Mice can be a big problem if they get into your camper. There are simple steps you can take to deter them from taking up residence in your RV.
Every fall the time comes to get your RV put away for the winter. After winterizing your plumbing system, the biggest question is what are the best ways to keep mice and rodents from making a home in your camper during the cold winter months?
The best way to keep mice out of your RV is to stop them from getting in to start with, park on pavement or gravel when you are storing it for the winter, remove any food or items the mice can eat or chew and place strong smelling things like Bounce, Irish Spring or peppermint oil strategically throughout your camper. A combination of these and (most cruelty-free) strategies should keep your camper mouse free.
How do mice get into your RV?
Mice can get in through the smallest of cracks. Your first line of defense is to find and block any areas they can use to get access into your camper.
One way they can get into your RV is to scamper up your tires or in through your compartments. If you cover your RV they may also us that to gain access.
Cords plugged into the RV also give them an access point. Think of the rats that use docking lines on ships to get inside.
Once they are onto the RV they will get into the inside through any small openings that they can find.
This could be from wiring or plumbing that leads into the inside of the camper, or a small crack or gap that has opened up.
The dangers of having mice in your RV
Mice are notorious nibblers. This can be a big problem in your RV. They can chew:
- Wiring and plumbing
- Food products
- Paper products
- Bedding and blankets
- Bed pillows and throw pillows
- Books and Documents
- Fabric on upholstered items like sofas and curtains
- Wood cabinetry
Even after you have evicted the mice you will have to deal with the problems they left behind. It is important to clean up any feces and urine as they can carry disease, along with smelling terrible.
Other problems can include damaged furniture and soft goods that you have to replace due to holes, smells and stains.
The worst is if the mice damage the wiring or plumbing and you have to spend countless hours and dollars finding the source of problems and potentially replacing expensive components.
It is much better to deter the mice from entering to start with than to deal with the mess they leave behind. A few hours of preparation can you save you days or weeks of cleanup.
Five Best ways to keep mice out of your RV
- Figure out where mice can get into your RV
- Park your RV on gravel or pavement
- Properly store anything that they will eat or chew to make a nest
- Make your camper uninviting for them with strong smells
- Traps, if needed, for the mice that insist on coming inside
1: Find out where they are getting into your RV
Check your RV thoroughly, inside and out, to see if you can find where the mice could get into your camper.
Check these areas:
- Inside compartments looking for gaps that lead inside
- Inside any access panels
- Anywhere wiring or plumbing enters the RV interior
- Gaps or cracks around doors, windows or slide outs
- Open cabinets inside the RV and look for anywhere you can see daylight that you shouldn’t be able to
Fill any openings you see with caulking, expanding spray foam or extra panels (wood, metal etc) – depending on the location and type of opening. The less opportunities there are for the mice to enter, the better off you will be.
2: It is best to park on gravel or pavement too keep mice away.
Where You Park Makes A Difference...
It is going to be easiest to keep the mice away if you are able to park your camper on gravel or a paved surface. If you park on grass you are more likely to have rodents take up residence in your camper.
This is because they are more likely to be found scurrying around in the grass than they are on the pavement.
One summer I parked our RV part way on the grass in my driveway, and left food in the camper, and instantly had mice invade and start chewing.
All it took was 6 of the 36 feet to be on grass and one unopened bag of flour! I learned my lesson pretty quick. This brings me to step two...
3: Put away everything that is edible or will make a cozy nest
Don’t leave any food in your camper over the winter storage months. Remove any food items that might attract nibbling mice and bring them into your RV.
Canned food will be okay, but anything they can chew into will cause you problems. Be especially careful of open items like cereals, granola bars, flour, bread…
I would even advise removing things like open jars of peanut butter, condiments or unopened cereal boxes.
I know that when the lid is on or the box is unopened it should be safe in theory, but if there is even a bit of peanut butter or cereal smell it might cause problems.
Food is the obvious thing that most people remember to remove. Sometimes we forget the less obvious items that can also attract mice.
Simple things like paper towels, napkins and dishcloths are also very appealing to rodents. They chew them up and line their nests with them.
Throw pillows should also be stored. Don’t forget your oven mitts either – I lost these to mice one winter very early in my camping days.
Books and paper products could also pose a problem if left stored down low. I usually store mine up high in the overhead cabinets and have never had a problem with anything there.
Once you’ve tackled your kitchen and living area you need to move on to the bedroom and bathroom.
Remove all your clothing, hand towels, bath towels, face cloths, bedding and blankets and either store them in large plastic tubs that the mice can’t get into or move them into your house.
I also package up my pillows in the large plastic bags you usually get with comforters and such.
Don’t forget to remove or store any extra toilet paper in the bathroom. They are a rodents dream bedding material.
4: Make things uninviting
Put Bounce and Irish Spring soap throughout your RV.Or use peppermint or mothballs. Whatever you like best.
Mice don’t enjoy strong smells. Particularly peppermint and things like mothballs. I’m not a fan of the smell of mothballs so I’ve always avoided using those.
My mother in law has had several RV’s and she swears by Bounce dryer sheets and Irish Spring soap.
After my summer time mouse invasion I also used those to repel the four-legged invaders. It seemed to work really well.
So now, each winter I put Irish Spring bars and Bounce sheets everywhere in my camper. Zero mice last winter.
I put the combo of soap and dryer sheets in all the lower cabinets and drawers, and leave some on the bed and in the closets.
I also put some in all the outside storage compartments of the RV. I figure the lower to the ground that I can repel the mice, the better off I will be.
The best part of the Bounce and Irish Spring winterizing routine is that it re-usable.
In the spring I remove everything and use the soap in the shower and the dryer sheets in my laundry. Next fall I buy brand new boxes of both and put those in the RV.
My theory is that replacing the Bounce and Irish Spring each year keeps the smell at maximum potency.
I don’t re-use last years soap and dryer sheets because they no longer smell as strong, but they are perfectly good for their intended uses – washing you and drying with your clothes.
Another option that is popular is peppermint oil. Soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and place them in trays around your camper.
Many RV’ers swear by this method. I haven’t tried it yet myself, but the consensus is that it is highly successful.
To have the best success with peppermint oil, follow a similar process that I do with the Bounce and Irish Spring.
All of these options also have the added benefit of making your camper smell great! The mice may not appreciate it, but you will in the spring.
5: Put out snap traps or poison bait if all else fails
Putting out traps should be your last line of defense. Hopefully all of the other steps you have taken will keep the mice away and traps will be unnecessary.
Traps are something you will need to check frequently if you choose to use them or you risk some terrible smells if you don’t remove the dead mice quickly.
Snap traps are more humane than glue traps as they kill the mice quickly.
Poison bait bags are one other option
The mice eat them and then are supposed to become thirsty and go outside in search of water.
I would never choose this option unless you already have mice in your camper, as the poison bait is just that – bait.
It is something that will lure the mice in, so if you don’t already have them, don’t use poison bait.
This is also a dangerous item if you have any pets or small children, so caution should be used.
If you are able to, check on your camper regularly during the winter months. This way you’ll be able to stay on top of any problems if the mice do somehow get inside.
It is also a good idea to start your engine and run it for a while periodically if your RV is motorized.
Checking for mice while doing this is a good opportunity and will keep them from nesting in your engine compartment.
If you find signs of mouse activity upon checking your camper, double up your efforts in the areas that seem to be having problems.
For instance, if you see a lot of droppings in your water compartment – add more smelly stuff (Irish Spring, peppermint, mothballs) and have a better look for any openings that you can block. Diligence is key to preventing problems.
Do dryer sheets work to keep mice away?
I believe it helps. Pick ones with a strong scent. The mice don’t like strong smells, but the smell of dryer sheets is generally pleasant to the human nose.
Does Irish Spring Soap help keep mice out of your camper?
Much like the dryer sheets, the strong scent of Irish Spring will help deter mice from entering your camper. I like to use a combo of dryer sheets and Irish Spring soap for the best results.
What else can help keep mice out?
Peppermint or cinnamon oil and mothballs are also effective for keeping mice out of your camper with their strong scents.
Bleach and ammonia also work, but don’t smell any better to human noses than mouse noses and could damage your RV if they leak, so probably best avoided.
To block openings or cracks into their campers people use things like steel wool and aluminum foil as mice don’t like to chew threw them.
Hopefully if you follow all of the tips above you will have a mouse free winter and a camper that is ready to go in the spring!
Cristy Howitt is a long time RV owner. She and her husband began their RV adventures after graduating University at a time when all their friends were opting to backpack overseas. They chose to hit the road and travel through the US, Mexico and Canada instead in a classic 1974 Class A Centurion. Today, many years later, they continue to use RV’s to escape the Canadian winters and enjoy summer time trips in Canada. Next on the bucket list is touring the northern States and seeing Mount Rushmore in their restored Country Coach.