No matter where you live or how long you've called the place home, there's no good time to discover that a rodent roommate has set up shop in your humble abode. From finding mouse droppings in your closet to potential kitchen thievery, the whole shudder-inducing situation is a big fat disaster that homeowners or renters never want to deal with.
So, now that you have an unwanted pest guest, how do you kick him or her to the curb? We spoke with Kevin Carrillo, senior project manager for M&M Pest Control, about his best tips and tricks for making your living situation completely mouse-free. You'll be surprised to know that there's a whole world beyond leaving out traps and bait.
•Entry points: Whether you live in a studio or standalone dwelling, Carrillo notes that every residence has small structural openings, which contractors typically make to accommodate your water, gas, electrical, and data lines. Mice, from either the dirt or sewer, can actually travel through these lines into wall and floor cavities and pop out into your house. Believe it or not, they're capable of squeezing into spaces as small as a quarter of an inch (yikes).
•Lack of sanitation: This point is pivotal—any old trash or unsealed food can quickly beckon rodents. "Even if you keep your kitchen spotless, if you have last night’s dinner in your garbage can, that’s still generally an accessible food source for a mouse," warns Carrillo. To that note, he also adds that the furry critters favor dry goods, like breads, pastas, crackers, and junk food.
•Relocation: If your neighbor managed to permanently chase the mice out of their house or apartment unit, that unfortunately means they might migrate to yours. "Sometimes, it’s just a matter of relocation more than attraction," says Carrillo.
For a low-level, very new rodent problem, Carrillo says trapping is the most tried-and-true method. But know that if you've caught one mouse, there's a high chance it's not alone, and you probably haven't solved the issue fully. "Mice do tend to travel with their entire family, as well as with their best friends," says Carrillo. "Even if you think you’re seeing the same mouse over and over again—they do look really similar—you could have upwards of 20 mice living in the wall cavity."
Speaking of wall cavities, Carrillo's company specializes in installing small panels with a door into your wall. A trap is placed just inside the door, and once an animal gets caught, you can easily extract it. Carrillo advises against using bait: You run the risk of a mouse consuming the poison, dying, and getting stuck too far in your wall to remove, leaving you with a horrible smell.
The fastest, most permanent fix, according to Carrillo? Structurally repairing (aka pest-proofing) your home to block off entry points. This usually starts with an assessment from a pest specialist, who will come up with a game plan for your specific residence. "It’s basically closing off all those holes in the walls and the floor that are leading to the building envelope—the area where most pests are traveling and sleeping," adds Carrillo.
From there, the team uses a combination of construction-grade materials, like fast-drying cement, heat-resistant expanding polymer foam, a steel wall, or quarter-inch construction steel mesh to seal the gaps, followed by paintable, water-resistant silicone caulk and plaster to finish.
The whole process could take about a day, at most, and ultimately sees the best long-term results. "With baiting and trapping, it's not a quick solve," says Carrillo. "The only thing that’s really a quick solution is the structural repair. We basically tell people you go from having mice one night to not having them the next morning because they can no longer gain entrance to your apartment or your house."
•Pest-proof your home ASAP. Beat the problem head-on by having your residence structurally repaired. This way, you'll eliminate potential mouse entry points before they start to become an issue.
•Put sweeps on all exterior entries. This rubber trim prevents rodents (and bugs!) from sliding beneath your door.
•Make food as inaccessible as possible. Empty your trash regularly and always keep your pantry door closed.
•Avoid clutter. "The more cluttered areas you have, the more likely you are to have mice decide that it looks like a pretty cozy space for them to start living," says Carrillo. Be especially wary of closets.