Inaccessible as Possible
Empty your trash regularly and always keep food tucked away. (Check out these pantry organization tips to keep your food tucked away).
"The more cluttered areas you have, the more likely you are to have mice decide that it looks like a pretty cozy space for them to start living," says Carrillo. Be especially wary of closets, and try some closet organization ideas for a neat and tidy space.
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