Like many annoyances (cavities, sunburns, running out of coffee on a Monday morning), mouse infestations can often be avoided by taking preventative measures. Alas, sometimes life gets busy. And before you know it, maybe a family of mice takes up residence in your walls, intent on sampling each and every food item in your cabinets … daily.

After the obligatory freak-out, and perhaps a shrill shriek or 2 (we won’t tell), you‘re ready to take action. And that’s where we can help.

How to get rid of mice

1. Inspect the entire house

If you’ve got unwelcome visitors (insert rude relatives joke here), they’re probably not getting in by simply crossing your welcome mat. Unless there’s a lot of food being offered on your part, and a lot of un-mouse-like bravery on theirs, the mice are most likely getting in through various cracks, holes, vents, and drains around the perimeter of your house.

Where do mice enter homes?

Not-so-fun fact: mice can squeeze through openings as small as one-quarter of an inch. Some common entry points for mice include:

  • Holes in windows
  • Gaps between walls and/or ceilings
  • Unsealed drainage pipes
  • Sink and/or bathtub drains
  • Basements
  • Attics
  • Spaces between the floor and doors
  • Cracks and holes in closets and/or cabinets

2. Seal all points of entry

Once you’ve (hopefully) found all the points of entry, you’ll want to block them using materials a mouse can’t chew, claw, or otherwise force their way through. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends filling any small holes with steel wool and then caulking the area around it. For larger holes, the CDC advises more extreme measures, like using cement, lath metal, hardware cloth, or sheet metal to keep mice out.

3. Capture any remaining mice

If you seal the holes and still see mouse activity, you’ll know that you’ve either missed an entry point or a mouse (or 2) has been trapped inside. And that means it’s time to use traps.

Traps

There are 3 main types of traps: snap traps, glue traps, and live-catch traps.

Snap traps (usually) kill the mouse quickly, hopefully minimizing suffering.

Glue traps don’t kill the mouse outright. Instead, they trap the mouse whenever a part of it touches the glue. Stuck to the trap, the mouse usually dies slowly, meaning you have the trauma-filled task of disposing of a live mouse.

Live-catch traps are arguably the most work, but also the most humane. With these, you can trap a mouse and then set it free outside.

It’s important to remember that mouse urine can carry diseases. Always wear gloves when handling traps and make sure you disinfect any area that’s seen mouse activity.

Where to place traps

Traps work best when they’re in strategic areas. Here are a few tips for effectively placing mouse traps.

  • Arrange traps wherever you’ve frequently seen the mice, especially near known entry points.
  • Some experts recommend putting the traps out for a night without setting them so that the mice can get used to them.
  • Inside the house, space the traps 8 to 12 feet apart.
  • If you decide to put traps around the perimeter of your home, place them 30 to 50 feet apart.
  • Only use a small amount of bait (peanut butter, vanilla, bacon, etc.) to minimize the chance that the mouse will find a way to sneak the bait without setting off the trap.
  • Don’t place traps within reach of children or pets.
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And remember to check your traps daily.

4. Make critters feel unwelcome

Again, prevention is the best measure. Making mice feel unwelcome in your home doesn’t need to be the last step — in fact, it’s something to strive for at all times. To ensure these furry creatures remain in the great outdoors, you can:

  • Use peppermint oil. Although this isn’t a proven option, many swear by its effectiveness. Simply put a few drops of peppermint oil onto a cotton ball and place it near mouse entry points. (Again, don’t place these within reach of pets or children.)
  • Don’t let messes linger! Pick up crumbs as soon as they fall.
  • Keep both indoor and outdoor trash cans clean and fully closed. And move outdoor trash cans and other clutter as far away from your home as possible.
  • Make sure grass, trees, and other plants are well-trimmed. Overgrown gardens make a great hiding place for mice.
  • Use mouse-proof, sealable containers. Anything made of hard plastic, glass, or metal works great. Mice can easily chew through soft plastic, paper, and cardboard.
  • If you keep dried goods in pantries or other cupboards, make sure there aren’t any holes on the inside that mice could squeeze through.
  • If you have a pet, always put away its food and water before you go to bed.

More mousey tidbits

  • Mouse urine glows in UV light. They use urine to mark their path, so grab a black light to trace their movements through your house. (Bonus: you’ll also find out where you should do some extra scrubbing.)
  • One female mouse can have 5 to 10 litters in a year. A litter usually consists of 5 or 6 mice, and the gestation period is only 19 to 21 days.
  • Mice can’t see well, so they use their whiskers to feel their way around and keep close to walls.
  • Mice can jump up to 12 inches high and climb just as far up walls.

Make your home even safer

Most insurance policies don’t cover pest damage, which is yet another incentive to prevent the problem in the first place or eradicate it as quickly as possible. And once you’ve got your home free of pests, protect it from other perils by pet-proofing your pad and making an earthquake preparedness kit.

DIY hacks | Safe and smart

about Rachael

After studying Literature and Writing in San Diego, Rachael said farewell to her sunny hometown and left for San Francisco to revel in the fog. When she’s not writing Tweets and blogs and all manner of copy for Esurance, Rachael spends her free time hiking, enjoying the sparse sunshine at Ocean Beach, and seeking out the best reading spots in the city.