It’s the time of year when my house starts to fill up with unwanted guests. Because I live on the edge of a big open space, the field mice naturally gravitate to my nice warm walls as the weather gets cold. My cat, unfortunately, appears more interested in chasing birds than mice–and the mice seem to know that. (I learned from Barbara Pleasant’s great article, “Rodent-Proof Your House,” that male cats, like mine, are more likely to go play the field, while females stay home to handle mice.)
I’d rather not kill the little creatures, even though they did show up uninvited and their droppings are an unhealthy mess. I scoured Mother Earth News’s archives to see how other folks handle this situation and found some great ideas.
1. Susan Womersley, a reader who lives in an old farmhouse in Topeka, Kansas, puts an empty box of peppermint tea in with her paper recyclables and noticed the mouse activity dropped dramatically. Now she places a few squares of cotton cloth sprinkled with peppermint oil in the pantry, refreshing them as needed. “No mice, and it smells wonderful!” she reports.
2. Norm Noe of Vancouver, Washington, places small, peppermint-soaked cotton balls around his kitchen and slips them into the walls behind plug sockets. “Twenty-four hours later, no sign of the mice at all,” he reports.
3. About once a month, Milton Ammel of Parker, Kansas, mixes a half gallon of apple cider vinegar with 2 gallons of water and sprinkles it around the outside of the house. “We haven’t seen mice in a long time!” he reports.
4. When Randy Orcutt of Hillsboro, Ohio, was having mice trouble in his camper, he placed Bounce regular scent dryer sheets in the drawers and cabinets. “All the mice left quickly,” he reports, but generic brand dryer sheets didn’t have the same effect.
5. In “Rodent-Proof Your House,” Barbara Pleasant recommends taking the following preventive measures to seal your home against rodents.
• Seal all cracks larger than one-fourth inch (the space needed for a mouse to slip through) with hardware cloth, metal sheeting or mortar.
• Trim back tree branches so none come within 6 feet of your roof.
• In barns and outbuildings, seal rooms where you keep feed or put feed in metal containers with tight-fitting lids.
• Keep the areas around your house, barn and outbuildings clean to reduce or eliminate rodent hangouts, such as old appliances, trash lumber, junk vehicles, open garbage cans or dense thickets of weeds. Allow a margin of mowed open space between buildings and nesting sites, such as a woodpile.
• Inside your house, stack stored goods off the floor, on pallets or shelves, and leave some open space along the base of all walls.
• Forget about using ultrasonic devices to deter rodents with high frequency sound. There is zero scientific evidence that they work.
Cute but not welcome in our homes: Mice spoil food; spread salmonella, hantavirus and 17 other diseases, and chew essential house parts such as electrical wires, Barbara Pleasant reports in “Rodent-Proof Your House.” A pair of mice living in your garage can grow into a gang of 20 or more in just a few months.
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