How to Get Rid of Mice

Mice are bad guests. Not only do they invade your home without your invitation, but they leave droppings, chew everything in sight, and carry diseases such as leptospirosis, salmonellosis and even rat-bite fever. But why can’t they stay on their on own turf instead of getting into your house, shed, or garage? “The reason mice come indoors is that they want to find a secure, warm site and new food sources,” says Scott Hygnstrom, Ph.D., professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and director of the Wisconsin Center for Wildlife. “If you see evidence of one, there are probably more. With the right conditions, a pair of mice can reproduce 15,000 mice in one year.” (Take a minute to consider that!)

Here’s everything you need to know about how to get rid of mice:

How can you tell if you have mice?

You may see mice, but more likely you’ll notice their telltale signs: Black droppings about 1/8-inch long, which look like tiny grains of black rice, usually near where food is stored, under the sink, or near the garbage can. You also may see a dribble of urine (or smell it, especially in enclosed spaces) or rub marks against walls because they like to follow the same routes every night. Because they need to chew continuously, they’ll destroy pretty much everything from food containers, cardboard boxes, magazines, insulation, wires, heirlooms you stored in the attic or basement, and really anything they find handy for food or nesting materials, says Hygnstrom.

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How do you get rid of mice?

The great news is you can get rid of them, says Hygnstrom. First, clean up so no potential food source is available to them. They especially like oats, corn, grain, or birdseed stored in the garage in a bag. Metal is best for storage of these items because they can chew through plastic.

Mice are especially active in the fall when they’re looking for a safe place to hang out over the winter, so do an annual inspection of your home. Walk around your house, use a flashlight, and look for entry points. “Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil,” says Hygnstrom. If you can slide a pencil into a hole, you need to cover or repair it.” Cracks under doors, where the weather stripping is damaged, are another place to inspect.

Now it’s time for trapping. Yes, it’s sort of icky, but snap traps are the most effective and humane method of control, says Hygnstrom. Don’t use live trapping methods because they carry diseases! And it’s also not good biology to release these destructive creatures back into the environment. Many are non-native species anyhow, such as Norway rats and house mice, and even the native species are extremely destructive.

a little grey house mouse is sitting by its nest in an old antique chair

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What should I set my mouse trap with?

Peanut butter is the way to go, says Hygnstrom. Place the trap along the edges of rooms because mice like to have contact with walls as they navigate. They’re inquisitive and will investigate anything new in their environment. Set traps in a line back to back on the edges of the room, or perpendicular to the wall. Once you catch one, use disposable gloves and pick up the whole thing, dropping it into a plastic bag. It’s fine to wrap it up and dispose of in the regular household garbage.

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If you have a larger mouse, such as a Norway rat, you’re going to need a bigger trap. They are more wary, so they’re tougher to catch. Try baiting the trap with something high in fat, such as pepperoni, which is more effective with this type of rodent, suggests Hygnstrom.

Finally, don’t be lured into buying sonic gadgets, which are advertised to repel rodents. The bottom line is they do not work! The sound can be blocked by something as thin as a sheet of paper, so you can understand why it’s not going to work with the walls or roof of your house.

Should I use poison to kill mice?

Rodenticides contain anti-coagulants in miniscule amounts. But because mice need to eat continuously, they ingest a lot of this substance. This toxicant is relatively innocuous because it’s even sold in grocery stores, but you’ll still want to keep pets and kids away from it, says Hygnstrom.

The bad thing with this method is that then the mice go off to die somewhere, in your walls or ceiling, and yep, you guessed it: It’s going to be smelly. “It’s not the first choice in control, but it’s important tool if you have lots of mice. It provides a quick knockdown of the population,” says Hygnstrom.

You can call a professional to get rid of mice.

This typically is a DIY project, but if you’re squeamish or just don’t want to deal with these little critters, call in a professional. They have similar tools but also can make recommendations about what else you can do, such as sealing or repairing doors or other points of access.

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How do you clean up mouse droppings?

Once you’ve gotten a handle on your unwanted visitors, clean the droppings. Wear a mask and gloves, and use a 10 percent diluted bleach spray, or something such as Lysol, to spray down the surface well. Do not sweep the area, which will cause potentially disease-carrying droppings to become airborne, where they can be inhaled. Then use a paper towel to wipe it all up. Mission accomplished!

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