When temperatures drop, mice will begin to enter homes to find food, water, and shelter from the cold. These small rodents often carry disease and can cause extreme damage to your home, so it’s imperative that you address the problem immediately, even if you see only a single mouse in your home.
While there are many measures that you can take to eradicate mice and prevent them from coming back, you may need to call in a professional depending on the scope of the issue—for example, if you’re dealing with a colony of mice and various entry points. Here’s how to identify a mouse infestation and how to get rid of mice.
How to identify a mouse infestation
If you spot a mouse in your house, it’s likely not the only one. While mice are nocturnal, you may catch sight of them scurrying across your floor during the day. Here are some signs you have a mouse problem:
If you spot black, rice-shaped pellets around your home, these are most likely mouse droppings. Commonly found along baseboards or walls, droppings indicate that mice are present in the home.
You may also spot holes, scratch marks, or gnawed wood along interior and exterior walls.
Beyond these visible markers, you may also hear scratching, scuttling, or squeaking noises, particularly at night when all is supposed to be dark and quiet.
Mice are just 12–20 cm in length, including the tail, and are white, brown, or gray. The easiest way to differentiate between a mouse and a rat, other than size, is their tail. Rats have tails that are long, thick, hairless, and scaly, whereas mice have tails that are thin and hairy. It’s important to know whether you’re dealing with mice or rats because the methods for getting rid of these rodents are different.
How do mice get into a home?
Mice can enter your home through even the tiniest openings, so a thorough look at your home may be required to spot the entry point.
Here are three ways to identify how mice are getting into your home.
Survey your foundation and exterior walls for holes and cracks—Mice can fit through holes as small as a dime. If you find a hole or a crack that connects indoors to outdoors, you’ve likely found their source of entry. To fix this issue, fill in these holes or cracks with cement or caulk. Never use wood to patch these holes—mice will eat right through it.
Look for nesting material—Mice are mammals and like to stay warm and well fed. They tend to nest near gas-powered appliances and around heaters, attics, or kitchen pantries. Nests will almost certainly be within 20 feet of a food source, as mice eat 15–20 times per day. Check these areas for shredded paper, plant material, and fiberglass insulation—all common materials used in mouse nests. You’ll likely see droppings near or in a nest, and the nests will be circular. Special attention should be paid to the location of nests during the extermination process.
Notice smells coming from hidden areas—Unusual, ammonia-like odors can indicate urine trails that mice leave to mark their territory. Follow these trails to pinpoint the mouse nest or entry point.
Mouse bait station
How to get rid of mice
Even if you’re contending with a single mouse, it’s smart to get rid of it as soon as you can. One female mouse can give birth to a dozen babies per litter and birth a litter every 20 days. Follow these methods to quickly get rid of an infestation.
Natural methods for getting rid of mice
For homes with pets or small children, natural methods may be preferred as a safer option to get rid of mice. Some methods include:
Box traps—A humane option, box traps are designed to catch a mouse without injuring it. Just place bait in the trap and wait. When the mouse enters, it will knock over the support for the door and trap itself inside. Once you trap a mouse, be sure to let it go at least a mile away so it won’t find its way back to your house.
Electronic mouse traps—Traps like the Victor Electronic Mouse Trap-M2524S deliver a high-voltage shock that eliminates mice in five seconds. This option is a bit more expensive than other natural methods, but it gets the job done quickly and effectively.
Traditional snap traps—Armed with a basic spring-loaded bar to crush the mouse, snap traps are effective, but sometimes fail to fully kill the mouse, injuring a limb instead. If you use this type of trap, make sure to keep it away from pets and children to reduce the risk of injury.
Bait stations—This method is designed to kill mice inside and outside of your home. Mice crawl into the traps, consume poisonous bait blocks, and then return to their nest, where they die. The Tomcat Mouse Killer Refillable Bait Station can kill up to 12 mice with one pellet and are designed to resist tampering by children and pets.
Dryer sheets—Placing dryer sheets around your home can get rid of mice because their scent overpowers a mouse’s senses. Remember to replace the sheets once the odor fades or mice could use them for their nests.
Peppermint essential oil—Though just a temporary fix and a stopgap measure, mice do not enjoy peppermint. Place 5–10 droplets of peppermint oil on cotton balls and place them around potential mouse entryways, like doors and kitchen cabinets.
Chemical methods for getting rid of mice
Traditional chemical methods will be effective in eliminating mice in your home, though can be dangerous to humans.
Always read directions when using chemical methods and be aware of risks to children and pets.
Rat poison—Poisons used to kill rodents are generally anti-coagulants, meaning they inhibit blood clotting. When a mouse consumes poison, it hemorrhages and suffers internal bleeding. Although this is an effective way to kill mice, the poison can be accidentally ingested by pets or children, so use with extreme caution.
Mothballs—Mothballs are an inexpensive, although toxic, way to get rid of mice. Place mothballs in small holes and cracks around your home. Be careful when handling the mothballs and keep pets and children away from them since they contain harmful chemicals.
Rodenticides—Only use rodenticides if all other methods fail. Use low-toxin solutions to avoid poisoning pets and children.
Professional extermination—In more serious cases, you may need to call in a professional. They will evaluate your situation, seal all entry points, use chemical sprays or traps, and follow up to make sure all of the mice are gone.
How to prevent future mice infestations
Infestations typically begin in the fall, when temperatures begin to drop and mice are seeking warmth. Begin precautionary measures as summer ends and maintain these tactics throughout the fall and winter.
To keep your home mouse-free for good, keep in mind these best practices.
Keep your house clean—Putting away food, taking out the trash, wiping counters, and cleaning dishes in a timely manner will reduce the leftover crumbs that attract mice.
Board up holes—If you located any holes inside or outside your home, patch them with cement or a mixing compound. Check for additional holes under sinks, in crawl spaces, and in hard-to-reach areas where mice are likely to make a nest.
Close and lock doors and windows—Make sure all doors and windows are closed properly so mice do not reenter your home.
Clear outdoor debris—Remove potential nesting sites outside of your home, like leaf piles or mounds of mulch.