Winter is finally here, and with it comes the potential for unwelcome visitors — and no, we’re not talking about your in-laws. As the weather gets chilly, mice are more likely to try to sneak inside and wreak havoc on your kitchen.
According to Scot Hodges, vice president of professional development and technical services for Arrow Exterminators, the cold winter months are prime time for annoying rodents. Mice can live outside, but they prefer living in structures, often alongside humans. In colder months, they’re even more likely to come indoors, because they’re looking for shelter from the inclement weather. “Agile climbers and jumpers, mice can enter your home through very tiny cracks and holes barely visible to the human eye,” Hodges says.
Luckily, you can take some steps to prevent mice from hanging out in your kitchen this time of year. Ahead, six ways to avoid pests in your kitchen, according to experts.
1. Don’t leave any food out.
According to Zachary Smith, president of Smith’s Pest Management, mice like kitchens with easy access to sustenance. To make your kitchen less appealing to pests, don’t leave a trace of food out for them. Keep your dry pantry goods in well-sealed containers, clean up crumbs promptly, and don’t leave pet food (or water!) out overnight.
2. Choose a trash can with a secure lid.
Food scraps in the trash may not be appetizing to you — but they’re super appealing to pests, especially mice. Smith recommends choosing a trash can that stays closed with a secure lid, like this one. If you can, try to bring your trash out every night, too. (Bonus: Your kitchen will smell so much better.)
3. Sweep nightly — with the right tools.
Sweeping might make your kitchen floors appear clean, but mice are experts at tracking down small food particles. Smith suggests using a Swiffer or mop to clean the kitchen floor at the end of the night to be sure you remove any sticky or unseen residue that might attract pests.
4. Try mouse traps.
Jordan Foster, pest management expert at Fantastic Pest Control, says snap traps are an effective method for catching one mouse or a small group of them. “Using them is easy and affordable, and you can bait them with various foods like cheese and peanut butter,” he says. Place the traps strategically around your home — for example, behind furniture or in dark corners where mice like to hide — and away from pets and children.
5. Use natural repellents.
Whether you’d rather not use traps or you want another tool to keep mice away, there are plenty of natural repellents. Foster recommends soaking a cotton ball in cayenne pepper, clove, and/or peppermint oil, then placing it in areas you’ve seen mice (such as along baseboards). The smell is repulsive to mice, so they may be less likely to enter. Don’t have those on hand? Hodges says you can also try leaving kitty litter near baseboard corners or doors to keep mice at bay.
6. Seal from the outside.
No matter what you do in your kitchen, if you don’t prevent entry from the outside, sneaky vermin will find their way in. As the weather gets colder, go outside your home and seal any entry points with caulk, weather stripping, steel wool, or wire screen. Not sure where mice are entering, or how to ensure they stay out? Then it may be time to hire a professional exterminator.
This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: 6 Ways to Keep Mice Out of Your Kitchen, According to Pest Experts