Mice are adorable in children's books. They're even cute scurrying around in the woods. But it's a completely different story if you spot one sprinting across your kitchen floor.
In a recent survey of 1,000 Americans by pest control company Western Exterminator, 81 percent of people said they would feel guilty if they had a mouse infestation in their home, and 90 percent wouldn't invite even their closest friends over if there were mice hanging around.
We're firm believers that your home should be your sanctuary, and if you can't relax in your own space, that's a big issue. On top of that, a mouse infestation is a health risk, so you definitely can't wait to take action.
In case you ever find yourself with a mouse situation on your hands, we got some advice from Godfrey Nalyanya, Ph.D, a Western Exterminator entomologist and technical services manager. Here's what you need to know.
How to Recognize Signs of Mice in the House
First things first: How do you know if you have a mouse in the house if you haven't actually seen it? Thankfully, the signs aren't hard to spot: mouse droppings, the scent of urine, chewed up food packages, and shredded papers. And yeah, you might find or smell dead mice (but let's not think about that too much).
Why It's so Important to Take Care of an Infestation
There's no question a mouse infestation is annoying and gross. But if that's not motivation enough be proactive about your uninvited guests, consider that fact mice carry disease and bacteria, including salmonella, and parasites like fleas. If they're running around in your kitchen, they can easily contaminate your countertops and storage space. Oh, and that new mid-century-style sofa you finally splurged on? It's in danger. Nalyanya explains that mice won't hesitate to chew through upholstery in their quest for a cozy nesting space. They'll also happily gnaw through electrical cords, clothes, food containers—you name it.
How to Keep Mice Away in the First Place
If you want to keep mice out of your house (and why wouldn't you!), the best thing you can do is be proactive about home repairs. "Make sure your house is tightly secured without gaps, entry, or access points for mice, especially as the temperature cools outside and mice begin looking for warm places to hide," Nalyanya says.
That means you should install door sweeps on exterior doors, make sure there's no space between the floor and your garage door, and check for gaps around pipes and wires where they enter your house from the outside. Mice can fit through the tiniest of holes, so be vigilant. And be generous with the caulk! Nalyanaya also recommends stuffing larger holes with steel wool since mice can't chew through it.
Tidy landscaping can also make a difference. If mice are hanging out in the overgrown shrubs growing right up against the side of your house or the yard debris piled along your foundation, there's a good chance they'll easily find a path inside. If they're not there in the first place, they're less likely to come looking.
Related: The Best Mouse Traps
How to Get Rid of Mice Fast Once They Move In
Once mice have made it inside, take action immediately, especially in the kitchen where there's tempting food. Set traps, seal dry goods in airtight containers that can't be chewed through, and clear out clutter. Those stacks of magazines you've never read? Chuck 'em. That pile of clothes on the floor that doesn't fit? Donate it. Mice love to chew up those kinds of things to make a nest.
If they are in the walls, and you can't figure out, or access, how they got in there, you might have to drill a small hole and lure them out with bait.
What About Getting Rid of Mice Naturally?
Skip the natural home remedies and mice repellents like peppermint oil and garlic. Nalyanya says they just don't work, and you may even end up prolonging the infestation by not calling in professional help as soon as you should have. Ultrasonic repellent machines, which emit high-frequency sound waves that humans can't hear but are supposedly unpleasant to mice, are ineffective, too. If you're searching for a natural solution to mice, look no further than thorough home and yard maintenance.
You can try humane traps, which snap shut after the mouse enters and keeps him or her alive with bait and nice air holes. You release them into the wild to live another day, just take them far enough away so they can't easily find their way back.
Know When to Call an Exterminator
Mousetraps will take care of some mice, but they may only get you so far. If you've done everything outlined above and you're not seeing results—and especially if you're seeing evidence of mice in multiple areas of your house—it's time to call in a professional exterminator. According to Nalyanya, an exterminator will do an assessment of your home to pinpoint entry-points you may have missed, advise you on the best places to set traps, and perhaps use some rodenticides. If your DIY efforts don't seem to be making any difference after a few weeks, get some help.