June 11, 2013 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I am at the end of my rope with the mouse population in my apartment. Help me catch or repel them, humanely if possible.

So I have these mice. They seem to have chewed through the frame of my old wood building and enjoy running about my kitchen at night, chewing up whatever they can find. Things I have tried:

1) Finding and stopping up the entrance points. I found a few but there are obviously more in concealed areas. It's a very old building.

2) Humane traps. First I tried the Hav-a-hart traps my mom used when I was a kid. They are now made in China and utter crap. Then I tried this trap. I actually caught a few of them with it, but lately them seem to be able to eat the crackers out of it without getting caught.

3) "Oils." I bought these little packets that supposedly give off a smell mice hate. They may or may not have worked for a little while, but not for long.

So, I really need to get rid of them. I don't want to kill them if I don't have to, but honestly I'm desperate enough to consider it. Any ideas of what has worked for you would be appreciated!

I am a renter, but for various reasons would prefer to not involve the landlord. I have checked older questions about mice before, but nothing there worked for me, so I'm hoping for some fresh insight.
posted by drjimmy11 to Home & Garden (44 answers total)
Try putting something like peanut butter in the humane traps. A cracker can be cleverly removed from the trap, picked up, and carried off, but a smear of peanut butter can't.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:17 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have been using crackers with peanut butter on them. I suppose I could try just peanut butter and nothing else...
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:19 AM on June 11, 2013

I have had no luck with anything but the more instant kinds of death for mice, unfortunately. So my list would be:

1) Steel wool, in every possible crack, even the ones that you think are too small. This not kind to the mice, but they cannot chew through it, and it is a deterrent.

2) I have had a lot of luck with these kinds of traps. They do kill the mouse, but it's far less painful than the glue traps or some other alternatives. Peanut butter works very well as bait, and it's less prone to being dragged out. (Echoing showbiz_liz on preview, here.)

3) Bleaching and cleaning your floors/countertops/etc very well, frequently. This helps prevent tasty food from building up, but it also helps clear scent trails from past mice visits. Mice tend to like to scuttle along walls, not open areas, so those are good places to put traps (of any kind) and to clean very, very thoroughly.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use birdseed and peanut butter, and jam the little seeds into whatever trigger contraption I have so the little guys have to work for it. I've also found that nothing works as well as the old-fashioned Victor snap traps. Set the traps in paper bags so you don't have to handle (or look at) your successes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2013

Where do you plan on depositing your humanely trapped mice? Anywhere near your place and they're gonna come right back.
posted by phunniemee at 10:23 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have had good luck with a combination of

- keeping my kitchen really clean (no oily surfaces, no crumbs, all dishes done, drain cleaned out)
- one of those little humane mouse hotel sorts of places. Googleable term is "multiple catch" put them against walls
- steel wool in any hole that is the size of a dime or bigger
- caught mice get driven miles away

I got one of those sonic things based on some people saying "it works!" even though I know a lot of people say they don't. My experience is that the mouse problem went down when I implemented all of these ideas, no idea if the sonic things were part of that or not. I suspect that I still have mice, but they stay out of my kitchen and my bedroom which is mostly what I am looking for.
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get a cat.

Also, don't resort to poison. They'll crawl into the walls and die and smell and you'll never find them.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:26 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Are you allowed to have pets? If so, you could try borrowing a good mouser from a friend (cat-sitting, even). Bonus: mice dislike the smell of cats.

Make sure every food source is in the freezer/refrigerator or other mouse-proof container. Lock down the garbage. Remove all crumbs. Wash dishes promptly.
posted by pie ninja at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2013

Is there a reason why you didn't consider getting a cat? You could foster one for a while if you don't like the idea of pet ownership.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2013

I have rabbits, I can't get/don't want a cat.

Thanks for the ideas though!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2013

When I had a minor mouse problem in a previous rental apartment, the answer was tons of steel wool and some decorative metal grating I picked up at a hardware store to block around the larger radiator entrances. I cut the grating to size and it ended up looking pretty nice.

Also you should never ever have standing water anywhere, including in the sink.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2013

Honestly, and I know it sucks, but in my experience the instant snap traps are the fastest and surest way to solve the problem. Disposal is not fun, but if you really don't want to share your house with them at least make it quick. Glue traps are evil and poison is evil AND stupid.
posted by edgeways at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am a renter, but for various reasons would prefer to not involve the landlord. ... I can't get/don't want a cat.

Move. I was in the same situation. The only way this gets resolved is if you get the landlord to "go nuclear" and block up holes the mice are coming into combined with laying poison. Cats really do help... my downstairs neighbors in a mice-infested house I used to live in had no idea there were mice in the building because they had a cat that kept the mice away.

If you insist on staying, the best you can hope for is to ensure your kitchen is immaculate, with no food left out and food (especially grains) in sealed, impenetrable containers, combined with using traps. You will still deal with the occasional mouse, but it will be trapped.
posted by deanc at 10:31 AM on June 11, 2013

I have considered moving, even though I love this apartment otherwise. However for a variety of reasons it's not going to happen for a while.

with no food left out and food (especially grains) in sealed, impenetrable containers,

To be totally honest this is probably a big part of my problem- I don't have anywhere to put food that doesn't go in the fridge/freezer. Can anyone recommend one of these "impenetrable containers" I could keep bread/cereal/etc in?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:37 AM on June 11, 2013

Glass jars. Or metal! Just nothing flimsy, and absolutely no ziplocs.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:39 AM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Bed Bath and Beyond has some too, sorry, I should have added that. But the plastic ones are harder to clean if you have cereal; it always seems to leave some of the dust/sugar behind.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:41 AM on June 11, 2013

Just get a big plastic bin (rubbermaid and the like) with a tightly sealing lid. One with latches. Put your food (whole boxes of cereal, jar of nutella, bag of flour, whatever) in there, seal it down tight, and put it up on something raised off the floor.
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Snap traps. They're not just going to leave of their own volition. They're mice. Kill them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:48 AM on June 11, 2013

Don't forget to put your rabbits' food in one of those impenetrable bins, too - we had a rabbit when I was a kid, and definitely found evidence of mice eating those little green pellets from time to time.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2013

After seeing a few versions of this questions on here before, I'd suggest blocking up all possible entry points and a borrowing a friend's cat to rub himself happy everywhere!
posted by 0 answers at 10:52 AM on June 11, 2013

Once more with feeling:

I can't get a cat. Cats are great, but not for me. I don't have room for any more pets. As for entry points, I have tried, but I am pretty sure some are behind the stove and in other hard to reach places. There's also a big hole for a Murphy bed where they may be getting in. (I wasn't kidding when I said it was an old building!!)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2013

How are your rabbits kept? Because they can be an invitation to mice - a source of bedding, water, food (and warmth.) Make sure your rabbits are up to date on vaccinations, and watch for mites and things? However you're storing their food and bedding, make sure that's sealed from mice and be meticulous about cleaning up bedding and droppings in their environment and around the house. I had rabbits growing up, and rats would eat their poop if we didn't clean it up from under their hutches or in their pen. Corn snakes took care of mice pretty well...

Store food in tins and jars. I collect vintage tins and canisters from thrift stores and estate sales for storing dry cat food and dog food and cereals and things, but they are plenty available at dollar stores. Our hamster bedding and food seems to be fine stored in our mudroom in plastic boxes.

But really, a cat, and a dog, helped solve our problem with mice best of all. If you can get a blacklight (I have my old one from being a jeweller), but they're available online and in some hardware stores, you can see their urine and that will let you know all the places they are, and lead you to holes to stop up.

If you're going to poison them, d-CON was the one recommended to us.
posted by peagood at 10:59 AM on June 11, 2013

My foolproof rodent bait has been a piece of dry dog or cat kibble glued to the trigger with some crunchy peanut butter. Used this extensively whiles snap-trapping roof rats a long while back.

If you really want to live-trap them, there's this el-cheapo (as in costwise) contraption with a trashcan and a paper-towel tube.

Are you on the ground floor, by chance? When we had mice poking around, I discovered that they were coming up from the crawlspace through the openings that had been cut in the floor to admit water lines and whatnot. Spend an hour or so one day worming around with a can of Great Stuff and some steel wool to plug up all the openings. They don't need a whole hell of a lot of space to get in, btw. I'd steer clear of the poisons. They will almost certainly croak in the walls someplace and reek until they dessicate.
posted by jquinby at 11:02 AM on June 11, 2013

Thanks everyone!

I do my best to keep the rabbit area fairly neat- they live in plastic cages, and I don't think mice would actually enter the cage even if they could fit between the bars.

As for the rabbit food, yes I need to store that better. Going to order some Rubbermaid bins now. I think a big part of the problem is me not being the neatest person ever, so I will use this as an excuse to try to improve.

Other than that, I will try some of the traps mentioned and hope for the best!
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:03 AM on June 11, 2013

It sounds like you have a large infestation that will require a major response. Seriously, move the stove (and fridge) to clean and seal. Hire a handyperson to get all holes sealed, caulked, etc. Do a major cleaning of all cupboards and pull out drawers to clean. It's a huge pain, but less work than moving. For food storage, get sturdy plastic tubs, and watch for any signs of mice chewing in. Ikea has small metal cans with lids that I use for storing pet food.
posted by theora55 at 11:11 AM on June 11, 2013

Electrocute them with the RatZapper. Buy one, reuse it. Kills them with no blood and no visible trauma. Fast, extremely effective, no mess.
posted by barnone at 11:12 AM on June 11, 2013

I have tried every thing known to man and metafilter including all the things mentioned in this thread and the thing that worked best was that I actually crawled around and found holes and had my super come up and plug them up. Haven't seen a mouse in a couple months.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2013

Seconding the RatZapper.
posted by bongo_x at 11:30 AM on June 11, 2013

We used to use peanut butter and laundry detergent to track rats in our house in Boston.

Setup a plate in the middle of the floor with peanut butter, or any food they may want. Create a ring of detergent around the plate. The mice/rats will track the detergent throughout your house (it's surprisingly sticky), allowing you to use a black light and find where they're coming from.

Hope that helps.
posted by teabag at 11:30 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I got some big 33-quart sized latching plastic containers at the hardware store, in the section for pet food. It will look a little goofy, but I've found that it's easier to put a bunch of boxes/packages in one big mouse-proof container than it is to try and find a lot of smaller containers of the right size. I've also seen them at Target.

Nthing that you will need to release any live mice far (farther than you think, probably a mile or two) from your house.
posted by corey flood at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2013

You've got to move things and get into hard to reach areas to plug holes, and follow that up by being meticulous with food storage and cleanup. Move the stove. Move the fridge. Get under the sink and poke around.

That's really your only option to get rid of mice humanely.
posted by zug at 11:44 AM on June 11, 2013

To repeat:

Move the stove. Move the fridge. Move the furniture. Look for evidence of entry (nice round nibbled holes in baseboards, behind my pantry shelves, is what I found).

Clean! Do not be half-assed about this, you need a very tidy place. Do not leave things on the floor. Do not allow extra hiding places. If there is nowhere to hide, you may even catch them in the act.

And yes, I have rabbits and they will not help you with this project. They may even make friends. This is bad as your rabbits haven't been vaccinated against anything and you certainly don't want them getting fleas. Tidy up there too, and be careful where you or the bunnies leave treats. If you have the kind of rabbits that will carry a treat to a secret hiding place to save for later (as I do), put a stop to that too;)
posted by epanalepsis at 11:57 AM on June 11, 2013

nthing electrocution traps. Had a mouse problem at an old apt. Between the electric traps loaded with peanut butter and slowly finding and sealing of entrance points (they had gnawed their way through the wall under the kitchen sink) with metal grating and sheet metal the problem was solved in a reasonable amount of time.

If you manage to catch them alive and don't want to kill them make sure to take them away from your place far enough so they don't come back. Mice usually don't travel all that far. You can probably look up online just what their average range is. I'd guess moving them 100+ feet will probably do the trick but I'm not 100% certain. Of course this means you're making them somebody else's problem which isn't exactly good neighborly behavior.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:23 PM on June 11, 2013

I have no idea where I heard or read this, but i lived in a mice-infested house in DC for several years, and the only thing that worked at ALL was CAYENNE PEPPER. You fill up a big bowl with water and a healthy dose of cayenne pepper powder, mix it around, and then soak some paper towels in it, and lay them around the walls/any potential entry points/wherever you see the mice. If you do this, make sure to use gloves when sticking your hands in the cayenne water/handling the paper towels.
posted by eenagy at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bread box bread box bread box.

We had a medium-serious mouse problem over the winter. When I found that they'd chewed through the plastic on a loaf of rye bread and eaten a chunk of it - that was the end.

I bought this bread box and it's done a good job of protecting bread, pita, muffins etc. from hungry mice. Cereal and rice I started putting in those Oxo containers - they're stupid expensive, but they're good for keeping mice (and even weevils!) out of your grains.

What we were told by other friends with mice, and by an exterminator I eventually called, was that you really do have to plug up the holes. I feel your pain - we live in a 100-year-old building - but if we were not moving, I would've totally paid someone to do a thorough wall patching.

With that said, though, just putting the stupid bread in the bread box made a HUGE difference. We have some very slobby neighbors who I suspect were easier targets once we put the bread away. Seriously. (And fwiw, we're not that neat in the kitchen otherwise - there's still occasional crumbs, dishes left in the sink, etc., and we've never gone to the trouble of moving our big heavy ancient stove/fridge, but we have not seen one mouse or fresh dropping since we bought that stupid bread box six months ago. Best $50 I ever spent.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:53 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I appreciate all your concerns and caveats, but the thing that worked best for me was moving to a place that didn't have mice. I have not encountered a single mouse since moving out of my mice-infested apartment. The landlord was unwilling to use a massive response, though he was willing to have a handyman come in and close up suspected holes. Part of the kitchen was fixed and he replaced some cabinets to get rid of holes, as well. I did everything I'm advising here and much of what everyone else is advising here. The last straw was when I took a personal trip away for a few days and came home to find mouse droppings in my bathroom-- because ultimately, if you don't control the building, if you can't/won't involve the landlord, and you won't get a cat, you will still have to deal with mice. Even protecting your food means that they won't eat your food or chew through your cereal boxes, but they will still pay the occasional visit to your kitchen.
posted by deanc at 1:03 PM on June 11, 2013

I am certainly not moving stoves and things on my own and risking damaging the place. If all else fails I will consider asking the landlords to do so, though I doubt their capabilities/willingness.

Like I said before, I have considered moving, but it's not feasible in the near future.

For now I am going to try a combination of restricting their access to my food, trapping, and sealing up the holes I can find.

Thanks for your help!
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:22 PM on June 11, 2013

Seal up every hole you can find. Expanding foam by itself will work, in my experience mice will not chew through it, but steel wool combined with expanding foam is better. Snap trap as many mice as you can -- if disposal is a problem for you, just throw the whole trap away. They're cheap. If killing is a problem for you, remind yourself that these guys are the absolute bottom of the food chain and constantly die much nastier deaths. After you've sealed every hole you can find and snap trapping has slowed down, live trap yourself a mouse. Then let it go, and see where it goes. Seriously, this worked perfectly for me (based on that, I also like the detergent tracks recommendation above). The little guy looked up at me in terror for a split second, then took off straight to a hole that I had missed and would have never found without his help.

Keeping all of your food in sealed containers will keep mice out of your food, but not out of your apartment.

I have a cabin that's built on blocks slightly above ground level. I went all the way around the bottom of it with 1/4" hardware cloth nailed to the outside, then folded out over a foot or so of the ground and covered with rocks. This has helped a great deal. Probably not feasible in an apartment situation though.
posted by LowellLarson at 2:13 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I keep most of my food in glass jars that I get from the thrift store which works okay. The other thing I wanted to mention is that sometimes mice have crazy convoluted ways of getting at things. I found out, one amusing evening, that the mouse in my house was climbing on to the stove, jumping over to my apron which was hanging on a nail sort of near the stove, and then crawling up it to sneak into a hole in the bottom of my cabinet. Once I removed the apron, the mouse no longer had access to my cabinet. I was surprised it was that simple.
posted by jessamyn at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having survived a good old fashioned Australian mouse plague in my teen years, a few things I can suggest.

Seal up your food. Glass jars really do work the best, you can usually pick up cheap mason jars at the Goodwill or second hand shop, or at garage sales. This slows down their motivations for coming in. Also clean, clean, clean and clean some more where one mouse goes, leaving a little trail of pee behind it others will follow to see what the fuss is about and they will come in for the tiniest of crumbs, in toaster trays, cracks in the Formica anything. My most traumatic incident during the plague finding a live mouse in the toaster, I pushed the button down to toast and out shot a singed mouse, I don't know who was more frighted me or it.

Next you have to go around and seal every single hole and crack. Be it in masonry, wood, siding whatever. Steel wool and foam as others have suggested. Seal the backs of cupboards and around the plumbing I've found a popular entryway to be the holes cut for plumbing under the kitchen sink. Oil can help but you have to renew it everynight. If you are getting large numbers of mice in chances are they are breeding in your walls or ceiling. If you can't move the stove then putting traps along the sides will help.

Honestly I'd go for snap traps that kill quickly, humane traps are often times not so humane if you get a few mice in at one time it can end up like a scene from a horror film in there. If you go for humane traps the PB as suggested is what I've found to be best, just stick it straight onto the trigger so they have to wiggle it around and lick it to get it all off. Mice usually travel about 50m or so from their nest so if you can release them that far from anyones house they can take their chances in the wild.
posted by wwax at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2013

I like the Kness Tip Trap. They're not cheap but they do work well with peanut or sunflower seed butter. One of the things that make them work so well is that if the mouse sets the trap off or doesn't go in all the way they don't get stuck, thus learning how to get out of the trap.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:41 PM on June 11, 2013

Nthing steel wool. Part of the problem with my house was that it was one of at least one other in our neighborhood that was becoming a haven for mice, but when they couldn't get in and out, the ones that were in were eventually caught and dealt with, and new ones couldn't get in. I buy new steel wool once a year and replace it where it seems to be crumbling (our entrance areas appear to be between our outside stairs and the foundation, which is subject to the elements). If you can even partially stick two fingers in a crack, mice can get in through there.
posted by koucha at 7:16 AM on June 12, 2013

The thing that I did which got rid of mice in our apartment was stapling wire mesh (in some cases in double layers) over the cracks at the back of the cabinet areas behind the sink, under the cupboards, etc. And also stuffing in steel wool in any other areas. If you can fit a ball-point pen through a hole, a mouse can fit through there. So all holes must be plugged. Then I used traps to capture any remaining mice (though there was one I finally had to whack with a broom and throw outside.)
posted by larrybob at 5:58 PM on June 12, 2013

I had success with mixing rubbing alcohol and peppermint essential oil in a little spray bottle (like a travel hairspray bottle, not like a plant sprayer) and nuking my areas of concern (kitchen counter and a path along my hall where I'd seen them run) as well as their preferred area (under-sink cupboard). We appear to have reached a compromise in that I won't try to kill them if they stay at the back of the cupboard on the occasional visit.

Actual cats may not be an option for you, but I've heard that some clumps of used litter may also deter them. This will obviously only work for certain locations.
posted by sarahkeebs at 8:46 PM on June 12, 2013

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