Have mice made our stove a health hazard?


Last winter mice got into the insulation of our electric range. Now, the odour of urine is overwhelming. Is the stove a health hazard? How can we eliminate the smell? If we buy a new one, how do we keep this from happening again?—Susan and Bob Smith, Hay Bay, Ont.

First things first: No matter how much the stove may reek, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, your risk of contracting hantavirus—or any of the other nasties that mice can carry—is likely very low. Still, to kill any viruses, the agency advises that you clean the stove using a 10 per cent bleach solution (let it sit for 15 minutes), followed by a 70 per cent alcohol solution.

Cleaning won’t help with the stench, unfortunately. “It’s hard to get rid of the source of the smell,” admits Ross Proudfoot of Cottage Country Pest Control in Victoria Harbour, Ont. He suggests spraying the insulation with a product designed to eliminate odour-causing bacteria—he uses Epoleon (available online).

You’ll likely need to take the whole stove apart to clean and disinfect it. This could turn into a waste of time if the mice have chewed through the wiring or insulation, or if it’s so saturated with urine that no product will banish the smell—or if you decide you’re too grossed out to cook with that stove ever again.
“If it were my stove? I’d toss it,” says Glen Robertson of Robertson’s Wildlife and Pest Control in Coldwater, Ont., who has encountered his share of mouse-infested appliances. “I mean, would you really want to eat a cake baked in that oven?”

Gary Ure, of Second Nature Wildlife Management in Kingston, agrees. “If it’s that far gone, it’s probably finished,” he says. “Give it to an enemy.”

Okay, so you buy another stove (choose a model with fewer nooks and crannies where mice can get in, if possible). The best way to keep the critters out of this new one is to keep them out of your cottage—or at least your kitchen—in the first place, through mouse-proofing and using traps or poisoned bait.