How to prevent mice infestations

It’s Wednesday night as I write this out, but you’ll read it in the morning with your cup of coffee. I’m trying to get better with scheduling posts and providing more helpful content for you. But with the upcoming move, I’ve been distracted with cleaning, packing and actually finding a home. TBD.

What else have I been preoccupied with? The mice. Yes. Still. Daily. It’s disgusting. I’ve learned a lot i in the past three years and thought I’d share this information with you today. If you’re eating, maybe hold off on reading this as the details are grim.


Background

I have never dealt with mice in all my life living in this city. I have dealt with bed bugs and beetles. But NEVER mice. I never grew up on a farm like my dad and my mum was paranoid about rodents of any kind. Despite having a lot of “stuff” around, the house was usually clean.

It wasn’t until a few months of moving in here, that I started finding mouse traps around the condo. That came as a surprise to me. The landlords admitted that their previous tenant wasn’t very clean. I didn’t leave a lot of food on the counters – just some fruit in a bowl. But I stopped doing that when I started noticing these black rice looking things on the counter. It was then I realized I had a mouse infestation.

We had pest control out right away and they put out bait stations. I never found any droppings again for the rest of the year. Until fall of 2017 – and it’s been non-stop of dealing with infestations since.

Contrary to popular belief, mice will come in at any time to look for a warm place to live. I noticed droppings early in the fall – August and September. But I never saw an actual mouse until the fall of 2018. I legit screamed. It shot down the hallway and was gone like that.


What I’ve learned about mice

Mice are creatures of habit. They use the same pathway night after night. They normally stick around 30 feet within their nest which can be anywhere in the home. For me, this typically meant the kitchen, living room and office. I rarely found droppings in my bedroom or bathrooms. It took a long time for me to figure out where they were coming in from.

No matter how clean I kept my condo, mice would find their way in. I stopped keeping food on the counter. My flour, sugar and baking ingredients are now stored in cannisters with a sealed lid. Any food is kept in bins, or stored on the top shelves of my pantry which I brought from Ikea. I’ve checked top shelves for droppings – every six months – and found nothing. I suspect I will find some when I clean up this week though.

Mice are gross and disgusting creatures. They will eat literally anything they find on the floor. They will chew through practically anything. I think they’ve even been chewing on my recliner underneath because I found some fluff next to the chair. They will chew through wiring which makes them super dangerous.

Mice love peanut butter. But are fast enough to avoid getting caught by snap traps – especially the little baby ones. They are FAST. And most of the time you won’t even know you have an infestation until it’s too late. Plus that smell… it’s gross. Really gross.


How mice get into your home

It was in September again when I saw mouse walk slowly down my hallway. You could tell it was older. I’ve noticed that the smaller the mouse is the faster they move. They slow down with age and size. Still fast fuckers though, pardon my French. What surprised me was how close the mice would get to me. Even though I was sitting in my recliner at the computer near inches away, the mouse would still dart down the hall and disappear.

I found out then that they were using the heating vents to travel through the condo. They weren’t necessarily eating food here – but they used it travel between the units. My place is nice, warm and cozy – and pet free unlike my neighbours who have dogs and cats.

But it was about two months ago when the infestation started getting bad, that I started noticing the mice crawling out of the side of my fireplace. I’ve been keeping an eye on it all night. The hole is now blocked with steel wool which they can’t chew through. I also blocked off parts of the entry point with a ton of tin foil. It’s a temporary fix until the building owners get off their asses and fix the holes. Out of sheer desperation, I called up pest control this week since the bait stations were not working.

Mice can crawl through just about anything. It doesn’t take much. The size of the width of a pencil really. Which means they can crawl through pipes, vents, you name it. The tech was here yesterday sealing entry points with steel wool. He was going to put in a complaint for me as he confirmed that this infestation was NOT my fault.


How to prevent mice from getting into your home

Basically, you need to seal off all entry points. Which when you’re in a condo building, this can be difficult. It’s best to hire the professionals but you can easily do this with a caulking gun. This is truly the only way you’ll get rid of mice. Of course, you’ll have to deal with the ones that are trapped inside with you. Gross, right? Trust me, I know. I’m constantly scanning the floor to make sure I don’t step on one. Which I almost did one night at 5 in the morning. I was done with the whole issue when I started seeing them during the day. The worst is hearing them in the walls at night time when you’re trying to sleep.

I tried MANY methods I found online and I’m going to tell you what works and what doesn’t work. For me it’s just too late – the infestation is too bad. My main concern is not taking a mouse with me when I move in a few weeks. And yes, the mice are the reason for my move.


What doesn’t work

  • Cotton balls or dryer sheets – will do nothing except provide the mice material to continue to build their nests with.
  • Peppermint oil – I didn’t even bother with this. I thought about ordering it but online reviews were mixed.
  • DIY Bucket Trap – I used my cleaning bucket and taped a piece of wood to it as a ramp. I placed some peanut butter on a plastic fork and dangled it in the middle of the bucket. I filled the bucket about 1/4 full of water. This did nothing. I watched one night curiously as a baby mouse ran up to the bucket, climbed about a third of the way up and noped right out of there. I left it out for a week – and nothing. Tried it again with peanut butter rubbed on the sides of the bucket, and nothing.
  • Snap traps – I didn’t want to deal with finding a dead mouse so I avoided using these. They were tucked away in the closets just in case but the mice avoided the traps like the plague. One night, I placed a cracker with peanut butter right in the middle of the trap but nothing. The cracker sat untouched for many nights. And then one day it was finally gone – but no mouse. A lot of people swear by snap traps, but they don’t always works.

Bait stations with poison worked in the beginning but for some reason – they don’t work now. I’m still seeing mice daily even though the stations were refilled only two weeks ago. I did find one dead baby mouse in the kitchen. It was as gross as it sounds. I noticed a rank smell and found it behind my pantry. But I watch as the mice just scurry past the bait stations without giving them so much as a second look. The bait stations are placed along their regular travel paths. The mice just don’t seem interested.


Mice are freaking fast

The other night, before I called pest control again, I heard rustling noises from the fireplace. I looked up. A tiny mouse bolted out of the vent and ran across the ENTIRE pathway which stretches about 10 feet. It’s a long run for a mouse. That’s when I realized the mice weren’t stopping here for food – they were using my heating vents as a pathway to enter the neighbours condo. I saw what I thought was the same mouse run back tonight. So, they go searching for food for two or three nights only to find their way back home to their nest.

What surprised me was that the entry point to the fireplace has been totally blocked off with steel wool. I put bunched up tin foil at the bottom of the pathway last night – and even put a sheet folded up near the side of the vent. And yet the mouse who came from the neighbouring suite – knew exactly where to go!! He managed to squeeze through a tiny little hole that I missed without even stopping to blink.

I fixed that – the whole area is now filled with tin foil. I can hear something moving as I type this. I still scream even though I’m very aware there are mice nearby. This is a very temporary fix as they can easily push out the tin foil but they can’t chew on it. I’ve read that eating tin foil can kill them – but that might be a myth.

And at last now I know their main entry points. It’s amazing how many mice use this pathway with me sitting just mere feet away. Makes me wonder if mice even smell humans or don’t care?


What mice don’t like

As mentioned, mice don’t like aluminum foil. You can crumple the foil up into a ball and shove it into tiny cracks you suspect the mice are coming through. But this is a temporary fix. Holes and cracks should be sealed with professional grade caulking. Don’t use the foam stuff. They can chew through that too!

You can seal up holes with steel wool, copper mesh or tin foil as a temporary measure. It might hold them off until you get a permanent fix.

You can bet that I’m scanning the floor like a mad woman tonight to make sure they can’t get through this. I tried plugging the vent in the kitchen but took out foil – I feared that might star a fire.


Here are some helpful tips that I’ve learned to help keep mice out of your closets. Of course this is still an ongoing battle – but I’ve learned a few things that make my life easier now.

Use tote bins

Use Rubbermaid or heavy duty tote bins with lids that can seal tightly. Mice cannot chew through this material. Use these bins for clothes, linens and bedding. Most of my bedroom and closets have already been packed into these bins. They’re amazing – but take up a lot of space! Just make sure they are sealed tightly. You can stack them on top of each other for added measure.

Use cannisters for food

While cleanliness won’t prevent mice from getting in – eventually they may move onto other food sources. Use metal or hard plastic cannisters for your baking ingredients like flour, sugar and oats. Use bins or Rubbermaid containers to store pasta, grains and cereals. Check your pantry often as this is where mice will hit first.

Got a dog or cat? Don’t leave out your pet food. Mice will get into it too! They will eat almost anything.

I bought an Ikea shelving unit for my baking and pasta goods. I keep them on the top shelf which is harder for the mice to get into.

Clean often

Check behind your kitchen appliances often. Behind the oven is the main spot where I’ve found droppings. I check behind the oven every few days and clean out the droppings. Mice will also hide behind the fridge or under it. They love the warmth is gives off. Check behind your tv, computer and check cords often. Mice can chew through the wiring which can cause a fire. Check under the sink. In your kitchen cupboards. And hallway closets.

Wipe down counters daily. Sweep or vacuum the floors daily – I purchased a stick vacuum from Amazon for $35 that really helps with this. I also empty it every few days as the cannister is small. I find bleach cleaning sprays to be the best for kitchen cleanup.

Take out your garbage on a regular basis. Use a bin with a lid that you can seal. DO NOT leave garbage bags on the floor – I think this is where I ran into issues.

Wash the floor on a weekly basis and clean around the vents and pipes. You might want to wear a mask if you are finding a lot of droppings. This is what I do.

DO NOT keep food in your bedroom. Seriously. Don’t. I never have for fear of mice crawling on me while I sleep.

Get rid of junk

Junk removal is crucial when battling mice. If you’re a bit of a pat rack, pardon the pun, then you’ll need to learn to downsize and get rid of what is not important to you. I donated lots of books, dvd’s, clothes – things that were just taking up space. I donated furniture that I didn’t need anymore. My office is no longer a safe haven for the mice. That’s where I found their nest about a month ago. And yes, I made sure no mice towed along for the ride. My goal this weekend is go through my bins and see what else I’m willing to part with.

Mice love cardboard boxes, paper, magazines and blankets. They will nest in pillows, or even old couches. They love storage rooms, closets, and sheds. The tech yesterday discovered that the storage room in the basement is the culprit for the infestation. This is so not my fault and he even confirmed that.


How to clean up droppings

If you’re finding droppings on a daily basis – call professionals to help you get rid of the mice before it gets out of hand. I did report sightings but was told “there’s nothing we can do” over and over again. I insisted and finally threatened to move out early before they agreed to send in pest control. This week – it was me who called them.

If you have a small infestation and want to clean up the droppings yourself – first grab a mask. I use disposable ones. Wear gloves. Spray the droppings with bleach spray. Wait a few minutes. Use paper towel to clean them up. Put them carefully into a plastic bag and toss directly into the garbage. The pros recommend that you wash your clothes right away too.

I’m bad for this though. It’s so much work daily. I use my stick vacuum (even though you aren’t supposed to!) but it is basically a dust buster with a stick so not as powerful as a real vacuum. If there are only a couple of droppings, I’ll pick them up with a paper towel. If there are more, I’ll use the stick vacuum. I try and keep on top of this daily – so there are only a few when I clean. I have to use the stick vacuum behind the oven as it is such a small space to get into. I plan on recycling the vacuum when I move. Same with all my cleaning tools – it’s time to replace them anyway.

I always wear a mask. Especially when cleaning around the nesting areas. It’s also a good idea to use a mask if you have dust allergies.


And so it goes…

And so the battle continues. I’m keeping a close eye on the entry point by the fireplace and luckily, I have not seen any mice crawl out of it. Tonight. Last night, I saw three – or the same mouse times three. The hole is too big for steel wool to block it. I shouted at it and each time the mouse ran back into its hiding spot. Mice do not like loud noises or bright light.

I started using a 100 Watt bulb in my living room – mostly so I could see if any mice were around. And this doesn’t even scare them off. They just run faster in fear of being caught. The moment you move towards them, they take off like a bolt of lightning.

So far, it seems my tin foil fortress might be working. but I’ll have to replace it every few days. I’ve been keeping busy cleaning the condo as best as I can. Spot cleaning – walls, window sills, heating vents. This way there isn’t as much to do on moving day. I have a few minor patch ups that I’ll need to do as well.

I won’t start packing dishes and books until next week. There isn’t much more to do. I just have to go through things and decide what to toss or keep.

That’s where we are this Thursday morning. I should get to bed. How’s your day going? Ever battled with mice? What worked for you?

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