I live in a 100-year-old house that is full of creaky boards, massive heating ducts, loose wiring conduits, and great hiding spots for mice. When I found one under the stove last fall my husband and I pretty much resigned ourselves to a pitched battle and periods of uneasy truces with the cute vermin. I would prefer to not have them in the house at all, obviously, but that may not be realistic in this home. I just don't want them in the kitchen.
Well, we were finding increased evidence of mice, ahem, activity in the back of the kitchen cupboards last week, so we set out traps again and caught a couple. (Sorry guys, none of this "humane" stuff; the mice have to go. There are plenty waiting to take their places!) But I was also thoroughly grossed out by now and I read up on how to really get rid of them. After sifting through a massive variety of anecdotal, desperate, unscientific, Rube Goldberg-esque, and hardheaded ideas for getting rid of mice, the most frequently reiterated elements were:
• Don't make your house an attractive place to mice. - Don't leave food out where they can find it or smell it. Sweep the floor and wipe the countertops before you go to bed. Don't leave out things that are attractive for nesting materials, like cotton balls.
• Do everything you can stop entry in the first place. Make sure the little holes and gaps behind your cupboards and sink are closed off. This is hard! Mice can fit through holes as small as a dime.
• Trap the ones you've got immediately and get rid of them. If you must keep them alive, do not just shake them out into the yard around your house or apartment building. They'll come straight back inside. Drive them at least ten miles away and deposit them in a park or field.
We identified several places that they seemed to be getting in. All the activity was in cupboards and on the countertop; they were getting in under the stove and oven and running amok all night, apparently. The entry holes were open gaps of wood around wiring conduits for the stove and oven; they looked like they had been chewed a little wider.
So I spent a few hours stuffing steel wool tightly down these holes to block them. I used a chopstick to really shove it into the tiny spaces. (Although I didn't protect my hands enough; they're all scratched up now from the deceptively soft steel wool!) Mice apparently hate steel wool; it hurts their paws and teeth and they can't get through it. I stuffed it through very tightly, adding drops of mint oil, too, which according to some accounts is also a deterrent. (Mice are allergic to mint, apparently.) Then I wrapped the steel wool in a coating of spray foam latex, just to help block anything I missed. That alone probably wouldn't hold them off at all, but it's an extra coating on top of the steel wool.
Then I swept and vacuumed all these cupboards and disinfected them thoroughly. (This may be the one time when toxic cleaners might be a good idea!) We haven't seen any mouse activity since then at all, and we are crossing our fingers. We hope that we've blocked them from the kitchen entirely, but we will wait and see.
It's amazing how much time and energy can get sucked into dealing with such tiny critters! They are fairly harmless, of course, and I'm not particularly afraid of them, but their droppings and leavings can spread salmonella and other diseases, and it's just not cool to have them running about in the pots and pans at night. Ugh.
What about you? Have you ever gotten sucked into the madness of trying to "think like a mouse" and get them out of your apartment or kitchen? How have you done it?
More Mouse Hunting at Apartment Therapy
• Good Questions: What's the Best Way to Catch a Mouse?
• The Mouse Hunter: Escalation
• The Mouse Hunter: The Word on the Street
• Good Questions: Ultrasound Pest Repellers?