Mice: Get Them Out and Keep them Out

A front view of a wood mouse.

Mice are equal opportunity intruders. They don’t care if your home is a 20-room mansion or a one-room shack, they’ll move right in. In the fall, all a mouse is looking for is some food and warmth—and to a mouse any house is better than being outside. If you think mice might be targeting your home, here is some advice for seeing if they are already inside, how to get rid of them, and how you can keep them from entering in the future.

Knowing if You Have Mice

Mice aren’t smart enough to know not to attract attention to themselves, so they will make noise and leave their marks around the house. If you listen at night, you can often hear them rustling around in your walls or ceilings. You might see small holes gnawed in bread bags or cereals and the inevitable mouse droppings left behind in drawers or even on counter tops.

If you’re not hearing or observing these signs, yet you're still sure you have mice in your home, put some talcum powder or flour near where your think they might be and leave it for a few days (and nights). If you’ve got mice, you’ll see tiny tracks through the flour.

How Do You Get Rid of Your Mice?

You can always call an exterminator to get rid of them, but they’ll likely charge you hundreds of dollars to do something you can do yourself.

Start by getting rid of any potential food sources for mice. Clean up any spills or crumbs in cupboards (toaster crumbs are a real mouse treat), and put your dry food in glass or metal containers. This is not a one-time cleaning job; make sure to continue keeping your kitchen as clean as possible with regards to food. Also, seal openings from the outside that might allow more mice to get in (see below for tips on keeping mice out of your house).

Your next step is putting out some traps to catch your uninvited guests. Old fashioned spring traps work well and they’re inexpensive. Place your traps along the walls where the mice move (since mice are almost blind they tend to stay close to walls). Some people suggest putting out your traps for a couple of days unset and without any bait in them, so the mice will get used to them. After this waiting period, bait your traps with peanut butter or chocolate (cheese is for cartoons) and check them regularly. Give the traps a couple of days and if they don’t capture any mice, relocate them to a different area.

If you just want to catch your mice to remove them, there are a number of different live traps available as well. Just remember if you do decide to use live traps, you need to check them often (at least daily), or the trapped mice will end up dying slowly in the traps. Also make sure you release your captured mice at least a quarter mile away from your home or they could be back inside before you are.

Keeping Mice Out of Your House

Take a walk around the outside of your house and look for any openings from outside, no matter how small you think they are. Check electrical or gas pipe entrances, outdoor water taps, and air conditioner connections as well. A mouse can get through an opening as small as a person’s baby fingernail, so even a tiny gap is an open invitation to a mouse.

Seal any openings you find with expanding foam insulation, caulking, metal screening, or small piece of sheet metal cut to fit. Steel wool can also do a good job since mice don’t like to chew on metal, but since it will rust and deteriorate, it will need to be replaced after a few years.

Make sure your soffits are tightly fastened. An opening in a soffit will allow mice to get into your attic and then right down into your home.

Relocate compost or woodpiles well away from your house and build supports or use old pallets to get wood up off the ground. Mice can nest in them during the summer and move right on inside when the weather gets cold. It’s also a good idea to keep bird feeders well away for your house so loose seeds lying on the ground won’t attract mice.

Clean up any spilled grass or plant seeds in your garage and store your trash in a metal container. And finally, clean up any pet food bowls so the mice won’t be attracted to a midnight buffet of pet food. To keep mice away, here is our guide on how to make mice repellent.

A Couple of Final Thoughts

Mice are more than just an aggravation; they can actually be dangerous. They carry infectious diseases and can transmit them to humans, so if mice have gotten into food in your home, don’t take any chances, just throw it away. Stay safe by wearing gloves when handling mice or traps, and always wash your hands after handling anything that might have had contact with mice.