How to Get Rid of Mice and Keep Them Out

  • Mice are relentless when searching for food; if you’ve found them in your home it doesn’t mean it is dirty.
  • The best way to remove mice is to seal up any potential holes in your home.
  • Basic mouse traps work well and should be the main line of defense instead of rat poison.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

There’s nothing worse than waking up to the soft scurrying sound of a mouse frantically running around your home in the middle of the night. It feels like an invasion, and almost certainly ensures you’ll be losing sleep until you’ve dealt with the issue at hand.

Mice are on a relentless search for food, warmth and shelter. They’re always trying to find a way inside, especially in the fall and winter, and, once inside, they aren’t too keen to face eviction. 

If you’re dealing with mice in your home or apartment, it’s important to face the situation with a plan. It’s also vital to understand that seeing a mouse in your home doesn’t mean your place is necessarily dirty. Mice have mastered the art of making their way into a warm shelter but kicking them out for good is possible.

How to get rid of mice

Once you’ve noticed the signs, now it’s time to act. There are a handful of smart ways to go about getting rid of mice that will ensure they don’t come back any time soon.

Note that generally, traps are preferred over bait because they are more humane and don’t risk harming pets, children, and other wanted wildlife in the backyard and neighborhood.

If you’re dealing with a severe infestation on the other hand, you might want to consider calling a professional pest control company to assess the situation and take care of it once and for all.

Eliminate any ways for them to get in

A mouse in the crevice in between rocks.

Mice can worm their way through openings as small as a ballpoint pen.

Sandra Standbridge/Getty Images


Mice are very smart and agile, so one of the best lines of defense is to get rid of any ways they can get in. If there’s a hole small enough to insert a regular ballpoint pen into, a mouse will be able to get in too. Seal up any holes or cracks that mice might get through. Consider filling the holes with steel wool scrubbing sponge — it has sharp edges that mice and other rodents won’t be able to chew or dig their way through.

Set mouse traps

Mouse traps are available in a wide variety of styles, including traps designed for quickly killing mice, as well as human live catch traps. Traps range in cost and design, and the one you choose depends on personal preference.

  • Snap traps: Snap traps are designed to snap closed onto a rodent and instantly kill them.
  • Glue traps: A glue trap is designed to catch rodents by using an industrial level sticky paper. Glue traps should be avoided when possible, as they imprison the animal without killing it. Note that these types of traps are also illegal in some parts of the US.
  • Live-animal traps: Live animals traps allow you to catch and release the mice or other rodents in your home. This is the most humane form of trapping, but might not work if you’re dealing with a larger infestation.

“Traps should be placed in areas where mice are most active,” says Sharalyn Peterson, Healthy Wildlife Manager at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. “Look for tracks, droppings, or gnaw marks. If you’re not sure where the mice live, you can sprinkle a thin layer of flour, then check for tracks the next day.”

Peterson suggests placing traps no more than ten feet apart and moving them every few days if they’re not catching mice. “Place them so that the trigger will spring easily, and with the trigger close to a wall,” she says. “Behind objects and in dark corners are also successful locations.”

Peterson also recommends puting traps out baited but unset until the bait has been taken at least once; then re-bait and set the traps to start catching mice. Peanut butter, chocolate candy, dried fruit and bacon are good baits.

Consider natural rodent predators

A cat looking into a hole in the wall, with two white mice on the other side.

Be cautious of using cats to get rid of mice, as the cat can spread diseases if they eat an infected mouse.

Michael Blann/Getty Images


Natural rodent predators can be a great way to keep mice from coming for a visit in the first place, as they won’t want to move into a home that has predators living inside or patrolling the neighborhood.

“Getting a cat is the most classic method you can imagine and it’s quite effective in reducing the population of rodents,” says Nicholas Martin, founder and entomologist at Pest Control Hacks. “However, many pest control professionals don’t recommend it inside houses as cats can spread disease if they eat infected rodents.”

In most cases the mice inside a home won’t carry diseases that can affect a cat, but it’s probably best to avoid sending them on a hunting mission. The scent of a cat and its

litter box
should be enough to keep mice at bay, says Martin.

For rural areas, hawks and owls can help control rodents outside the home. “Hawks and barn owls eat lots of mice, especially when they are feeding their young,” says Peterson. “If you live in an area appropriate for owls, setting up a nesting box will encourage barn owls to raise their young near your house.”

How to prevent mice from coming back

Whether you’ve done the work to finally evict your unwanted house guests or you just want to make sure you’re doing all you can to prevent them entering in the first place, here are some easy ways to keep mice out of the house.

  • Store food properly: Food should be stored in plastic or metal containers. It’s also good practice to keep food stored in regularly cleaned places such as stoves, refrigerators, and cabinets.
  • Seal all potential openings: Dr. Nancy Troyano, Board Certified Entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control, also suggests putting brush strips on the bottom of doors to prevent entry, especially in older homes where the doors may not fit as well. Also consider covering any vents with fine galvanized wire mesh and fixing damaged roofing with wire mesh.
  • Keep your yard neat: Trim tree branches back from the house and try to avoid plants growing up the sides of your property. “Overgrown vegetation close to walls will offer shelter to mice and potential nesting sites,” says Dr. Troyano. “Keep your grass mowed short to reduce shelter and seeds for food.”

Cleaning up after mice

Cleaning up after having mice in a home is just as important as getting them to vacate in the first place. Mouse droppings and urine can be toxic to humans and shouldn’t be left anywhere in the home.

  • Air out the space: Consider giving your space time to breathe after everything is said and done. Create a cross ventilation by opening all doors and windows for half an hour before getting started.
  • Use rubber gloves: Do not touch anything without proper protection. Use rubber gloves when cleaning up everything from droppings to dead mice, and consider wearing a face mask as well.
  • Spray bleach and water: The CDC recommends creating a mixture of about 50 percent water, 50 percent bleach and spraying down everything, including the surrounding areas that look undisturbed. You want to ensure the entire area is covered in this disinfectant before starting to sweep or disturb any nesting areas.

Insider’s takeaway

The best way to approach a rodent infestation is by tackling the problem head on. Change any habits that might be conducive to an infestation (like keeping food on your kitchen counters), opt for mouse traps and natural forms of repellent if you have kids or pets in your household, and be sure to take the proper preventative measures (like sealing up piping and holes in your home’s exterior) to ensure they won’t come back.

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