8 Best Ways to Mouse-Proof Your Pantry



Mice in the pantry? I get it, you want to get RID of those pests. Mouse-proofing the pantry is an all-house effort. I’ve got you covered for all aspects to keep mice out of your pantry.

If you’ve ever seen the 1997 movie “Mousehunt” – we’re all on the same page here. We are going to do anything it takes to get rid of mice! By the way, if you find yourself dealing with a live mouse and need ideas how to kill it, check out The Dirty Business of Killing Mice.

1. Secure outside of house to prevent rodent entryThis may not be obvious to everyone, so I am including it here. Every year, especially before the cold season comes, march around the exterior of your house looking for any entry points. Even cracks and crevices are a ticket in for mice.

Don’t forget to examine closely around doors and windows. Thawing and freezing can move some elements of the home, or cause rotting – points where mice can get in. Also look under stairs, porches, and basement windows that can be hidden points we don’t often check.

If you rent or own your own home, caulk, repair, or stuff holes with steel wool that mice cannot chew threw. Keep landscaping away from the foundation, mice love cover – predators can get them out in the open so they avoid it. This may require some removal of shrubbery or trimming bushes.

You won’t be able to examine everywhere; mice climb and their entry point could be on the second story. People in apartments won’t have control over this, but it brings us to point #2.

Absolutely put mouse poison around the house parameter before mice can even attempt to get in. My neighbor has an ingenious system of homemade PVC tubes fashioned in a “T” form. Each side of the top of the T is an entry point where mice can get access to the poison. The leg of the T is for securing to the ground with a long u-shaped wire. This prevents your pet or the neighbor’s pet from getting into it.

There are other online outdoor trap solutions, especially for the bigger version: rats. If you live on an acreage or farm and feed outside animals, you are in the mouse hot zone. Keep food cleaned up and covered if possible. 

2. Examine the inside of the house or apartment for entry pointsIt will be difficult to find all entry points, but you can at least try.

Things to look for: 

  • holes around ductwork, electrical outlets, and pipe fittings coming into building
  • basement foundation openings
  • points where a garage attaches to a house
  • attic door that mice can get in from the roof
  • holes in drywall that mice have chewed through
  • examine fireplaces that have chimney access from the roof
  • check dryer vents and floor vents and air vents

Know your weak points. Kitchen base cabinets are horrible! Traditional counters are installed with gaps where the counter meets the top of the base cabinet – perfect for mice.

3. Clean up food to discourage mice

This may seem obvious, but this could be new for first-time mice encounters.

I’m not sure if mice eat non-food materials like glue. I’m thinking that some bugs eats the glue in book binding. I feel safe in saying that if other food is readily available, they will not eat non-food materials, but they may in an emergency.

Don’t mistake eating nonfood items for gnawing on wood and other materials to keep their incisors filed down (they never stop growing). Chewing up clothing and fabric is  an attempt to make bedding for a nest.

4. Protect your food stash

Ever hear of a pie safe? It’s a piece of furniture with punched tin that is pest proof. Think of this strategy in everything you do in your kitchen and food supply to prevent rodent entry.

If mouse issues are really bad, consider installing a seal for door frame at the bottom of the pantry door, and incorporating a mesh opening near the top of the door for air flow. Some people use a transom window – I’ve seen mice scale walls inside farm buildings. Don’t trust those little buggers, they will get in an open window!

5. Clean up inside clutter to discourage mice

There are two types of mice: house mice and what I call “country” mice. The country mice are the ones with the overly-large eyes. Country mice are constantly looking for fluffy things to build nests from. 

What this means to you is to clean up and put away papers. If there is a stuffed animal with a torn seam, those darn mice will find it! Mice are attracted to stuffing from toy stuffed animals. I was horrified to find that a bed pillow for sitting up in bed (that was stored on the floor) was ransacked for the stuffing by mouse.

6. Use the right trap for the right mouse type and the right baitCOUNTRY MICEThose same country mice that love fluffy stuff for nests will also be attracted to “fluff” left on a traditional snap trap. This could be a bit of a cotton ball, quilt or toy stuffing.

Cheese is considered the iconic bait for mouse traps. According to Miche Pest Control, mice don’t really like dairy. – don’t forget things like butter or peanut butter. They are irresistible to mice.

HOUSE MICE

If you find that you have a mouse that seems to be avoiding capture, it’s time to up your game: sticky traps. It’s usually the “dirty mice” (what my husband refers to the house mice as) that are the super evasive ones.

I understand that some people find sticky traps inhumane. The idea of a sticky trap is that the stuck mouse is so frantic of trying to get off of the trap that it has a heart attack. It may also stick it’s mouth to the trap, effectively suffocating it. 

At times, the mouse just doesn’t die, and can eat it’s own foot off trying to escape. I only resort to sticky traps in only the most dire situations. House mice (not country or field mice) can be very hard to trap. I don’t know if they are super mice, or what, but they can be immune to traditional mouse traps.

Traditional mouse traps kill instantly – they are humane, despite what you think. If I detect a mouse problem, and I haven’t successfully caught the mouse within a day or two, or the trap has been tripped, the sticky traps come out.

I will say that I don’t much prefer sticky traps because they also attract insects. I’ve put them in my garage and they have become so embedded with insects, dust, and dirt, that they are rendered useless.

ELECTRONIC DEVICES

I have never tried electronic mouse deterrents. Apparently, there are sounds emitted that don’t appeal to mice – try at your own risk.

NATURAL RODENT DETERRENTS

Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper and cloves are all natural mouse deterrents. Give them a try! I was surprised to find this package of natural rodent repellent in my pest control stash. One of my family must have picked it up free at a farm meeting. It has a strong smell of cloves, on the package it reads “balsam fir oil.”

I just found out that natural pest deterrents should never be stored near poison (or chemicals, gas, and other strong-smelling things). The poison will absorb the smell of these products. What happens? The poison then turns into a deterrent and mice will avoid the poison.

I relate the same thing happening to flour, which also has a tendency to absorb smells, such as scented laundry detergent. Anything you bake with the flour will taste like the detergent.

See below where I address mouse deterrent strategy in farm equipment, and why it is so important. This company labels the product “Fresh Cab” because it is targeted to vehicles – mice are a real problem in any vehicle transporting grains.

Natural mouse deterrent

Natural mouse deterrent.

UNUSUAL MOUSE DETERRENTS/HACKS

Mice don’t like perfumed dryer sheets. You may never have considered that farm equipment that harvests grains also attracts mice. Here on my family farm, I stuff dryer sheets in the combine cab over the winter. Mice will climb all over the equipment, finding any loose grains or corn.

Another novel mouse hack is using Comet or Ajax cleaner. I’ve heard of folks sprinkling a circle around the outside of their camper when they put it away for the season. Of course, be aware of accidental pet access.

7. Set your traps in the right location

Mice like cover, but they also prefer guidance. This means that they run along walls and paths.

  • place traps next to walls with “danger end: facing the wall, and along parameters of rooms
  • place under things, behind couches, or near boxes where are attracted to

It’s also important to “fake out” the mice. Victor Pest says that regardless of the type of trap you are using, let it set out a few days un-baited and un-set. The mice will run around it, sniff it, and then accept it in their ecosystem. After a few days, add the bait chunk, poison pellets, or dab of food of choice.

Besides setting traps in the right location, don’t set the traps with your bare hands! According to Victor Pest, your hands can add their own scent to the material on the trap, which mice can detect and then avoid. Simply slip on a pair of rubber gloves for neutral scent handling.

Getting ready for the “big night”

I chuckled with the advice from Victor Pest to “plan on a big first night.” It was really cool advice. First, space traps really close together, as much as 1″ apart for a really bad mouse problem and use different kinds of bait. ​These people have my complete and utter respect.

8. Use the right bait to lure the mice

Soft cheese is a common food to set on a trap, but not always the best choice. According to Victor Pest, “rodents are primarily nut and seed eaters” and cheese really isn’t their thing. Nut butters will be a favorite.

I’ve always used a toothpick to smear peanut butter on ​my mouse trap. Lately, I’ve heard candy bars, such as Snickers, are better because mice prefer cocoa products.

A professional exterminator gave this advice on a forum:

If bait on a snap trap is gone and the trap is still set, insects such as ants or roaches ate it. If you caught a mouse and the bait is gone, there is another mouse.”

​Finally, use a combination of poison bait and lure food and physical snap traps to catch mice. ​​​

In conclusion

Keeping mice out of your house, kitchen, and pantry is an endless battle. Stay on top of it with vigilance! Mouse-proofing should be a regular part of house maintenance.

​As a reminder, if you find yourself dealing with a live mouse and need ideas how to kill it, check out The Dirty Business of Killing Mice.

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is an Iowa farmwife with a background as a former kitchen designer. Supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life. Read more about this farmwife on her about page.

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