Beware of Halloween Decoration Dangers

‘Tis the season to be scary . . . fa, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .

Halloween has become as festive as Christmas with string of lights, blow up decorations, animated displays, fog machines, and other electric-powered decorations.  Any and all create a scare-worthy porch or yard for any trick-or-treaters that dare to ring the doorbell.  But like Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations can be a source of dangers that could spoil the holiday that is suppose to be fun.  Remember a safe celebration is the best celebration.

So as Halloween decorating approaches, here’s some safety tips from Safe Electricity to make sure Halloween is safe and fun for all:

  • Carefully inspect decorations that have been stored for cracking, fraying or bare wires.  Do not use if any of these problems are found as they may cause a shock or start a fire.
  • When replacing or purchasing decorations or cords, make sure they are Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved and marked for outdoor use.
  • Unless specifically indicated, keep electrical decorations out of water or wet areas.
  • Be mindful of extension cords.  They should not run through water on the ground.  Use only cords rated for outdoor use.
  • Don’t overload plugs or extension cords.  Be sure to use a big enough gauge extension cord to handle the decoration wattage without getting hot.
  • Use insulated staples to hold strings of lights or cords in place.  Fasten securely.
  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupters).
  • Keep cords away from walkways or anyplace where they may be a potential tripping hazard or entanglement hazard for pets.
  • Consider using a timer to have decorations or lights on for a specified amount of time.  Turn them off while away from the home and before going to bed.

By following basic electrical safety guidelines, you will  avoid real scares or dangerous tricks and keep Halloween a fun and safe event.  Get more safety tips at SafeElectricity.org.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Fire Prevention

I have been thinking more about fire prevention week this year than I have for many years. When our children were young, we made a point of checking smoke detectors, looking at escape routes from the bedrooms, and choosing a meeting place for the family outside of the house. Since we became empty nesters, we have focused a bit less on these safety steps. Now that we have five grandchildren that live nearby and often spend the night, I am thinking more about fire safety at home.

I have spent some time reading the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) website and looking at their fire safety education ideas. I learned that the slogan for Fire Safety Week in 2018 is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware – fire can happen anywhere.” This slogan fits nicely with suggestions from many other parts of society. We do need to be aware of our surroundings. Last night we attended at concert at CY Stephens auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University. Our seats were in the third balcony so we had to climb a significant number of stairs to get to our seats. While we were waiting for the event to begin, I looked at both exits from our seats. I planned a first and then second exit, should that have been necessary. Here in our office, we also have two planned exits should it be necessary for us to evacuate. I know the best exit from all the rooms in our home, and the second choice exit but I do not think that my grandchildren are aware of these exits. Two of our upstairs bedrooms contain a fire ladder and I know that the grandchildren do not know how to operate it.

The NFPA suggest these calls to action:

  • Look for places fire can start
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
  • Learn two ways out of each room

Before my grandchildren’s next visit, I can look around my home for places a fire could start. I will clean out my dryer vent, make sure I do not have anything flammable near a heat source, and eliminate stacks of old magazines. I will check the batteries in my fire alarms to be sure they are all in working order. I plan to take the grandchildren on a house tour to demonstrate two ways out of every room, especially the upstairs bedrooms. We will also practice meeting up at our designated meeting spot, the big blue machine shed out in our yard. I know I will sleep better after putting my plan into action.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Gas Leak – How to Detect and What to Do

Millions of Americans use gas (natural or propane, i.e. LP) to heat their homes, heat their water, and cook their food.   Our family is one of them and in addition, a natural gas pipeline crosses our property.  While gas is safe, economical, clean-burning, and a versatile fuel when used properly, it is also highly combustible.  Thus, a gas leak can be a risk of a fire and explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. To help ensure that you live safely with gas, everyone in the family should be aware of the signs of a gas leak, never ignore even the slightest indication of one, and know what to do should there be a leak.  Because of our proximity to a gas line, our gas company provides information periodically on what to know and what to do.  The same precautions apply to propane gas.

Smell.  Because gases are colorless and odorless, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal is added to alert or help consumers detect a possible leak.  If you aren’t sure of the scent, you can request a free scratch-and-sniff card from you supplier.

Sound.  A hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline is also an indicator of a gas leak.

Air.  Another indicator would be blowing dirt or a breeze coming out of the ground.

Bubbles.  A leak in a gas pipe can sometimes cause bubbling in moist areas around the home.

Discolored or dyeing vegetation.  If you suddenly notice your grass or shrubs have changed color, looking more brown or rusty, that could be a sign of a leak. Plants near a gas leak will quickly become sickly and eventually die.

Feeling ill.   The symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning.  You cannot see, taste, or smell CO.

Fire coming out of the ground.

If you suspect or discover a gas leak:

  • Stay calm.
  • Leave the area immediately and evacuate everyone as well as all pets or animals from the home or building. Inhaling high concentrations of gas can lead to asphyxia in which your body is deprived of oxygen.
  • Go to a remote location and call your gas company or supplier. If they can’t be reached, call the fire department.  Program your gas supplier’s number into your cellphone so that it is readily available in an emergency.
  • If gas is blowing, call 911.
  • Move quickly. Don’t stop to look for the leak, open windows, turn switches off, or unplug equipment.  Leave the door open as you leave.
  • Don’t use anything that might create a spark, such as a cellphone, light switch, or garage door opener. These can ignite gases or vapors.
  • Do not return to the building until the gas company or fire department has given you the all-clear or the leak is fixed.

As always, being prepared in case of an emergency is key.  First and foremost, have the number of your gas supplier programmed into your cellphone.  If you don’t have a cellphone, have the number tucked into your wallet so you can quickly dial the number from another phone.  Secondly, know how to turn off your gas should you need to or be asked to do so.  Begin by knowing where your gas meter and/or emergency control valve is located.  For natural gas users, the emergency control valve should be next to the meter.   To turn off the gas supply, simply turn the handle a quarter turn so the lever is crosswise, perpendicular, or at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe; a wrench may be required to turn the lever. Propane users should locate the main gas supply valve on the propane tank. Close the valve by turning it to the right (clockwise).  If you are unsure about where to find these valves or what to do, contact your supplier and have them show you.  And it is always a good plan to have your gas furnace and other gas appliances checked annually and serviced as needed for proper ventilation.

During winter, keep your gas meter and valve free from snow and ice using a broom, not a shovel, to remove snow or ice.  Make sure outside appliance vents are not blocked by snow and ice. Blocked vents can cause carbon monoxide  to back up into the building or shut down your system.   If your home or business has natural or propane gas appliances, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed.  When a gas appliance malfunctions, it can produce CO, that deadly, odorless, colorless, and tasteless silent killer.  And always, always call 811 before you dig!

Everyone should know how to detect and respond to a gas leak.  Make it part of your family’s emergency response plan.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Prepare for New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018

If you haven’t already heard or read, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new cards to beneficiaries beginning in April.  The cards will automatically be mailed to all 58-60 million current beneficiaries. Beneficiaries don’t need to do anything to receive one beyond watching their mailbox. However, if there has been an address change, beneficiaries should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), which will be preparing and mailing the cards, at ssa.gov/myaccount or by calling 800-772-1213.  

Image used with permission from CMS.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, required the removal of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019.  The new cards will feature a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) made up of 11 letters and numbers rather than the beneficiary’s social security number that is currently used to help prevent identity theft.  The MBI will replace the SSN for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility, and claims.

Recently the CMS released information as to when beneficiaries can expect to receive their new card.  The mailing schedule is as follows:

  • Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia: April-June 2018 

  • Alaska, American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon: April-June 2018 

  • Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin: After June 2018 

  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont: After June 2018 

  • Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina: After June 2018 

  • Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming: After June 2018 

  • Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Virgin Islands: After June 2018 

Beneficiary benefits won’t change under the new MBI and there is NO charge for the card.  Sadly, scammers are already at work.  Beneficiaries should  beware of anyone who contacts them about their replacement Medicare cards.  CMS officials will never ask a beneficiary for personal or private information or for any money as a condition of getting a new Medicare number and card. 

This would be a good time to prepare elderly parents, relatives, or friends for the change and warn them of any possible phone or internet scams regarding the new card as well as check addresses with the SSA.  Since most Midwest beneficiaries won’t begin receiving the new cards until June 2018 or later, there is time to act.  Just don’t forget to do so!

For additional information, check the CMS new card info site.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for Cleaning Electric Pressure Cookers

Recently a friend emailed me asking how to clean an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) so that it didn’t retain the smells of previous cooked foods.  This friend is certainly not the only one asking this question.  In fact, after I got my own EPPC, I had the same concern.  In my search for advice, I encountered lots of stories and advice from other EPPC owners with one owner even claiming to have found maggots growing in the condensation collector!  True or not, there are at least eight parts of any EPPC that should be cleaned after every use and it only takes minutes to do:  the inner pot, base, trivet, lid, silicone ring, pressure valve, condensation collector, and the anti-block shield.  With the exception of the base, all of these parts are dishwasher safe with most manufacturers.  The cooker base must be kept dry but can be wiped with a damp cloth.

It is always best to consult the manual that came with the EPPC for the best way to clean the appliance, but we know how manuals get misplaced or sometimes really don’t provide much information.  Another source is to look online for the EPPC manufacturer and hopefully find care information; however, this may not be possible with some generic EPPC brands.   One EPPC manufacturer, InstantPot, provides great care and cleaning tips.  While the tips may be specific to InstantPot, they would be useful for other EPPCs as well if information cannot be found from a specific manufacturer.

If after all of these areas have been cleaned properly and a lingering odor is still detected, it is likely coming from the silicon sealing ring as it does hold food odors.  I have found three ways to help defuse those odors: soaking the ring in vinegar, turning the lid upside down between uses or leaving the ring exposed to air, and placing a small box of baking soda in the unit between uses.   Other suggestions I’ve read include putting the ring in the sun, wiping the ring with a stainless steel soap disc, soaking or steaming in lemon water and baking soda, or purchasing two rings, one for savory and one for sweet.  If one does opt for a second sealing ring or needs to replace a ring, be sure to get genuine manufactured parts to ensure the EPPC will work correctly and safely.

Another concern EPPC users have is with the gradual discoloration of the stainless steel inner pot.  If it is turning a blue-yellow, white vinegar will bring it back to it’s original luster.  The procedure is to let white vinegar stand in the pot for at least 5 minutes and then rinse with water.  If the bottom of the pot is dulled perhaps due to sautéing or hard water, I have found that a small amount of baking soda or a non-abrasive scouring cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Cleanser on a damp cloth or sponge does an excellent job of bringing back the original shine after rinsing and drying. Don’t use anything metallic for scouring because it will damage the finish!

These are the suggestions that I gave my friend as they seem to work well for me.  If you are an EPPC user and have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear your tips!

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

While spring isn’t quite here, it’s not too early to set some time aside to clean your medicine cabinet, drawer, or shelf.  To some extent, most people welcome spring with a little extra attention to mopping, dusting, or vacuuming away winter’s dust and dirt.  While the windows may shine and the house and yard look fresh, the medicine cabinet remains untouched with a variety of forgotten old prescription bottles and OTC medications that “might come in handy someday” still on the shelf.  Likely some of these medications have expired and may cause more harm than good.

I’m guilty of keeping them too long myself.  Largely I forget about them and as long as I don’t need anything from the medicine cabinet, they are out of sight and out of mind.  Since it is a common problem, different groups have initiated “Take Back” or cleaning times to call attention to the issue.  Twice each year we have “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” when consumers are encouraged to return unused or old medicine to their pharmacies, hospitals, or drop-off sites.  The first one in 2018 will be April 28; there will be a second in the fall, usually in October.  We also have National Spring Cleaning Week the last week in March when medicine cabinet cleaning is encouraged as part of the spring cleaning routine.

What should consumers do the rest of the year to safely dispose of medicines if they are unable to utilize the designated drop-off times?  The FDA offers instructions on how to safely dispose of medicines by flushing unwanted drugs down the toilet and for placing them in the garbage.  The downside of these alternatives are that drugs that are flushed can taint our rivers, lakes, and water supplies.  Drugs in the trash are a potential hazard to the environment and may be found accidently by children or pets, or scavenging teens or adults looking for a high.  In 2014 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) authorized pharmacies and hospitals to take back drugs designated as controlled substances any time from a consumer wishing to surrender them; prior to that time, controlled substances had to be surrendered to law enforcement.  Controlled substances include opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, stimulants like Adderall, and depressants like Ativan.  Drop-off is completely free and anonymous.

Now there’s a new alternative.  Since 2016, the drugstore chain, Walgreens, has been installing safe medication disposal kiosks across the nation.  Not every store has one so to find a kiosk in your area, visit Store Locator.  The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements at no cost.

Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs. As part of Walgreens drug take-back program, the kiosks make the disposal of medications easier and are available year-round during pharmacy hours to help reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.

Here are some tips to get you started on extending your spring cleaning to your medicine cabinet:

Check the dates. Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date really refers to that product unopened.  Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced. Medications and vitamins may lose their effectiveness or potency after the expiration date. Some may even become toxic.  Therefore, write the date you opened it on the container and after one year, get rid of all things opened or partially used.

Discard any items that have changed color or smell funny.  Regardless of the expiration or use by date, these items should be disposed.  This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light

Discard unmarked containers. If something is no longer in its original container or cannot be identified, get rid of it. Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.

Dispose of medication and medical supplies properly and carefully. Because of the potential harm to the environment or to humans or pets, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. If you must do so, follow the FDA  recommendations.  Consider the disposal options aforementioned and utilize whichever works best for you.

Most collection sites won’t accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables—for example,for example, expired EpiPens—go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643.  When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medication or medical device, check with your pharmacist.

Remove any personal identifying information on the prescription label.  Prior to disposal or container recycling either remove the label or black out any personal information including the RX number.  Also be sure the container is clean before recycling.

Inspect adhesive bandages.  Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan, too, and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.

Lastly, consider relocating your medicine cabinet.  The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.

It’s smart to undertake a medicine-cabinet cleaning every spring.  An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessary land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for cleaning

 

The calendar tells me that we are still in the middle of winter but it may not be too early to start some spring-cleaning. I always feel like I made the most of a day off when I am productive and get something cleaned. It is so easy on a busy day to ignore the little things that need cleaning. Here are a few easy tips, using things you already have around the home, which will help you get some cleaning done.

 

 

Burned popcorn or other odors in the microwave.

  • Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1-cup water in a microwavable bowl. Heat the mixture for 5 minutes and then wipe out the microwave. Repeat this procedure two or three times a day for a few days if the odor is strong.

Slow running drains.

  • Combine 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt and 1-tablespoon cream of tartar and pour into the drain. Slowly add 1/2 cup white vinegar and then slowly pour in 1-cup boiling water. Allow to stand; then flush with cold water.

Burned or scorched saucepans.

  • To remove scorch stains in a saucepan, try a solution of 3 tablespoons Ajax in water and boil for 5-10 minutes. Scrub remaining residue with a scouring pad.
  • If your pan is aluminum or stainless steel, try 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice or cream of tartar per quart of water. Boil 5-10 minutes. Be sure the water line remains above the scorched line.

Removing odor from the refrigerator. Try one of these four solutions until the odor is gone.

  • Empty the refrigerator shelf and lightly crumple enough newspaper to fill the self. Sprinkle the newspaper with water and close the door. Replace the newspaper every 1-2 days. In 5 or 6 days, the odor should be gone.
  • Place toothpaste (not the gel type) on small pieces of foil and set in several spots in the refrigerator.
  • Place activated charcoal or activated carbon in a shallow bowl and leave it in the refrigerator while it is running for several days. The charcoal or carbon is available where aquarium and/or plant and garden supplies are sold. It will become saturated but can be reactivated by heating in a 300° F oven for one hour and then put back into the refrigerator. Try this for about 10 days
  • Unplug the refrigerator and thoroughly wash the inside of the unit with a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of warm water. Wash the shelves, drawers, accessories and gaskets. Be sure to wash corners, crevices or grooves where odor-causing liquid may have settled. Dry everything thoroughly.

If odor gets into the plastic lining or the insulation of the refrigerator, it can take a long time to dissipate.

Using these tips, I will be able to clean without a trip to the store.  I will be busy on my next day off.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Cold Weather and Frozen Pipes

We have had a few calls about frozen water pipes and I have had some frozen pipes in the out buildings at my house. We have had some cold winter weather so far and it is likely we will have more below zero temperatures before winter is over. It seems like some information about thawing frozen pipes may be a timely subject for a blog.

Of course, the best way to avoid having frozen water pipes is to take some precautions in the fall. Adding insulation to the walls, directly insulating pipes or simply draining water lines not used in the winter will prevent some frozen pipes. However, in spite of these precautions, sometimes pipes freeze anyway.

If you find a frozen pipe in your home, you have several options. First, you can call a plumber to have a professional help. They do have experience and can keep the problem from getting worse. If you really want to tackle the problem, follow these suggestions.

  1. Shut off the main water valve. Be sure to follow this first step to prevent a disaster if the frozen lines are worse than you thought.
  2. Start thawing the line near the faucet.
  3. Gradually raise the temperature of the water line. You can do this by adding heat from any number of sources. You can use a hair dryer, space heater, heat lamp, or even towels soaked in hot water and wrapped around the line.
  4. Never use an open flame to thaw a water line. Why risk adding a house fire to your problems?
  5. If there is any chance that the water line has burst, open other faucets to allow the line to drain rather than run out through the broken line.
  6. Keep some buckets or other containers handy, as you may need to collect water from the break in the line.

With luck, your line will thaw without any damage to the waterline. We were fortunate enough to have this situation happen on our farm.

Stay warm.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Candles and Fire Danger

We were talking in the office a few days ago about decorating for Christmas. A co-worker likes to burn candles and has been using a votive candle inside a larger candle to make her large candle last longer. We were visiting about how easy it can be to become distracted and forget that there is a live flame inside the house. We discussed safer options like battery-operated candles and that some of the newer ones have timers built in. That got me thinking about fire safety during the holidays. I discovered some scary statistics.

 

Facts about home holiday fires

  • One of every four home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four Christmas tree fires.
  • The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.
  • Candles start two out of five home decoration structure fires.
  • This information is from the FEMA website.

Fires start so very fast and our decorations are usually flammable. In less than 30 seconds, a fire can go from a small flame to totally out of control. If the fire starts when you are sleeping, you really will not have any time to spare. Forget about grabbing valuables and exit the home. Escape should be the only thing on your mind.

It seems like your house should be well lit from flames but the smoke will be very dark and you may be disoriented even if you are positive that you know the layout of your home well. Heat from a fire, as well as smoke and toxic gases can all kill you.

Be prepared and be safe. Plan exit routes and meeting places outside the home. Emphasize to family members that getting out of the home safely is the number one priority. Belongings can be replaced, family members cannot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Preventing Unwanted House Mouse Guests

Cool, fall weather has arrived and along with leaves and nippy mornings, bugs and rodents are scurrying to find warmer quarters.  Often times, those warmer quarters are in the home.  Of these invaders, the common or European house mouse is one of the most troublesome and definitely an unwanted house guest.

Droppings, fresh gnawing, and tracks are usually the first signs of mouse activity.  Other signs might include nests made from shredded paper or other fibrous material and their characteristic musky odor.  They are most active at night but it is not uncommon for them to be seen during the day, too.  Common locations for these critters are under the sink, in cabinets or drawers, on the counter, and under furniture with their trails usually running along the baseboards.

These little critters require minimal space to invade a home.  Mice can squeeze through openings slightly larger than ¼ inch, just enough space to get their whiskers and head through.  They are excellent climbers and can run up any rough vertical surface.  They are also “tight rope artists” in that can run horizontally along very thin wires, cables, or ropes.  According to Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension Wildlife Specialist, mice can jump straight up two and half feet and across three feet or drop vertically eight feet and keep running at a speed of six miles per hour.

Further, mice have a tremendous reproductive capacity.  In a year’s time, a female may have five to ten litters of usually five to six young born 19-21 days after mating.  Mice reach reproductive maturity in six to ten weeks.  The life span of a mouse is usually nine months to one year.

So with these facts in mind, prevention is key and involves three components—mouse-proof construction, good sanitation or removal of sources of food and water, and population reduction.

Mouse-proof construction.  The most successful and permanent form of house mouse control is to prevent them from entering in the first place by eliminating all openings through which they can enter.  Conduct a thorough inspection of your home—inside and out.  Look for gaps in siding where the siding meets the foundation or where pipes and other utilities enter.  Cracks in foundations and loose-fitting doors without proper weather stripping are other obvious places where mice can get in.  Since mice are good climbers, don’t forget to check openings around the roof, including attic vents.  Use rodent-proof materials to close all openings such as steel wool, hardware cloth, galvanized sheet metal or metal flashing, cement mortar, caulking, and spray foam insulation or combinations of these materials.  For how-to-do details, see Rodent-Proof Construction and Exclusion Methods prepared by Cornell, Clemson, UNL, and Utah State Universities.

Sanitation.  Eliminating their food and water source is critical to controlling them.  Mice are opportunistic feeders that will eat any food discarded by humans.  Therefore, clean up spilled food or remove open food in cupboards, drawers, counter tops, and floors under stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers.  Place all accessible food in mouse-proof containers such as glass or store in the refrigerator or freezer.  Store pet and bird food in sealed containers.  Keep cabbage can lids tightly sealed.  Remove pet food and water dishes when not in use and do not leave a glass of water or dirty dishes sitting in the sink.

Outdoors, remove clutter and debris from the perimeter of the house.  Keep grass, shrubs, and other vegetation trimmed around the house.  Remove any container that could hold water.

Population reduction. Population reduction can be done through a combination of rodenticides, trapping, or by professional extermination.  Spring traps are the preferred method; baiting with peanut butter usually works well as long as you put the bait far enough in that the mouse has to work for it.  Baits or poisons used indoors should be avoided if possible.  Often pets and children are unintended victims of baits and poisons.  And mice usually die in the walls or some other hard-to-get-at location where they discompose for a month emitting a foul smell, shedding bacteria, and attracting maggots. Should you need to clean up after a mouse infestation, follow these tips.

A few steps now can prevent those troublesome and unwanted house mice from becoming your guests!

 

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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