On the ability of strong odors to repel deer mice

Many of you have been asking about the mice. I wanted to hold off on an update until I had some solid information.

I would muchly prefer to repel the mice,rather than to evict them by lethal means. For one thing (as you know if you have ever had to set out mouse traps),it’s never just one mouse. It is millions of mice,an endless supply,an ocean of mice who creep,one by one,into your house and into your traps. Once you get to the trapping stage,you’ll be setting out traps (and disposing of “used”traps) until the end of time.

However,I have found a lot of anecdotal evidence to the effect that strong smells will repel mice. People have cited peppermint oil,powdered fox urine,cheap cologne,litter box leavings (a.k.a. “almond roca”),mothballs,and dryer sheets as being effective mouse deterrents. The odor has to be quite powerful in order to work,which is why this isn’t a suitable measure for the home.

But for a car –a contained area –particularly a car that’s driven once a week (if that) –strong odors should be a good solution. When I go to drive the car,I can just open the doors and let it air out for a few minutes. Then I can drive away,secure in the knowledge that a mouse will not run up the back of the driver’s seat and over the headrest and drop down the back of my coat. And that I will arrive at my destination minty fresh,and free of hantavirus.

I decided to start with dryer sheets,since I happened to have them on hand.

First I drove to the DIY carwash and vacuumed all the mouse turds out of my trunk,glove box,and under the front seats. Then I nuked the interior with ghastly amounts of Lysol. Does Lysol kill hantavirus? I don’t know,but I do know that it is 99.99% effective on cooties. Says so right there on the can. “Kills cooties dead.”

Next,I installed Bounce Outdoor Fresh dryer sheets in the glove box,under the seats,in the crack of the back seat,and the trunk. Truly,my car was Outdoor Fresh. To test the repellent efficacy of Bounces,I left three little granola flakes on the back seat. This morning I scurried out to the car to see the results.

empty back seat

@#$&! The back seat was empty. Bounce Outdoor Fresh = FAIL.

I decided it was time to get all science fair on this problem’s ass. I went back to the cabin and rummaged around until I found the strongest-smelling substance currently on hand:Pine Sol. I poured this into a little dish,and left it behind the driver’s seat.

pine sol

I was out of Nature Valley Granola Cereal (Oats ‘N Honey),but I had just been about to throw out half a box of stale Grape Nuts. (Best before:June,2006.)

“Ha!”I thought. “I’d have felt like a fool if I’d thrown THIS away! I can use it to test my car for mice!”

Then I stood for a minute and looked out the window,and wondered how my life had come to this. I still don’t have an answer to that question,actually. I pushed it aside,and went out to put a tablespoon of stale Grape Nuts on the back seat of my car.

grape nuts

I eagerly await tomorrow morning. Will the Grape Nuts still be there,or not? Stay tuned,dear readers!

12 comments to On the ability of strong odors to repel deer mice

  • I am truly sorry about the mouse infestation,but I must say,I am enjoying your escapades tremendously!

  • I am on the edge of my seat with in anticipation!

  • I am on the edge of my seat IN anticipation!

  • I empathize. We’ve fought mice for years in the basement of our place on Bainbridge. We sealed up everything we could find to seal when we remodeled several years ago,but it only slowed them down. Last year they got into the heater ducts. We have an appointment with an exterminator on Monday. Good luck with yours.

  • Fiona

    I used to work with a car enthusiast –he would put charcoal briquettes/bbq squares under the front seats,only used 3-4 total. Apparently it repels mice. I had to store a deep freezer out on a porch 2 years ago and put about 5 briquettes inside to keep the critters out. Don’t know if it worked or not,but I do know I never found mouse poo in it.

    Could be an old wives tale,could be true –if nothing else,give it a try!

  • Personally,I have always sworn by mothballs as varmint repellents. But I eagerly await the results of your Pine Sol experiment. And I commend you for going the repellent route,i.e.,the high road,rather than the trap-em-and-kill-em route. Would that the government might take that route re:terrorists.

  • Keep us posted. I had a house-problem with mice this fall:old house,lots of openings I can’t get to to plug,cold weather. I finally had to set traps.

    This winter,things are looking up:several feral cats have moved into the neighborhood (not that I’m in favor of cats being feral,but it solves my problem) and the mice have either scrammed or got eaten.

    I’ve heard of mothballs,too,but I was loath to risk poisoning the air in my house with them. I’ve also heard that peppermint repels mice,which seems too good to be true,though I might try it if they come back.

  • Jennifer

    From the CDC:

    “…thoroughly wet contaminated areas with detergent or liquid to deactivate the virus. Most general purpose disinfectants and household detergents are effective. However,a hypochlorite solution prepared by mixing 1 and 1/2 cups of household bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used in place of commercial disinfectant. (…) Once everything is wet,take up contaminated materials with a damp towel,then mop or sponge the area with disinfectant.”

    It sounds like Lysol would work,but 10% bleach is cheaper! Just,er,test for colorfastness,I suppose. On the plus side,bleach is smelly too.

  • A really strong smelling substance is vinegar. I am guessing you would have some of that on hand. It might be more offensive to a mouse than a pine scent. Even though PineSol does not have a natural smell.

    Good Luck to you!

  • Katharine

    Well coming from an area that does in fact have active hantavirus and bubonic plague We are always warned not to mess with dry mouse poop. I don’t remember anything drying out in the Pacific Northwest at the best of times let alone this time of year. So I think you are safe on that count,but the lysol can’t hurt.
    We too have been battling a mouse problem. They got into our guest room,the only room with no cats. So far we have caught one (live trap) and the cats have caught three (not a live trap). We have had to resort to bait (not my first choice) under the house but I believe we have discovered where they were getting in,so hopefully that will resolve the issue. Too bad you can’t leave a cat in the car for a little while ;)

  • Your mouse problem makes for highly entertaining reading,in a “gee,I’m glad it’s you and not me”way…

  • Life’s imponderable questions,eh?