Find out how to tell if you have mice in your RV and also how to keep mice out of your RV in the first place.
When we saw her sitting on the lot, we couldn’t believe how good she looked. She was a 2012 Keystone Outback Sydney with lots of room and the world’s tiniest bunk room for the kids.
She had been barn-kept and barely used, with a floorplan that we had never seen and instantly loved. The stove had never been cooked on. The curtains had never been faded by the sun.
Oh, but what could we NOT see? What we couldn’t see was that she was well broken in. Someone else had been living in her for years. Our new (to us) fifth wheel was home to hidden inhabitants of the rodent variety.
Any RV that sits still for a period of time can be at risk for mice moving in. If you are a part-time or seasonal RVer, checking your rig for mice and using methods to prevent them is just as important as winterizing.
So how do you tell if your RV has uninvited guests and how do you evict them? How can you prevent mice in the first place?
How to Tell if Your RV Has Mice
Look for Evidence
The Proof is in the Poop
The most obvious way to tell if you have mice is to look for evidence. We had not seen any mice, but upon close inspection, we found a few droppings in the basement storage compartment and scattered around the rig.
Take note of the size and frequency of the droppings, since this can be a clue as to how many mice are frequenting the area. Large droppings could mean you have a rat rather than a mouse.
Look for Shredding
Mice like to shred paper, fabric, and other materials to make their nests. Look around the rig for anything they may have tried to shred for their home.
Of course, food boxes or anything unsealed can also be an easy target for mice. Check your pantry, and even medicine cabinet, for anything that has been chewed on.
Check Systems for Damage
We purchased our used 5th wheel from an RV dealership and they checked all the systems prior to delivering it to our house. However, they failed to catch that not everything was up to par.
At first glance, the propane heater worked well, but when we ran it for ourselves, we noticed that heat wasn’t reaching all the vents. Upon closer inspection, we found that the HVAC ducting was full of holes. (See photo above.)
Mice had chewed their way through the thin ducting and turned it into their own personal highway. Running up and down the ducts, they could travel all over the RV!
As it turned out, the heating ducts weren’t the only things they had been chewing. The wiring on our fresh water tank had been chewed to the point that only the “empty” level would register.
We also found that the main power coming into the RV had been chewed.
Look for Nests
Have you ever walked into a used RV and something smelled….off? Not just musty or like there was a water leak somewhere but smelled like something you couldn’t put your finger on.
It might have been a rodent nest…or two…..or four. If an RV has been sitting for a while, there could be a whole village of mice who have set up homes out of sight.
When we started repairing the places in our rig that had been chewed on, we ended up discovering four, yes four (yuck!) mice nests.
There was one in the storage compartment under the master bedroom, just behind a little wall that was meant to hide some of the plumbing runs.
We found another in the little space occupied by the water pump and two more in the enclosed underbelly of the RV.
Useful tip: Take note of where you find nests because mice tend to set up shop near the “entrance” they are using.
Mice and their excrement can carry some nasty diseases, so it is essential to do a good job of cleaning up after them. Whether you are removing droppings or nests, make sure you do so carefully.
Wear gloves, and possibly a mask of some sort, and clean any infested areas with water and bleach.
Collect everything into a trash bag and when you are done, bag up everything (including the gloves and mask), tie it up and dispose of it outside in a trash bin or dumpster.
For more in-depth cleanup instructions, the CDC has the process outlined here.
Give an Eviction Notice
To get rid of mice in your RV, take the same steps that you would in any other home.
Put out traps to catch your uninvited guests. You can opt for sticky traps or the old-fashioned kind. Personally, we like the old-style trap baited with a little peanut butter.
Lucky for us, the damage in our rig was caused by mice that had since moved on (or passed on). We were just left to deal with the aftermath of these uninvited guests, at least.
How to Keep Mice Out of Your RV
After we had removed any evidence of former residents, we now needed to make sure that no mice would be visiting in the future.
Identify Problem Areas
Mice can enter any hole that is big enough to get their head in. A hole the size of a nickel or dime is large enough for a mouse to sneak through. Depending on the type of RV you have, there are some areas that you should check first:
- Around Landing Gear (anything touching the ground)
- Plumbing Exits
- Around Water Line Entrances
- Around the Power Cord
- Any Holes in the Underbelly Enclosure
- Heater Exhaust Port
Block All Entrances
The best way to fix a mouse problem is to be proactive and keep the critters from getting inside in the first place. A simple search on Amazon yields all kinds of products that can help you plug potential rodent entrances in your RV.
Steel Wool – Our personal favorite. The steel fibers are near impossible for mice to chew through. Cheap and non-toxic, you can also shape it to fill almost any space.
Spray Foam – A little goes a long way since the foam expands. This stuff can be pretty nasty though. Make sure to wear gloves and use it in a well-ventilated area.
Mesh Screens – These are great for blocking areas like heating and fan exhausts. Premade screens are easy to find and made to fit these areas. They also keep out wasps and dirt dobbers.
Make Your Rig Unattractive to Mice
Eliminating sources that will draw the mice in and taking some preventative measures will give you a leg up in preventing mice from coming in. Your RV should be:
Trash Free – Anytime you are away from your rig or the RV is in storage, it’s a good idea to take out the trash. Any food or trash can be a big attractant to furry guests.
Clean – Be sure that surfaces are clean and free of food residues. This will ensure help ensure that mice don’t have a reason to stay, even if they do get in.
Dry – Mice are attracted to water so be sure to clean up spills or any water that may have escaped from the showerhead or faucet.
Sealed – Any food items should be in an air-tight sealed hard container (think plastic lidded tub rather than a ziplock bag, which as you can see from the photos above the critters can shred through easily).
Empty – If you are not using the RV, it’s a good idea to empty the RV of products the rodents could use for a nest. Paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, old papers, brochures, receipts, clothing. Remove anything and everything they could use to make a nest. No nest material, no nest, no mice.
Well Lit – Rodents and mice don’t seem to like light. Night lights inside, porch lights outside, or even rope lights have been known to deter rodents.
Make Your RV Smell Bad (at Least to Mice)
Before coming in and settling down, mice like to see if the place smells like home. There are several different things you can put in your RV to make it uninviting to mice, you know, like air freshener in reverse. You might try:
Try tossing a few mothballs in your storage compartments and under the bed. My grandmother never had mice, so maybe it works.
Peppermint Oil – Many RVers say they have successfully used peppermint oil to keep mice away. Dab some peppermint oil on a few cotton balls and put one in each area of the RV.
Spices – Spices such as Cayenne, Mint, and Cloves can also deter mice. Make a sachet bag of cheesecloth and fill it with one or more of these spices and leave it in an area mice might show up.
A couple options we haven’t yet tried, but have received comments from fellow RVers that these work. It may be worth giving one of these a try:
- Fresh Cab botanical rodent repellent uses Balsam Fir oil to repel the mice. Based on customer reviews, it either works great, or not at all.
- Grandpa Gus’s Mouse Repellent pouches include cinnamon and peppermint oils
Let’s give a shout out to Tom who submitted his recommendation to pouring Simple Green around any areas that come into contact with the ground. Spray some on your tires and jacks.
His comment reminds me of when I had to fight off the chipmunks. They were scurrying into the detached garage and making a fine home in the engine of our little Audi. I spent so much time trying many different tactics – from moth balls to under the hood ultrasonic deterrents. (Yes, ultrasonic. No, don’t bother.)
It would have been easier to leave the cash in the garage so they could make their nests with the Benjamins. Anyway, now I think back and realize when I started cleaning the garage floor more regularly with something similar to Simple Green (I don’t recall what exactly), I realize now I don’t think those chipmunks were squirreling about for a while. My ah ha moment is about 5 years too late. Regardless, thanks Tom! We’re packing Simple Green on our next road trip.
Rodent Repellent Conclusion
If helpful, here are a few quick links to the items mentioned in this article to help rid your rig of the critters. These product links are directed to the Amazon marketplace, which is where we shop most often because of the convenience of free shipping. Of course, you could also buy these things at Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local hardware store.
Best of Luck!
When it comes to keeping your RV free of uninvited guests like mice, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure!
Do the smart thing and take some action against these pests now, before you are left dealing with their aftermath as we did.
Nick and Kelsey Hensley are part-time RVers and full time adventure seekers. Nick is a Rocket Scientist by day and a Certified RV Technician by night. Kelsey works as a freelancer, photographer and digital ninja. With their two kids, the Hensleys road trip across the country every summer on their quest to see all 62 National Parks. On the weekends you can find this nerdy crew at a campground, historic site, or checking out the newest restaurant in town.