How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home

mouse with a white background

“Burn not your house to get rid of the mouse,” as the saying goes. That’s right, you don’t want to destroy your home to get rid of any mice you find in it. But you do want to get rid of house mice. There is nothing good about letting them live with you. We’ll show you how.

Signs You Have a Mouse Infestation in Your Home

Think you have mice in your house? Here’s what to look for:

  • Tiny, black, oblong-shaped mouse droppings near food sources
  • Chew marks on baseboards, packaging, and cabinetry
  • Scratching sounds from inside the walls
  • Shredded paper or other paper product that has been used as a nesting material
  • Pets paw at walls or floorboards where mice are living.

How to Get Rid of Mice: 2 Options

Option 1: Mouse Traps

A popular DIY method of mouse control, traps are cost-effective, pesticide-free, reusable, and easy to set.

For optimal effectiveness, place traps where you’ve seen signs of mice. The Texas A&M Extension recommends arranging mouse traps perpendicular to the base of the wall to make it easier for the rodents to trip the trigger.

Here are a few of the best mouse trap types:

Photo Credit: John Loo / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Snap traps: Made of wood or plastic, this old-school method has been improved for our modern times and does a better job of getting rid of mice humanely. Use peanut butter as bait.

    Snap traps should be placed perpendicular to walls so a mouse can be caught from either direction. Mice use their whiskers to make their way along the walls as they search for food. Look for feces as a guide in selecting where to place the traps.
  • Electric traps: These battery-operated trap types electrocute mice, killing them instantly. When the mouse enters the enclosed trap, it will trigger a high-voltage shock. Bait the trap with peanut butter, bacon, seeds, nuts, or chocolate. An LED light will tell you if the trap needs to be emptied and reset.
  • Live traps: If you prefer a no-kill solution, you can try the catch-and-release method. But remember: Mice will make their way back home, so if you release them, do it far away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that live traps not be used, that trapped mice will urinate, which can cause you to become ill with hantaviruses, a serious concern.
  • Glue traps: Experts agree these sticky traps work, but many do not recommend their use. “They are nontoxic, but they do not kill the mouse, leaving you to deal with a live mouse,” the Penn State Extension states. “You may be bitten, and the mouse can make loud noises and suffer while on the trap.”

Option 2: Bait Stations

Photo Credit: Jason Woodhead / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Rodenticides, or poisons for rodents, will certainly cause the death of mice, but they are dangerous to use. Children who find them are known to put them in their mouths. Pets will also swallow them.

There were 8,362 reports of people ingesting rodenticides in 2020, with 5,594 of them involving children 5 and younger, according to the 2020 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. That means that 67% of the incidents involve small children.

Because of the danger, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the use of rodenticides in pellet form, requiring that they be in blocks or paste. Also, they must be enclosed in a bait station that is too large for people to put in their mouth (usually a plastic container).

How to Use Bait Stations 

  • Look for an EPA registration number and a set of directions. Follow the directions.
  • Realize that a mouse will eat the bait, then go somewhere else before dying. That place may be in the walls of your house, creating an odor and attracting pests.
  • Realize that mice are light eaters. A mouse might not eat enough of a bait to be killed.
  • Look for mice that have been killed by the bait so you can quickly remove the carcass. If left out, other animals and insects will feed on it, including ones you don’t want to harm.
  • Do not use rodenticides inside homes. 
  • Do not place them near places where you feed your pets.

Pro Tip: Do not use foggers and sprays. They might work on insects, but they do not work on rodents.

Rodenticides by Mode of Operation

Anticoagulants  
Need multiple feedings to disrupt the ability of the blood to clotWarfarin
Diphacinone
Chlorophacinone 
Need single feeding to stop the blood from clottingBrodifacoum
Difethialone
Bromadiolone
Difenacoum 
Non-anticoagulants 
Attacks the nervous systemBromethalin 
Interferes with the calcium levels in the bloodCholecalciferol 
Generates a toxic gas internallyZinc Phosphide 

Source: Bait Stations for Controlling Rats and Mice

How to Dispose of a Dead Mouse

  • Wear gloves (rubber, latex, or vinyl) to remove the dead body. Coveralls, rubber boots or shoe covers, goggles, and a respirator are also options to consider for your protection.
  • Place the body in a bag and throw it away.
  • Clean the area. Mice that have been trapped tend to leave droppings and urine, which can cause disease and set off asthma. Because of this, avoid sweeping or vacuuming, which would disperse them into the air.
  • Spray urine and droppings with a disinfectant and let the spot sit for at least five minutes. 
  • Pick up the urine and droppings with a paper towel, and put it in a garbage can that has a proper lid.
  • Disinfect the area in which you found the mouse’s body.
  • Carefully dispose of the gloves.
  • Wash your hands.

Mouse Repellents

Photo Credit: Pixabay

It is possible to acquire mouse repellents, usually for a fee. 

Scents that do keep mice away: 

  • The smell of a cat. One smell that has been said to work is that of cats — specifically, saliva. If house mice are enough of a concern, you might get a cat. Along those lines, some people spread kitty litter, believing mice associate that smell with cats and will flee the area. However, you would need to get used (by a cat) kitty litter, for the smell.

Scents that don’t keep mice away: 

Strong smells are known to repel some animals, such as insects, which leads people to try the approach with house mice. However:

  • Mothballs use naphthalene, but in a small dosage fit to deter, well, moths. But the amount needed to drive off mice would be the same needed for humans. In fact, mice have been seen simply walking over mothballs.
  • Peppermint or other oils. One big drawback is that the fumes from oils rise while mice stay low. Plus, if mice can stand to live in sewers, you would need a lot of a strong scent to drive them off. (Note: Peppermint oil repellents work for some. In other words, there is anecdotal evidence.) 

Sound devices: Don’t purchase or use ultrasonic pest repellent devices.

Ultrasonic repellents are nontoxic and simple to plug in, but their claims have not been scientifically proven. According to the University of California, “There is little evidence that sound, magnetic, or vibration devices of any kind will drive established mice or rats from buildings or provide adequate control.”

Ultrasonic sounds don’t penetrate walls or objects, limiting their effectiveness. Plus, mice get used to repeated sounds.

How to Get Rid of Mice in the Walls

  • The simplest DIY method is to set out traps.
  • Be careful about setting out rodenticides. The mice will likely die in their nests in the walls, creating odor problems.
  • Some people use peppermint oil, believing that the strong scent drives away mice. Put it on cotton balls and place it along baseboards or in any holes you find.
  • Some people set out kitty litter, believing that the mice’s fear of cats extends to kitty litter. Others have tried soiled kitty litter in hopes that the smell will deter them.
  • Remember that mice are nocturnal, so you won’t see them during the day.
  • Be on the alert for the sounds of scratching or squeaking. If you have pets, they might start pawing at the walls.
  • This may be a job for a professional pest control company.

How Mice Spread Disease

Mice and rodents spread disease by direct and indirect contact with people. Here’s how:

  • Breathing air that has been contaminated by the dying mouse
  • Touching things that the mouse had touched, then touching you own nose, eyes, or mouth
  • Being bitten or scratched by a mouse
  • Eating food that was touched by a mouse without your knowing it
  • Indirectly, which can happen when a person is bitten by a tick or mosquito that has just fed on an infected mouse

When to Call a Pest Control Pro

If the number of mice is relatively small (we’re talking one or two), the DIY methods could solve your mouse problem. But if the population has grown beyond that, it may be time to call in a pest control expert.

A Pest Gnome analysis finds the most common method for removing house mice is laying traps. The cost for a rodent exterminator to set the traps and remove the mice for about $170 to $500

These pros can be expected to assess your level of rodent infestation and create a plan to rid your home of them. If you want to keep them from ever getting in, or from returning, here’s how to prevent mice from invading your home naturally.

How to Prevent Mice From Coming into Your House

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Once the mice are gone, or if you just want to keep mice out of your home in the first place, three simple actions can help keep your home rodent-free.

1. Keep Your Home Clean

Having mice doesn’t mean your house is filthy, but it can mean there are enough attractants drawing mice to your home. Here’s how to reduce their interest in your home:

  • Clean spilled food right away.
  • Disinfect countertops and other surfaces.
  • Pet food bowls and water dishes should be put away at night.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Remove clutter such as cardboard boxes and papers.
  • Trash and garbage cans should be strong, with tight lids. Clean them regularly with soap and water. Dispose of trash and garbage on a consistent basis.
  • Vacuum floors to keep them free of debris.
  • Wash dishes without waiting too long.

Mice Will Range Throughout a House

Mice have a range of 10-20 feet in all directions; they routinely go up and down as much as they range from one side and another. A single nest can lead to an infestation throughout the hose.

2. Keep Your Yard Clean, Too

  • Barbecue grills and other cooking areas should be kept clean.
  • Bird feeders should be placed away from the house, and they should have squirrel guards (which keep all rodents away, not just squirrels).
  • Brush and weeds should be removed.
  • Cars that aren’t running, or are abandoned, should be kept as far from the house as you can (or disposed of entirely; don’t wait to do it).
  • Compost bins should be kept on the fringes of the property.
  • Lawns should be mowed regularly.
  • Pet and animal food should be kept in strong containers with tight lids.
  • Shrubs and other plants should be well-trimmed.
Photo Credit: Pxhere

3. Seal Entry Points

The most long-lasting way to keep mice at bay is through exclusion. Caulk small holes, gaps, and other openings in your foundation, walls, and pipes that are more than a quarter of an inch wide.

If you don’t have any caulk on hand, an effective temporary plug can be made from steel wool pads, as they are not gnawable.

Where to search your home for entry points for mice:

  • Appliances, especially behind them
  • Attic
  • Basement 
  • Closets, especially corners
  • Crawl spaces
  • Doors, especially those without weather stripping
  • Dryer vents
  • Fireplace
  • Floor drains, especially in the basement and the laundry room
  • Floor heating vents
  • Foundation, especially where it meets the ground
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Lines (electrical, gas, sewer, and water), especially where they enter the house
  • Pipes to and from and washing machines
  • Pipes connecting hot water heaters and furnaces
  • Roof, especially in the rafters, gables, eaves, and soffits
  • Windows, especially along the seals that are standard with modern windows
  • Where the wall meets the floor

Basic Facts About Mice 

mouse
Photo Credit: Pixnio

Mice Are Prolific

  • Mice breed year-round. 
  • Litters of 5 or 6 are born 19 to 21 days after mating.
  • A female house mouse is ready to mate again two days after giving birth.
  • A female is capable of 5 to 10 litters (and therefore 50 young) per year.

Mice Are Well-Suited to Invade Your Home

  • They can jump up 12 inches.
  • They can jump down 8 feet. 
  • They can run up a rough vertical surface (such as a brick wall).
  • They can climb and run along pipes and electrical lines. 
  • They can swim. 
  • The small body size makes it easy to hide in objects as they are transported to new sites. 
  • Once its head gets through an opening, the rest of its body can slither through, too.
  • Though house mice are near-sighted with poor depth perception (they need to get within 1-2 feet to recognize objects), their five other senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing, and the kinesthetic sense) are exceptionally well-developed.

FAQ About House Mice

Where Do House Mice Come From?

For more than 15,000 years (yes, you read that right), Mus musculus, aka the common house mouse, has been living among humans.

Descended from the mice of Central Asia, the common house mouse now lives all over the world, except in Antarctica. Growing up to 8 inches long and weighing 0.4 to 0.8 ounces, house mice are light gray or brown colored and live a little less than a year in the wild.

Are There Other Mice You Might Find in Your House?

Yes. Other mouse species that can be found in the home are deer mice and white-footed mice. You can deal with them the same way you deal with house mice.

Is Hantavirus a Concern With the House Mouse?

House mice do not spread the hantavirus and the deadly disease it can produce, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, but the deer mouse and the white-footed mouse do, according to the CDC. Since they can be difficult to tell apart, the best thing is to avoid all wild mice.

Pest Gnome Connects You to Pest Control Pros Near You

Wishing and hoping and praying your mouse problem away isn’t going to work. House mice depend on humans for food and shelter, so they won’t leave on their own. To evict the common house mouse, you will need to take action and call a local exterminator or evict them yourself. Pest Gnome connects you to the best pest control companies near you.

And make no mistake: You don’t want mice in the house or yard. Take steps to keep them away. If mice show up, take action to remove them.

Main Photo Credit: George Shuklin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 1.0

Ted Rodgers

Ted Rodgers has been an editor and writer for a half century at least, and has had to deal with pests throughout. His home is still standing, which is one (small) definition of success in dealing with them. He is willing to pause in his battles long enough to share what he has learned. He borrows from Beatrix Potter when he shares this truth about pests: “Tiddly, widdly, but not piddly.”

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