How Exterminators Get Rid of Mice

By Sarah Horvath

No one wants to find out that they’ve got an infestation of mice on their property, let alone in their home. Homeowners must be vigilant to potential factors that make their homes attractive to mice and keep an eye out for signs of mice or a mouse infestation. Let’s examine what exterminators do to get rid of mice and how you can best prepare in case you should encounter a mouse infestation in your home.

What Types of Mice Infest Homes?

There are three types of mice that commonly infest homes in the United States. If your home has become a haven for these small creatures, it will be one of these three species:

  • Deer mice: Deer mice are brown in color, and they usually have a tail that is half brown and half white. They are most often found in rural areas, and they are the species of mouse most likely to carry the respiratory disease hantavirus. They normally find their way into your home looking for warmth or perhaps an easy food source.
  • House mice: House mice are actually color blind and have poor eyesight overall, but they have amazing senses of hearing and smell. They are found anywhere in North America, and they are rounder than deer mice. They can carry Salmonella, but they also do extensive damage to drywall, insulation, and electrical wiring by gnawing through them. These will be your most likely unwanted tenants.
  • White-footed mice: This is the mouse that you will least likely encounter as an intruder, although during the winter months, food is scarce and white-footed mice will also go anywhere they can find warmth. Unlike the other types of mice, white-footed mice are solitary, so if you do have one or two in your home, you can easily catch them and release them far from your property. These also carry hantavirus as well as ticks, so use caution or call a pest control professional when relocating them.

Why Mice are Dangerous for Homes

Mice present risks both to humans and to material structures. It’s most likely that your mouse infestation will be caused by house mice. These are notorious for chewing through walls and floors and for absolutely destroying electrical wiring inside those walls. Mice are also vectors for several different diseases, which can spread through contact with their feces or urine, sometimes even contaminated food.

Damage to Property

Because mice are rodents, they have incisors that grow throughout their entire lifetimes; their teeth never stop growing, and so they must find ways of keeping their dental growth under control. If they find their way into your home, that method of control is by chewing and gnawing on the wood in your home, which can include support beams and rafters, as well as wiring and sometimes even plumbing. Once they remove the rubber coating on electrical wires, it creates a situation for a house fire waiting to happen. Once house mice get comfortable in your home, they will stay as long as they can find food, and they will multiply rapidly, compounding the potential damage to your home.

Diseases and Health Risks

Mice can carry ticks with diseases, but house mice are more likely to carry their own diseases that you or your family could contract if you come into contact with them. Dried mouse droppings act as a dusty conveyor of hantavirus, a dangerous respiratory illness that presents first with symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue, much like the flu. However, if left untreated, these symptoms can progress to fluid buildup in the lungs and lead to difficulty breathing. There is no specific vaccine or cure for hantavirus, but in many cases, hospitalization is not necessary. But it’s better to avoid the risk altogether.

Mice can also spread the bacterium Salmonella through their urine, droppings, or even just by running over or touching areas like countertops, cabinets, and boxes of food in your pantry. If humans contract Salmonella, the symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, and fever. These symptoms should not persist for more than a week, but they are definitely unpleasant.

These illnesses and more can be avoided if you wear gloves, face masks, and even goggles before coming into contact with mouse urine or feces. Avoid sweeping up dropping directly, as this is likely to spread the dangerous bacteria and dander to further places in your home. Soak the droppings and urine with a bleach solution, leave it for five to ten minutes, and then wipe it up with paper towels, double bagging everything, all while wearing your personal protective gear.

How Exterminators Inspect for Mice

If you believe that you have a severe mouse infestation, you might think about calling a professional pest control company or exterminator. Exterminators are pest control professionals who specialize in determining how pests got into your home, killing them off using the most humane methods possible, and ensuring that they do not return to your home. Exterminators use a variety of methods to determine whether you need professional mice control services, including the following.

Access Points

House mice can squeeze their little furry bodies through a space only about the size of a dime, so virtually anywhere in your home can be an access point for them from outside if you don’t seal up your windows, doors, or cracks in your walls tightly. Regular inspections should be performed so that you can always be aware of any potential entry points mice can use to gain access to your home.

Food Sources

Mice are not picky when it comes to their food sources — they are attracted to anything easily accessible. It is not uncommon to find a family of mice that has taken up residence in your pantry, where you store dry goods and canned foods. They may also be attracted to your garbage or recycling.

Areas of Habitat

Mice love to nest and procreate in soft and warm places, which means that insulation within your walls is an ideal place for them to set up their homes. Mice also live under cabinets where it’s warm and dry and they are close to food sources. They tend to like dark, quiet spaces as well, like crawl spaces and voids within the walls.

Warning Signs

There are definitely warning signs you can look out for that indicate whether you have a mouse infestation (or even just a few of the little pests living in your home). You will most likely see droppings, especially around food sources. They’re slightly larger than grains of rice and they are black or brown in color. Depending on how old they are, the droppings will start to lose their darkness and vary in consistency.

You will also see gnawed or chewed on food bags where mice have contaminated them. One alarming sign of the presence of mice is scratching or even chewing sounds within your walls. They are nesting and causing destruction to the framework of your home, and those are the unnerving sounds to prove it. You may even come across a dead mouse.

Professional Mice Pest Control Methods

After they detect a mice infestation, your pest control professional or exterminator will get ready to eliminate these dangerous pests from your home once and for all. Depending on the severity of the infestation, your professional exterminator might use a variety of methods to eliminate mice from your property and prevent them from coming back later.

Remove Access Points

After a preliminary inspection, the first thing exterminators do is to use caulk or sealant to effectively eliminate any access points mice are using to come inside your home. These can be out of sight, like toward your attic or even in your basement. Sometimes cracks in door frames, window frames, or baseboards are how mice can enter your home. Pest control professionals seek these entry points out and get rid of them.

Remove Food Sources

If you have pets, seal up their food in airtight containers rather than leaving it in the bags you buy it in in the store. Mice can easily chew through those. Place all foods in boxes into airtight containers and make sure they are not easily accessible both in the fridge and in the pantry. You should also get trash cans with lids and bleach them regularly so that no morsels of tempting food attract mice. Clean up crumbs and stains in your kitchen and try not to take food elsewhere in the house.

Mouse Traps

This is an effective DIY mouse control method you can use to get rid of mice in your home, but exterminators make good use of them as well. There are several types of mouse traps that you can choose from.

Types of Mouse Traps

Snap traps. These are the traps most of us are familiar with from cartoons and movies, the spring-loaded traps that snap violently closed and are intended to kill the mouse in question. If used correctly, these are humane traps to use if you don’t mind killing the mice. However, if you have pets or small children around, snap traps can pose a hazard to them.

  • Bait traps: These are different from the bait stations mentioned below as they are meant to capture the mice that are already inside your home. Snap traps fall under the category of bait traps, and so do live traps. Sticky bait like wet cat food, moist cheese, or peanut butter all work well as effective baits with which to set these traps.
  • Glue traps: These are options for mouse control, but they can lead to incredibly inhumane deaths for the mice. Mice get stuck onto these glue traps and often people just toss them in the garbage where they are left to die of starvation, thirst, or be crushed to death, slowly and painfully. These are not the best way to go unless you kill the mouse yourself after checking regularly to see if the glue traps work. Other animals, like your pets, can get stuck in these and they cause a lot of problems and discomfort.
  • Live traps: Live traps are used in feral cat capture so they can be spayed/neutered and then released back to their colonies. Smaller versions are available for use on mice, and they must be baited the same way a snap trap should be. You must check live traps everyday or every other day, and once a trap has a prisoner, you can drive a few miles from your house to release the mouse. While live traps can be a more humane alternative to glue traps or snap traps, they require you to physically dispose of live mice, which some homeowners may not be comfortable with.

Bait Stations

Exterminators employ the use of bait stations to prevent mice lurking around the perimeter of your home from getting inside. Some bait stations have one entrance while some have two. The mouse goes inside, consumes some of the toxic bait within, and brings it back to its family, hopefully poisoning them all. Bait stations are also used to help eradicate large internal infestations.

Types of Bait

Bait stations come with a block of paste or other substance that attracts mice, and then they eat some of it. They cannot consume a lot, but they can consume enough to poison themselves. You can also add bait like we mentioned earlier — peanut butter, bird seed, cheese, anything to tempt the pests.

Fumigation

It is illegal for a layperson to attempt fumigation for mice. In many states, residential fumigation is against the law, and fumigation can only be used for barns, storage buildings, and other non-residential structures. This can only be attempted by pest control professionals, and even then, it’s used as a last resort. Fumigation uses a large amount of pesticides in your home and focuses you out of the building during treatment, which is why it’s used only in the cases of severe cases when it’s unsafe or will be ineffective to use the standard treatment methods.

Types of Fumigation

If your exterminators do decide to use fumigation (which they do rarely), they will apply rodenticides containing phosphates or other metal compounds in gas form in order to permeate every room in your home. Pests (and many other living creatures) cannot survive breathing in these gasses for an extended period of time, killing them off. This is why you and your family cannot be in the home during fumigation.

How to Prepare for Fumigation

If you do decide to hire an exterminator for a fumigation treatment, there are several things you should do first. You should leave all your internal doors open so that the gas can engulf every room in your home. You should also seal up all foods tightly so that none of it will be contaminated by the chemicals. You should also plan to be away, most likely for several days. When you return, wipe off all countertops and spaces that come into contact with food.

What Chemical do Exterminators Use for Mice Pest Control?

There are multiple deadly chemicals that your exterminators might use when fumigating your house, including the following.

  • Phosphine: This is typically used as a fumigant if you decide to go that route. It’s a solid that becomes a gas when exposed to air and it can even explode. It’s fatal if inhaled.
  • Formaldehyde: This stops the rodents’ cells from being able to divide.
  • Magnesium phosphide: This chemical is a powder that when exposed to water becomes a toxic gas.
  • Carbon dioxide: This is the safest chemical on this list because it leaves no residue behind. While your home is being fumigated with it, nothing inside can breathe, but you don’t have to worry about it contaminating anything when you get home.

How Exterminators Prevent Mice

If you get annual or even quarterly mouse inspections, an exterminator can prevent mice from inhabiting your home in the first place. You can also take action to prevent these critters from entering your home by sealing up cracks they can enter through and by making your home as undesirable to them as possible.

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Repellent

Exterminators use repellents that they apply along the perimeter of your home to keep mice away. There are also some DIY mouse repellents you can use that are safe for you and your family, and usually smell amazing.

You can make a DIY mouse repellent. Soak cotton balls in peppermint oil, clove oil, or cayenne pepper (or a combination of those). Then place those cotton balls in places where you’ve either seen mouse activity or you suspect it. These essential oil-soaked cotton balls should last a week or two and then you can replace them. Mice also detest dryer sheets (unused) as well as cinnamon, eucalyptus oil, and cedarwood oil. Luckily, these all smell wonderful to humans.

How long does repellent last?

Professionally applied mouse repellent lasts a few weeks to a few months, depending on the chemical makeup, how much rain you get, and how much repellent they apply.

How many treatments are needed?

Preventive treatments work best if used monthly or quarterly. Pest control companies operate on a subscription basis with quarterly services being one of the most popular options. They also come back out free of charge after your treatment if you report any pest activity.

How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Mice?

This completely depends on the mice population you have in your home. If you only have a couple of mice or just one small family, it can be about a week or two or perhaps less time; you just set a few mouse traps and watch them do their work.

On the other hand, if you have a full-blown pest infestation on your hands, it can take one to three months to get rid of it, including the mice themselves, their nesting materials, and all their excretions (and their corpses). The length of time it takes for mice removal varies depending on where they’ve burrowed into your home and how large the population has gotten. Although exterminators can perform treatments that last one to two days, it really can take a month or several to get everything back to normal.

How Much Do Exterminators Cost for Mice?

There is a difference in how professional exterminators and pest control companies handle mouse problems. Pest control companies use a method called integrated pest management, which combines environmentally friendly rodenticides and pesticides with sustainable and safe eradication and prevention methods. Exterminators use methods that are fast-acting, harsh, and usually able to be accomplished within one or two treatments. Exterminators are also not contractually obligated to come back once their treatments are finished even if you notice signs of rodent activity after the fact.

Because of the differences in methodologies and the number of visits different types of pest control professionals use to get rid of mice, there are differences in cost. Exterminators for mice cost around an average of $525, and that includes traps, baits, sealing off entry points, and follow-ups. Pest control companies cost about the same for a one-time visit, but you can also subscribe to their (preventive) services throughout the year.

Should You Hire an Exterminator for Mice?

Unlike with termites or bed bugs, a mouse infestation might be something you would like to tackle on your own. This can be done if you don’t mind removing a dead mouse when you find one or if you have experience with mouse control, but if you want to make sure that every last trace (including mouse droppings and urine) of mouse habitation is gone from your house, it’s best to hire an exterminator. Exterminators have experience dealing with these issues and they have the proper training and equipment to keep themselves and you and your family safe while eliminating the rodent problem from your home.

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