Keep the mouse out of the house!
August 13, 2022 12:17 PM   Subscribe

A mouse has been visiting our apartment this summer. In my experience, the only way to really deal with mice in an apartment is to seal up the cracks and keep them out — but an exterminator has done this twice already and the mouse has chewed through the steel wool and plaster within a week! How can I keep these little shits (pun intended) out?

It’s pretty clear where the mouse is getting in because both times one area has been visibly chewed — hole where there wasn’t before and bits of steel wool and plaster on the ground. What can be done to seal it up better so they don’t come in? I’m open to trying anything myself but one of the areas is by the outlet for the stove, so don’t want to do anything electrically unsafe.

I already know the score about storing food, etc., but the mouse has completely ignored the pantry — it just seems to go for crumbs by the toaster and then another area in the living room with absolutely no food. We have a few traps up but in my experience the mice will often ignore them. I had mice much worse in a previous apartment and sealing the cracks was the only thing that worked. This guy seems like a better chewer, though. What can I do to keep him out?

Also, I don’t want to use poison as we have a little 18lb dog and lots of our neighbours have cats. Said dog is why I don’t think the mouse has been trapped inside the apartment — whenever it comes out she will alert us and run after it, though she’s clearly not much of a hunter.
posted by vanitas to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They get in because they smell food and they have memories. And they will chew through a lot of things.

I think I read somewhere that you need to put in some sort of chemical deterrent to encourage them to go elsewhere. Tomcat brand has a "rodent repellent" spray and they are kinda expensive, check your local home depot or such. Spray a lot around the patched hole AND all around the perimeter.

On the other hand, Orkin says deterrents do not even need to prove they work, so they don't recommend them.

If you want to go for the trap route... the bucket flip lid system seems to work well. You can optionally make this system lethal.
posted by kschang at 12:40 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

I use those plastic cylinder traps that tip when the mouse goes inside. Check it twice a day til you find your quivering little friend(s). Then I take them for a long journey to the woods and release them into the food chain to become a predator’s snack.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:50 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

RatX/MouseX poison is an option. It's not the coumadin (or nastier) kind of poison. It's basically highly salted grain meal, which rodents can't tolerate. Secondary poisoning if pets/wildlife decide to munch on them isn't an issue with this stuff, either.

Mice are also easier to trap than rats IME. Snap traps or little live traps that look like little garbage cans with a hinged lid work well.

Perhaps you can spread some capsaicin on whatever you use to plug up holes. Rodents seem to avoid stiff with capsacin. I used capsacin from a topical liquid pain reliever.

But really, it's difficult to discourage rodents once they establish themselves and nest. Kill trapping/poison seems the best long term solution. Relocation just makes them somebody else's problem or kill by wildlife.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:51 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

You could try a coarser grade of steel wool. For blocking up smaller chew holes I've had pretty good success with stainless steel scrubby pads held in place with self-expanding PU foam.

I don't think there's anything you could do sealing-wise that's going to go even close to being as electrically unsafe as what a mouse will do to PVC insulation with its teeth. We had one loudly and fizzily set fire to its own head inside the wall behind our stove, and after breaking into that wall section and removing the now-headless corpse I dealt with that by running the replacement cable inside a conduit and packing the entire cavity between those particular studs with a composite of PU foam and stainless steel swarf I got for nothing from a local machine shop.

Since that happened we've also got a couple of new cats who have made it their business to ensure that mice don't last very long inside the building any more. They get on OK with the dog.
posted by flabdablet at 12:56 PM on August 13 [13 favorites]

MouseX is a phenomenal product. Used it to clear out a friend's infested cabin and as far as I'm concerned it's as good as it gets. Kills humanely and doesn't pose a risk to other animals, either directly or indirectly.

That said, my first thought is - apartment? Is your landlord being sufficiently responsive here?
posted by ZaphodB at 1:20 PM on August 13

Our exterminator found the hole that the mice were using and screwed a small steel plate into the side of the cabinet, covering it up completely. The hole was in a spot next to our stove that is never visible unless you pull the stove out from the wall, so it was not unsightly.
posted by cubeb at 2:11 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

You could use some "hardware cloth" to block the hole, then supplement with steel wool and foam (The name is a misnomer- it's galvanized steel wire mesh/grid with gaps about 1/4". ) Much sturdier than steel wool. It might be possible to add a bitterant of some sort to the spray foam as well.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 2:21 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]

also on team hardware cloth. The 1/4 in stuff won't stop a rat but mice can't get through it. You have to be intentional about how you install it though, because if there are any gaps, the mice will find them!
posted by rockindata at 2:23 PM on August 13

They leave urine scent trails. Mice have eaten my car's ventilation system, and I have no more patience. I had no dog last fall and they moved in, because I leave the door with just a screen. Snap traps, lots of them. They are speedy, at least. I tried the humane traps, but they often died or were near-dead.

Assume you have families of mice. Lay out 20 or more traps at once; I use peanut butter as bait. Put traps along pathways you think they use, esp. along walls. Then keep putting out traps for a few weeks after they are all empty every morning. They will get into food and wreck it, chew through stuff and make foul nests. They are so cute and so destructive.
posted by theora55 at 5:10 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

FWIW, I bout 2 "Owltra OW-2" electric traps. Uses 4 AA batteries for a month or two. When mice steps across the plates inside to reach the lure in the backwall. zap!

Iv'e tried the "humane" traps (the green kind, the metal big box kind) none worked. Glue traps work but kinda... ungainly. The electric traps seems to work best.
posted by kschang at 5:28 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

I've had good luck using camphor blocks to repel mice.
posted by mezzanayne at 5:37 PM on August 13

Borrow a cat. I used to loan my cat out to the neighbours who would put her in the attic to roam around for a while. She was an excellent mouser but it wasn’t so much about that, more so that she left the scent of a predator which seemed to keep them away. We never had rats or mice at ours when we had cats.
posted by Jubey at 8:28 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Came here to recommend electric traps as well, with the advice that you bait them for several (3 is good) days in a row with them off before turning it on. I don’t usually need to do this with mice (a must with rats), but I’m wondering why the traps aren’t working already. I usually bait with a bit of peanut butter on a bit of cracker.
posted by 10ch at 4:48 PM on August 14

We had mice that somehow chewed through/got through steel wool. An exterminator we used plugged up holes etc with steel wool and single edge razor blades. At the time I thought it was over-kill, but it worked. It made me uncomfortable, and thinking about it 10 years later it still does.
posted by james33 at 7:44 AM on August 15

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