Thursday, October 15, 2020


It's that time of year again when the weather is cooling off and the mice are moving back to where it's warmer, which means your house and other buildings will be seeing more furry traffic unless you've taken steps to keep them out. 

The main reason I worry about mice is because they can and will destroy my stored preps. Food and clothing are their main targets, but bedding and anything else they can use to make comfy nests are also in danger: books, cardboard, and anything else made of paper will be repurposed as nest lining. They also leave a urine trail where ever they go and I hate the smell of mouse pee.

At work our tractors and medium trucks just don't get used much between the time the crops are harvested and the next batch is planted, so we store them over the winter. Vehicles garaged this way can become infested, and the little buggers just love to chew on electrical wiring, which makes for a fun time when you go to start up next spring. One of their other tricks is to use empty spaces in your vehicle as a storage place for their food; it's a mess trying to clear heater ducts that are full of nuts, grain, dog food, or other dry foods they've found and moved for storage.

In short, mice are a constant problem so we've tested a few ways to keep them out of places. Rather than kill the little furry buggers and have to smell dead, rotting mouse for a week I prefer to keep them out of where I live and work. Mice have poor eyesight so they rely on their sense of smell to navigate, and that is where most methods aim. Pungent or strong odors will make them turn away and look for easier pickings.

Fresh Cab
An herbal/botanical repellent, this one works quite well in vehicle cabs and small spaces. Basically a mesh bag full of sawdust that has been infused with the oils from a Balsam tree, they are good for a month or two in the cab of a tractor or truck. Balsam is a pleasant fragrance, not overpowering or irritating. I've tried placing one in a sealed tote full of winter clothes, and after four months it was still pungent enough to be effective. A bit expensive, one of our local stores carries them in a four-pack box for about $15; Amazon has them for about $25.

Dryer Sheets
Cheap and easy to find, dryer sheets placed between layers of clothes in a storage tote will make the stored clothes smell better while keeping the critters away. Think of them as the modern version of the cachet of flowers used in the past to keep clothes smelling fresh. We have used dryer sheets in a skid loader for several years, and the slow release of fragrance from the sheets means they will last for a month or two.

Dryer sheets are not a good choice for use around stored food unless you want your crackers to taste like "Spring Blossoms" or whatever fragrance they are, as the odor will penetrate cardboard and plastic and get into your food. Metal cans are already mouse-proof, but will keep out the fragrances.

Dried pepper, cinnamon, and other strong-smelling seasonings will work, but they can get expensive. Best used around stored food, their lifespan will vary by the age and strength of the spices you're using. I've seen truckers sprinkle a pound of cinnamon in the box of a van trailer to absorb odors and repel mice, and it works for both.

A subset of seasonings is the mint family of herbs. Peppermint and spearmint oils are used in a couple of commercial repellents and are commonly seen in DIY videos. Placing a few drops of these oils on a cotton ball and placing the cotton ball where needed does deter mice, but the oils evaporate quickly and need to be replaced every few weeks. Avoid getting concentrated mint oil on your skin; it will cause burns and irritation.

You can still find mothballs in some stores, but they aren't as common as they once were. The original napthalene formula is outlawed in the EU because they have declared it a cancer risk, and the newer para-dichlorobenzene formula is an EPA-registered pesticide with evidence of causing cancer as well. The pungent petroleum-based chemical odor kills moths and repels rodents, but both types are flammable and have a distinct odor that some people find offensive. In my opinion, the best use for mothballs is in closets or other open spaces with plenty of clothes to protect.

I've started using a couple of these methods at home in my storage areas, and it has made a difference. Having a few cats around will help, but mine are too well-fed to be interested in hunting mice. 

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