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The No. 1 Sign There Are Mice in Your Kitchen, Experts Warn

You can stay ahead of any rodent infestations by keeping your eyes peeled for this evidence.

In an ideal world, kitchens are places for making delicious family meals come together, hastily assembling midnight snacks, and preparing work-from-home lunches. Unfortunately, the same food that keeps you and your loved ones well fed is also a significant draw for pests. Some basic preparedness can make it less likely that the unwanted rodents will begin turning your pantry into their personal buffet. But according to experts, you should always be on the lookout for one sign that there are mice in your kitchen. Read on to see what's an indicator that pests are scurrying about your home's culinary workspace.

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Cleaning Habits That Attract Mice.

Mice can sometimes find their way inside even the cleanest kitchens.

mouse in the toilet looking for old water

Most people realize that an essential part of keeping mice out of your home involves keeping your space nice and tidy. Typically, this means getting rid of clutter and depriving them of a reliable food and water source that will keep them coming back. But according to experts, you should also take time to make sure you're not creating an easy opportunity for rodents to make their way into your kitchen.

"If you are trying to keep rodents out it's really important to make sure you cover any holes or gaps that lead outside, including along windows or doors, attic vents, around holes for plumbing, electrics cables, gas lines, or vents for your laundry," Maria Richmond of Ransford Pest Control tells Best Life.

"Mice can squeeze through holes as small as a quarter of an inch, so if you find any openings, fill them with steel wool—which rodents can't chew through—and caulk," she adds. "Large holes can be filled with lath screen, metal sheeting, hardware cloth, or cement."

Experts say to keep your eyes peeled for one piece of evidence that mice have made their way into your kitchen.

family of mice eating cheerios in kitchen

As silent, quick creatures, mice can sometimes be difficult to spot when they first make their way into your home. But according to experts, you can often tell they're there by something they leave behind with each trip they take through the kitchen.

"The number one sign of mice in your kitchen will be their waste," Anne-Marie Tulp of Adam's Pest Control in Port St. Lucie, Florida, tells Best Life. "For small creatures, mice produce a significant amount of droppings and urine. Their droppings are black, typically oval-shaped, and about the size of a grain of rice," adding that they can often be found "anywhere from on your kitchen counter, to along baseboards, to in the back of your cabinets."

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Unfortunately, this evidence can also be extremely harmful to your health.

A woman cleaning her kitchen while wearing a face mask and gloves

Not surprisingly, while it might tip you off to the early signs of an infestation, mice excrement also poses a serious health risk. "Many rodents common to North America can, unfortunately, be carriers of Hantaviruses which can cause Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)," David Floyd, founder of ThePestInformer, tells Best Life. "HPS transmission from rodents is caused by improperly disposing of or handling rodent urine and droppings. Once these are stirred up, they can form airborne particles which can transfer the virus," who adds that the potentially deadly infection can cause symptoms such as fever, severe muscle aches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

Because of the increased risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests putting on a protective face mask and gloves before cleaning up any signs of mouse droppings or urine and advises opening windows and increasing ventilation 30 minutes before you go to remove any waste. Then, spray any contaminated surfaces with a one-to-ten bleach and water mixture or a household disinfectant and let it stand for at least five minutes or for as long as prescribed on the cleaning product's label.

The agency advises using paper towels to remove the mess before immediately throwing them away. From there, it's best to disinfect surfaces one extra time and perform a thorough cleaning of your kitchen, including mopping floors and disinfecting all countertops.

Mice can leave behind other telltale pieces of evidence around your kitchen.

A small house mouse standing on the edge of a glass jar in a cabinet

But it's not just droppings that can be a dead giveaway that there are mice in your kitchen. According to experts, keeping your eyes peeled for other subtle pieces of evidence can also tip you off.

"You will probably also notice chew marks on packaging in your pantry or on books, fabrics, plants, and other soft items, which they use as nesting material," Richmond says. "In many cases, you're also able to hear them scurrying inside of walls or along floorboards."

And in some cases, it may even be your nose that first notices rodents are in your cooking area. "The presence of mice may give off an ammonia-like smell, which is a very strong urine smell. This will be particularly obvious in more enclosed areas such as in cupboards or ovens," Nancy Troyano, PhD, a board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control, tells Best Life.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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