Cottage Q&A: How to clean up after a mouse infestation

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We had a severe mouse infestation over the winter at our Lake Michigan cottage. (Somehow, it was missed by the caretaker.) There was poop everywhere and blood in corners and closets. Most of the upstairs is cleaner now, but the basement is disgusting. The concrete floor absorbed everything. My husband, Ned, did a great job of scrubbing the floor with Simple Green, but I can still hardly stand the smell in the room. Could you suggest an alternative? Would bleach and water work?—Neva Asplundh, via email

Yikes! Maybe you should hire a new caretaker. But back to your question. You’re right about two things: One, “Concrete absorbs everything,” says EcoEthic’s Rob Davis, who has had his own struggles banishing mousey stink. And two, bless Ned for giving it the old college try but, yes, it’s time to bust out the big guns. Even Davis, who sells environmentally friendly cleaners, wouldn’t recommend one in this case. They’re not strong enough. But he suggests peroxide bleach over bleach—you can use it straight. “Mop the stains, let the peroxide bleach sit for half an hour, then re-mop with water,” says Davis. You may have to repeat the procedure. No joy? You could try a specialized cleaner designed to treat dog kennels, cat litter boxes, and chicken coops. 

As a last resort, you could hire a professional cleaning company, says Gary Ure, the owner of Second Nature Wildlife Management in Gananoque, Ont. “But in 27 years, I’ve never seen a situation where that would be necessary. I mean, they clean up crime scenes.” Yes, but there was blood, Gary!

We assume this goes without saying, but you should seriously up your mouse-proofing before next winter. The best strategy is exclusion: painstakingly search for every possible rodent entry point and seal each one up. “Mouse-proofing will always take more work than you think it will,” says Ure.

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This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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