It’s that time of year, when mice go rooting around for greener pastures indoors. After doing a couple of quick searches and my own recon, I’ve found the following as a winning combination of non-toxic (at least not the toxic-est of toxics) for keeping the mice at bay.
1) Repel vs. Kill – I go for repel. It’s better to keep the mice away than just kill them off because where there was one, there will be others. Mice aren’t like people in this regard. If we repeatedly see our own kind slain in the same spot repeatedly, we typically will steer clear. Mice, on the other hand, will just swoop right in where their brethren met their demise. So, instead of focusing your efforts on a losing battle, I suggest trying to make your abode the least inviting one around. Send the mice to your neighbors; hopefully they’re doing the same thing and eventually the little creatures will get the hint and check out some other blocks in your hood.
2) How to Repel – Mice do not like the following scents, and will steer clear if you keep these scents fresh and plenty:
a. Cloves & Cayenne. I first tried the cayenne, straight out of the shaker and into a small porcelain bowl (more of a ramekin), and set it under the sink near the dog food (which I transferred into an airtight container instead of just a pretty tight container) and the compost scraps (if you can handle keeping them in your freezer, that’s best but it’s pretty valuable real estate so we opt for a plastic container with tight sealing lid placed under the sink – no wonder mice had found their wonderland, right?). After I had wiped down and bleached this cupboard, and removed or transferred anything that might be seen as trappings of a mouse hotel, I went to the store (Foodtown) and bought my other artillery (see below). When I came back, the white Ikea fiberboard (nothing but fancy for me) that I had scrubbed spotless was now dotted with a trail of perfectly nuggety mouse turds. So, cayenne alone does not work. I then remembered what exactly you are supposed to do if you want to make spice fragrant so I threw some cayenne in a pan, along with the cloves I’d just got at Foodtown (returning the tiny bottle at $4.25 for the bigger bottle at $2.50 as soon as I came across it – lucky for us Thanksgiving is around the corner, and you should be able to find these mouse repelling spices on a tacky rack display at the end of any given aisle at your local grocer). I put the newly fragrant whole cloves and cayenne in a couple of ramekins and placed each in a corner of the cupboard where the mice were most likely to be making their entrance. This seemed, or truly has been, a success – at least in combination with a few other efforts listed below.
b. Bounce Fabric Sheets. Here is where the mice and I have something in common. I can’t stand them either but I went to Foodtown yesterday and took advantage of the special (two boxes for $5.00, which means I probably could have gotten just one for $2.50, but now I have one to spare to keep the critters away). I stuck these in various crevices where I thought mice might be making their way in – between gaps in cupboards and between the stove and underneath the microwave, etc. I don’t know if it needs to be Bounce per se or the generic will do – just make sure you don’t get anything fragrance free, of course. I went ahead and got Bounce because I don’t use fabric dryer sheets and if they didn’t work because they’re generic then I’d be SOL because I certainly wouldn’t be using them for anything else. Buying fabric dryer sheets is, to me, like buying Hallmark cards on one of the many “holidays” Hallmark created. It’s spending money on a fabricated (yes, intended) problem. When I got together with my current partner who doesn’t use fabric dryer sheets and never has, I was reminded why I got together with my current partner and followed suit.
c. Peppermint (maybe). I haven’t tried this one yet (since my neighborhood is gentrifying but not so gentrified that the nearest grocery store carries Dr. Bronner’s – it doesn’t). But given my aversion to Bounce and ammonia, this will likely be added to my cache of tricks and treats for the little critters. Or not. Just did a quick search and found mixed reviews about the efficacy of peppermint oil – some are saying use oil and not the extract, which is likely a la Dr. Bronner’s.
d. Ammonia. Word on the street is that ammonia to mice smells like the pee of their predators. Mice love the stove top, which really is the creepiest thing to me about them. I got a Home and Garden Sprayer bought cheap and made by mentally and physically challenged people in Michigan (seriously – they’re by Sprayco in Detroit, MI – support them and you’re supporting real work for the seriously marginalized in a locale that needs the dollars, also it’s a U.S. based family owned company that’s been around since the 1980s and its parent corp. started over 100 years ago – this is the kind of company I like). I filled it half full with ammonia, the rest with water, and I’m keeping it near the stove to spray frequently and liberally. Now, back to (or still on) toxicity, I’m really not sure which is more toxic – ammonia or Bounce. I’m seriously skeptic about what is going in processed/manufactured products — foodstuffs and others — these days. Yesterday in Foodtown, I couldn’t find good old fashioned steel wool pads, Brillo or otherwise, without them being doused in soap and bragging from box to box about how each had more soap than the other. Seriously, there were about five different styles, none of them soap free. (This is a different soap box topic – yes, intended – but I think sabon is way overrated, and the world would be a better place without it – and I’m no hippy dippy, free love, tree hugging, dirty hippy type although I probably admittedly have put my arms around a tree or two when no one was looking). All of which brings me to my last suggestion…
e. Steel Wool. This is a variation on scent/rodent repellant. It’s a barrier – mice cannot (or at least are not supposed to be able to) chew through steel wool. If you find that your little critters are chewing through this barrier, you may want to check out whether you’ve got mice or their more notorious cousin with the long tail. And if that’s your issue, you’ll need to check out a different site, one from a blogger who’s braver than me because if that were the problem, my list would be short and sweet, and consist only of a number for pest control. Other barriers that should work are aluminum foil (some say if mice step on this and hear it, it freaks them out because they think it’s the sound of another predator – Brooklyn mice are way too wizened for that, I suspect). Also, aluminum foil ain’t cheap, so it’s not really high on my list of recommendations.
3) And, in case repelling doesn’t work…
Good luck getting rid of the little beasties. I did set up a couple traps just as back-up. Animal cruelty? Maybe. But I also stomp any indoor centipede I meet, and don’t have the patience to shoo a mosquito or fly out the door. Since I am just as willing to hurt any other unwanted visitor to my house, I don’t feel too bad about it.