How to Get Rid of Mice

house mouse

“Burn not your house to get rid of the mouse,” as the saying goes.

Instead, focus on reducing their numbers. How to get rid of mice? Trap them, use repellents or poison the rodents. Before you have a mouse infestation, prevent their entry by keeping your home clean and sealing any gaps in walls.

Where Do House Mice Come From?

For more than 15,000 years (yes, you read that right), Mus musculus, aka the common house mouse, has been living among humans.

Descended from the mice of Central Asia, the common house mouse now lives all over the world, except in Antarctica. Growing up to 8 inches long and weighing 0.4 to 0.8 ounces, house mice are light gray or brown colored and live a little less than a year in the wild.

Even with such a short lifespan, these rodents prove difficult to get rid of for two main reasons: They’re nocturnal, so they’re hard to see in waking hours, and they reproduce quickly. According to Pest World, females of this species can birth six babies every three weeks!

Signs of a mouse infestation include tiny, black, oblong-shaped droppings near food sources; chew marks on baseboards, packaging, and cabinetry; scratching sounds from inside the walls; and nests made of shredded paper, cardboard, or similar nesting materials.

Other mouse species that also can be found in the home are deer mice and white-footed mice. Regardless of type, try these mouse control methods.

How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home

Wishing and hoping and praying your mouse problem away isn’t going to work. House mice depend on humans for food and shelter, so they won’t leave on their own. To evict the common house mouse, you’ll need to go on the offensive.

1. Mouse traps

A popular DIY method of mouse control, traps are cost-effective, pesticide-free, reusable, and easy to set. For optimal effectiveness, place traps where you’ve seen signs of mice. The Texas A&M Extension recommends arranging mouse traps perpendicular to the base of the wall to make it easier for the rodents to trip the trigger.

Here are a few of the best mouse trap types:

Snap traps: Made of wood or plastic, this old-school method has been improved for our modern times and does a better job of getting rid of mice humanely. Use peanut butter as bait to lure the pests to the trap.

When the mouse reaches for the food on the trigger, the trap will snap shut, killing it immediately — no suffering involved. If you’re squeamish, opt for the plastic, enclosed kind of snap trap, so you don’t have to see or touch any dead mice.

Note: Change bait daily, so it’s fresh, and give traps some time to work. Consider baiting unset traps for a few days. Mice are wary and will need to adjust to this new addition to their environment before trusting it as a food source. When you notice bait has been taken from an unset trap, ready the trigger right away.

Electric traps: These battery-operated trap types electrocute mice, killing them instantly. Bait the trap with peanut butter, bacon, seeds, nuts, or chocolate. When the mouse enters the enclosed trap, it will trigger a high-voltage shock.

You’ll know you’ve caught and killed a mouse successfully when the LED light on the trap turns green. Empty the removable kill chamber and reset. Mice live in groups, so if you’ve found one, you probably have many.

Live traps: If you prefer a no-kill solution to your rodent problem, try the catch-and-release method. There are two types of live traps: the steel cage version and the enclosed plastic version.

Bait these live traps as you would any other. Once a mouse (or several) have been captured, release it back into the wild — far away from your home, of course.

Glue traps: Experts agree these sticky traps work. When placed in the path of mice, they’ll step on the glue and get stuck, but some do not recommend their use.

“They are nontoxic, but they do not kill the mouse, leaving you to deal with a live mouse,” the PennState Extension states. “You may be bitten, and the mouse can make loud noises and suffer while on the trap.”

2. Bait stations

Rodenticides, or poisons for rodents, can be purchased at your local hardware store or online. For the safety of people and pets, only use EPA-approved products, in which bait is confined to its tamper- and weather-resistant box.

Place bait stations in areas children and pets don’t go. Mice will see the bait as food and eat it. After a little while, the toxins will kill the mice.

Note: Poisoning mice will help eliminate your problem quickly, but it also could cause mice to die inside walls, leading to unpleasant odors that will be difficult to get rid of, as the insides of walls are hard to access and clean.

3. Mouse repellents

In your search for home remedies to get rid of mice, you’ve most likely stumbled upon solutions, such as peppermint oil, moth balls, and ammonia. But do these suggestions work in real life? Let’s find out.

Scents to keep mice away: Strong smells have shown promise in repelling insects and some other animals; however, the general consensus of experts is that none of these smells work on mice and they are not included in recommendations by extension services. Peppermint oil was even used with mice to test hair regrowth efficacy with no issues.

One smell that has been said to work is that of cats — specifically, their saliva. According to a 2010 BBC News report, researchers detailed how proteins in cat saliva triggered fear in mice. If you don’t already own a cat, you may want to consider getting one.

Repellent devices: Long story, short: Save your money.

Sure, these ultrasonic repellents are nontoxic and simple to plug in, but their claims of repelling rodents are bunk.

According to the University of California‘s integrated pest management office, “There is little evidence that sound, magnetic, or vibration devices of any kind will drive established mice or rats from buildings or provide adequate control.”

Why so ineffective? Ultrasonic sounds don’t penetrate walls or objects. Plus, mice get used to repeated sounds.

Problems Caused by Mice

Why is it bad to have mice? These rodents may look super cute, but they spend their time feeding off our scraps, leaving droppings under our sinks, nesting in our walls, gnawing our power cords, and generally contaminating our living spaces.

Mice can pose health risks to humans, too — think typhus fever, the plague, and hantavirus (a potentially deadly virus contracted by breathing in particles of rodent feces). House mice typically don’t carry hantavirus (deer mice and white-footed mice do), but house mice can cause bacterial food poisoning.

How this happens: People eat foods that have been contaminated by rodent feces.

When to Call in the Pest Control Pros

If the number of mice is relatively small (we’re talking one or two), the DIY methods could solve your mouse problem. But if the population of these rapidly reproducing rodents has reached beyond that, you have an infestation and will need help from your local pest control experts.

These pros will assess your level of infestation and create a plan to rid your home of these rodents. Plans typically take the integrated pest management approach and include removal and exclusion.

How to Prevent Mice From Coming into Your House

Once the mice are gone, or if you just want to keep them out of your home in the first place, two simple actions can help keep your home rodent-free.

1. Keep your home clean

Having mice doesn’t mean your house is filthy, but it can mean there are enough attractants drawing mice to your home. Here’s how to reduce their interest in your home:

  • Disinfect countertops and other surfaces.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Vacuum floors.
  • Get rid of clutter like cardboard boxes and papers.

2. Seal entry points

The most long-lasting way to keep mice at bay is through exclusion. Caulk small holes, gaps, and other openings in your foundation, walls, and pipes that are more than a quarter of an inch wide.

If you don’t have any caulk on hand, an effective temporary plug can be made from steel wool pads, as they are not gnawable.

By implementing these two prevention tips, you can keep the common house mouse from moving into your home.

Main Photo Credit: A common house mouse / George Shuklin / CC BY-SA 1.0

Andréa Butler

Andréa Butler

Descendant of the Fulani tribe, Gettysburg-obsessed Marine Corps brat, and lover of all things writing and editing, Andréa Butler launched Sesi magazine and has penned articles for sites, such as LivingSocial, Talbot Digital, Xickle, Culturs magazine, and Rachel Ray. Andréa holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an M.A. in magazine journalism from Kent State University.