I have a secondary fridge in my shed that I use approximately from May to October. Once I turn it off, I wipe it down with a heavy bleach solution and put a stick in each door to keep them open in order to prevent mould from forming. However, the open door attracts the mice and they leave their droppings behind. How do I prevent both from happening?— Sheri Krajnc, via email
First of all, good call on keeping the fridge doors propped open; allowing air to get inside the fridge will for sure help to prevent mould. But cleaning with bleach may not be the right move. When we previously answered a Mould vs. Secondary Fridge in Shed question (see Spring 2017 Cottage Q&A—everyone has a secondary fridge in their shed), the experts gave bleach the thumbs down. “Bleach is absolutely the wrong product to use,” Ron Arena, at the time a senior consultant with Chem Scope in North Haven, Conn., told us. The problem? Bleach can be strong enough to scratch the surfaces in the fridge. “This creates a roughness on the finish and makes it more susceptible to mould,” he said. Arena—and other experts we consulted—suggested gentler cleaning methods. For example, a slurry of baking soda and water, applied with paper towels or a vegetable brush; dishwasher detergent tablets dissolved in lukewarm water; or ordinary dish soap.
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Now let’s talk about the mice. In an ideal world, you’d make the shed itself more mouse-proof. But we get it: sealing up every mouse-sized crack and crevice is a lot of work. You can of course set traps, or try deterrents like Bounce sheets (some folks swear by them). But the simplest strategy may be to make the fridge itself less attractive to mice. Mice, like a lot of prey creatures, like hidden, protected spots. Propping the fridge doors open with only a stick makes the interior of the fridge dark and cozy and snug. If you prop the doors wide open, on the other hand…the interior could appear, to a mouse, like a giant, gaping, scary space. In other words, not a safe place.
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We ran the strategy by the experts, and it got the stamp of approval. “Leaving the fridge door wide open should be quite helpful in deterring rodents from entering,” says Tom Sullivan, a professor emeritus of wildlife ecology and conservation at UBC.
Mice might invade all kinds of other nooks and crannies in the other items in the shed. But they’d hopefully leave the interior of the fridge alone.
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