REAL ESTATE

How to rid your place of mice

Whoever decided that mice should be a cutesy staple of popular culture, like Mickey Mouse or Stuart Little, clearly never had the real thing invade his or her apartment. Here are some tips to rid your place of rodents.

Potential problems and signs

Mice can do a lot of damage to appliances and food. They can chew through materials from cardboard to electrical wiring, which can increase your risk of house fire.

According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), rodent droppings can trigger allergies, spread bacteria and contaminate food sources. Rodents can bring other pests, like lice, fleas and ticks, into your house.

If you can fit a pencil in a crack, a mouse can slip through, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. They can jump as high as 13 inches from the floor onto a flat surface, and are expert climbers. Mice have very strong senses of smell and can survive on crumbs.

Signs that you have a mousey problem on your hands include: droppings, scurrying sounds during the night, and gnaw marks on wires, insulation or boxes. You can also dust the suspected area with unscented talcum powder or mason's chalk dust. Wait a day and check for tracks.

If you see a mouse or find its droppings, Missy Henriksen, the vice president of public affairs at NPMA, says you should contact a pest management professional to help you locate the point of entry and handle the problem.

What to do

Handling a mouse infestation is two-fold: you have to get rid of the rodents you already have and prevent new ones from getting in.

"Mice have the potential to breed up to a dozen babies every three weeks, allowing them to quickly develop into a major infestation," says Henriksen. "Because of their fast reproductive rate, one mouse can turn into many mice very quickly."

There are different varieties of mousetraps available. The traditional, wood-based snap traps work well and will likely kill the mouse, saving you the responsibility of doing so.

Set up traps in the areas where you have seen signs of mouse activity. Contrary to popular belief, you likely won't have much luck catching mice with cheese. Instead, try peanut butter, chocolate or bacon.

Glue boards can catch multiple mice, but you will probably have to kill the mouse yourself. Some traps are covered, which means you don't have to see the dead mouse. If you plan to catch the mouse using non-lethal means and release it back into the wild, make sure you do so at least a mile away from your house. Keep all traps, especially the snap ones, away from children and pets. Avoid setting them near your oven's pilot light.

Poison is also an option, but it is commonly used as a very last resort. One of the problems with this extermination method is that mice will be dying in hard-to-reach places and left to rot. If you decide to go this route, make sure to go with the tamper-proof bait stations and place them in places that are not accessible to children and pets.

Wear rubber gloves when disposing of the mouse. Spray dead rodents, traps, droppings and the areas where you found them with disinfectant made from detergent, bleach and water and then place in a sealed plastic bag. Put that in another sealed plastic bag and get rid of the trash. Wash your hands with warm water and soap after doing anything.

Prevention

According to the New York Department of Health, keeping mice out in the first place the best way to control them. Store food in airtight containers, and take out the garbage regularly. Keep your home clean and free of clutter so the mice have a harder time finding food and hiding places.

To prevent a rodent infestation, NPMA also suggests installing screens over chimney vents and openings and well as replacing loose sealing around basement foundation and windows. You should also make sure firewood is stored at least 5 feet off the ground and 20 feet away from your house.

Henriksen says it is "doubtful" that mice are repelled by peppermint as some rumors claim. She says NPMA's technical director witnessed evidence of mice eating York Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints.