Rodents are carriers of certain diseases and can spread them through direct contact or through indirect contact from ticks, mites and fleas that feed on infected rodents. Rodents also cause property damage and noise disturbances.

The good news is that a few simple containment and prevention steps can quickly lead to a successful rodent removal from your home.

1. Clean Up

While sweeping, vacuuming and washing fabrics may help remove visible signs of rodents, they’re not enough to fully decontaminate your home. These methods expose you to dangerous toxins and don’t get rid of the pheromone trails that can lure rats back into your home.

To sanitize infested areas, wear rubber gloves and prepare a cleaning solution made with one part bleach to nine parts water. Spray and soak dead mice, nests, droppings, and contaminated materials before disposing of them outside. You can also use other disinfectant products — just make sure to follow label instructions for dilution and time. Avoid stirring up dust in or around contaminated spaces because it can spread germs and even cause illness, such as hantavirus. Also, never touch a rodent carcass with your bare hands. Rats and mice carry harmful diseases that can infect humans through bite wounds, by eating contaminated food or water, or through breathing in germ-laden droplets that are stirred up into the air.

2. Seal Up

If you’ve had a rat infestation, you need to take precautions while cleaning and disinfecting. Before you start, make sure that the active rodents are gone and enough time has passed so that any viruses in the urine/droppings or nesting materials are no longer infectious.

Look for – and seal – gaps in building foundations, water pipes, electric wires, drain spouts, vents and other openings. Caulking, steel wool and lightweight sheet metal are effective. Norway and roof rats are able to chew through caulking, so you may need more durable material like concrete or bricks to plug larger holes.

Before you start cleaning up, spray the area with a household disinfectant or a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and disinfection time). Wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear when picking up rodent urine/droppings and nesting materials. Place the waste in a plastic bag, seal and dispose of it safely outside in a covered trash container.

3. Dispose of Food

If you have rats, it is important to dispose of food waste promptly. Rodents are opportunistic and will take whatever food is available, so don’t leave garbage on the ground, uncovered pet dishes or spilled bird seed. Keep a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid nearby to quickly dispose of trash and to avoid rodent access. Store firewood and lumber well off the ground.

Never sweep or vacuum rat droppings, urine or nesting material. When swept or vacuumed, these substances can break up and be inhaled by the cleaning person, transmitting rodent virus particles. This can include Arenavirus and Hantavirus.

Place snap traps in areas with signs of rat activity (droppings, chewed materials). Check and empty traps daily and discard rodent carcasses immediately afterward. Disinfect gloves and rags that have come into contact with dead mice before using them again, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them. Use a disinfectant or a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water to clean surfaces and materials where there is evidence of a rat infestation.

4. Prevent Entry

Rodents are attracted to homes for shelter during colder weather, and can cause more than just a nuisance. They can gnaw on electrical wires which may lead to fires and also pose health risks as they carry bacteria such as salmonella on their fur and paws.

Signs of rat activity can include small dark droppings or paw prints along walls and in pantries. Store foods in metal or glass containers and keep them off the ground to prevent rodent access. Check for holes around the house, basement foundations and sheds.

Seal narrow gaps with 100% silicone caulk and stuff larger openings with steel wool or a foam insulation pest blocker. Install door sweeps and screen vents. Trim any trees and shrubs close to the home to reduce hiding places. If you use a fireplace, a chimney cap is essential to prevent a rat from entering and climbing inside. Place traps with various baits in places where rat entry is likely.