Q: Help! I have mice!
A: OK, first things first. Don’t panic. On the continuum of “things that live in your house without your consent,” mice fall way lower than, say, bed bugs, cockroaches, or your racist brother-in-law. There are a few diseases that mice can carry, primarily hantavirus and leptospirosis, but the risk is much less than if you had rats, for example. And mice are relatively easy to get rid of, as long as you’re thorough. Mice typically show up more in the winter because they’re looking for somewhere warm to hang out, but it is possible to find mice inside year-round.
- Figure out where they’re coming in. Keep in mind that mice can squeeze through very tiny spaces, and they can eat through lots of stuff. You’ll be able to narrow down where they’re getting in by following the poop. See where the greatest concentration of mouse droppings are, and then try to find their point of entry. Common ways for them to get in include dryer and oven vents, holes in the walls or in between walls and the foundation or flooring, and access from basements or garages. When you find where they’re coming from, seal it up as best you can. You need something they can’t chew through, so steel wool is usually the material of choice, held in place with caulk.
- Set out traps. I’ve had huge luck with these humane mouse traps. Stick a cracker with some peanut butter way in the back and wait. If you do catch a mouse, you need to release it a few miles away from your home so it doesn’t find its way back in. I have never used snap-type or glue traps, mostly because I have very small dogs and never underestimate their ability to get into things they shouldn’t, but if you do use these, make sure you dispose of everything in sealed bags in outdoor trash cans.
- Put all of your food away. Make sure you don’t have any accessible food for the mice to eat, keeping in mind that they can easily chew through cardboard and thin plastic. Use sealed/airtight plastic containers, put as much as possible in the fridge, and make sure you clean up your dishes right after using them.
- To clean up mouse droppings, your first instinct is probably going to be to vacuum them. Don’t. This creates breathable dust, which increases the risk of disease transmission, not to mention gets mouse poop all over your vacuum. Arm yourself with rubber gloves, a 1:10 bleach/water solution in a spray bottle, a roll of paper towels, and a trash bag. Working methodically, spray the surface that has the droppings with the bleach solution, let it sit for several minutes, then wipe everything up with the paper towels and throw them away. Don’t forget to check in cupboards, drawers, and behind appliances. Make sure to wash any dishes or food prep equipment that may have come in contact with mouse poop.