Mouse Infestations – What You Need to Know
By: Rita Stadler
If you hear strange sounds in the wall, find mysterious holes in food boxes, or notice chewed up and shredded paper around your home, you may have a mouse infestation. Mice shred up paper to make their nests comfy and can pass through the smallest of spaces. Rodents will chew holes in food packages in your pantry and leave their droppings everywhere. They tend to hide in seldom disturbed places like behind stoves or refrigerators, dishwashers, and the like. Here are some tips for determining if you have a mouse infestation:
Identifying Signs of Mouse Infestations
A sure-fire sign of mice is finding their droppings. Mice leave droppings while running about and in areas they visit regularly. The first thing you should do is grab a flashlight and look under your cabinets, sink, appliances and in the backs of drawers and cupboards. Mice droppings are small, black pellets shaped like grains of rice. If you find these anywhere in your house, you can be certain a rodent has been there. Besides droppings, you may also notice a musty smell or urine odor. If you have pets in the house, you may notice them watching a certain spot or scratching the floor; dogs may detect the presence of rodents even when people can’t.
Diseases Spread by Mice
In the colder months, mice and other pests often try entering your home for warmth. They get in through cracks and crevices on the outside walls or through openings under your house (like plumbing, electrical lines and appliances) that have not been sealed securely. While some of them may seem tiny and harmless, they carry diseases that can be threatening to people. Here are just a few of the diseases rodents may carry:
- Hantavirus – a life-threatening disease spread to humans through exposure or inhalation of infected mouse urine, droppings or saliva.
- Hemorrhagic Fever – contracted through inhalation of infected mouse urine or droppings.
- Bubonic Plague – also known as the “Black Death” that drastically impacted European populations during the Middle Ages.
- Salmonellosis – a type of food poisoning spread through infected mouse droppings.
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One of the best ways to protect yourself from potential disease is by removing mouse droppings whenever you find them. Since you don’t know if the mouse is infected or not, it is best to use caution whenever coming in contact with rodent droppings. Follow the steps below to get rid of mouse droppings properly:
How to Remove Mouse Droppings
- Wear rubber gloves.
- Make a disinfectant mixture of bleach and water. Saturate the affected areas. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Wipe up the urine or droppings with a paper towel.
- Discard the paper towel in the trash.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after removing the gloves.
You may be tempted to just sweep them up with a broom or use your vacuum cleaner but this isn’t the time to cut corners. The diseases above can be spread through the air, so sweeping or sucking them up in your vacuum spreads them into the air, increasing your risk of exposure. The steps outlined above are recommended by the CDC for use when cleaning up rodent droppings. Using a disinfectant spray combats the germs and limits them from being swept into the air.
Once you get rid of mouse droppings, keep that area clean to discourage rodents from coming back to that space.
DIY Tips for Getting Rid of Mouse Infestations
Mouse infestations are pretty common, especially if you live on a farm or in a rural area. City dwellers are no stranger to rodent infestations either. Taking fast action is the best way to get rid of mice and prevent the illnesses their droppings may spread, but traditional methods of mouse control aren’t right for everybody.
Many people dislike resorting to mouse traps or rat poison – especially if there are children or pets in the home. Seeing the evidence of a caught mouse, emptying the trap and cleaning up afterwards can be a harrowing experience in and of itself. Fortunately, there are alternative solutions for getting rid of mice. Start by eliminating their food source; store food in airtight containers and keep trash in a bin with a tightly fitted lid. Block potential entry points with steel wool and silicone caulk. Use botanical rodent repellent to create an invisible barrier no mouse will cross.