Prevent and Get Rid of Mice, Grain Moths, Grain Beetles, and More:
As I’ve learned the hard way, there’s nothing worse first thing in the AM than grabbing that box of breakfast cereal, or jar of oatmeal, to realize that its contents are moving. Even though I’ve written posts about getting rid of everything from ants and cockroaches, to termites and carpenter bees, I’ve actually had more firsthand experience with other types of household pests. Hence this post, on how to pest-proof your home.
What other kinds of critters am I taking about? Well, for example,
- the mice that, when I was growing up, our cats would sometimes chase through the house,
- the moths that love to chomp holes through spare blankets and your favorite winter sweater,
- the little white grain moths you might sometimes notice fluttering around your kitchen,
- and the little grain beetles or weevils that you might find dancing around in that cereal you were about to pour. (Or even worse, just poured two seconds ago!)
None of these is fun to deal with, And finding them often means several hours of clean-up, and a lot of stuff (whether half your pantry, or a lot of out-of-season favorites) going into the trash.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely have several hours to spare.
Let alone to spare on something as un-fun as the aftermath of finding pests in your home.
The good news is, you have options to deal with the aftermath of finding pests in your home. And even better, there are practical steps you can take to help avoid this problem in the first place!
Ready to get started?
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
How to Pest-Proof Your Home:
Think the old clichés here – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or the best defense is a good offense.
As I’ve learned the hard way, both in my own adulting life and (before that) observing my parents while growing up, there’s a lot to be said for preventing problems before they even start.
This isn’t a surefire guarantee you’ll prevent ALL pests from entering your home. But if you want to know how to pest-proof your home effectively, this is where to start.
Clean homes are less likely to attract critters. But the “clean” you need to do to pest-proof your home is not just the surface cleaning you might be thinking of:
- Yes, it’s important to keep countertops wiped clean, dispose of trash (especially food scraps) promptly, and clean up any spills or crumbs right away.
- But you also need to stay on top of the little things. When the girls were younger, it was all the food bits that ended up on their floor at each meal. Now that they’re older, it’s the little half-eaten containers of snacks they’ve squirreled away all over the house. (Despite my regular reminders NOT to do this, I come across more every time I do anything deeper than a surface-tidy.)
- Stay on top of keeping lesser-used and out-of-season things clean. Putting things away that aren’t fully clean is the worst way to protect those winter coats, sleeping bags, fave sweaters, and heirloom throws that Grandma knitted. Even if you only wore that sweater for an hour, the oils and residues from your body will linger on the garment, attracting critters. As you swap things out each spring and fall, machine wash on gentle and line-dry whatever you can; dry-clean the rest.
- And did you know that leaving everyday clutter lying around is as good as laying out the welcome mat for many critters? Mice, especially, LOVE to build nests in piles of old paper and drawers where you store your out-of-season garments. Do a thorough declutter already, and recycle/donate/toss what you don’t need before your neighborhood pests decide to take up residence.
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2. Contain and separate
Once everything is clean (and only then), store it properly. This usually involves containing and/or separating:
- From mice to weevils, household pests often follow where their noses lead them. Your job is to thwart their efforts. So after you’ve washed or dry-cleaned all those sweaters and wool jackets, store them in large plastic tubs or some other airtight container.
- As soon as you get grains and other susceptible foods home from the store, re-contain them. Transfer flour, sugar, chocolate chips, etc. to airtight canisters. Pour your cereal into plastic cereal dispensers or pretty airtight jars. (I love hunting for the latter at thrift stores.) Store things like cracker sleeves, oatmeal packets, and pasta mixes in zip-top bags or airtight tins; vintage decorative tins are another great thrifting find.
- If you’re staying up late indoors with the lights on, avoid doing so next to an open window. Otherwise, the light will attract all sorts of creepy-crawlies from the great out-of-doors onto the ceiling over your head.
- And finally, if you use a wood-burning fireplace or furnace, you might need to rethink where you store your woodpile. For years, my father burned wood to heat our house, and stored it in our basement. This gave mice lots of nifty places to nest. Once we stopped using the wood-burning furnace (and piling up the wood inside and along the foundation of our house), the mice problem largely went away.
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Cracks in walls or gaps under doors can also let in pests. Anything wide enough to insert a pencil could be enough to let in a baby mouse or a cockroach.
So once you’ve followed steps 1 and 2, there are lots of ways you can build in a few extra layers of protection.
- Block potential entry points. Seal up those cracks around your house foundation, doors, and the edges of your windows. Don’t want mosquitoes and flies in your house? Then don’t leave your doors wide open. (As I tell the girls when they seem stuck between coming and going, “Either get in or get out!”)
- Double-check all your screens, too, for small rips and holes. Repair or replace damaged screens promptly.
- A lot of critters will get in through an open window, usually by following a light source. By keeping your windows closed or using bug screens, you can usually keep these critters out. Most US homes already have screens in all the windows, but if yours doesn’t, start there.
- If you have a problem with mice, consider getting a house cat or two. Seriously. They should help keep your mice population under control.
- Allergic to cats? Then try an ultrasonic sound machine instead. My mama uses several to deter critters from her summer vegetable garden, and she is quite pleased with the results.
- There are also plenty of things you can store with your clothing, from cedar blocks and lavender sachets to mothballs. According to some sources, you can even use cinnamon sticks and/or cloves. Keep in mind that these only work as long as they’re smelly, so solid cedar blocks you can sand periodically to refresh the odor is what you need (not cedar chips). And since the chemicals in most mothballs can be dangerous, it’s better to opt for camphor blocks or pellets.
And speaking of control – sometimes, even when you follow all these steps to the letter, you may still end up with indoor pests that you’d rather not have. Then it’s time to move on to plan B, and manage the infestation before it spreads.
The first things you need to do to control household pests is repeat the steps under “prevent” as needed:
1. Clean up the mess
Literally and figuratively.
- You have to start by dealing with the immediate aftermath, whether it’s sweeping up mouse droppings and the shredded newspaper they made for their nests, or tossing every single bit of contaminated food.
- Once you’ve done that, it’s time to thoroughly clean any relevant surfaces. Get that dry-cleaning done after all. Wipe down all cupboards and cabinets that are involved.
- And all those boxes of magazines you’ve been meaning to recycle for the past several years? They need to go, NOW. Whether you trash or recycle them, you cannot put this off any longer.
- Likewise, those boxes of clothes you no longer wear that you’ve been meaning to donate? Once you’ve cleaned up the infestation, you need to get rid of them already.
2. Check your blocking efforts; redo as needed
- Again, are there holes or cracks that you missed before? And/or did the critters eat through your previous efforts? If so, seal them up now, and double-check those screen patches.
- If you already sealed these things before, figure out why the sealing didn’t work. Maybe there’s a hidden screen rip after all, or your screens should be a finer-gauge mesh. Or perhaps the mice found your previous wall-patch job delicious.
- If the mice ate right through your previous patches, or you found new ones in need of repair, try stuffing the holes with steel wool and then squeezing in silicone caulk. This combination will be a lot harder and less tasty for mice to chew through.
3. Lay traps
There are lots of ways to trap bugs and rodents. And while trapping the offenders will be part of what the pros do as well (see next step), there are plenty of traps you can set out yourself:
- Many homemade insect traps use certain foods or lights to lure in critters before trapping them. For example, for things like wasps or slugs, you could try filling a bottle with honey or beer. Or making a liquid mixture of sugar, borax powder, and water to eliminate ants.
- There are plenty of devices that can electrocute bugs. Besides the traditional large “bug-zapper” pole lamps, there are now also smaller plug-in units, and even special lightbulbs. Getting one of these could make evenings on your screened-in porch more pleasant.
- For pantry pests, the only thing I’ve had luck with in keeping them away (once I’ve found them and tried to eradicate them) is ✅all-natural pheromone-based traps. Fortunately, these are easier to find than they used to be. They are basically small open-ended cardboard boxes with sticky insides, coated with scents that will attract the grain moths and/or beetles in. Once the offending critters get at the pheromone source, the surface adhesives trap them.
- When it comes to mousetraps, there are a number of different types of traps that you can use. Some of these simply trap rodents rather than killing them, if you’d prefer a no-kill way to solve the problem.
4. Know when to call the pros
Finally, always remember that your best option may be to call a pest control service. Sure, most if not all of the options I’ve described above are things you can DIY – but at what cost?
- Besides the actual money you’ll spend on the products themselves, there’s the time you’ll need to invest, as well as the trial-and-error. And the source of the problem may be in the last place you thought to look.
- For example, while several workmen were in our attic the other day doing some electrical repairs, they discovered several (no longer active, thank goodness!) large wasps’ nests in the far end. Since our attic is designed as a layer of insulation and is not built for storage, we never go up there – I can only imagine how long it would have taken us to think to check this, if we DID have wasps in our home somehow!
Instead of being left to your own trial-and-error, the pros will know exactly how to drive away the pests based on your unique circumstances. And speaking of which, one time you should always call the pros is when dealing with dangerous pest infestations. Things like snakes, poisonous spiders, and scorpions are better handled by those with training and expertise in this work!
Have you ever had to pest-proof your home, whether before or after an incident? How did it go? Any secret hacks I missed? Let us know in the comments!
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