How to Catch & Trap a Mouse Like a Pro: 7 Easy Steps

Last Modified on January 16, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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Nobody wants to share space with mice.

In addition to making your house unpleasant, mice carry diseases and can damage your home and personal items.

Fortunately, trapping mice is an easy way to eliminate these pests and reclaim your space.

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we help clients in the San Francisco Bay area and Central Coast get rid of mice daily, so we know how to trap mice and eliminate infestations.

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips for catching mice quickly and safely.

How to Trap a Mouse: A Step-by-Step Guide

Mouse traps are a great way to control rodent infestations, but you’ve got to use them correctly.

With that in mind, here are our top tips for creating an effective mouse-trapping program:

1. Inspect your home for mice

Before you set your traps, spend some time inspecting your home to identify mouse harborage areas.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Mouse sounds and smells. Mice are noisy rodents. As they feed, nest, and socialize, they make a variety of squeaking, rustling, and scratching noises. Large mouse infestations also give off a strong, musty ammonia odor, which can be overpowering near their harborage areas.
  • Signs of mouse damage. Mice are avid chewers who are known for gnawing small, clean-cut holes that are about ½” in diameter. Gnawing damage is most common in kitchen cabinets (look for shredded paper food packaging or holes in the corners of food boxes or bags) and bathrooms, where they gnaw on items (especially bar soap) stored in cabinets.
  • Footprints. Look for mouse footprints in dusty areas. The hind foot track of mice usually measures about ⅜” or less.
  • Smears. Mice leave grease or rub marks from the dirt and oil on their coats. These smears usually appear next to runways, along walls, or near beams or sill plates where rodents have been traveling.
  • Mouse sightings. Seeing live or dead mice is a good indication that more rodents are present in the area.
  • Nests. Mice often nest in walls, attics, insulation, and crawl spaces.

Inspecting your home for signs of mouse activity will help you identify high-traffic places to set your traps and allow you to choose the best traps for a given area.

2. Place your traps

To eliminate mouse infestations, you’ll need to set numerous traps.

No matter what kind of trap you’re using, placing it directly in high-activity rodent runways will help the trap be as effective as possible.

Here are a few tips to help you set the traps in the right location:

  • Place multiple-catch traps near exterior doors or alongside utility lines that enter or exit your home.
  • Place the entry hole of low-profile multiple-catch traps parallel to the wall or the object you’re placing it next to.
  • Place glue boards inside low-profile multiple-catch traps to streamline mouse removal.
  • Place multiple-catch traps inside bait stations. This makes the trap more enticing to mice and protects the trap from interference by kids or pets.
  • To use glue boards on their own, secure them to the floor along the walls or under appliances, cabinets, or furniture.
  • Place traps anywhere you’ve noticed rodent droppings.
  • For severe mouse infestations, space the traps about 6 feet apart.
  • Position traps to maximize the chances of mice encountering them naturally – traps should come off of walls at right angles, with the trigger end almost touching the wall.

3. Bait the traps

Follow these tips to bait traps to catch mice:

  • Remove food sources within the home to make food lures on baits more attractive to mice.
  • Attract mice to your traps by using strong-smelling substances like vanilla extract, nuts, cheese, or peanut butter to bait traps.
  • Use food lures rather than rodenticides or poison baits whenever possible.
  • Use several different food lures to control large infestations – match your baits to what the rodents have been eating, and note whether your population of mice displays strong food preferences.
  • If food is abundant, use dental floss to tie the food lure to the trigger so that mice cannot steal it without deploying the trap.

4. Check traps daily

Once you’ve set your traps, inspect them at least once a day.

If the trap has caught a mouse, dispose of the mouse body, clean and re-bait the trap, and reposition the trap as needed.

5. Safely dispose of dead mice

To avoid exposing yourself to disease, follow these tips:

  • Wear plastic or latex gloves whenever you have to handle a dead mouse or the trap that killed it.
  • Dispose of wooden snap traps in plastic bags. Tie the bags securely and dispose of them in an outdoor trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Double-bag dead rodents and throw them away in an outdoor trash can.
  • Dispose of used latex gloves immediately and wash your hands in hot, soapy water.

6. Set and monitor new traps until mouse activity ceases

Once your traps have started to catch mice, keep setting and baiting them until the mouse activity ceases.

If needed, you can position glue boards in mouse runways to monitor mouse activity and determine the efficacy of your trapping program.

7. Contact a pest management company

If your DIY mouse trapping efforts don’t work, contact a professional pest control service like Smith’s Pest Management.

Our team will inspect your property, identify mouse harborage and feeding areas, and develop a customized trapping program to eliminate your infestation. Contact us at 408-871-6988 to learn more.

Why Traps are Ideal for Catching Mice?

mouse trap


There are many different mouse control options out there, including baits and rodenticides, so why should you choose to trap the rodents instead?

Here are a few reasons we recommend trapping:

  • Fast results. Even the best trapping program won’t eliminate large mouse infestations on its own, but traps can provide quick resolution for small mouse infestations.
  • Pesticide-free treatment. Pesticides, rodenticides, and baits have their place in a mouse control program, but they can be dangerous to use – especially indoors. Mouse traps, on the other hand, are pesticide- and chemical-free, which makes them a safer choice.
  • Easy disposal. Mouse traps catch and contain mice, which makes it easy to dispose of them.
  • No smell issues. When mice consume chemical baits, they often die in hard-to-reach areas, like vents and wall voids, making your house smell terrible for weeks. Fortunately, traps help you avoid this issue and allow you to dispose of all dead mice promptly.

We always recommend using mouse traps alongside other control efforts, like cleaning up food sources and sealing mouse entry points, to get rid of mice.

To learn more about how to get rid of mice, check out our comprehensive guide.

What Type of Mouse Traps Should I Use?

what type of mouse traps to use

If you start shopping for mouse traps, you’ll find a few dozen different styles and options available.

But which should you use?

Here’s a breakdown of the most common mouse traps out there today and what each is best for:

1. Wooden snap traps

Wooden snap traps like those by the brand Victor are popular because they’re affordable and easy to find at hardware stores.

They’re also easy to place and dispose of – just toss the whole trap in the trash once it’s caught a mouse!

If you prefer a reusable variety, look for durable plastic snap traps like the ones made by Trapper Mini T-Rex, which are easy to clean and re-set.


  • Easy to use
  • Strong snap
  • Instant kill


  • Snap traps kill mice quickly but can accidentally injure kids and pets
  • Mice can sometimes steal bait from these traps without triggering them
  • Dead mice are highly visible in snap traps

Best for: We recommend using snap traps to eliminate small mouse infestations in hidden areas like attics, crawl spaces, or the area beneath appliances.

2. Multiple-catch traps (automatic)

Automatic, multiple-catch traps (also known as curiosity traps) are designed specifically to catch mice.

These traps are an excellent preventative measure to control mouse infestations and can be a practical long-term management option.

There are kinds of multiple-catch traps on the market today: wind-up traps and low-profile style traps:

  • Wind-up-style traps use a spring-loaded trap platform to flip mice into a holding chamber.
  • Low-profile traps use a trap door to drop mice into a holding chamber.

As long as you place them correctly, both trap styles will catch mice effectively. We like these traps because they’re usually made from plastic, which allows you to see whether the trap is through, and because the removable plastic trays and covers make these traps easy to clean.

Low-profile traps are also slim enough to fit beneath furniture and in suspended ceilings.


  • Ideal for getting rid of large mouse infestations
  • Perfect for placing in hard-to-reach areas
  • Reusable; easy to clean
  • These traps do not need to be baited


  • Requires hands-on disposal of mice
  • These traps must be placed correctly to be effective
  • You need to use numerous multiple-catch traps to control populations effectively

Best for: Getting rid of large mouse infestations indoors or outdoors.

3. Glue traps

Glue traps are pretty simple: they’re flat boards with a sticky coating. When mice step onto them, they get stuck and can’t (usually) pull themselves free.

While glue traps are less effective and less humane than snap or multiple-catch traps, they can be useful for monitoring mouse infestations. They can also reduce severe mouse infestations as long as you also employ other, more effective mouse control methods.


  • Non-toxic
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • No need to bait these traps


  • Inhumane
  • Should not be used in places where dirt, dust, or water are present since those elements will degrade the sticky coating
  • Must be secured to the ground or placed within another trap or bait station
  • Mice can sometimes pull themselves off the trap
  • Glue traps can be dangerous for kids and pets, especially if the trap gets stuck to their mouth, face, or nose
  • Glue traps should never be used in visible areas, especially in residential settings

Best for: Use inside of other traps, including multiple-catch traps, or as monitoring devices to track mouse activity in a given area.

4. Live traps

Live traps don’t kill mice. Instead, they collect and secure mice until you can release or euthanize them humanely.

If you’re interested in using live traps, check the laws in your area to make sure you’re allowed to relocate wildlife since doing so is illegal in some states, including California.


  • Humane
  • Chemical-free
  • Easy to use


  • Less effective than snap or multiple-catch traps
  • Must be baited
  • Requires you to handle trapped mice

Best for: Controlling small mouse infestations in places where relocating wildlife is legal.

Essential Safety Tips for Handling Mouse Traps

Traps are safer for residential use than baits or rodenticides, but you must still handle them carefully.

Here are our top tips:

  • Wear latex gloves any time you set or dispose of traps.
  • Read trap directions and follow label instructions carefully.
  • Protect yourself from accidental snaps by using your foot or a stick to set traps.
  • Use disinfectant to clean and sanitize reusable traps between uses.
  • Never set traps in residential areas that are visible to kids, pets, or people.

How to Keep Mice Away From Your Home

house mouse

  • Inspect your home carefully to identify all mouse entry points – seal all gaps ¼” wide or larger.
  • Spray sealed entry points with a store-bought mouse repellent to keep mice away.
  • Identify and eliminate all mouse harborage areas and food sources.
  • Get rid of clutter that may provide nesting material for mice, including piles of newspapers, old cardboard boxes, and foam insulation.
  • Keep your kitchen clean, wipe up all spills promptly, keep pantry items in mouse-proof containers, and do not leave pet food out overnight.
  • Store trash in an outdoor trash can with a tight-fitting lid.

Are Mice Taking Over Your San Francisco Home? We can Help!

You don’t have to live with squeaking, scratching, gnawing, destructive mice forever.

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, our team can help you trap mice and get rid of even large infestations quickly and humanely.

Contact us today at (408) 471-6988 to learn more about our mouse control services and how we can help you eliminate rodents in your space.


What is the best bait for a mouse trap?

The best bait for a mouse trap is whatever the mice have been eating in your home. We recommend opting for food lures whenever possible and avoiding chemical baits. Strong-smelling foods like vanilla extract, nuts, fish, cheese, or peanut butter are good options for baits.

Are mice smart enough to avoid traps?

Yes – mice can learn to avoid traps. To prevent this, we recommend placing numerous traps directly in mouse runways and using dental floss to secure food lures to trap triggers so mice can’t steal the bait without deploying the trap.

Can mice smell humans on traps?

Yes. Because of this, we recommend cleaning and sanitizing all traps between uses and then seasoning them with mouse droppings, which you can collect from mouse harborage or feeding areas (wear gloves).

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.