Desperate for ways to keep mice away from your home for good? Read on!
Over the years we’ve had a lot of trouble with mice around the homestead. They get in the house, the vehicles, the trash cans, the workshop, the chicken coop. They chew into the bags of animal feed. They get into the food storage closet and poop all over the tops of our canned goods. They make nests in our stored clothes if a storage lid is askew. If we aren’t diligent about keeping them out they can become a real menace very quickly.
Not only do they chew stuff up and make a mess, mice also harbor diseases. Throughout history, rodents have been the carriers of dangerous diseases, viruses, and bacteria. From Hantavirus to the Black Death of the Middle Ages, the severity of the illnesses rodents can cause should be taken extremely seriously.
We’ve tried to be proactive in keeping mice away from our home, but anyone who lives in the country in a manufactured home will tell you it’s nearly impossible. If there’s even the tiniest gap (1/4 inch!) in the flooring or walls, they’re going to find a way in.
Currently we’re dealing with mice in our air ducts. Unfortunately, our home has standard Flex Duct which is easy for rodents to chew through. Evidently they’ve found their way in and are making a home in our vents. I hear them scurrying below the air registers at night.
I know this can’t be good for our health, and it’s of great concern to me. Our hope is to replace our air ducts with metal duct work eventually. It’s expensive, though.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you what we’ve been doing to minimize the problem of mice in and around our home. If you have any suggestions or tips to add to the list, I’d love to hear them!
Why You Need to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home
I know it may be tempting to let sleeping dogs – I mean, mice? – lie, but if you have even just one or two mice in your home, you need to take expedient action to get rid of them. Here’s why.
If you’re lucky enough to not be one of those people who gets creeped out by mice, you probably don’t appreciate the mess that they make. Mice can cause costly damages to your home, chewing on wires and other items to create fire and other safety hazards.
Mice are also damaging to human health. Mouse urine can cause allergies in small children, and they can bring various human diseases like salmonella into the home. They can also transmit mites, ticks, lice, and fleas.
Yuck! Why would you want to let one of these rodents hang out in your home, rent-free? There are so many reasons to get rid of them. But before we discuss the best tips for eliminating a mouse infestation, you need to know what kind of mouse you are working with.
Types of Mice
Before you can get rid of your mouse infestation, you need to know exactly what kind of mouse has moved into your home. There are dozens of different types of mice in the world, but some are more likely to inhabit your home than others.
The house mouse, as the name might imply, is one of the most common mice you will have to deal with. This small mouse is a greyish-brown color and has a grey belly. This mouse has a scaly tail and usually lives near humans in fields or buildings. These mice eat insects, plants, and meat. They reproduce often, producing large litters in just 21 days.
The Eastern harvest mouse is another common mouse. A brown mouse, it usually lives in marshes, fields, and wet meadows. It’s not as likely that you will see this mouse in your home, as it eats mostly insects and grains and usually lives outside. However, if you live in one of the environments it prefers, you may see it inside your home or barn.
The North American deer mouse is another common species. Again, this creature usually lives in the wild, preferring forests, brushlands, fields, and deserts, but it can also come inside.
Other types of mice you might encounter in your home include the white-footed deermouse and the meadow jumping mouse.
Ok – have you identified your mouse species? Let’s get rid of it for good.
Here’s our checklist to keep mice away…
1. Keep Trash Away From The House
Obviously garbage is going to attract rodents. Keep bags of trash in sealed trash cans stored well away from the home (not up against it). Metal trash cans are better than plastic. Determined rodents will chew right through a plastic trash can to get to the goodies they smell inside.
If you go with a metal can, put it up on cinderblocks if you don’t have an area to keep it up off the ground where it will eventually rust. Replace any cans that have cracks or holes in them, and make sure the lids fit securely.
Junk piles also need to be cleaned up and cleared out. If you have old stuff just laying around in piles on your property it’s time to clean up the mess. Remember, rats and mice carry diseases. You don’t want to do anything to encourage them to nest around your home.
2. Store Feed and Seed in Metal Trash Cans Off The Ground
Along those same lines, if you have livestock feed, bulk grains or seed, it’s best to store them in a metal container so that mice can’t chew through the can. Mouse droppings in your animals’ feed is dangerous for your livestock. Again, make sure metal cans aren’t sitting directly on dirt or grass, otherwise they’ll rust and pests will be able to get in.
3. Install Metal Air Ducts Instead of Flexi Duct
As I mentioned, Flexi Duct is easy for rodents to chew through and nest inside. If you can afford metal air ducts, although they have their own set of pros and cons, they’re the better option for keeping mice out of your duct work.
Breathing mouse droppings can be dangerous, and a house that smells like mouse urine is unpleasant and embarrassing.
If mice are a problem in your area or you think they could become a problem, consider replacing Flexi Duct with metal duct work to keep rodents out.
4. You Need A Mouser
Cats really do make a huge difference in your mouse population. Just the smell of a cat nearby might deter them. Since having a cat around the homestead our infestation problems have significantly decreased. Our cat, Gracie, is a huge asset to us. She kills mice, moles, voles, and other unwanted critters.
You want a cat that’s a good hunter, not a lazy one. Don’t leave a bowl of cat food out all day or overnight, which could keep her fat and happy and unmotivated to hunt (not to mention attracting more pests). Instead, put out food twice a day and only give your cat what she needs to be satisfied, then collect the food bowls to keep put up until the next feeding.
Don’t have a cat – and aren’t interested in getting one? There are actually some dogs that will go after mice, too. You may need to provide some form of training or incentivization, but lots of pups will happily chase after invading rodents. Certain breeds, like Jack Russell Terriers, may be better than others at this.
5. Don’t Kill Helpful Snakes
Some of you may remember when we were new to the homestead and I killed a black snake in our chicken coop. (In my defense, it was totally eating our baby chicks.)
I’ve since learned how beneficial it is to have black snakes (and other harmless varieties) around our property to keep rodents as well as more dangerous snakes away. If you find a “good” snake in an undesirable place, consider carefully moving it somewhere you’d rather it be.
6. Protect Stored Food
Any food you have in your pantry, cabinets, or long term food storage should be protected from pests. If mice can smell food in your home you can bet they’ll be looking for a way to get to it.
Bags and boxes of food should be stored in such a way that mice can’t even smell them. Plastic or metal storage containers, and cabinets that close securely with no gaps are a must.
We’ve had trouble with mice chewing on the plastic lids of our #10 cans of freeze dried foods. Even though they can’t get into the metal, they’re leaving droppings all over the tops of the cans and chewing up a useful plastic lid. To help mitigate the damage, I’ve begun storing our #10 cans upside down on the shelves, sometimes in the original shipping box, so that at least the mice can’t chew the plastic lid and if they leave droppings on the cans it will be on the bottoms of the cans where I won’t be opening them (and possibly contaminating the food).
For home canned foods I have several JarBoxes that keep my jars protected from mouse droppings. Jars with metal lids are especially vulnerable to rust when mice pee on them, so protecting them is critical if you have a mouse problem. You can also stack the jars with a board or piece of cardboard between them, and then store the very top layer of jars upside down so that mice can’t get on the lids.
Large plastic buckets are great for bulk food storage. I’ve had mice try to chew through them only to give up. I’m sure a particularly determined mouse could get through given the opportunity, but so far we haven’t seen that happen.
Mice can get through any food in soft packaging, so get some hard-to-chew through containers. Glass containers with fully sealed lids will always be your best bet.
7. Plant Peppermint?
I read somewhere that planting peppermint around your home’s foundation will keep mice and ants away. Yeah. That hasn’t worked for us in either instance. Maybe peppermint essential oil would work better? It would be something you’d have to constantly be applying. Anyone tried this and found it to work?
8. Keep Your Vehicles and Outbuildings Clean
Mice will look for anywhere warm and cozy to nest and multiply. Vehicles and outbuildings make great breading grounds for rodents.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that good sanitation won’t get rid of mice – but poor sanitation will definitely draw them in. A single mouse can survive on just three grams of food each day – all he needs is a few crumbs.
It’s important to vacuum your floors and wipe down your counters regularly to make sure opportunistic mice don’t have access to any kinds of food.
Make sure you keep your vehicles clean from food, crumbs, and wrappers which might have food scent on them. Also remove trash, paper, clothing, or anything else that mice might be able to chew up and make a nest in.
Remove old vehicles and unsalvageable items (such as old appliances or sofas) from your property. They’re a haven for mice.
Keep your outbuildings neat and properly store clothing, blankets, towels, hats, gloves, etc. Keep anything cloth (even shoes) in plastic storage totes with secure lids to keep mice from chewing them up and nesting in them.
And don’t forget about the garbage. Make sure outside bins are stored as far away from your house as possible, and clean out trash bins on a regular basis.
9. Keep The Grass Mowed and Hedges Trimmed
Mice love to hide in tall grass and overgrown shrubs. Keep grass trimmed and plantings neat around your home so that you don’t provide cover for mice and rats. By opening up their hiding places you expose them to predators, forcing rodents to nest elsewhere.
Hedges should have clearance beneath them to discourage mice from making their homes there. Keep shrubs trimmed and neat so that anything scurrying beneath them will be exposed to predators.
10. Install Door Sweeps in High Risk Areas
Install heavy duty door sweeps on all exterior doors with a gap of 1/4″ or greater. Also install sweeps on interior doors leading to food pantries or other high risk areas. Make sure you use a high quality, thick door sweep. We initially went with cheap stick-on ones and the mice pushed right underneath them.
11. Seal Up Holes Around the House
When we first moved our modular home onto our property, we were almost immediately overrun with field mice. It should have been expected seeing as we’d just cleared out their homes and habitat.
After doing a thorough inspection of where the mice might be coming in we discovered that there were huge gaps in the flooring around the plumbing under our sinks that went straight through to the ground. We stuffed steel wool into the holes and sprayed Great Stuff Gap Filler over it all to keep out pests as well as drafts. So far in the eight years we’ve been there no mice have made it back through those holes. Knock on wood.
Unfortunately for us, there will always be holes that we won’t be able to get to. Mice get into our walls and even our ceiling because of the small gaps in the framework. There’s no way to seal the gaps unless we completely tear the house apart.
We’re gonna get a quote for the metal duct work to see if it’s something we might be able to afford. Although I expect it to be a significant investment, I don’t think we have much of a choice considering the health consequences of breathing in mouse excrement when the A/C is blowing.
If you have gaps that can’t be sealed, you can also put a brick in front of it. Mice can chew through some sturdy objects, but bricks are impassable. They are just heavy enough to prevent mice from gnawing their way inside.
Essentially, when you are rodent-proofing your house, you need to make sure you eliminate all potential entry points. Did you know that a mouse can squeeze through a gap as small as a quarter of an inch? If you can slide a pencil into a crack, it’s too big.
You should seal up any cracks in the foundation or walls, including where there are utility pipes and vents. You can use caulking or steel wool to do this. Make sure all weather stripping around your doors and windows is secure and in good working shape, and try not to use wood, rubber, or plastic to seal things up – mice can chew through these.
13. Use Traps
Our best bet is to do the best we can to keep from attracting mice to our home in the first place. (More cats??) Once they’re in, we use snap traps and live traps to catch and kill them. Poison has not worked well for us because they just die in the floors or walls and stink up the place.
Mouse traps offer a classic solution to getting rid of unwanted mice. The good-ol’-fashioned wooden snap traps will do the trip, but remember that if you see a mouse hanging around, you probably have way more mice than you think.
Don’t underestimate your mouse infestation! Lay a dozen traps per mouse – or more – or consider using different types of traps. Wooden snap traps aren’t your only choice. There are also glue traps and multi-capture live traps.
Glue traps are non-toxic, but you need to be careful disposing of them. This is because they don’t kill the mouse that becomes trapped like snap traps do.
As a result, you risk being bitten when you dispose of the mouse – and you’ll have to kill the mouse yourself, of course. In addition, these traps aren’t always considered humane since the mouse does not die right away.
Many people like using box traps, or multi-capture live traps, because they capture the animal alive so it can be released somewhere else. There are some advantages and disadvantages to using these.
You can reuse the trap over and over again, so it will save you some money. However, relocating a mouse isn’t always effective for a couple of reasons. This process is very stressful to the mouse, so it’s not likely to survive anyway. And if it does happen to survive, it may decide to make its way back to your house – especially if it had babies in its nest.
No matter what kind of trap you choose, you need to make sure you are smart about where you place the traps. You should place them perpendicular to the wall, with the trigger section facing the baseboard.
Mice have the natural inclination to run along the walls – therefore, if you have your trap facing this direction, you won’t have to worry about it running over the trap from the wrong direction and triggering it before they’re actually trapped.
You should place the traps anywhere near signs of infestation, such as rubbings on walls or rodent droppings. Mice usually won’t travel more than 20 feet from nesting areas. If you don’t have any luck after a couple of days, you can change up the trap location.
Mice are a bit easier to trap than rats in this regard – while rats will grow cautious of a trap and begin to avoid it after some time, mice are more curious and will continue to investigate.
Set your traps at night. Mice are most active at night, so you are more likely to attract them then. You can always pick up the trap during the day, when you might have pets or children roaming around the house.
14. Bait Them In
This may sound contradictory, since I just got done telling you that you need to make sure you keep all of your food stored away where the mice can’t get to it! However, you can tempt mice to walk directly into your traps by enticing them with some mouse-approved favorites. Here are some good bait options:
- Peanut butter
- Hazelnut Spread
- Dried Fruit
All of these foods are not only incredibly enticing to a hungry little mouse, but they’re also safe to use around other animals, too.
When you’re ready to bait your trap, you should tie it to the trigger of your trap with dental floss. This will allow the mouse to become trapped in there without you having to worry about him getting away with stealing your bait. You could also secure it with hot glue to make sure it stays in place.
If a mouse hasn’t eaten your bait within two days, you might want to replace it with fresh bait. If, for whatever reason, the mouse isn’t biting, you can also try using nesting materials like feathers or cotton balls to lure them in.
You can also put out bait stations. These bait stations aren’t recommended for basic homeowner use, since they need to be applied by pest management professionals. They can contain some hazardous ingredients. However, if you know what you are doing or are willing to contact a pro, they might be worth your time.
Be careful using any kind of rodenticide. You can purchase poisonous mouse baits in pellet form but you need to be vigilant if you have children or pets.
Plus, the mouse doesn’t always die immediately after eating one of these baits – it could die wherever it happens to drop afterwards, which could be inside your walls. This can lead to unpleasant smells and may also attract insects.
15. Light it Up
A good way to prevent mice from invading your home is to shine them out! Mice are nocturnal creatures and will be less inclined to hang out in brightly lit areas. Some exterminators suggest using strobe lights, but even leaving a light or two on in your most infested areas can help make a difference.
16. Use Antifreeze
This is a tip that should be used with extreme caution. Antifreeze has a very sweet taste, but it poisons anything that drinks it. Good for getting rid of mice, but bad if you have kids or pets. Make sure you put this well out of reach if you are using it on mice at home.
17. Put Out Bowls of Ammonia
Again, this tip should be followed with the utmost caution. However, you can use the same ammonia that you use to clean your home to keep mice out. It deters mice from entering your house (they won’t drink it, though). Place it near entry points to convince mice to walk on by.
18. Try Mothballs
Ugh. Nobody likes mothballs. But that includes mice, too! Putting out a few of these moth deterrents can help keep mice away, too. Just place a few near the potential entry points in your home.
19. Update Your Chimney
If you have a chimney, know that while it is beautiful and adds a nice classic touch to your home, it’s also a way for mice to get inside. Put in a chimney screen vent to keep them out for good.
20. Put in Gutter Guards
Gutters aren’t only good at becoming packed full of leaves – they also serve as a highway for mice to enter your home. If you install gutter guars, you can keep the mice out of your home and you’ll also reduce the amount of clean-up you have to do in the fall, when the leaves start to drop.
21. Spice it Up
Mice don’t like a spicy scent. Placing a bit of hot sauce in a bowl near potential entry points can keep mice away for good.
If you don’t want to use hot sauce, you might also consider cloves. Not nearly as strongly scented as hot sauce, cloves can keep mice out because they simply don’t like the smell of the holiday herb. Sprinkle cloves anywhere near a potential entry point.
22. Repurpose Your Fabric Softener Sheets
Dryer sheets are a nice, safe alternative t some of the chemicals and non-pet and child-friendly methods we mentioned above. If you lay out some dryer sheets, your house will not only smell better, but it will be less likely to attract mice, too.
23. Use a High Frequency Pest Control Device
No mouse wants to enter a loud, high-pitched house party! You might want to consider a little bit of high-frequency noise to keep mice out. A high-frequency pest control device isn’t expensive, but it can help keep out mice and other unwanted pests, like flies, too.
Some people say that noise machines aren’t effective since mice get used to repeated noises, but others have used these kinds of devices with lots of success – the choice is really up to you in this case.
24. Use Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has strong antibacterial properties. Not only does it work wonders at keeping your house clean (remember, a clean house is a mouse-free house!) but it also has a strong scent that is said to be repugnant to mice. Consider spritzing some around the entry points in your home.
25. Repurpose Your Kitty Litter
Yep -the used stuff. Consider placing your litter boxes near the potential entrances. Apparently, the smell of cat urine will deter a mouse. Makes sense, since the cat is one of the mouse’s biggest natural predators!
26. Be Vigilant at the Change of Seasons
Mice are most likely to come inside when they sense a change in seasons. After all, they will be looking for a place to stay warm and hunker down during the cold winter months, and your home likely offers just that.
Keep an eye out for early signs of mouse infestation, like greasy markings on the walls, nibbled food packages, or droppings, so that you can get ahead of a small mouse population before it starts to breed and gets out of control.
I know I’m not the only one out there with these problems! Tell me your mouse story and what you’re doing or have done to help remedy the issue.
*This site has some really interesting information about rodent diseases and more ways to keep your home rodent free (including recommendations for keeping wood piles 100 feet from the house). Good tips.
updated by Rebekah White 08/14/2019