D-I-DIE: cheap ways to defend against mice

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Don't waste your money on complicated contraptions.

Let me admit: I think mice are cute. Their small, nimble bodies conjure up images of childhood pets, and the media make them out to be gentle creatures with extraordinary culinary sensibilities. The only problem? They’re really annoying. When my apartment came under attack, I found out professional exterminators charge a ton for what seem like fairly simple services — up to $175 for spray and traps, plus up to $400 to plug mouse holes — that may leave toxic fumes in their wake. I decided to take matters into my own hands: Here are five essential steps for protecting your home without bankrupting or killing yourself in the process, arranged by threat level based on severity and your tolerance for dead mice.

Threat Level 1 (scent repellent): Vegan Detente
Peppermint Oil ($6.49 for $1 oz at Back to the Land in Park Slope; $1.69 for 80 cotton balls at Rite Aid)
According to the guru/blogger Sergiu Zburatoru, who runs a blog called “Mice Extermination for Beginners,” mice hate the smell of peppermint oil and will run away once they smell it. This PETA-endorsed option involves nothing more than swabbing the oil onto cotton balls and placing them near entrances and potential openings in your home. The added bonus: your apartment smells like peppermint, as opposed to old mouse shit. Once the smell of peppermint oil wears off, you’ll have to go back to storing your soy crackers and organic almond butter in the fridge.
Cost: $8.18

Threat Level 2 (scent +ultrasonic): Cold War Containment
Ultrasonic Electronic Mouse and Rat Repeller ($11.99 at Walgreens)
Mice hate the ultrasonic sound waves (who doesn’t?) and won’t go near you if you have this plugged in. Vegans hate these things because mice hate them, though you may have a harder time keeping vegans out. The only problem is that the cheap electronic repellers work in a small range (usually 500 square feet, or the size of the coolest smallest apartment in Brooklyn), so you may have to buy one unit per room if you don’t want to spring for a more expensive device (which can cost up to $50).
Total Cost: $8.18 + $11.99 = $20.17

Threat Level 3 (scent + ultrasonic + blocking the entrances): Resist the Invader
Block the Entrances ($1.79 for Steel Wool, $2.79 for caulk at True Value Hardware)
The best way to offend your unwelcome guests is by locking them in. Mice can’t chew through steel wool, and caulk prevents them from wedging themselves through cracks.
Total Cost: $8.18 + $11.99 + $4.58 (one application) = $24.75

Threat Level 4 (scent + ultra + entrances + traps): Defend the Home Front
Ortho Home Defense Max traps ($9.99 for two traps at True Value Hardware);
These eerily effective snap traps traps killed two mice within 45 minutes of setting them up, and a third one within a few hours. There’s an indicator to tell you when a mouse is caught and they (supposedly) don’t make the mice suffer in the killing. The best part for broke folk: They’re re-useable.
Total Cost: $8.18 + $9.44 + $4.58 (one application) +$9.99 = $34.74

Threat Level 5 (scent + ultra + entrances + traps + repellent): Red Dawn
Fresh Cab Mouse and Rodent Repellent ($14.99 for 4 pouches at True Value Hardware)
According to the website, this is the closest thing you’ll find to rat poison that won’t kill your pet/kid/you. Place these pouches around the holes in your apartment, then relax and enjoy the no-mouse show.  Fresh Cab is made from “all natural” ingredients (including patchouli!) and repels rodents for up to three months. Whether you remain in a rodent infested apartment for longer than three months is completely up to you.
Total Cost: $5.37 + $9.44 + $4.58 (one application) +$9.99 + $14.99 = $49.73

So, there you have it. For a little under $50, you can get the ultimate level of rodent reduction package and peace of mind.  Just be thankful you don’t have to deal with bedbugs.

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  1. I had a few mice and the only thing that ended up working was the Rat Zapper. It is easy and more humane. You put it against a wall where mice run along (an exterminator told me mice are practically blind so run along walls) and they walk into the box and get electrocuted. Highly recommend this method.

  2. IPM, Start with rodent proofing. The best way to keep mice out is to prevent them from coming in. Close any hole larger than 1/4″. Mice spread disease and the most important thing is your health, do what ever it takes to get them out even if it is peanut butter on a trap.

  3. I second the Rat Zapper suggestion. Years ago I had a huge mouse problem and it totally got rid of it.

    Also, today I saw, in the natural pet food store, a little container of mouse repellent that contained “the scent” of a predator. The ingredients were sand, ferret urine, and ferret feces.

  4. California mice are really smart our uninvited guest ignored the traps our dog not as smart got caught in the snap trap next I tried the sticky traps the mouse ignored those now I have my crock pot filled with peppermint extract and cotton balls in every corner of our 800sqft condo I’m praying this works I will keep you updated we are in week three now

    • Yeah… the peppermint doesn’t work. I tried that and then saw a mouse go right up to it and take a nibble. Don’t count on it. Peanut butter is really good bait. Try to avoid the glue traps if you can. They’re traumatic to both the mouse and you. But if you have baby mice that snap traps are too big for and they won’t go for the more humane methods (catch-and-release), put some peanut butter in the middle of the glue trap. Once you catch one, put it in a sealed container with a few cotton balls soaked with acetone. This causes them to go to sleep and die, supposedly… which is better than the other options with a mouse stuck on a glue trap (let it starve to death, bash it with a hammer, and drown it are all things I’ve heard but couldn’t bring myself to do). Also, I don’t know how well this works, but supposedly you can release them with oil once you get them away from your home.

      • Peppermint CAN work but you have to make sure you have the right kind and it takes a little strategy. If mice already know where the food is, they will keep trying other ways to go around your peppermint. Then it’s just a matter of how hard that is to do. Likewise, if they’re already settled someplace in your house, they will keep coming back to that nest. You can use peppermint oil as a repellent in these cases, but typically you will just be moving them around but not getting rid of them. You really need a combination strategy to be effective and the peppermint can really help. Use the peppermint to protect the areas you can’t stand to have them in but you have to leave one entry point or area open that they frequent, which is where you put a humane baited trap, like a Havahart with peanut butter or something like that. The peppermint in this case simply drives them towards the trap and makes your trap much more effective. Also, using peanut butter that sticks to the mechanism makes it harder for them to remove the bait without setting off the trap. Then you have to let them go someplace in a field or park or someplace appropriate. Once they have nested or learned where your stores are, you have to do something along these lines to remove them. Once they’re gone, you can use peppermint to keep new mice from wanting to explore your house again, and mice outside in “explorer mode” are much easier to repel since they have many options at that point. You can get long lasting all natural peppermint mouse balls that go for six months so you don’t have to keep dabbing cotton balls.

  5. I am so tired of mice. From October to January I’ve caught 11 in my house. Yes I have a wooded area that I own behind my house but it’s gotten rediculous. I’ve resorted to glue traps because they’re disposable. I don’t care at this point if they suffer because I am suffering having them intrude on my household. They’ve really gotten on my last nerve so now on top of glue traps, as of today, I’ve purchased Peppermint Oil (not extract which is for food). With the oil, they’re supposed to stay away completely. I’ll have to see how this works. We blocked off all points of entry but this morning, I woke up to mouse droppings on my stovetop. This is disgusting and at this point I will do anything I have to to get rid of them completely. I can’t stand the thought of them racing around the house especially when I’m sleeping. Can’t have a cat because of allergies but this past summer we didn’t see any mice until October because snakes are out and take care of that problem at least for awhile.

  6. Just another option for keeping mice at bay. They do indeed avoid peppermint oil but cotton balls and pouches dry up fast. Having to clean and redo everything to stay on top of it is a pain so these peppermint oil mouse balls are al lot more convenient and cost effective since they last for six months. They’re called NO MOUSE IN THE HOUSE. Just worth checking out if you’re wanting to try the all natural approach.

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