If you’ve owned an RV long enough, you’ve likely dealt with the unpleasant issue of mice taking up residence in your home on wheels. RV often provide a warm, dry, and quiet dwelling for them to call home. But, while cartoons depict them as cute and fun-loving little critters, most RVers would prefer not to have them as roommates.
Aside from generating the occasional yelp as you see one run across the floor, mice can quickly wreak havoc in many of the inaccessible spaces in your RV. Mice love to hang out in the underbelly, behind cabinets and access panels, roof cavities, and ductwork of RVs. They’ll make a nest out of insulation and clothes, and bring leaves and other things from the outside, inside. An RV is often a warm place for mice with easy access to your living space.
It’s not uncommon to open up your RV for the season to find signs that mice have decided to make it their winter home. Aside from cleaning up the mess they left behind, you may also have to deal with issues where they damaged part of the RV, primarily by chewing on it.
If they got into your ductwork, you need to clean it so you’re not blowing around unhealthy mouse scat and debris when running your air conditioner or furnace. Mice can cause some serious damage to vents and ducts, especially if they manage to chew holes through the ducts.
Also, if a mouse dies somewhere in the RV, you may be dealing with a horrific odor that is hard to eliminate. In all scenarios, mice and RVs are a bad combination. While it may seem like an inevitable problem to have to deal with, there are things that you can do to address this problem. The first step is prevention. To solve your RV mouse problem, RV owners need to restrict them from accessing it in the first place.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Seal up everything
Ben Franklin once said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to deal with a mouse problem is to prevent them from getting in your RV in the first place. Taking the time to prevent mice from entering your RV will save you many headaches. Mice are amazing contortionists and can slip through the tiniest of holes, as small as the size of a dime, which makes it all the more important to seal up your RV from potential entry points fully.
The hardest part of sealing up openings in your RV is finding them. However, with a little patience and the right tools, you’ll be able to do this yourself. The first step to locating openings is to try to think like a mouse. You’ll want to inspect the RV from the inside and outside and work your way around the RV one section at a time.
Your goal is to find and seal up all of the easiest access points, realizing that there will be some that you can’t seal up, such as your roof Air conditioner and refrigerator vent. However, you will be able to address most of the common access areas and greatly reduce your chance of a mouse infestation.
First, start by walking around the perimeter of your RV. Inspect the underbelly cover and look to see if there are any holes, opening on the edges, or loose-fitting areas where pipes or water lines exit the RV. If you see a small opening that doesn’t look big enough for a mouse to fit through, I would suggest you plan to seal it up. Even if a mouse can’t get in there now, they may see it as an opportunity to make it bigger so they can. Mice are clever creatures that can squeeze through small cracks.
Next, focus on your utility connections. While most of the RV is self-contained, your most common areas for mice access will be through openings created by your water, electric, and propane connections. Wherever a water line, sewer pipe, propane tubing, and electrical wire (don’t forget 12V battery wires for tongue jacks, stabilizers, lights, etc.) passes from the outer part of the RV to the interior or underbelly, check for openings. In many RVs, these should have been sealed with expandable foam, but don’t trust that the manufacturer didn’t miss an area or did an incomplete job.
To access these areas, you’ll likely need to spend some time on your back, lying on the ground underneath your RV. A mechanic’s creeper works wonders if you’re lucky enough to be parked in a paved area. Otherwise, a foam pad or thin inflatable camping cushion works great.
Your RV will have several vents, primarily for exhausting appliance fumes. This includes things like your refrigerator vent, furnace vent, water heater vent, or generator (if equipped). While you can’t seal these up, you can inspect inside them to see if there are any openings where the appliance enters the RV.
A loose-fitting appliance may leave a small gap where a mouse can fit through. If you see an opening, you can easily seal it unless it is an access port for the appliance. The primary area you need to focus on is where the appliance meets the framing of the RV. These areas are the likely places where a mouse will get in and can usually be safely sealed up. In addition to preventing mice, this will help with drafts and climate control.
Storage compartments and access panels
Storage compartments can often be an overlooked place for mice activity, especially if you have many items in them. Mice can typically access this area the same way they do in your living quarters, through small holes from the outside or open areas between your interior or underbelly. Inspecting these spaces requires the same steps as listed above.
Mice can also get into these areas if they’re left open or not fully latched while camping. You can keep them closed when you aren’t actively accessing them; otherwise, you may pick up a hitchhiker from your campground. It’s a good idea to clean your storage areas once a year and inspect them for any openings, filling them as needed. Also, don’t forget to check other areas, like openings for your jack stands, wheel wells, and other access points from the exterior of your RV.
Slides, windows, and doors
The other popular entry points for mice are windows, doors, and slides. While windows and doors, when fully closed, are relatively mouse proof, a cracked window or screen door can be inviting for a mouse.
Slides, on the other hand, pose a particular challenge. For the most part, slides will be sealed up fairly well, but there are scenarios where a small gap, almost unnoticeable at first glance, might be just big enough for a mouse to squeeze through.
Sometimes, these gaps are hard to see if they are behind rubber seals. A great way to find them is to turn off all lights at night and shine a flashlight around the permitter while someone looks for light inside the RV. You may need to look behind furniture, appliances, etc.
Sealing up a gap in these areas is a little more challenging since the slides are meant to move in and out. You don’t want to install anything restricting the slide from closing or fully sealing when in. For this reason, spray foam and steel wool are not recommended. If you see an opening, check if a seal is worn or detached and repair it as needed.
If you have a small opening that you can’t seal, this is a great place to put a mouse trap. While some people would rather not use a lethal trap like a glue trap (I won’t debate this here), they work well in directing mice into an area where they’ll be caught. If you are stationary for a while, you may be able to plug this area with some steel wool, but you must remember to remove it when pulling the slides in before traveling.
The roof is the final place you need to check for mouse access points. The good news is that most of the roof is sealed up very well. If it weren’t, you’d likely be dealing with water leaks in addition to mice. However, there still are a few areas where a mouse can gain access from the roof.
These areas include vents and the air conditioner. While you can’t restrict these openings, you can prevent mice from accessing them with wire mesh screening. Some ACs will already have this installed, but if you don’t, you can add it. If you do, ensure you attach it securely so a mouse can’t push it aside, and so it won’t dislodge and end up in your AC fans.
You can often purchase special coverings for other vents and pipes in your roof. In addition to keeping mice out, these also help prevent insects such as wasps, ladybugs, and stink bugs from residing in your RV. While your roof is the less likely place to allow mice entry, it is still possible. Chipmunks are notorious for exploring these openings when parked in a wooded area.
If you have a motorized RV instead of a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you also need to check your engine compartment. Mice are attracted to the warm area of the engine, especially if it has been sitting for some time. Little rodents can do a number on rubber lines in your engine.
Tools for Sealing Openings
If a mouse can’t fit through an area, it’ll try to make it bigger by chewing it. Whether plastic, wood, fabric, rubber, etc., a mouse has sharp teeth and can cut through almost anything except most metals. The one exception to this rule is aluminum. While you’ll likely find many people suggest using aluminum foil to seal openings, mice have been known to chew through it, even adding the shredded aluminum to their nest.
Steel Wool is one of the best products to use to block mice access to your RV. This 10 ft. roll (2 total) allows you to cut the size you need to fit any gap or opening.
For this reason, the better choice for sealing holes or openings is to use steel wool. Steel wool comes in a variety of packages. You don’t need to get special rodent-proof steel wool. Any pure steel wool will do. You can pull off a desired amount from the roll or package to seal an area and securely stuff it into the opening, making sure to fill the void as fully as possible. It doesn’t need to be packed extremely tight, but it should be placed so that a mouse can’t simply push it out of the way and sneak past it.
I like to combine steel wool with spray foam since the foam holds it in place, and the steel wool serves as the unchewable barrier. In addition, as described below, you can buy rodent-proof expandable foam, which adds a double layer of protection from mice.
Spray foam is another great option for sealing up small openings in your RV. You can even buy rodent-resistant foam, which works fairly well. Don’t choose the highly expandable foam when shopping for foam, as it can create a mess if you use the wrong amount. I listed my favorite product below.
To use spray foam, you apply it into a cavity and wait for it to expand, which happens relatively quickly. It’s best to use it conservatively and keep spraying to fill a hole. The opening likely leads to an open area in your RV, and you don’t want to have a lot of excess foam where you don’t need it.
This spray foam is perfect for filling gaps and opening in an RV. It contains a special formula designed to block mice.
If possible, spray from the inside out. Try to assess the area you’re spraying into and use small amounts to start. If you can see both areas, inspect it from each end and ensure you have a good seal. I like to apply several layers rather than one big layer, as it provides more control over the amount you’re using.
If the opening is located at a visible section of the RV, you can trim excess foam with a utility knife. If it’s not visible (such as underneath the RV), I will leave it as is since it will provide a better seal.
Step 2: Deterrents
Just as there are a million ways for a mouse to enter an RV, there are an equal number of deterrents. Some of them are more effective than others, and some don’t work at all. Below are a few of the common deterrents commonly used by RVers.
Bounce Dryer Sheets
Many people claim success using dryer sheets to deter mice. It’s hard to argue with someone who claims this works, but I have also heard stories of mice making nests out of them. Dryer sheets primarily work because the smell deters mice. However, after a few days, the scent will lessen and, in time, be almost unnoticeable to a mouse. Therefore, if you use dryer sheets, inspect your RV from time to time, and don’t rely on them as your only prevention source.
Irish Spring Bar Soap
Similar to dryer sheets, many people wonder if soap deters mice. Certain soaps, particularly Irish Spring, have a scent that some mice will avoid. However, since some soap is actually made with animal fat, it can have the opposite effect. If you want to try soap, pick brands with strong smells, like Irish Spring soap bars or other brands with a strong peppermint scent. This may work in limited situations, but don’t rely on it as your only method.
You may have seen this small plug-in ultrasonic sound emitter as a tool to deter mice. Unfortunately, these are hit or miss. They may help at first, but over time, mice will become less sensitive to the sound and go about their business of chewing, making nests, and wreaking havoc on your RV. Also, to use them, you need to have power in your RV, which is only sometimes possible when stored.
Many people have used moth balls to deter mice. While the strong scent may work in some situations, it may also keep you away from your RV. The mothball scent is hard to eliminate and is not the best option for deterring mice. It’s dangerous for the environment and not good for people and pets. I suggest you look for alternatives other than moth balls to keep mice away.
If you want a safe DIY solution with some success, you can try to soak cotton balls in peppermint essential oils. The scent will last a long time, and you can place them in hard-to-reach areas. They also won’t leave your RV smelling like a chemical factory.
Commercial mouse repellents:
Several safe products you can use in your RV have proven successful and have good reviews to keep mice away. Unfortunately, all of them involve creating odors that mice don’t like. However, the following mouse deterrents are designed to be longer lasting than the other solutions listed above and are safe to use around people and pets. Below are some good options to consider. However, remember that the best option is to invest your effort in preventing mice from getting into the RV in the first place.
$28.98 ($3.41 / Ounce)
Step 3: Remove Attractants
In addition to deterring mice, you also want to ensure you’re not doing the opposite and inviting them into your RV.
Just like people, mice seek the same things we need to survive shelter, water, and food. So while an RV makes a good dwelling for a mouse, the thing that makes it an amazing one is access to unlimited food.
Removing any food items that aren’t mouse-proof is best if you’re not using your RV regularly. This includes anything that isn’t in a metal can or glass jar. If you must keep things in the RV, ensure your cabinets are mouse-proof. Even though the doors may seal well, you also need to look inside and ensure that there aren’t any ducts, wires, conduits, pipes, etc., running through the cabinet.
Since closed cabinets are astatically appealing, many manufacturers will use them as a place to run wires and pipes. This is especially true on cabinet drawers. If you remove your drawer and shine a light in the opening, you’ll likely see a plethora of RV water and electrical components. For this reason, I only store food in fully sealed cabinets with no openings (or I seal them up).
Additionally, remember to remove pet food if you have pets. Always keep it stored in a sealed container that mice can’t access.
Towels, blankets, sheets (and paper products)
When storing your RV for the winter months, remove any fabric items like towels, blankets, oven mitts, paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper. If you get a mouse in your RV, it will seek out this material and use it to make its nest.
An empty RV is less appealing to a mouse than a fully stocked one. If you don’t want to transfer everything to your home, purchase some good sealing rubber storage containers and store everything there for the off-season.
Step 4: Trap
The last way to rid your RV of mice is to remove them. While I won’t get into the debate of lethal vs. nonlethal methods, trapping a mouse is the only surefire way to ensure it’s gone. A simple search on Amazon will point you to dozens of different lethal and humane traps (live traps). However, please read the reviews since some work better than others. However, my Uncle Jerry always used to say: If you want to make a fortune, invent a better mouse trap. Sometimes the old tried, and true method works best. Snap traps with a bit of peanut butter are often the easiest way to trap a mouse.
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Regardless of what mouse trap you use, the one thing to remember is to check them. If you’re storing your RV at home, give them a check every week. If stored at a storage facility, it’s best to check them a few times during the off-season.
If you happen to catch a mouse and don’t remove it, you’ll be left with the awful spell of decay. However, a dead mouse in a trap is a much better scenario than a dead mouse somewhere in the walls or vents.
I also highly advise against the use of poison bait. Not only is it dangerous for people and pets if the mouse dies inside a wall, but you’ll also be dealing with a terrible smell that’s hard to eliminate when you reopen your RV.
Step 5: Clean and Inspect
The final mouse prevention step is the cleaning and inspecting your RV regularly. For example, if you sealed up any holes, could you check them a couple of times throughout the year? Additionally, if you sealed everything up and found some mouse droppings, this is a sign that you missed something. Please keep an eye out for signs of mice and take action if you need to.
Also, keep your RV clean and uncluttered as much as possible. Mice love to live in drawers or storage compartments packed full of stuff. By keeping your RV organized and tidy, you’ll notice mouse activity much sooner and can address it before it gets out of hand.
Store your RV where there are fewer mice
If you choose to store your RV in wooded areas, there’s a greater chance for mice to find it. While avoiding this is not always possible, be aware that you may need to do a better job sealing up your RV. If you have the option, storing an RV on a paved lot without places for mice to hide will make it less likely for mice to enter your RV.
Mice and RVs are a bad combination, and you should take steps to prevent a rodent problem. The first thing you should do is make sure mice don’t get inside your RV. By taking some preventative measures, you can easily eliminate this concern. Try to identify all the possible entryways that mice can get inside. However, even with your best efforts, it’s easy to miss some areas. As an additional preventative measure, the best solution eliminates things that attract mice, like a yummy food source. Anything that isn’t sealed in a mouse-proof container (like canned food, glass jars, etc.) should be removed from the camper. The last thing on your list should be deterrents, which are meant as a last resort to keep mice out of your RV. Some work better than others, and some DIY options, like dryer sheets and soap, have only minimal benefits. While deterrents can’t hurt, they shouldn’t be your only method of keeping mice out of the warm spaces of your RV.
If you happen to have a rodent infestation, the only thing you can do is try to trap them. You can use traditional mouse traps or use a more humane way like live traps, but whatever you choose, you want to ensure you get them out before you store your RV for an extended period of time after a camping trip. Whenever you’re away from your RV for some time, always give it a good inspection, looking for mice droppings, nests, chewed paper or cloth, etc. If you notice anything, try to get rid of the mice and prevent them from returning.