The Best Way to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home (and Keep Them Out!), According to a Pest Expert

updated Mar 27, 2024
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Several things happened in 2020: The world went on lockdown due to a global pandemic, I gave birth to our third and final child, and my family home became infested with mice. None of those three things are related (as far as I know), but they all had a single thing in common: stress. 

Quick Overview

How to Get Rid of Mice

  1. Figure out how mice are getting into your home.
  2. Seal any gaps with steel wool or caulk to prevent future access, keep the home clean of any food sources, and store food properly.
  3. For apartments, coordinate with your property management beforehand.
  4. Set any traps you are comfortable using, such as snap traps or live catch traps.
  5. If the problem persists, it may be time to consider hiring an expert.

My husband and I didn’t realize we had a mouse problem at first because there was so much else going on. The first sign that there was even an issue involved a tiny black grain of rice I found while sweeping up the kitchen. I showed it to him, knowing full well what it was after spending a year in B2B pest control sales, but hoping it was something else.

“Yeah,” he sighed, drawing from his own multi-year experience as a pest control technician. “We have a mouse.” What I wish I could tell you four years later is that we had a mouse, but after several weeks of mitigation, and a few different DIY pest control attempts, what we discovered was that we had multiple mice living in the walls of our home. 

And while we were eventually able to tackle the problem, not everyone has two former pest control experts at home to troubleshoot their issues (ours ended up being too many access points to the house that we eventually closed or otherwise stuffed with steel wool), which is why I asked a pro how she would recommend people deal with these types of unwanted houseguests. 

Signs You Have a Mice Infestation

The first step to controlling your mouse issue is determining whether or not mice are to blame for the things you’re seeing. Shannon Harlow-Ellis, Associate Certified Entomologist and Technical Services Manager at Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company, says your first step in determining what type of pest you’re dealing with involves looking for those telltale signs that there’s a mouse in the house. “Signs include unusual noises like scuttling in walls, visible chew marks on food packages, and finding droppings in your home,” she says. 

How to Locate Where Mice Are Coming From

All of our issues stemmed from breaches in the exterior of our 100-year-old home, mostly having to do with areas where the siding didn’t quite meet the foundation. To figure out where your weak spots are, Harlow-Ellis says that you’ll need to give your home a careful examination to see where your entry points might be, and identify where you’ll need to focus your energy. “Look for small openings around doors, windows, and utility lines,” she says. “It only takes a hole the size of the end of your pinky to allow a mouse to enter.” 

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

How to Get Rid of Mice

Once you’ve figured out how mice are getting into your home, Harlow-Ellis says you should seal these gaps with materials like steel wool and caulk to prevent future access or find a pest control professional who provides exclusion services. Then, she says, you’ll need to take a few additional steps depending on the entry points, and what type of home you have. 

Dealing with Mice in a House

First, Harlow-Ellis says you’ll need to seal any entry points. “Keep your home clean, remove food sources by storing food properly (this would be an airtight hard plastic container), and dispose of waste promptly in an outdoor receptacle,” she continues. 

To tackle the mice that have already set up shop inside, she suggests using traps, “placing them strategically where rodent activity is noticed.” If the problem persists, she says it may be time to consider hiring a pro. 

Dealing with Mice in an Apartment or Rental

A lot of what you’ll need to do in a rental unit is similar to what Harlow-Ellis suggests for a house, but she says you’ll need to take the additional step of coordinating with your property management. She says this is crucial for addressing common areas and structural issues. “Ensuring your living space is clean and free of clutter can also deter mice.”

Understanding Different Types of Traps

There are two different types of common traps that just about anyone can buy, according to Harlow-Ellis.

  • Snap traps: These are effective and can be baited with food like peanut butter. 
  • Live catch traps: these traps allow for the humane capture and release of rodents. 

Harlow-Ellis suggests choosing your trap based on your situation and ethical considerations.  

As for my own family, we tried a few different types of traps during our infestation, including the humane ones, glue traps (which I wouldn’t recommend due to the painful experience that both you and the mouse will experience when it comes time for disposal), and snap traps. Snap traps were the clear winner. Not only did they allow us to get rid of the mice we were seeing in the house, but the mice were already dispatched once we found them, and once we began eliminating their numbers we didn’t see any more mice — a clear sign that our chosen method was working. 

Preventing Future Infestations

Harlow-Ellis reiterates that maintaining a clean and tidy home and yard is the best way to prevent mice from coming into the home. “Trim vegetation away from your house to remove shelter for rodents,” she says, adding that it is also important to keep food sources limited. “Regularly inspect and seal potential entry points to keep mice out.”

Common Mouse Myths

There are a lot of myths and unproven advice when it comes to keeping mice out of your home, and Harlow-Ellis says not all of it is based on fact. “While natural deterrents like peppermint oil, vinegar, or cayenne pepper can repel mice, their effectiveness isn’t guaranteed,” she explains of more holistic methods. “These methods are best used as part of a comprehensive approach to rodent control, including cleanliness and physical barriers.” 

This is why she recommends using a multi-tiered approach to mouse control and exclusion for the best results at success. However, she does say that this DIY process isn’t for everyone. “Rodent control is not for the faint of heart.” While my husband and I were able to power through our mice issue, thanks to some more hands-on experience, it’s OK if you cannot. 

If that’s the case, consider calling in a pro like Harlow-Ellis and her team, or any other number of pest control experts!

A version of this story was first published on October 27, 2018, by Rebecca Straus.