How to Keep Mice and Other Pests Out of Your Home

Here are some pest control tips that will help you keep out mice, squirrels, bats and other unwanted animals out of your house.

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A young man is holding a recyclable plastic food container on a white background
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Eliminate Food Sources for Mice and Rodents

If there’s something to eat laying around, mice will find it. So to keep them away, make sure that you store food, especially grains in rodent-proof metal or heavy plastic containers. Don’t forget to do the same with pet food and birdseed.

  • Store grass seed in sealed containers.
  • Put away any uneaten pet food.
  • Rodent-proof your garbage cans by setting them on 6-inch high wood platforms.
    • Pro tip: Make sure lids fit tight; use rubber cords to fasten them down if necessary. Replace garbage cans that have cracks or holes.
  • Pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees in your yard.
  • Search out holes (even small ones) around your foundation, eaves and soffits and fill them with steel wool, cover with sheet metal, or fill with caulk, plaster or cement.
  • Adding peppermint oil in areas where they can enter your home or congregate will help keep mice away too.
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peanut butter mouse trap
Family Handyman

Bait the Mouse Traps

The classic snap mouse trap is still one of the best ways to get rid of mice, but for them to work, they have to be properly baited. When you’re getting the trap ready, set it with the baited trigger end of the trap tight against the wall. Wherever possible, use two traps.

Chocolate, nutmeat or cheese make good bait.

Once the traps has done its job, dispose of a dead mouse in a plastic bag in the garbage. Why the plastic bag? The scent of the dead mouse will help attract any other mice in the house.

You can reuse the trap.

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Place Mouse Traps Where the Mice Are

Mice tend to run along the walls, so that’s where you want to put your traps. Put the baited end up against the wall, rather than pointing outward, away from the wall. An alternate trap position puts the traps parallel to the wall with the bait at opposite ends.

Also, place traps under sinks or appliances, and in closets or behind furniture.

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Try Humane Mouse Traps

Live mousetraps allow you to catch mice without killing them, and you can release them outside after catching them in your house. To use a live mousetrap, place the trap so the tunnel is against the wall and parallel to it. A large baited compartment allows you to catch two mice at a time.

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How to Get Rid of Squirrels: Trap Them in the Attic

If you get a squirrel in your house, it’ll usually be in the attic. So you’ve got to get it out, and the only sure way to get it out is to trap it. Then seal up the openings so it doesn’t come back.

Place a live squirrel trap in the attic near the nesting area or entry point. Peanut butter on a cracker makes good squirrel bait. Check the cage daily and release the squirrel outside as soon as possible. Use caution and wear heavy gloves, since the squirrel will not be happy.

Begin by keeping watch around the soffits and eaves for a few days to see if you can spot the squirrel entering. If that fails, check the attic to find out where it is nesting; the entry point will probably be close by, and from a darkened attic you may be able to see daylight through the opening.

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How to Get Rid of Raccoons: Call a Pro

Capturing and removing raccoons from your chimney (one of their favorite places to live) is probably best left to a pest control professional. Raccoons are very strong, smart, difficult to trap and when cornered, dangerous. They can easily kill a small dog, so don’t mess with them.

If you do trap a raccoon, call your local animal control office to ask about pick up. Local ordinances may require releasing the raccoon and any of its young right where you captured it, so check with local animal control authorities before taking it out to the countryside.

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How to Get Rid of Rats: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Trap

When rats show up, it’s bad news, since they can carry fleas and disease, so you’ll want to take action right away to get rid of them.  Trap rats with a snap trap for rats (like a mousetrap, but much bigger) or try out these best ways to get rid of ratsWatch that snap. It could break your finger!

Dispose of dead rats carefully. Wear plastic gloves, watch out for escaping fleas, and put the body in the garbage inside two zipper-top plastic bags.

If you don’t want to kill one or more rats, try a live rodent trap.

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How to Get Rid of Bats: No-Kill Methods

If a bat gets into your house, don’t panic. Remember that bats are our friends in spite of all their bad press. A small brown bat can eat 1,000 insects a night. They’re usually easy to get rid of, since they want out even more than you want them out.

To get them out, start by turning off the lights and opening the doors and windows. Once the bat’s panic subsides, it will follow the fresh air current out of your home.

If you have repeated bat visits, it’s time to call a pest control specialist to caulk and seal all openings, then install a couple of one-way doors that will let bats out, but not back in.

Pest control specialists will handle any furry beasts that you don’t want to trap, capture or dispose of. Some specialize in evicting certain types of critters; others offer general pest control.  Prices can vary considerably for the same type of job, so be sure to shop around.