Sometimes it’s pretty damn hard to get rid of mice. I know this from experience.
In recent months, I’ve consulted more than a dozen people who have reached out to me to help them make their house a rodent-free area for good.
These people used the fanciest traps you can imagine, still, mice kept coming back to their home (or yard) over and over again.
Fortunately, such situations can be solved if you follow a proven strategy.
First and foremost, you need to know the reasons why mice keep coming back to your home. Next, you must eliminate all the causes.
The reason why mice keep coming back to the same place is that they consider it to be the best one to suit their needs in that region. More precisely, both food and shelter are available there (and the place is also suitable for reproduction). Therefore, if you deliberately make your property a really unpleasant place for mice, they’ll leave.
Now let’s see the possible reasons why mice keep returning to your home.
1. Food Is Easily Accessible For Mice In And Around Your Home
Mice will eat almost anything (provided it’s edible) they can find. And they eat a lot… and by a lot, I mean more than a dozen times a day.
So they really need to have some food on hand all the time.
When it comes to rodents (be they mice or rats), the single biggest mistake you can make is to provide them with food. They’ll never voluntarily leave the place where they find food.
Mice will always come back to your home if you provide them with readily available sources of food.
Now you might think that there is no food available for mice in your house.
Are you sure about that?
Mice can easily get through most types of packaging, so if you, for example, keep some cereals in a cardboard container in the pantry, that’s an easy target for a mouse.
Therefore when I say you must make sure you don’t feed mice, I mean you need to check all those containers, bags, boxes, sacks, etc., in which you keep food whether they’re resistant to mice.
Some packaging that is rodent-proof:
- aluminum and other metals
- thick and hard plastic
All with a tight-fitting lid.
Some packaging that is NOT mice-proof:
- cardboard or any other kind of paper
- soft plastic
- fabric, such as textile
You also want to make sure the content of your trash can(s) is not accessible for mice.
Trash is a jackpot for any rodent, so use trash cans that are made of metal or hard plastic and come with lids that seal tight. Also, do not store any trash bags outside the can.
Another important thing is to never leave unwrapped food unattended for a long time.
Make sure there’s nothing in your basement (or cellar) and attic that could be a food source for mice.
Your kitchen, dining room, and pantry should be free of crumbs and leftovers. Make sure you check hardly-to-reach places as well, such as the space under the stove or behind the cabinet.
Finally, besides your home, you must eliminate easily accessible food sources from your yard, garage, and storage shed too.
2. Your Home Is Full of Hiding Spots
Mice love dark and cluttered spaces. This is perfectly reasonable from their point of view since they must hide from predators in order to survive.
The number (and quality) of possible hiding spots is proportional to the probability of a recurring mice infestation.
Obviously, you won’t be able to remove all hiding spots in your home, but you can substantially reduce their number by following some simple rules, such as:
- declutter your home (including the attic, garage, and basement)
- keep your home clean and tidy
- avoid piles of clothes, especially outside your closet (or sealed container)
- reduce the amount of cardboard in your home to a minimum (particularly avoid multiple cardboard boxes next to and on top of each other)
In order to stop mice from returning, I suggest you take decluttering seriously.
What else can you do?
Once you’re done with the above-mentioned general suggestions, you have to focus on specific areas of your home.
To find all the hidden spaces where mice are actually present, you need to go one step further and actively look for the signs that indicate mice activity.
What are these signs?
Basically, there are three main types of traces that a mouse leaves behind:
- gnaw marks
- urine smell
These are the most important signs you should be looking for. Mice often move along and close to the wall, so you want to focus on that location first.
Make sure you don’t skip spaces behind furniture, cabinets, and stove. You can make the process even smoother by sprinkling some flour on the floor. This way all you have to do is search for pawn marks to localize the territory regularly used by mice.
Why is identifying the hiding spots so crucial?
Simply because it allows targeted attacks against mice which is much more likely to lead to successful extermination and permanent disappearance of rodents in your home. It’s an essential step if you really want to prevent mice from coming back.
I’ve collected some really useful tips that will definitely help you find all the hiding spots in this article.
3. The Environment In Your Home or Yard Is Ideal for Nest Building
If a mouse considers a corner of your house suitable for nest building, you could soon find yourself living with a large mouse population.
Being a great place for breeding is a very common reason why mice keep going back to certain homes.
What makes your home an ideal place for nest building?
When great hiding spots (with optimal temperature), food, and nesting material are all available, chances are good that a female mouse finds the place ideal to build a nest.
We’ve already discussed the importance of eliminating food and hiding spots, now you can add nesting materials to the list.
You want to have the smallest possible amount of material that’s suitable for nest building available in your house.
That includes cardboard, paper, and clothes. Sometimes mice get the materials (such as leaves, straw, or hay) from the outside, and unfortunately, often there’s not much you can do about it (unless the source of those is your own yard).
When it comes to nest building, mice tend to avoid high-traffic areas, so it’s unlikely that you’ll find a nest in your kitchen or living room.
Common places that you need to check for a mouse nest:
- storage shed
- wall voids
- false ceiling
A female mouse can have up to 12-15 litters each year. On average, there are 3-12 babies in a litter.
Thus, a single house mouse can give birth to up to 180 pups a year as it can breed all year round indoors.
That’s a huge number and shows exactly why nests should be removed as soon as possible to stop mice from coming back. Without this measure, you’ll have to face a large infestation in no time.
4. You Use an Inefficient Way of Pest Control
As the chances of catching a mouse by hand are very small, you need reliable traps to do the job for you (to be honest, I’ve hardly ever met a person who wanted to catch a mouse by hand).
If mice keep appearing in the same area, it often has to do with using the wrong traps.
In my experience, there are three main factors regarding traps that allow mice to return and the presence of any of these can lead to failure:
- You stopped using traps or never used them at all.
- You either set up or place the trap the wrong way.
- You use the wrong type of trap.
Failing to use the right trap the right way can often be the reason why mice keep coming back.
Sometimes homeowners might believe that mice have gone and they stop using traps. However, if the environment is still favorable (there’s food and shelter), mice will soon return in the absence of traps.
When it comes to mouse traps, the most important things are location and configuration.
Before setting up any trap, you have to identify high-traffic areas where mice regularly show up.
Look for signs of activity, such as mouse droppings, urine smell or traces, and gnaw marks. To make the process easier, you can also use flour (or baby powder) as described above.
Mice are timid animals, therefore they spend most of their time where they are out of sight. Mice always try to avoid open areas and direct contact with a human.
As a consequence, you need to place the mouse traps in those hidden areas. Here are a few examples:
- along the walls
- behind furniture
- in cabinets
When I’m using a snap trap, I always make sure the trigger end is close to the wall. In my experience, this is the most effective way of using this type of trap.
A common mistake is using the wrong bait. Peanut butter works best for me but you can also use cheese or wet pet food. Make sure you use only a small amount of bait (pea size).
It’s a good practice to use gloves when setting up the trap so that mice won’t be repelled by human odor.
I suggest you use at least four traps and much more (8 or more) if you’re dealing with a larger infestation (or have a large property).
I’ve had the most success with snap traps and a DIY humane mouse trap that you can find here (bowl with peanut oil). Glue traps don’t really work for me anymore, however, if that’s what you prefer, you can give them a try.
To prevent mice from reappearing, leave the traps in place for at least a month after the last mouse was caught.
If you want to say goodbye to mice for good, you mustn’t remove the traps earlier.
In this article, you will find a detailed description of how to use the different types of mouse traps correctly.
5. You Let Mice Easily Find Their Way Into Your Home
In order to stop mice from coming back to your home, you want to make sure they can’t get in from the outside (or at least not easily).
How do mice get inside?
In most cases, a mouse can easily get through a 2/3 inch hole, so you have to check your home for cracks and gaps.
A thorough inspection should include windows, doors, floors, walls, ceiling, pipes, AC units, and foundation.
It’s not unusual that mice first get into the attic where they build their nests and from there, they visit the rest of the house.
Once you find a hole, you need to seal it. I suggest you use steel wool to fill the gaps and use caulk to keep it in place.
Sealing holes is a tedious yet effective way of mouse proofing your home and if you’re struggling with mice popping up over and over again, I highly recommend that you do not skip this step.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will A Clean House Keep Mice Away and Prevent Them From Returning?
While keeping your home clean and tidy will definitely contribute to keeping mice away, in itself, it won’t prevent a rodent infestation. In most cases, you have to apply all the above-mentioned methods in order to succeed.
Will Mice Leave If They Find No Food?
It depends. If they find food nearby and your home provides great hiding spots and an undisturbed place for nest building, chances are good that they’ll move in. If there is no food available within reach, they’ll move on.
What Do Mice Hate Most?
They loathe high-traffic areas without any hiding spots and with people and predatory pets. They dislike strong odors, such as ammonia or peppermint.