Mice scurrying around your home can be a little unsettling—and even pose health risks. But there are ways to prevent and get rid of them. Protect your home and family with these tips from the pros.
Whether you’ve spotted a single mouse in your home or see signs of a mouse infestation, it can be unsettling. But you are not alone—almost 15 million people have reported seeing rodents in their homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And mice are not just a nuisance. They also bring health hazards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mice can spread diseases to humans.
But rest assured, there are many ways you can eliminate mice in your home. We talked with the experts to get the best tips to prevent and eliminate mice and protect your home from the pesky critters.
Signs of Mice Infestation
One or two mice may fly under the radar, but if you have a mouse infestation, there will be clear signs. “Scratching sounds behind walls, droppings scattered like rice, and a musty odor are clear signs you’re hosting a rodent soirée,” says Bill Swank, an exterminator and founder of PestSource.
If you suspect your home has a mouse problem, here are some signs to watch out for, says Sean Thomas, founder of Conquer Critters:
Mouse droppings which are often in kitchens, pantries, and along baseboards
Gnaw marks on food packaging or building materials such as wires or insulation
Sounds of scratching or scurrying in the walls or ceilings, especially at night
A musty odor in confined spaces
Another obvious sign of mice is seeing them. Although small and quick, you may spot a mouse scurrying along a wall or floorboard. They’re usually most active around dusk and dawn, so you’ll most likely see them at those times.
Health Risks Associated with Mice Infestations
Mice can pose a variety of health risks to people through direct contact with saliva, feces, and even air. Diseases that people can contract from mice include leptospirosis, hantavirus, salmonellosis, monkeypox, and Sylvatic Typhus, among others. Infected mice often do not show symptoms of their diseases. “People underestimate the health risks posed by mice. They’re not just nuisances; they’re potential carriers of diseases like hantavirus, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis,” Swank says.
Indirect contact can spread even more diseases to humans, including tick-borne diseases. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes that feed on mice can spread Lyme disease, flea-borne typhus, Colorado tick fever, plague, and more.
Identifying Common Entry Points for Mice
Mice often enter homes in small gaps and cracks around windows, doors, walls, and foundations. They can squeeze through surprisingly small areas, requiring only a pencil-width of space to get through. “Windows, doors, cracks in the foundation, and even utility lines can serve as red-carpet entrances for mice,” Swank says. “Remember, if a pencil can slide through, so can a mouse.” Caulking and sealing all cracks around doors, entryways, walls, and foundations will help ward off mice and prevent further infestation.
Effective Traps and Removal Techniques
If mice have entered your home, take solace—there are a variety of options for getting rid of them. Traps are one of the simplest and fastest ways to get rid of mice.
“Snap traps and electric traps are effective and humane if set up properly,” Swank says. “Glue traps may seem convenient, but they are cruel and inhumane. I advise against them.” Snap traps are the traditional method of trapping mice, including a loaded spring trap and a piece of food or bait to lure the mouse. When used correctly, a snap trap swiftly kills a mouse, avoiding prolonged suffering.
Electric traps also use food bait—such as peanut butter—to entice mice to enter the trap. Once the mouse approaches the food and crosses a threshold, it triggers an electric system that zaps the mouse, killing it quickly. Electric traps are battery-powered; some also include a light to indicate a mouse in the trap, making disposal easy.
Live traps are the most humane option. With live traps, mice are lured in by food, and the trap snaps shut, capturing them without hurting them. You can then take the live mouse trap to a field or safe outdoor space and release the mice.
Natural and Chemical Mice Repellents
Mice repellents offer ways to prevent mice infestations and repel mice from vulnerable areas of your home. For a natural remedy, peppermint oil can work wonders as a repellent, Swank says.
Another natural repellent is vinegar. Thomas recommends soaking some cotton balls in vinegar and placing them in areas of your kitchen where mice are most likely to be active.
If you’re considering chemicals, use caution, as some can be toxic when ingested, and the fumes can also cause damage to humans and pets. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, people, pets, and wildlife can suffer serious health effects after exposure to just a single dose of rodenticide. “On the chemical front, rodenticides are effective but should be used cautiously, especially if you have pets or children around,” Swank says. It’s best to consult with an exterminator before turning to chemical solutions.
Sanitation Practices to Prevent Infestation
The first step to prevent mice from entering your home is to seal, caulk, and fill any holes, gaps, and openings where mice could enter. Check around your windows, doors, and walls, and make sure you don’t have any open spaces where mice could enter.
Keeping your kitchen and food areas clean is essential to ward off mice. Mice are attracted to food, so sweep and wipe up crumbs, keep food stored securely, and regularly clean food prep and eating areas. “Store food in airtight containers, promptly clean up crumbs and spills, and ensure trash bins have secure lids. Regularly inspect and clean out cluttered spaces,” Thomas says.
If you’ve had a mouse infestation, there are steps you can take to clean all traces of mice and prevent more mice from coming. To clean up after an infestation, use a mix of water and bleach in a 1:10 ratio or use a household disinfectant such as Lysol, Thomas advises. Remove any mouse droppings and wipe down all surfaces. To prevent future infestations, maintain a clean environment.
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