How to get rid of mice in house

Learn How to Get Rid of Mice from Your Home with These Tips

The Building Performance Institute, which sets standards for creating healthy, pest-free homes, notes that a single female mouse can have up to eight litters per year, producing as many as 100 young mice! “Droppings are usually the first sign of an infestation,” says DiClerico. The droppings look like dark grains of rice, about a quarter-inch long. Rat droppings tend to be wider and longer — about half an inch in length.

How to Permanently Get Rid of Mice in Your House or Apartment

Follow these expert-approved tips to keep every part of your space, including the attic and walls, rodent-free.

If you’ve ever had a mouse infestation, you might feel like you’ve tried everything to repel them but to no avail. Unfortunately, Irish Spring soap isn’t the solution and neither is keeping the lights on throughout the day (two common myths!). Even home remedies like peppermint oil and other strong aromas can’t stop their invasion. In fact, “mice are very curious and very food-motivated,” says Dion Lerman, the Environmental Health Programs Specialist for the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program. “They are not easily driven off.”

To help you out, we’ve prepared this expert-approved guide below on how to get rid of mice naturally and permanently. “Living with mice isn’t just unsettling, it can make your home less healthy,” says Dan DiClerico, Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Improvement and Outdoor Director. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mice can directly and indirectly spread diseases to humans through urine, feces, saliva and ticks. Plus, it doesn’t help that they hide in the walls or in places you rarely visit, such as the attic.

Luckily, if your at-home solutions aren’t working and you’re not ready to call pest control just yet, the tips below will be useful. We even share how to spot and prevent future mice infestations (and yes, having a new furry friend, like a cat, is one of them!).

How to spot a mouse infestation

how to get rid of mice, chewed up wire and mouse droppings

Where there’s one mouse, more are usually lurking. “Mice are nocturnal by nature and very wary; they often wait until there is no noise in the household before they start to forage,” says Lerman. He notes that peak activity is usually 2 to 4 a.m., but if the area is populated with food and if there are no threats around, they may relax and feed anytime. “But, in general, seeing a mouse in daylight indicates a very high mouse population that is too big and hungry to wait until dark to feed,” he notes.

The Building Performance Institute, which sets standards for creating healthy, pest-free homes, notes that a single female mouse can have up to eight litters per year, producing as many as 100 young mice! “Droppings are usually the first sign of an infestation,” says DiClerico. The droppings look like dark grains of rice, about a quarter-inch long. Rat droppings tend to be wider and longer — about half an inch in length.

Mice leave their mark in other ways, too. They’re always foraging for food, so the kitchen tends to be the hottest spot. Scan your pantry and cabinets for debris on shelves or gnaw marks on food boxes. Look for gaps and cracks in walls, along baseboards and windows, and around pipes, wires and drains. “Mice can get through holes as small as a quarter-inch in diameter, which is about the size of a pencil,” says DiClerico.

Tips on How to Get Rid of Mice

“There is no fast, easy or guaranteed way to get rid of mice,” Lerman says. “It’s a process.” Just like getting rid of silverfish and other pests in your home, like cockroaches, it’s best to keep mice away in the first place. Yet even with every precaution in place, mice may slip through the cracks (quite literally!). Once you pick up on signs that you have unwelcome guests in your home, follow this step-by-step guide to remove mice as quickly — and painlessly — as possible.

⚠️ ” Zinc phosphide releases an extremely poisonous gas and should NEVER be used in residences,” Lerman says. “Trained and licensed pest control professionals may use it for outdoor control of rodent burrows, but it MUST (by law) be no closer to an occupied structure (home) than 15 feet.”

1. Find their entry point.

Before mice can nest in your home, they need to find a way inside. Basements, attics, crawlspaces and cracks around windows and doors are all possible entry points. “Figure out where they’re coming from because putting traps randomly all over your basement floor isn’t going to do you any good,” says Cindy Mannes, a spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association. Do your best detective work to determine where the mice live and build nests, and then set your traps around those general areas.

2. Set mouse traps.

Mouse traps are one of the most effective ways to get rid of mice that have taken up residence inside your home. Place mouse traps in the more vulnerable areas of your house, like along walls and behind trash cans. There are various mouse traps to choose from, ranging in cost, function and design.

⚠️ Due to the inhumane killing method of live catch, sticky or glue mouse traps, we do not recommend them. Similarly, we do not recommend rodenticides, which should never be used in homes because of the risk of accidental poisoning, especially of children.

  • Snap traps: This popular quick-trigger system stops mice in their tracks. When used correctly, snap traps kill mice quickly, making it an efficient way to wipe out an entire population. Different kinds of snap traps include bar, clam and hidden kill.
  • Electric traps: These mouse traps lure mice into the chamber before killing them with electric shocks. They are specifically engineered to prevent humans and pets from being shocked. Lerman notes: “The electronic traps are effective but expensive to operate: They run down batteries rapidly!”

All mouse traps require bait of some kind — peanut butter is by far the most commonly used bait, but you can also use chocolate, cheese, bird seed or nuts to lure mice into the trap.

3. Clear out the garage.

Mice like cars just as much as houses. “If they get into the garage, they might just decide to live under your car hood, where the engine is nice and warm,” warns Mannes. Once they start chewing on wires, they can seriously damage your car. Wrapping problem areas in rodent tape (which is treated with components also found in chili peppers) can help prevent mice from returning.

While setting a few mouse traps in your garage to rule out any unwanted pests is great, preventing them from entering your space is even better. “It’s important to seal off the garage. Weather stripping under the garage door helps keep the pests out,” says DiClerico. Most importantly, you should keep any food that would attract pests out of reach. “Never store trash, pet food or any other items that attract mice in your garage,” says DiClerico.

4. When all else fails, call an exterminator.

Everyone has their own threshold for what they can put up with until they ask for help. If you get to the point of needing a professional, ask your friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations, whether you’re looking for someone who can aggressively and effectively get the job done or an exterminator who will offer up a more humane approach. Expect to spend between $150 and $250 for treatment, depending on the size of your home and the extent of the outbreak.

⚠️ We do not recommend bombs or foggers of any kind, since they are hazardous to people and often not very effective. “Their only outcome is leaving toxic residue on every surface of the home,” Lerman says.

And always check an exterminator’s credentials before hiring. “Ask the pro if they’re licensed by the state and if they’re a member of a state or national association,” says Mannes. “Those folks are usually taking the time to be credentialed properly, and they’re learning the latest techniques for treatment.”

How to Prevent Future Mice Infestations

how to get rid of mice cat waiting for mouse to come out of his hole mouse point of view

After you’ve removed any mice roaming through your house, work your way down this list to make sure they — and any other rodents, for that matter — don’t return.

1. Seal off entry points.

Seal narrow gaps with 100% silicone caulk. For holes that are larger than 1/2-inch wide, first stuff them with steel wool or copper mesh, which will prevent mice from chewing through, then seal them with joint compound; a foam insulation pest blocker is another option. “Pay close attention to where pipes enter the house, and check basement foundations,” says Mannes. Attach door sweeps to the bottom of outside-facing doors to keep mice from scurrying underneath.

2. Prune branches from your house.

Shrubbery and branches are basically inviting mice and insects into your home. Cut off their highway to the house by trimming shrubbery back from the exterior of your house. While spring is generally the best time for pruning, if you’re just removing dead or broken branches, that can safely be done any time of year. “It’s also important to keep stacks of firewood at least 20 feet from the house, since mice — not to mention termites and carpenter ants — like to nest in the piles,” says DiClerico.

3. Remove food supplies.

In colder temperatures, mice are looking for warmth and a constant food supply. Try to keep your kitchen shelves, cabinets and countertops clean, and store unsealed food in airtight food storage containers to limit their access. Same goes for pet food: Try not to leave food out in a cat or dog bowl all day long since it will attract rodents.

Mice will also munch on paper products and cardboard, so it’s best to toss or recycle any excessive food packaging during your weekly kitchen cleanup.

4. Make your garbage off-limits.

Like insects and other pests, mice are also attracted to trash cans. For a mouse-proof can, go with a trash can that has a tight lid or use rubber cords to keep it shut; metal bins are best. Clean the cans regularly, inside and out, to prevent rodent-attracting smells.

5. Break out the essential oils.

Although Mannes argues that homemade remedies aren’t the best way to get rid of mice, there’s no harm in trying out natural deterrents. Some claim that the smell of peppermint and clove oil repel mice. Soak cotton balls with these essential oils and stick them in areas that frequently attract mice like drawers, cabinets and entryways. “There are some ‘potpourri’-like mixes that are advertised to keep mice out of enclosed spaces (such as farm tractor cabs over winter), but they are ineffective in large or open areas,” Lerman says. “And they are way too aromatic – stinky — to tolerate in homes.”

6. Think about getting a cat.

A study out of the Scripps Research Institute has found that “mice are hard-wired to feel fear if they smell pheromones from cat urine.” Another academic report noted that the one-two combination of a cat and a dog at home is especially effective at scaring off rodents. Of course, this shouldn’t be the only reason to get a four-legged friend, and there are tradeoffs to consider, from the cost of feeding and care to all that pet hair.

The bottom line

Mice are a major nuisance that can get worse in a hurry if left unchecked. As with most pest infestations, the cause may be the result of other household issues — for example, cracks around windows and doors that also let in water and cold air. Fortunately, the fixes are usually straightforward, and when done in tandem with eliminating food sources, they’re almost certain to resolve your mouse problem. It might take a couple of weeks to achieve, but a mouse-free home is well within your reach.

Headshot of Amanda Garrity

Amanda Garrity is a lifestyle writer and editor with over seven years of experience, including five years on staff at Good Housekeeping, where she covered all things home and holiday, including the latest interior design trends, inspiring DIY ideas and gift guides for any (and every) occasion. She also has a soft spot for feel-good TV, so you can catch her writing about popular shows like Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias, Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart and more.

Mariah Thomas (she/her) is an assistant editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers home and lifestyle content. Mariah has more than four years of editorial experience, having written for TLC, Apartment Therapy, Women’s Health and Avocado Magazine. She received her master’s degree in journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and published her first book, Heart and Soul: Poems of Thoughts and Emotions, in 2019. She’s also the founder of RTF Community a platform for creatives of color to connect, learn and showcase their work.

Learn How to Get Rid of Mice from Your Home with These Tips

You definitely don’t want these little visitors in your house.

By Blair Donovan Updated: Apr 20, 2021

preview for DIY Natural All Purpose Cleaning Spray

No matter if you’re a renter or home owner, just moved in or lived in your current place for years, there’s never a good time to learn that a rodent has moved in to your home. Whether you’ve discovered mouse droppings in your bathroom or nibbles from your packages in the kitchen pantry, the entire situation is a big, fat shudder-inducing disaster that nobody ever want to deal with.

So, now that you have an unwanted pest guest, how do you kick him or her to the curb? While you might think you have an idea of how to do this (more so than say, how to get rid of a snake or how to get rid of drain flies), you might be surprised by some of the myths around how to catch a mouse.

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. And, if you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of a rat, which requires similar but slightly different steps, be sure to check out those instructions too.

Why do I have mice in my house?

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).

Automatic Kitchen Trash Can

Automatic Kitchen Trash Can

Automatic Kitchen Trash Can

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. Put all those Castile soap uses to work and scrub your kitchen down until it’s sparkling clean.


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.

What’s the best way to get rid of mice?

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 upward of 20 mice living in the wall cavity.”

Quick Ways to Battle Your Mouse Problem

Mouse Trap

Mouse Trap

Humane Mouse Traps

Trazon Humane Mouse Traps

Ultrasonic Pest Repeller

Ultrasonic Pest Repeller

Eco Defense Mice Repellent

Eco Defense Eco Defense Mice Repellent

How do you get rid of mice in the walls?

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. (If you are stuck with that unfortunate smell, try Joanna Gaines’s 5-ingredient scent trick to mask it instantly!)

How do you catch a mouse fast?

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.

More Must-See Pest Tips

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.”

How do you catch a mouse without killing it?

Warner 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket

Warner 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket

Warner 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket

It’s totally understandable if you want to steer clear of harmful chemicals or find a more humane way to shoo out the little guys. Structural repair stands firm as the most all-natural, nonchemical solution, but Carrillo notes another hack that’s proven successful on farms. For this DIY mouse trap, you’ll need to find a 5-gallon bucket and put a metal wire across the top (like from a dry cleaning hanger). Then, cut a small hole in one side of a soda can, run the wire through it, and smear peanut butter on the can. Mice will climb up and walk across the wire to get the bait, but the can will spin and they’ll fall into the bucket. Voilà!

How do you get rid of mice naturally?

In addition to the bucket trick, there are some natural remedies you can use to prevent or deter mice. There are several scents that are said to keep mice at bay since they have a strong sense of smell.

You can try dousing cotton balls with peppermint oil and leave them near spots you think mice are getting in. Or, fill cheesecloth sachets with cayenne pepper, cloves, and mint—other aromas they dislike—and scatter these about as well. Ammonia has also been said to work, which you can leave out in capfuls by problem areas.

How do you know when all the mice are gone?

There are some obvious signs that mice have finally vacated the property, including a lack of droppings and no more scratching or scurrying noises. Generally, once a week has passed without a sighting of droppings, you should be in the clear. You can spread flour or talc in the areas where you saw mice to test if they’re gone (note: you must use odorless talc, because mice will avoid the smell). If there’s no evidence of tiny footprints, you should be rodent-free.