Not only are rodents a source of aggravation for many homeowners, but they also spread disease. If they find a way into your home and find food or a place to nest and you don't take care of the problem, you can bet they'll visit more often and quite possibly stay.
Whether you want to get rid of mice, rats or are looking for squirrel extermination ideas, you don’t always have to call in a pest control specialist. There are DIY pest control ways you can eliminate these invaders and deter future infestations without breaking the bank.
Step 1: Investigate and Inspect
Surveillance should be the first step in getting rid of mice and rats both inside and outside of your home. Indoors, check your cabinets, pantry or any other areas where food is stored. There are some telltale signs that indicate whether critters are getting in. For example, look for chewed-up paper and disturbed or torn-open food containers. Most important, scan for what look like tiny brown or black seeds or raisins. These are rodent droppings. You may also notice a sweet scent, which is probably rodent urine. Also, don’t don’t forget to check your attic, basement or crawlspace areas for these signs. Check for any openings that lead outside.
Outdoors, check for holes and cracks in exterior walls or the foundation. They don’t have to be large openings; rats and mice can fit into holes from 1/4" to1/2" in size. Rodents often get in where pipes or other man-made openings for utility lines enter the house. Check exterior doors and windows to make sure there isn’t enough room at the bottom of the door for a rodent to squeeze under or that window screens aren’t loose. Use a ladder to look at your roof, around the chimney (also check in the chimney) and the roofline, as well as attic vents.
Familiarize yourself with basic ladder safety procedures and follow them to avoid serious injury from a fall. See the project, “Ladder Safety”, for more detailed information. Invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer that attaches to ladders and braces onto the roof.
Step 2: Clean and Disinfect
Inside your home, clean out pantries and under-counter storage areas. Remove crumbs and debris and place non-canned food items into plastic storage bins with tight-sealing lids. Inspect your home heating equipment and other heat-producing appliances, as rodents gravitate toward warmth to conserve body heat. Be sure to keep food preparation areas clean and free of spills. Also, keep trash covered in heavy plastic or metal containers and dispose of trash on a regular basis.
In the garage, make sure your garage door closes and seals tightly. Overhead door compression seals, which are designed to fill gaps between the pavement and the door, are available at your local True Value hardware store. Discard any old boxes or furniture that may provide nesting areas for mice and rats and use shelving systems that keep items off of the floor. Do not store pet foods or birdseed in original containers. These items attract rodents. Put food supplies in plastic storage bins with tight-sealing lids.
Outside your house, remove any overhanging tree limbs with bypass loppers or a pruning saw. Tree limbs provide climbing rodents a great springboard and shadowy cover for entrance. Avoid storing wood or rocks in piles near your home, as rodents prefer nesting areas with dark crevices and seclusion. Cut back any overgrown trees and shrubbery around the perimeter of your foundation. Overgrowth provides camouflage for mice and rats to travel undetected.
If you see evidence of droppings, remove any affected food items and throw them away immediately. Thoroughly clean floors, cabinets, shelves and adjacent surfaces with a general-purpose household disinfectant or a bleach-and-water solution. For the latter, mix 1½ cups of bleach with 1 gallon of water.
Wear rubber gloves and a respirator or dust mask when cleaning up droppings and soiled areas.
Don't sweep or vacuum droppings. This can cause harmful particles to become airborne, making them easy to breathe in and potentially cause health problems.
Wash your gloved hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before taking them off. Discard gloves in the trash, and then wash your hands again with soap and hot water.
Step 3: Seal Openings
There are many ways to block the entrances that rodents seek out. Cover openings with steel wool and caulk, metal lath, hardware cloth, foam insulation, wood sheeting and sheet metal or cement. Metal lath is ideal for sealing holes around pipes. Caulk, foam insulation and cement are good for sealing holes and cracks in foundation concrete or brick. Wood and metal sheets are excellent for sealing larger openings since they can be cut to size and fastened easily with screws or nails.
Step 4: Choose the Right Trap
Now that you've sealed all possible entrances, it’s time to choose a rodent control method to get rid of any varmints that are still inside. Place rodent control measures in locations where you noticed droppings. You may also want to place them near your hot water heater, furnace or anywhere that might provide warmth.
There are many kinds of products available for purchase. Most traps kill rats and mice, but there are also "live" traps available. While "live" traps may seem most humane, there is the problem of letting rats and mice go. Where do you release them once you’ve caught them? What will happen once they’re released? They’ll most likely find another place to inhabit causing headaches and potential health problems for other people. The safest and most effective way of eliminating rodents is to kill them. Try snap traps or poisons.
Old-fashioned wood traps are probably most economical, but they can cause injury if they are accessible by pets or children. When using this type of trap, make sure they’re set up where kids or the family dog can’t reach them. Wood traps are not designed to be reused. Rodents often urinate when caught in wood traps. The urine is then absorbed into the wood, making it unlikely that other rodents will come into contact with the traps in the future. Plastic snap traps, while more costly, are reusable and often designed to be placed in areas where pets and children have access. They can provide a quick and final solution to your rodent problem. Bait traps with peanut butter, which rodents find irresistible.
Poisonous baits can help you get rid of rodents as well, but they might eat the poison and then crawl off to expire somewhere unreachable or otherwise inconvenient and cause odor problems and possible health concerns. Typically, it will take seven to 14 days for the odor to dissipate.
Which product you use is a matter of personal preference and that which works best for your rodent situation. You'll want to check the traps every day so you can dispose of trapped mice, rats or squirrels as soon as possible. Keep a trash bag handy when you’re resetting or disposing of the traps. Carefully seal the bag and discard it in an outside trash receptacle when you're done.
If you use poisonous bait, you will want to monitor rodent activity and keep a supply available until signs of activity cease. Bait can also be used outdoors in conjunction with a bait station (designed to prevent animals you don’t want to kill from eating the poison) to prevent rodents from entering your home in the first place.
If you don’t have much luck in removing rodents from your home with these DIY pest control products, it may be time to call in a professional.
Step 5: Take Preventive Action
The following suggestions may help you preemptively quell potential rodent problems both inside and outside of your home:
- Avoid clutter, store food properly and clean your home often—especially the kitchen.
- Avoid clutter in your basement, attic, garage and any sheds or other storage areas. Don’t forget the outdoors. Clear away brush and junk, and try not to keep woodpiles close to your house. Keep your yard and shrubbery maintained.
- When possible, store food in plastic containers so rodents can't get into packages.
- Wash dishes and cooking utensils as soon as possible after use. It is also helpful to immediately clean up spilled food and liquids.
- Don't store old cardboard boxes, newspapers or other paper items. Rodents use these materials for shelter and nesting.
Good work! Your home should now be clean and rodent-free.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Adjustable ladder stabilizer
- Heavy plastic or metal containers
- Overhead door compression seals
- Shelving system
- Plastic storage bins
- General-purpose household disinfectant
- Paper towels
- Rubber gloves
- Respirator or dust mask
- Steel wool
- Metal lath
- Hardware cloth
- Foam insulation
- Wood sheeting or sheet metal
- Snap traps or poisons
- Peanut butter
- Bait station (optional)