How to Keep Mice Out of Shed, Barn, Garage

Few things are as unnerving as spotting mice on your property. Not only can they carry disease, but mice are also highly destructive, damaging structures, wiring, and items stored nearby. As a result, the moment you see them around your outbuildings, the only thought on your mind is figuring out how to keep mice out of your shed, barn, or garage.

Deterrents like white vinegar, peppermint oil, and cinnamon are effective and can keep mice out of a shed, barn, or garage. Plus, you can use exclusion tactics combined with limiting access to food and nesting material like cardboard.

However, those aren’t the only available options. If you’re spotting evidence of mice or see mice scurrying around, here’s what you need to know about how to keep mice out of your shed, barn, and garage.

How to Keep Mice Out of Shed, Barn, and Garage

How to Keep Mice Out of Shed

1. Clean Up Trash, Cardboard, and Debris Piles

Sheds, barns, and garages are commonly used for storage and aren’t always the cleanest places. Unfortunately, items lying around these spaces may end up attracting mice.

Organic trash could look like food to mice, effectively drawing them into your outbuildings. Cardboard is attractive nesting material, while debris piles could attract insects that mice feed on or could provide them with spots for nests.

Go through your shed, barn, or garage and clean up as much as possible. Make sure trash is in cans with secure lids, and send any cardboard off for recycling. Remove debris piles, either throwing the materials away or storing them in another area if needed.

2. Keep Pet Food and Birdseed in Sealed Containers

Pet food and birdseed are both potential food sources for mice. As a result, you need to store them properly by keeping them in sealed, chew-proof containers.

Additionally, avoid leaving pet food sitting out in dishes near these spots. That could mean going to scheduled feeding times, removing what remains soon after, or switching the feeding spot to another area. You could also try collar-activated feeding dishes, as those open only when the collar is present and close once your pet leaves the vicinity.

For birdseed, you’ll want to ensure that none spills onto the ground from nearby feeders. You can try placing a dish beneath feeders to catch what’s dropped and emptying it regularly. Otherwise, make sure any feeders are far away from your buildings, as the long journey could make your shed, barn, or garage seem like a less attractive home.

3. Seal Cracks, Crevices, and Other Entry Points

Exclusion is typically one of the best ways to keep mice out of your shed, barn, or garage. When mice can’t find easy access inside, they’re less likely to move into your outbuildings.

Go around your shed, barn, or garage looking for holes, cracks, crevices, or other entry points. If you find any, seal them.

New weather stripping around doors (including garage doors) could close gaps that mice could squeeze through. For other spots, boards, expanding foam, or caulk are all worth considering. You can also try fine-mesh chew-proof wire for holes needed for ventilation.

If your outbuilding rests on the ground (without a foundation or floor), hardware cloth buried around the edges is another smart addition. The wire stops rodents from digging underneath to get inside.

Also, ensure you close all doors and windows when they aren’t actively used. Otherwise, they may get mice may simply wander in when you aren’t paying attention.

4. White Vinegar

VinegarWhite vinegar has a strong odor that can deter various pests, including mice. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 white vinegar-to-water mix. Then, spray nesting spots, mouse trails, and entry points at least once a week.

You can also soak cotton balls in white vinegar if you have small holes to deal with and spraying is too challenging. Just be aware that the odor won’t last forever, so you’ll need to remove and replace the cotton balls regularly to keep them working.

5. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Essential Oil | 15mL | by HorbaachPeppermint oil produces a strong odor that mice dislike. Plus, it’s a natural option that isn’t harmful to people.

Simply add 15 drops to a spray bottle filled with water. Swirl to combine and spray in nest areas and around entrances or holes.

While peppermint oil sticks for a while, you’ll want to respray every few days until you see no mouse activity. After that, weekly or biweekly spritzes may work.

It’s important to note that this option isn’t safe for any areas with cats or dogs. Peppermint oil can harm respiratory systems and cause toxic reactions, so choose another option if you have a cat that heads into your shed, barn, or garage.

6. Ground Cinnamon or Cinnamon Oil

McCormick Ground Cinnamon, 18 ozAnother scent-based natural deterrent for mice is cinnamon. You can sprinkle ground cinnamon in areas with mouse activity or at entrances and in holes. Using cinnamon oil to make a spray like a peppermint oil one above also works well.

Like peppermint oil, cinnamon is potentially harmful to cats and dogs. As a result, you’ll want to go with another option if you have those pets.

7. Chili Pepper or Chili Oil

McCormick Dark Chili Powder, 7.5 ozChili pepper (including cayenne) or chili oil is like the two options above, working mainly as a scent-based deterrent. Contact with chili pepper or chili oil is also uncomfortable for mice, though it won’t result in significant harm in most cases.

You can either sprinkle cayenne around areas with activity or create a chili oil spray. Using a premade chili oil works, or you can make an infusion by soaking cut fresh jalapenos or similar spicy peppers in water.

It’s important to note that eating spicy foods – including chili peppers or chili oil – isn’t great for cats or dogs. The capsaicin in peppers can lead to digestive issues, so don’t use this option in any area if your pet may consume it.

8. Cloves or Clove Oil

MAJESTIC PURE Clove Essential Oil, Therapeutic Grade, Pure and Natural Premium Quality Oil, 4 Fl OzAnother scent-based option like those above, cloves have a strong odor that deters mice. You can sprinkle ground clove in areas with mouse activity or use clove oil to create a spray.

You will want to choose another approach if you have cats or dogs. Clove oil is potentially dangerous for those pets, so don’t use them in areas where your cats or dogs regularly venture.

9. Sonic Repellers

Phosooy Ultrasonic Animal Repeller, IP44 Waterproof Solar Powered Rodent Repeller with PIR Motion, Repel Dogs, Cat, Squirrels, Raccoon, Rabbit, Skunks, Wild Boars OutdoorA sonic repeller emits a noise that most people won’t notice, but that bothers mice. They keep mice away because the sound is uncomfortable, making your shed, barn, or garage less appealing.

The only issue with sonic repellers is they affect many animals, including house pets and wildlife. As a result, they aren’t ideal if your shed, garage, or barn is close to your home or if those are spots that pets use regularly.

10. Dryer Sheets

Typically, mice don’t enjoy the smell of scented dryer sheets. Since that’s the case, you can place them in spots to discourage mouse activity. You could put them in holes or near identified nesting sites, attach them to rafters mice are using to cross your outbuilding, or position them along typical entry points.

If you see distinct trails mice are using, rubbing a dryer sheet along them may make the path harder for mice to follow. It could cover any scents they were using for tracking, leaving them confused about how to get where they’re going.

In most cases, dryer sheets are a short-term solution, primarily because the scent doesn’t last more than a few days. If you want to use them as a long-term deterrent, you’d need to replace them regularly, which isn’t always cost-effective. Still, it could keep mice away long enough to handle exclusion or add other deterrents to keep them away.

11. Bleach

Clorox Disinfecting Bleach, Regular - 64 Ounce BottleBleach is a reasonably effective mouse deterrent. It has a naturally strong odor. Plus, it can eliminate the scent of mouse urine or droppings, which may attract mice to a location.

When you’re applying bleach, diluting it is wise. Not only will you get more mileage out of a bottle of bleach, but using straight bleach isn’t necessarily more effective.

Typically, using a ratio of ¾ cup of bleach to one gallon of warm water is enough. Put it in a spray bottle and spritz potential entry points or areas where you see clear mouse activity. If there is urine or droppings, you can use a stiff-bristled broom or nylon brush to sweep away droppings and scrub surfaces.

It’s important to note that bleach can discolor or damage certain materials. As a result, don’t spray items if you aren’t sure they’re bleach tolerant. Additionally, bleach is a potentially harmful chemical, so don’t use it in areas frequently used by household members or pets.

12. Mothballs

Enoz Original Moth Balls, 4 oz Each, 4 Pack (E38)There is some debate regarding whether mothballs are effective at deterring mice. Additionally, the chemicals involved are dangerous to people and pets, so this option shouldn’t be your first choice.

However, if natural deterrents are ineffective, consider giving mothballs a try. The odor produced is strong, which may make a space less attractive for a nest.

With mothballs, focus on spots with high mouse activity. For example, placing them in a recently removed nest area may prevent mice from nesting there again. If you spot a hole you can’t close immediately, putting mothballs in it could keep a mouse from continuing to use it.

Remember that mothballs may only cause mice to pick a new spot in your shed, barn, or garage. They simply aren’t strong enough to protect a large area or safe enough to use liberally throughout a space. As a result, this may only give you enough time to find a more permanent solution versus handling your problem in one step.

13. Get a Cat

keeping mice out of shed

Cats are usually pretty willing to chase mice, so having an outdoor cat could prevent mice from taking up residence in your shed, barn, or garage. Whether or not the cat kills the mice, its presence alone could be sufficient to send mice elsewhere. Mice don’t want to encounter predators, so the cat makes your home seem less safe, even if it does little more than give chase.

The challenge here is properly caring for the cat. You need to make sure that it’s properly fed and watered and has warm places to rest. Additionally, there’s the risk of the cat wandering off or getting injured by people or larger predators.

In most cases, you don’t want to simply put an indoor cat outside and hope for the best. Instead, you may want to seek out shelters that have a barn cat program.

Barn cat programs rehome outdoor cats that aren’t inclined to interact with people, are very unhappy staying solely indoors, or are, to some degree, feral. Essentially, they involve cats that don’t make great house pets but can benefit from a dry barn, shed, or garage to stay around and a caring owner.

14. Used Cat Litter

If you have an indoor-only cat or know someone with a cat, collecting some used cat litter to sprinkle around your shed, barn, or garage may send mice running. Cats are natural predators of mice, and mice usually steer clear of areas with predatory activity. Since cats use urine to mark territory, using cat litter could make a space seem risky to mice.

Generally, this option isn’t ideal if you have children or pets that may try to interact with the cat litter. However, if that isn’t the case, this is a low-cost option worth considering. Just be aware that the scent won’t last forever, so you may need to regularly sweep up and apply more cat litter.

15. Mouse Traps

Kensizer Humane Rat Trap, Chipmunk Rodent Trap That Work for Indoor and Outdoor Small Animal - Mouse Voles Hamsters Live Cage Catch and ReleaseIf there are already mice in your shed, barn, or garage, mouse traps are an option. Several types are available, including humane versions or those designed to fill mice.

With human mouse traps, the goal is to capture the mice alive and potentially relocate them. Whether that’s an option may depend on where you live, as you usually want to let them go at least two miles from a residential area.

Traps designed to kill mice mean having to deal with dead ones. Additionally, they can pose risks to people and pets, regardless of whether they are snap-traps or poison-based.

It’s important to note that sticky traps or glue boards aren’t humane. Many consider them cruel, as the mice may slowly die of starvation or suffocation or injure themselves trying to get free. Instead, if killing mice is the goal, use quicker options like snap traps. If you want to catch and release, go for container-style options.

16. Homemade Bucket Mouse Trap

A homemade bucket mouse trap gives you a humane way to capture mice in your shed, barn, or garage. While it takes a while to set up, it primarily uses items you may already have at home.

You’ll need a piece of cardboard, a small magnet, a metal wire, a small screw, a five-gallon bucket, a board, two hooks, and a small rock. Thread the wire through the openings in the cardboard about one-third of the way down the length of the cardboard.

Position the wire near one of the edges of the bucket, allowing the longer side of the cardboard to tip into the bucket. When tipped back flat, the short edge of the cardboard should fully contact the lip of the bucket. Mark the wire’s position on the bucket, then punch a hole below it.

Remove the cardboard from the wire, thread the first end of the wire through a hole, replace the cardboard on the wire, and thread the wire through the second hole. After that, position the rock on the end of the cardboard closest to the bucket, testing to make sure when light pressure is applied beyond the wire, the cardboard tips. When you find the right spot, glue the rock in place on the underside of the cardboard in the corresponding location.

Mark the position of the cardboard edges on the bucket rim and cut through that portion to the depth of the cardboard. That creates an even spot for the cardboard to sit.

After removing that portion of the lip:

  1. Glue a small magnet to the center of that area just on the inside of the bucket.
  2. Mark the location of the magnet on the outside of the bucket, lower the cardboard into position and find the spot on the cardboard that aligns with the magnet.
  3. Add the screw to that spot on the cardboard.

Place a small drop of glue on the wire near the edges of the cardboard to keep it connected. Then, create a ladder from the ground to the cardboard. You can use a board and hooks, making holes in the bucket to allow it to attach. Make sure the ladder is low enough that it won’t impede the cardboard.

Finally, place peanut butter on the cardboard near the edge that sits over the bucket opening. Add water to make jumping out harder, but not enough to drown the mice. Then, place the bucket and check it regularly for mice that you can relocate.

17. Hire a Professional

If you have a large mouse infestation, hiring a professional is usually your best choice. They can safely trap the mice and identify exclusion methods that can help you keep them out with greater ease.

What Scent Will Keep Mice Away?

Peppermint, cinnamon, clove, chili pepper, and white vinegar are all prime scents that work well to keep mice away.

The benefit of these options is that they’re natural. Most are safe for people. However, they can be dangerous to pets. Just stick with white vinegar if you have animals, as it isn’t harmful to cats or dogs.

What Attracts Mice to Your Shed, Barn, or Garage?

Mice are attracted to areas with reliable food and water sources and where they can safely build nests. If your shed, barn, or garage has organic trash the mice view as a food source, they’re more likely to come inside. Similarly, debris piles and cardboard are attractive for nesting.

Food and water sources near a shed, barn, or garage can also lead to issues. The structures provide shelter from the elements, so mice may head inside to escape the weather even if the areas don’t have food or nesting materials.

How to Determine If Mice Are the Problem

In most cases, the clearest sign of mice is droppings. Musky odors are also common near nests and shredded fibers or chewed items.

You may sometimes see distinct tracks or trails, letting you know that mice are your issue. Finally, a rodent sighting is a clear indication of a problem.

How to Mouse Proof Your Shed or Garage

The best way to mouse-proof your shed or garage is to close up entry points. Mice can squeeze through surprisingly small gaps and holes, including under doors or through spots where plumbing or electrical pipes come inside. By eliminating entry points, mice cannot simply wander in, so they may look elsewhere for a spot to nest.

Using natural deterrents around the outer perimeter of your shed or garage can make a difference. The strong odors make approaching the buildings to seem like a bad idea to the mice, so they may move on in search of places to nest. Plus, they might mask the scent of potential food sources inside, though that isn’t always the case.

The Best Way to Keep Mice Out of a Shed, Barn, or Garage

Generally, the best way to keep mice out of a shed, barn, or garage is to combine exclusion methods with cleaning up and the proper deterrents. Deterrents like white vinegar, peppermint oil, and cinnamon are safe and help keep other pests away. However, if you have a major infestation, contacting a professional is usually best.

Did you learn everything you wanted to find out about how to keep mice out of your shed, barn, or garage? If so, let us know in the comments. Also, if you know someone concerned about mice on their property, please share the article.

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