How to clean up after mice? Dirty buggers.
February 12, 2012 1:10 PM   Subscribe

How should I clean up after finding mouse droppings in my kitchen drawers? And is this mouse fighting strategy sound?

I opened my kitchen drawer this morning to find a not insignificant number of mouse droppings in the drawer I keep my washcloths in. Looking in the drawer underneath it...I find one or two. I have a whole bank of these drawers full of tupperware, appliances, travel mugs, silverware, etc.

Now...I have taken most of them out, my plan is to put a poison pack behind them....and then....well, I don't know if I should put the drawers back? With some snap traps? In order to lull this mouse back into its familiar territory in order to destroy it? Or, empty all the drawers, clean them, put them back without their contents and THEN set traps in them. OR, put everything back as it is now, clean nothing in order to keep it as familiar as possible, set the traps and hope I catch it in the next couple days?

While I would appreciate guidance on my strategies above, the thing I am really concerned with is cleaning everything afterwards, including the drawers themselves. There is a lot of stuff in those drawers. A LOT. The linens are fine, I can chuck them in the washer...but the dishes upon dishes....if I were to put together a rather strong mix of bleach and water....would just rinsing them in that be enough? Or do I really have to scrub the dickens out of each one?
posted by Bibliogeek to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not to alarm you, but I would highly recommend you hire an professional to come in and assess the house. I had a mouse problem similar to yours-- found mouse droppings in drawers and cupboards and I was told that insinuates you have a pretty bad mouse problem. Finding the droppings means there is an infestation and could potentially be a bit out of your hands.

In the short term, I would recommend just washing everything with bleach/hot water solution for everything that has come in contact. Don't have to scrub, but just wash throughly. You can get very ill from the droppings.

Next I would say hire a professional pest control company (something similar to Orkin) to come in and assess your dwelling. What's great is usually the estimates are free, so you can gauge how big the problem is. If it's an apartment consult your landlord.

I dealt with a problem similar to this based on what you've written. I was in denial I had a mouse problem until I was hearing them and seeing the droppings. When the company came to assess the apartment, which was a 3 story house converted into apartments, they essentially said the problem was bigger than I could imagine and can easily become a health hazard.

Don't want to scare you, just want to keep you informed. Do lots of research on the internet and talk with friends. Good luck!
posted by melizabeth at 1:22 PM on February 12, 2012

This probably depends a little on your personal level of grossed-outness with mouse droppings but I think just running the dishes through the dishwasher (or whatever your normal dish-washing procedure is) would be fine. I think it might not be a good idea to put things back in the drawers until you have eliminated the mouse problem though, you might end up having to re-wash everything which is a pain.

As far as mouse elimination: we recently had a mouse and after looking at some AskMefi questions we got a RatZapper trap. What you would want to do is, if possible, locate the point where the mouse/mice are getting into the house and place the trap near that. If you can't find where they are coming from you could also place the trap along a likely route of travel, maybe on the floor underneath your drawers or somewhere else near the scene of the droppings.

In our situation I was able to figure out where they were coming in, put the ratzapper next to it, and we had an electrocuted mouse within 6 hours. If you catch one mouse leave some bait out on the floor for a couple days and if it goes unmolested (unless you have pets) then you've probably solved your problem.

Alternate solution: borrow a cat for a while.
posted by ghharr at 1:24 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mice aren't a major threat to your health. Bleach isn't necessary. Soap and water, at normal dishwashing strength, is fine.

But really, washing everything now seems rather pointless. You don't know whether the mouse is going to walk all over your dishes again tomorrow. Just do what you can to identify the point of ingress, set some traps (not necessarily inside drawers), and try to avoid leaving food or food waste anywhere that a mouse might be able to get to it. A clean kitchen with securely-stored food isn't particularly attractive to a mouse.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:24 PM on February 12, 2012

Best answer: Snap traps with peanut butter (don't use poison, you never know if they've eaten it, eaten enough, etc. and if they die in your walls they decompose there, etc.) placed along the back of a drawer or two, and placed along the back of your counter or any other likely path. They work well if you know which way the mice are running (L-R or R-L).

This has happened to me in several houses over the years. Usually when you have one, you have a family, but I wouldn't go so far as to say "infestation." So empty the drawers, kill a mouse, reset the snap traps and see if another one comes through in the next day or two, and then go ahead and wash your stuff and the drawers and go on living. Be ready to wash everything again, but don't worry too much about it.
posted by headnsouth at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2012

Best answer: Before you start fretting about the cleaning issue, you definitely need to find potential entry points for the mouse and take action to seal them off. We discovered a mouse a few months ago, and determined the entry point was under the sink. There was a teeny, tiny hole that the mouse found its way through from outside. We plugged it up with steel wool and duct tape to seal it off. Remember, they can get in through a hole the size of a penny or something ridiculously small like that. They can squeeze into very small spaces.

I had to clear everything out from that cabinet and everything connected to it. I spent about a day cleaning, disinfecting and setting traps. We caught the mouse that same day and have not had a problem since. I also threw out any boxes of food that were along the pathway of the mouse. I did not want to take any chances, even if they didn't show any signs of tampering.

We used some sticky glue traps and the bait traps with peanut butter. We ended up catching the mouse in a bait trap--the peanut butter worked great. By the way, our alleged ratting terriers did NOTHING to help and I don't even think they realized a mouse was loose or even caught. :)

We are not messy, and I keep a clean kitchen. We think the mouse came in because we had a bird feeder a short distance away from the kitchen, outside, and the birds spilled a lot of seed. Plus, it was starting to get cold and I think the mouse was seeking someplace warm.
posted by FergieBelle at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2012

I lived in an old rowhouse in Philadelphia that had been coverted into 6 apartments. While I was there, the owner's son moved back in over the Christmas holiday. He'd had some furniture that he'd stored in a barn or something and long story short, whatever he'd brought in was infested with mice who took over the entire building. Despite some efforts from the landlord (he did call in a pest control company immediately after the problem became apparent, but I'm not sure if they did anything other then set snap traps) the problem continued for years. I had reason to get in touch with someone who was still living in the building a couple of years after I moved out and they still had a problem.

Anyway, during that time I did a lot of online research and I read something that suggested that mice are pretty much always urinating and that creates a scent that pretty much advertises to other mice that "hey this is a place where mice live; come on over." I can't cite the site, and maybe the information is inaccurate, but based on that I would definitely wash everything well with bleach and water (or maybe a diluted vinegar and water solution if you don't want to use bleach), on the chance that what I read was accurate and the scent would attract other mice.

I'd also agree with melizabeth that if you have that much evidence of mouse activity then you probably have mice rather than a lone mouse that wandered in to get out of the cold Once you have mice, well they recreate pretty rapidly. This is definitely a situation that you want to get on top of quickly.
posted by kaybdc at 1:42 PM on February 12, 2012

Best answer: Traps will only catch the mice, if you're lucky and the mice are dumb enough to get snapped.

Your best long-term bet is to (by yourself or with the help of an exterminator) find the openings in or around your kitchen, where mice are getting in, and fill those openings with steel wool and/or spray insulation foam.

Any gap wider than a nickel is enough for the filthy rodents to get through.

In our home and in previous apartments (one where we lived above a restaurant in downtown Philadelphia) we found these holes mostly:

- underneath the kitchen sink, near and around pipes
- behind appliances (fridge, oven, dishwasher)
- between the living room and kitchen, where a house extension left a gap between the first floor and the basement
- around baseboards

Spray foam is easy, but can be too easy. Use it judiciously, as it expands in volume a great deal — and fast. It is also very sticky and impossible to shape until it dries. Test it in a spot where you can't see it, like under a kitchen sink.

Steel wool is easy, too, but a bit more work. A fine wool is fine, and it will be easy to tear apart and shape. Use a plastic paint can spudger or similar to push wool into crevices. For bonus points, run a magnet around work areas to clean up bits of wool left over from tearing and shaping. It can sting, walking on tiny threads of steel wool!

The first few places I lived, I'd trap for a week or so, and after the fifth or six day of disposing of dead mice, I had pretty much decided that enough was enough. Filling in the gaps seems to be the only approach that has worked to stop visitors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also check cabinets for holes — anything against the kitchen wall that could hide a passageway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2012

Bleach water. I'd prefer to not think about hantavirus.
posted by plinth at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Order the RatZapper, pay for upgraded fast shipping.

It works incredibly well, is very fast, humane, and not messy. Ouse had mice and they kept bypassing the traps or just taking the food and escaping.
- Glue traps: not humane, gross
- poison: not immediately effective, no idea if they've died in your walls or basement or attic, where they'll rot decompose and rot, and their poisoned body can be eaten by local birds or cats or other animals.
- snap traps: they seem to work for some people, but I've had bad luck with them either being ineffective or gross (mangling the mouse body)
- live traps: people think this is the humane approach, and it might be the only option for some folks. But you have to get to the mouse fairly soon, or else it will suffocate or urinate all over itself and die from hypothermia or shock, take it somewhere far enough from other houses, and then somehow hope that the entire ordeal wasn't so stressful that it survives. After doing some reading, it seemed like this was fairly unlikely, but I don't have studies to show you.

The RatZapper is different than other traps. It is a fairly large rectangle, and you put the bait at the back. There are vents back there so the mouse can smell the food. The box has a metal strip at the far end that electrocutes the mouse instantly. When the mouse is dead, you just slide the body into the garbage bag, and set it for the next one.

Check out the reviews on Amazon - tons of 5 stars and enthusiastic responses from customers - its really unique in the mouse trap world, where most models are overpriced and don't work very well (see above). After being really really annoyed at the mouse situation, and then dealing with aggravating traps, this was like the easiest and nicest and least messy solution ever.

I wouldn't bother cleaning everything until you can solve this problem. Maybe clean a bare minimum and place them in a large Rubbermaid bin until the mice are gone.

We now store every dry food in nice storage containers. Plug every available hole with steel wool and caulk or foam.

Dog food is excellent bait for some reason, and not as messy as PB in a reusable trap. Good luck, it's really really frustrating and gross!
posted by barnone at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I lived in a house where this was a problem. Easily two dozen times I dealt with this (until moving out). Every time I took out all of the drawers’ contents, soaked them in bleach water, ran them through the dishwasher, and restocked the drawers. It sucked. But from what I'd read about the aforementioned hantavirus, it's the way to go.
posted by waldo at 6:41 PM on February 12, 2012

I didn't want to deal with the "smelly or bloody corpse" problem when similar happened in my house. So I got a humane trap from Home Depot like seen here. I put some peanut butter on aluminum foil in the trap. Next day I caught Freddie #1. A very cute field mouse which I let go near my work in a park. Then came Freddie #2. Who got transplanted the same way.

In the meantime, I found that the best highway into my otherwise sealed cupboards was the water pipe going to the sink area. I stuffed all the holes with plastic bags and steel wool. Cleaned everything with paper towels, using gloves, soap (a lot of it) and water. Rinse, repeat. All dishes were put through the hottest dishwasher cycle.

Three days, and no more mice, no corpses, and no droppings. I also managed not to touch anything too eeky (TM). Just watch that Freddies are let out of the trap far enough from your car, or they DO appear to jump straight back in. That might have cost me a few extra minutes of looking in the car....

Of course, your results may vary, but buying a humane mouse trap got me the most chatty visit to Home Depot ever. EVERYONE has a mouse story.
posted by Yavsy at 7:32 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a previous thread with great mouse catching ideas. We lived in a dense area with a ton of old buildings and restaurants, it was so crazy how many mice we caught in a simple tub and a bit of cardboard.
posted by brinkzilla at 8:20 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

My work catches mice all the time by accident with a metal trashcan that's a little over a foot tall and the food that's almost always crusted at the bottom. Set it near a corner of wall and counter or wall/desk/overhanging cord.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:02 PM on February 12, 2012

I had similar problems once. I recommend borrowing a friend's cat for a few days. Once any cat scent is in the house, the mice will get and stay far away.

Sometimes urban mice seem smarter and more resistant to traps, so they are less useful.
posted by corb at 9:26 AM on February 13, 2012

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