Eek! You've got mice! If you've just evicted rodents from your home, cleaning up is the next order of business. A mouse houseguest and his buddies leave more than bad memories behind. Cute, furry mice may look fragile and harmless, but they can be carriers of potentially life-threatening illnesses like hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, plague, rat-bite fever and salmonellosis. Germs can linger in rat urine and feces after the rats themselves have been dispatched, too, so careful cleanup is important.
Grab a pair rubber gloves and disinfectant and meet us on the next page for some important suggestions about safe cleanup procedures. We know you want to get your home sparkling again fast, but it's important to use some precautions while you're doing it.
Don't try to clean mouse-tainted areas with your bare hands. Even though a surface may look relatively clean, it probably isn't. Mice urinate when they become frightened. They may also walk through urine-saturated areas occasionally, tracking germs on the bottoms of their tiny, dirty little feet. Before you tackle cleanup, invest in a pair of latex, vinyl or rubber gloves, and wear gloves throughout the cleaning process. To avoid contaminating other surfaces, spray gloves with disinfectant periodically, especially before handling clean surfaces like doorknobs and cabinet pulls.
Mouse urine and droppings dry out relatively quickly, but just removing moisture doesn't kill germs. When you come along with your broom and dust mop (or vacuum cleaner), you scoop up most of the mess, but microscopic bits are released into the air where they can be inhaled and spread disease. Very bad idea. Instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends saturating rat droppings, rat nests and any areas where rats have lingered with a disinfectant mixture that kills germs on contact.
Although you can use an over-the-counter disinfectant to do the job (make sure it says disinfectant on the label), the CDC also recommends using a mixture of one-and-a-half cups of bleach to a gallon of water (a 1 to 9 ratio). Spray affected areas well, and leave the bleach or disinfectant in place for 5 to 10 minutes.
Once the areas you want to clean are wet, scoop up debris and dump it in a plastic bag for disposal outdoors. Be systematic and thorough. Mice are curious creatures. If you discover they've been foraging in your kitchen, don't just clean areas where you see evidence they've been snacking. They've probably been on your countertops and in your cabinets. Clean any areas where you think they've been active. Look under your appliances and furnishings and behind them, too. Double bag mouse trash, one bag inside the other, and tie them both tightly. Place bags outdoors for pickup as soon after cleaning as possible.
After loose materials like mouse nests have been gathered up, wipe down cabinet shelves, countertops and other areas with disinfectant. Mop the floors in affected areas, too. Use a disposable mop head and paper towels or sponges you can discard afterward. Be generous with disinfectant. Remember, wet (saturated) is good. Shampoo or steam clean affected carpets, upholstery and area rugs.
Disinfect your scrub gloves before taking them off, and wash your hands thoroughly when you've finished cleaning. That means scrubbing them in warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Scrubbing your hands vigorously is what loosens germs so the rinse water can wash them down the drain. Lather up. It's a germ fighting precaution. You've seen TV doctors do it before surgery. Now it's your turn. After washing your hands, change clothes and launder your cleaning clothes promptly in hot water and detergent.
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- MicroEvolution. "Diseases Carried by Mice." (6/19/12). http://www.macroevolution.net/diseases-carried-by-mice.html
- Orkin. "How to Clean Up After Mice Infestation." (6/19/12). http://www.orkin.com/rodents/mouse-control/how-to-clean-up-after-mice-infestation/
- Rodent Proof. "Rodent Waste Clean Up." (6/19/12). http://www.rodentproofaz.com/rodent-extermination-articles/rodent-waste-clean-up/
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "Diseases directly transmitted by rodents." 6/7/22. (6/19/12). http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "Facts About Hantaviruses." (6/19/12). http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/pdf/HPS_Brochure.pdf
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "Preventing Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)." 5/17/11. (6/19/12). http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps/prevention.html
- Washington State Department of Health. "Hantavirus." (6/19/12). http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Hantavirus.aspx