I'm a mom of five waging war against household rodents, mostly mice and rats. Join me as I find pest control solutions for my home.
What to Do When You Find Mouse Droppings
A while back, we bought a house that had been vacant for a year. I never saw rodent squatters when I had visited the house before, but I found many brownish-black specks (mouse poop!) lying around in drawers, the top of the hung cabinets, closets, the pantry, and the bathtub!
I went into a cleaning frenzy the day we closed on our home purchase and thought all was well. Shortly after we moved in, I began hearing sounds in the walls and ceiling in the wee hours in the morning. Were they ghosts? I wish!
Unless you do your research, trying to find the "best" trap is going to be of little use to you. The basic steps to take when you discover rodent droppings are to:
- Determine if it's rats or mice.
- Understand their habits and lifestyle.
- Choose the best action plan for you. I found that electronic traps worked best for my house, but I'll share several different options and methods you can try.
Our rodent problem took me several months to solve, but the search for the best trap had begun. I made three mistakes when I started this endeavor:
- I thought sanitizing my home would take care of the problem.
- I hoped five very noisy kids would scare them away.
- I didn't do my research and assumed a few traps would fix the issue.
I hope you remember my mistakes and avoid making them yourself.
How Many Mousetraps Do I Need?
When I started my search, I had never heard of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) or even thought of hiring an exterminator. After three months of losing the mice battle, I begged our farm store clerk for help. He informed me that people need to set out two to three traps for every mouse in your home. And more importantly, experts recommend that you determine if rats or mice are sharing your home.
How can you find out how many you are dealing with? I was astonished to learn that one pair of mice can lead to 4,500 mice in one year! Mice can reproduce at an alarming rate, starting at just 5 weeks old with a gestation period of 19 days. They can do this 6-8 times a year with 4-8 pups (baby mice) per litter. I couldn't bear to think about the number of mice hiding in my walls. This could involve a lot of traps.
|Kid-Safe and Pet-Safe Methods|
Copper mesh and black foam
The Best Solution: The Electronic Mousetrap
The electronic trap was and still is the answer to all my rodent problems. It is kid-safe, pet-safe, and easy to dispose of. It kills mice quickly and cleanly without using poison. Easy to set up, the trap is ideal because it automatically shuts off and prevents accidental zapping. This option is a bit more expensive than the others, but it's well worth the money because it gets the job done efficiently.
Choose the best mousetrap for your environment. My favorite economical electronic mousetrap is the Victor M2524 or the Victor Pro M250. For larger areas like our barn, we had great luck with the larger Victor M260 multi-kill trap.
Try to think through your entire strategy to ensure success the first time around. What you choose has to be one you can accept, live with, and perform consistently.
I initially tried the no-kill mousetrap (also known as a humane mousetrap) because I wanted to teach my children that even mice have rights. After getting bitten by one and receiving a lecture from my doctor, I now understand the health hazards rodents present to humans. Further research led me to see potential scenarios involving property damage and fires caused by rodents gnawing wires in homes. Some infant deaths are also caused by rodents, so needless to say, I got my priorities straight.
Besides setting traps, take the following preventative measures to keep mice out:
- Repair holes where mice enter the building
- Sanitize any areas with evidence of mice
- Regularly inspect those areas
It may be impossible to completely mouse-proof your home, but these options are a great way to combat their presence and make your house as inhospitable for them as possible.
Copper Mesh and Black Foam
Some people recommend using steel wool to seal up holes around the house. We discovered the hard way that steel wool rusts when wet and creates stains. I ruined several paint jobs and had to redo the area around my expensive bay window. That's when I decided to try using copper mesh instead of steel wool. I wish I had started with it, as it would have been a lot cheaper without having to redo anything.
Stuff-it copper mesh contains a mixture of brass and copper. It's claimed to be rustproof and stainproof. So far, it's holding up well in my home and we installed it over a year ago. After we did the window area, we also used it in the pipes around the furnace where the little critters were entering.
I used Black Foam with the copper mesh to create an effective seal against mice that doesn't drip or rust. You can use this around door frames, bulkheads and other places you need. I couldn't find anything that said you can paint over it, but we tried it successfully and blended the seal into the home. Now our waterproof seal is painted to match our home.
Peppermint oil is a great preventative measure to keep mice out of your cabinets. It has a strong odor, but it's not too overbearing. Dab a few drops on some cotton and set it inside the cabinet. Make sure it's a good dab because mice love cotton but dislike peppermint. I was wary of other bug infestations with this method, but I haven't seen any in the four years I've done this. I tried using other brands, but this is the only brand that seems to have staying power and does not evaporate quickly.
Make sure to change the cotton or add more peppermint oil once a month. My mom used it in a spray bottle diluted with water and sprayed it on her garage walls and bulkhead. She said she noticed less mouse activity, so that's another way you can keep mice at bay.
Humane mousetraps can be an effective option because the mice have no place to escape. These are also safe for children and pets. The traps have an automatic shut-off feature, so you don't have to worry about getting shocked. A light notifies you when a mouse is captured so you can do a catch-and-release without coming in contact with them.
I learned that humane traps have unintended consequences. You need to think through the logistics before using them because these traps don't kill the mice. Since the point is to set rodents free but far enough away from your home, you need to how and where you will relocate the mice.
These logistics brought up a few questions:
- How can I safely handle a rodent without touching it? Mice transmit over 35 diseases, both directly and indirectly. People with allergies can be very sensitive to mice hair, feces, and urine.
- What if they entered someone's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts? The rodent contaminates would circulate in their home, which I wouldn't want happening to anyone.
- What if it entered a food storage facility, a food silo, or a barn's feeding bins? The food supply would get contaminated and affect other people/livestock.
- What if they gnawed on wires where they were released? A house or building could burn down.
- How far away is considered a safe distance to keep the mice from re-entering my home or my neighbor's home? I don't want them invading other homes and causing more trouble.
- Would they survive their relocation? The mice could be so accustomed to my comfy home that they wouldn't make it in the wild.
Humane traps weren't as easy a solution as I thought it would be. In my opinion, too many "what if" questions need to be considered, and I'm not sure what would make me feel more guilty: setting the mice free to cause more damage or killing them to not have to worry about them.
A popular option people use is snap traps, which are very affordable and easy to use. The cheapest mousetraps are the old-fashioned spring-loaded wooden ones, but I don't think they are the best type to use. The basic model has since evolved into plastic versions such as the Snap E trap, Tomcat Mouse Trap, Easy Set, and Eaton Jaws mousetraps.
I couldn't keep using these traps because most of them cause violent and messy deaths, and I didn't want to deal with a mouse that was caught but not killed. I also caught my four-year-old playing with a snap trap, so that ended using this option.
Have you ever poured yourself a bowl of cereal, only to see a dead mouse tumble out? It's not pleasant, and it happened to me the morning after I set out poison pellets. The mice had outsmarted the snap traps but stolen the pellets. They weren't as effective as I expected, and the possibility of my kids getting into the poison pellets had me on edge from the start.
Some mouse poisons dry up the rodent's body fluids, so they search for something to drink. Since mice need very little fluid, I think the mouse wanted the raisins in my granola cereal. While rodent poison works, it can have unintended consequences. Make sure your pets and children do not handle or ingest mouse poison, also called rodenticide.
Glue traps, also known as glue boards or sticky traps, aren't very humane. Finding a mouse still alive and struggling to free itself from a glue board is a scary sight for a toddler. My son requested we free the mouse, and I was bitten when I tried to free it with vegetable oil.
Glue traps need to be checked often and discarded intact with the mice. If neglected for a few days, the potential for terrible odors and insect infestations increases. This was worse than the humane mousetrap, no matter how I looked at it.
How to Get Rid of the Dead Mouse Smell
Well into my second month of catching mice, I started noticing putrid odors that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Dead mice decaying between the walls created rancid aromas for days or even weeks, depending on the climate and number of mice. Although removing rodents is ideal, it involves a lot of work. If you're not able to make this happen, finding an odor removal method is a viable solution.
My grandson is allergic to many scents. While I'm not as sensitive, I can smell everything. When you have a dead mouse in the wall, this odor removing gel works, plain and simple. Open the jar, and the air smells continually refreshed. It is made with natural ingredients which neutralize the air. You can smell it when you first open the product, and then you get used to it. You may think its not working because you no longer smell it, but then you notice you no longer detect the rancid dead mouse stench.
This gel works well for all types of odors and is well worth the money. It tends to last longer in cooler temperatures because it evaporates from the heat. Air fresheners, scented candles, plugins scents, and powdered carpet fresheners can't compete.
How to Know If You Have Rats or Mice
People often search "how to catch a mouse" or "what is the best trap" when they discover a rodent problem. I've discovered that the best method to approach is not to look for the best trap, but rather to know the habits of the mice they are trying to catch. Where do they live? What are they eating?
It's important to know what you're dealing with because what you know can help you formulate the best strategy. Did you know a mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil eraser? Or that a rat can slink through a hole the size of a quarter? This information can help you plan what to look for and fix around the house.
At the time, I knew it was one or the other, and I prayed we had the smallest rodent. After a thorough check, we determined mice had invaded our home and decided ordinary snap traps would suffice to start. Below is a chart comparing the differences between rats and mice.
Live in outdoor burrows or roofs
Live near food
Will travel 100+ feet for food
Stay within 35 feet of food source
Drink a lot of water
Get water from food
Did you know?
- CDC - Diseases from rodents - Rodents
This page lists links to diseases that are either directly or indirectly transmitted by rodents.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on July 13, 2020:
Personally, it may depend where you live and what mice are used to. I originally tried the peppermint oil but I still see evidence of mice in the area.
Judy on November 13, 2018:
Used peppermint oil and cotton balls and the darn varmints took them to our cellar to build a nest, I think. Grandson found them on the cellar floor,
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on October 25, 2018:
Hello Cheri, The peppermint keeps them away, like a deterrent.A mouse trap kills them.
Cheri Isom from Milwaukee on October 24, 2018:
Is peppermint woks like mousetrap?
Sophia on March 23, 2018:
It would Break my heart if I killed a mice I don’t have the force to kill mice or any animal it would break my heart if I ever seen anyone kill an animal so I think that you guys shouldn’t put mouse traps is it so mean it’s not fair that mice don’t be popular and all other-animals are mice are just Looking for food because they don’t have anywhere to nest or Find food
Ivriniel on January 25, 2013:
I few years ago I worked at a school with a mouse problem. Glue traps were set up in the classroom to catch them. One day we had a fire drill, and as the Ed Assistant in one of the kindergarten rooms went to close the front door of the classroom, while the kids went out the back door, she somehow managed to step on two glue trap set up next to the door, one on each foot. I'm told she looked like she was wearing clown shoes. She was so mortified that she made the teacher help her peel them off her feet before she would leave the building.
Help from ohio on January 14, 2013:
In my house the mouse or mice, not sure, will come out during the day and scare me, I have a 16 month old and her room is next to the kitchen where the mouse seems to be residing. I have had a mouse problem before and got rid of it. My question is how do you know where the mouse is entering your home? There are so many places to check.. And how can I feel safe placing my daughter in her bed? We are currently using snap traps in the places where my daughter cannot access and glue traps in other places. But it doesn't catch them quick enough for me. Any advice?
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on January 09, 2012:
SweetiePie: You truly live up to your name!!! Words can't express how thankful I am!
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on January 09, 2012:
I am going to stumble your mouse trap website. I think this can be useful to many people, especially those living in older houses.
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on January 09, 2012:
Sweetie Pie, yes thanks for asking, I do have a website which is listed above where it say Best Mouse Trap Feed, but the feed contains all my links all over the web, so to make it simple for others reading, its http://thebestmousetrap.com, and thank for asking!
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on January 09, 2012:
This is good info for those who have mice problems. Do you have a website? I actually know people with mice problems, and they might be able to use more of your info.
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on December 08, 2011:
Infiniteresearch, Yes, I hope it never happens to you. In my very first apartment, seems like 100 years ago, I had mice but didn't recognize the signs. I discovered them when I packed up everything to move; things that had been in closets for 2 years, were slowly being eaten away!
Infiniteresearch from Ohio on December 07, 2011:
Great advice, so glad I haven't experienced this...but definitively noting this one for what to do should I get an invasion of mice :-)
Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on December 03, 2011:
Thanks so much for the "Pantry Moths" hub link!
Pam Valentine (author) from The Heartland, USA on December 01, 2011:
Supergood-Thanks, its my first, glad you got something uesful from it
World-Traveler-Yes, you area of the country has really bad problems as I learned when I reserached this topic, thanks for the tip on pluggin up the holes, we use copper mesh instead of steel wool since it doesn't leave rusty drips.
World-Traveler from USA on November 30, 2011:
I have learned a lot from your two posts. I have had mouse problems in both Thailand, South Korea and in Mexico. One method I use to avoid mice getting into my accommodations is I check to see where they are coming in from. Then I plug the holes. That avoids further nuisance via the varments.
You provide very useful information in both of your posts about rodent control. Thank you. Voted UP, useful and interesting.
supergood on November 28, 2011: