Published on March 17th, 2016 | by Henri


Safe alternatives to mothballs

Q.  For the past two generations, when we close our summer camp for the winter, our family has placed mothballs on all the mattresses and inside the couch. We have heard that this can be especially toxic for babies and children to be exposed to.

We are looking for an alternative solution to keeping the mice from chewing the mattresses. We have been told that options include dryer sheets, cloves, or peppermint. Would any of these work and will they last throughout the winter? Do you have any other suggestions?

A.  Yes, indeed, mothballs are not good to breathe for anyone, regardless of age. The only place where they can be used is in attics to chase away mice and squirrels.

Dryer sheets, such as Bounce, are an effective way to discourage mice in camps, RVs, automobiles, etc.

I have recently discovered mice damage in my car, which I never expected to be invaded with mice. I went to my regular garage and they told me to place Bounce sheets in the glove compartment and under the seats where the mechanic found a mouse nest in production.

He also checked the air filter, through which they enter into the glove compartment, which he found fouled with their droppings.

I am not aware of cloves as a mouse deterrent, but I have heard about crushed peppermint leaves from a reader who was handed that bit of old-fashion wisdom by her grandmother. However, we tried placing crushed peppermint leaves in small pouches made from old stockings on the mattresses and under couch cushions, which we then covered with sheets to contain the scent. Unfortunately, next spring we found mice nests right next to the peppermint leaves’ stockings together with d-Con pellets, which the mice had brought there to feed at their leisure.

Another system that has worked very well is to wrap the mattresses in plastic and tape the joints. I used 6-mil construction plastic (4-mil should work just as well) to wrap around a queen-size mattress that I stored in my garage for several years, and mice never touched it, although they caused some damage to other stuff in the garage. After our camp’s experience, I would tend to trust the plastic more than the peppermint leaves.

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