what's the half-life of rat shit in a musty garage, and should I care?
March 19, 2017 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations on the safest (most hygienic, disease-avoidant) method for cleaning rat droppings off of THINGS before those things are handled / moved, so that said cleaning, handling and moving doesn't cause health problems for the cleaner (me) or the movers.

In preparation for a move, I'll soon be emptying a garage full of various enclosed boxes and some furniture. Many of the items have rat droppings on top. I have reason to believe the 'freshest' of the rat droppings are many months old, thanks to a wily Rat Terrier mutt who did his job very well -- there have been no recent sightings of rats, and Rat Terrier's former EXTREME OBSESSIVE interest in the corners of the garage has not been observed in quite awhile. (Good dog.)

I'm trying to figure out the best way to REMOVE the droppings from the objects. Is it safe and sufficient to simply wear an airmask and sweep them off and away with a brush and dustpan? Or might that lead to dispersement of pathogens? I thought about getting a shop vac but figured that it mightn't have a good enough filter and could result in just blowing pathogens around the rest of the garage.
posted by armoir from antproof case to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think that the real danger is fresh droppings and urine, but if you're concerned the CDC has a guide to cleaning up after rodents.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:24 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Is it safe and sufficient to simply wear an airmask and sweep them off and away with a brush and dustpan?

Yes. Wear gloves and carry a bleach and water solution with you like kinddieserzeit's link suggests. Avoid the vacuum if you can at least with the first pass of stuff. Try to repackage anything in cardboard boxes into something that isn't soaked in rat piss. Wipe down or clean furniture. Try to do this in a well-ventilated area. Risks are low but they're not non-existent. Good on you for doing this before the movers arrive.
posted by jessamyn at 6:06 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

If it's old, you're probably fine. Any areas that look like recent mouse nesting you can spray with water before you move. Hantavirus is only dangerous when it's dry and aerosolized.

Also, a data point in solidarity, I was moving a bookcase and an ancient mouse turd fell off the top and INTO MY EYE and I'm alive and you will be too! :)
posted by Drosera at 6:13 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Rats are better than raccoons, that's for sure. I've read that bleach isn't necessarily a great option because if there are parasite eggs in the feces, the bleach can break the bond between the egg and the detritus and then you've got free-floating eggs.

My garage was a long-term raccoon latrine. After I very carefully swept and scooped everything up, I got a handheld MAPP torch (propane would work too) and methodically ran it across the floor. Once you get up to 160^ or so, most pathogens will be destroyed.
posted by hwyengr at 9:33 AM on March 20

I have been dealing with the same problem, bleach is good and cheap, but may ruin some stuff. I mix up lysol concentrate in spray bottles for stuff I don't want to get bleached/corrode. If it's metal, I will hose it down with wd-40 afterwards. Dust is the main problem, don't use an air hose or vacuum. Prep yourself with a couple rolls of Bounty, a box of nitrile gloves, garbage can and a dust mask. I also like those pick up tools (not sure what the proper name is, you squeeze the handle to grip a couple feet away?).
posted by 445supermag at 7:55 AM on March 21

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