Almost everyone finds a mouse in their home at some point. Here’s how to get rid of them naturally and keep them away for good to prevent an infestation.
Finding a mouse in your home doesn’t mean you’re a bad housekeeper, but ignoring a mouse infestation does. That’s because mice carry at least 27 different diseases, all of which are dangerous to humans. In addition to the bacteria from their feces, mice droppings can bother those with allergies or asthma. Mice can also chew through wiring, leading to shorted electronics and even household fires.
Signs You Have Mice
If you’ve seen one mouse in your house, there are probably more that you haven’t seen yet. Mice like to hide in walls or behind furniture or appliances until they know the coast is clear — usually at night while you’re asleep. But seeing a mouse isn’t the only way to know you’ve got a problem. Other signs of mouse infestations include:
- Finding droppings that look like dark grains of rice. (Bigger droppings indicate you’ve got rats.)
- Seeing debris on your pantry shelves from gnawed food packaging or finding holes in cardboard food containers.
- Discovering large holes chewed into furniture or mattress upholstery.
- Finding pieces of fiberfill stuffing, tattered rags, or wood shavings in corners of unused rooms, under sinks, or behind appliances and heavy furniture.
- Hearing scratching noises coming from your walls.
- Finding gnawed electric wires or having your electronics suddenly stop working due.
- Seeing your dog or cat stare at appliances or try scratching to get behind furniture.
How Mice Got Into Your Home
Like humans, mice want to live where they have access to food and water and can get comfortable without concerns about being disturbed. In colder or rainy seasons, your home is far more attractive to them than living outdoors. They don’t even need to wait for an invitation to enter: a mouse can enter your home through a crack as small as a dime.
How to Get Rid of Mice Naturally
When it comes to getting rid of mice, there’s really only one way to do it: with a trap. The type of trap you use depends on whether you want to do it naturally and without killing them or not.
Live traps: These no-kill traps let you “catch and release” mice, but you must drive captured mice at least a mile away from your home before releasing them into the wild. This may require several trips if you have a bad infestation. Using these traps presents a health risk since you’ll necessarily come into contact with a mouse. For that reason, they’re not recommended in homes with pets or kids.
Bait stations: This is poison in a dispenser. It’s a fairly quick, inexpensive solution if you have only one or two mice. But there’s a risk that a poisoned mouse will crawl into your walls to die, where it will start to smell for a few weeks. If you have pets, there’s a risk of them eating a poisoned mouse and getting sick, too.
Snap traps: These old-fashioned spring traps are easy to use and very inexpensive. You can find them in hardware stores. They almost always kill mice instantly, but seeing the dead mouse can be disturbing. Since the steel trap snaps shut so quickly, these traps are not safe for use in homes with pets or small children.
Electric traps: These battery-operated traps administer lethal shocks to mice that crawl inside. They’re a little more expensive, but they’re also reusable. Unlike other types of traps, you don’t even have to see the dead mouse — remove the disposable chamber and dump it in the trash. This type of trap is safe for use around kids and most pets, too. (Find them on Amazon.*)
Best Bait for Mouse Traps
Although you may have seen cheese used to bait mouse traps in cartoons, peanut butter works better. Mice can smell it from a distance, and they love the taste of nuts. If you don’t have peanut butter, try nuts or seeds — even birdseed. Whatever you choose, wear gloves when you’re handling the bait and the trap. Mice have very keen senses of smell and will stay away from things that humans have recently touched.
Where to Place Mouse Traps
Even the most effective bait won’t work if you don’t put traps in the right spot. You should, of course, put a baited mousetrap wherever you find signs they’ve been nesting. Other places to put traps include behind heavy furniture and appliances, in cupboards beneath sinks, along the base of garage or attic walls, and on top of kitchen cabinets if they don’t reach all the way to the ceiling.
How to Keep Mice Out of Your Home for Good
Once you’ve set traps for the mice that are already in your home, it’s time to focus on steps that prevent more mice and other rodents from getting inside.
Mind the Gaps
Mice can enter your home through tiny little gaps the size of a dime. So your first step to getting rid of mice naturally is probably the hardest: find and seal holes in your home’s exterior. Pay particular attention to places where utility lines (cable, television, etc.) enter your home, dryer and fan exhaust vents, and gaps in your home’s siding around windows and doors.
1. Seal the gaps. Mice won’t chew through caulk, so use it to seal small gaps or cracks. Caulk needs support behind it in larger holes, though. Since mice won’t chew through steel wool, stuff it into larger gaps before applying caulk. Backer rod can also work.
2. Shut doors tightly. Leaving the door ajar while you’re in the garden is an open invitation to mice. Keep doors shut, and make sure they seal well. Add weatherstripping where needed — if a draft can get in, a mouse can, too.
3. Use electronic pet doors. Pet flaps provide easy access to mice as well as your dog or cat. If you like their convenience, switch to an automatic pet door that only opens when triggered by an electronic chip on your pet’s collar.
Tend Your Yard
Outdoor mice will seek shelter indoors in cold or wet weather. So, a good way to keep mice out of your home is by making your yard less attractive to them, too. That means regular mowing and yard maintenance, plus picking up storm debris and clutter that mice might use for shelter. Prune shrubs around your home’s foundations, too. And be sure to seal outdoor garbage cans or recycling bins so mice don’t see your home as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Try Essential Oils
There are a couple of smells that mice don’t like. Peppermint is one, and it has the bonus of deterring several other household pests, too. Try adding peppermint essential oil to homemade cleaners, or diffuse it in your fragrance warmers. (I use this one*.)
The smell of camphor also repels mice. Most people don’t like the scent of it, either. So, while you probably don’t want to use it in your home’s living areas, camphor works great in seldom-used areas like attics and sheds. Try adding a handful of mothballs to an old sock and hanging it near windows in those places.
Starve Them Out
Mice don’t need a lot of food to survive. In fact, they can live on as little as 3 to 4 grams of food each day. So what looks like crumbs on the floor to you is almost a feast for them. If they can’t find crumbs lying around, mice will gladly chew through cardboard food boxes or other food packaging to get to what’s inside. So, while cleaning thoroughly won’t get rid of mice, keeping a tidy home can help you avoid attracting them.
- Store dry goods in air-tight containers. (Bonus, you’ll also help prevent pantry moths, too.)
- Discard old newspapers, magazines, and other items that mice can use for bedding.
- Don’t let dirty dishes sit in the sink.
- Wipe counters after meals.
- Sweep your kitchen daily.
- Pick up your pet’s food between feedings.
- Empty the kitchen trash nightly.
Cleaning After a Mouse Infestation
Mouse droppings contain harmful bacteria and sometimes parasites. Their fur is often infested with fleas, too. So any time you find signs that a mouse has been indoors, you need to do some serious cleaning and disinfecting. First, clean the area with soapy water to remove dirt and then apply a disinfectant to kill pathogens. Be sure to wear disposable gloves and use materials you can discard after use so you don’t wind up spreading germs throughout your home.