Mice and rats are some of the most bothersome pests around the world. They can infest everything from your garage to your shed, attic, basement, and any other place in or around your home. Not only are rats and mice a pain to deal with, but they’re also destructive and carriers of numerous diseases like salmonella. But, even as nasty as these pests are, some homeowners prefer to use humane methods to catch them. Unfortunately, at best, many store-bought mouse and rat traps only capture one or two rodents at a time and are not overly helpful when facing large numbers. To help, we’ve compiled a list of DIY humane mousetraps that are cheap and easy to make. 

What Are Live Capture Traps, and How Can You Best Use Them?

Before making these traps, we want to go over what live capture traps are, how they work, and how best to utilize them. “Live capture traps” are intended to contain one or more mice alive, humanely, so they can be set free farther away from human dwellings. These traps are humane alternatives to snap traps and electric mousetraps. However, these traps will be lethal to mice if left unattended for extended periods, so we recommend checking them twice per week. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a bucket of dead mice. Once you’ve caught them, you should deposit all mice immediately. Furthermore, when releasing mice, be sure to do so at least two miles from where they were trapped, or they’ll quickly find their way back into your home.

The Basic Bucket Mousetrap

The first trap on this list is extremely easy to make, only requiring three objects to complete:

  • A bucket (or another tall container like a barrel)
  • A small piece of lumber
  • Peanut butter

Then, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Find a location where the mice are nesting or a location they frequent.
  2. Place the bucket inside that location.
    1. Something tall with slick indoor walls, like a plastic 5-gallon bucket, is your best option.
  3. Rest one side of the lumber on the bucket and the other side on the ground so it will act as a ramp to the top of the bucket.
  4. On the inside of the bucket, about 4 inches down from the lip, smear a line of peanut butter all the way around.
  5. Optional – place a small layer of sunflower seeds or other bait at the bottom of the bucket.

The basic bucket trap is elegant in its simplicity. The mice follow the ramp up to the top of the bucket, reach down, attempt to get the peanut butter, and fall into the bucket. The walls of the bucket are slick, making it impossible for them to get out. Some variations of this trap have you drill a long nail through the top end of the lumber and place it over the lip of the bucket. This nail then holds the ramp in place. Doing this will help stability and ensure the ramp won’t move, but in most cases, it isn’t necessary, and the weight of most lumber pieces is enough to keep it secure on the bucket’s edge.

How to Make And Use a Simple Bucket Mouse Trap Infographic
Image Source: Sam Wasson / Today’s Homeowner Team

Paper “X” DIY Mousetrap

Next up, we have an equally easy-to-make trap, requiring no power tools or serious modifications. For this trap, you’ll need the following:

  • Bucket or tall container with smooth inside walls
  • Small piece of lumber
  • Large piece of paper that can cover the bucket, such as a sheet of contractor’s paper
  • Peanut butter
  • Duct tape, twine, or rope
  • Hammer and nail
  • Pair of scissors or razor blade

To assemble this trap, you’ll need to:

  1. Find a good spot to place the bucket, preferably somewhere the mice are nesting or traveling often.
  2. Take the sheet of paper and fit it snugly over the top of the bucket.
  3. Take your tape, twine, or rope and tie the paper tightly to the bucket.
  4. Take the small board and hammer the nail through the end of the board.
  5. Lean the board onto the edge of the bucket, with the nail poking through the paper.
  6. Using the scissors or knife, cut an “X” in the center of the paper
  7. Take the peanut butter and apply a small dab onto each inside-facing corner of the “X.”
contractor paper for mousetrap
Image Source: Canva

This trap functions similarly to the last one, with a few alterations. The last trap’s only major problem was that mice would occasionally not fall in. This trap further baits them to unstable footing with the paper and peanut butter. Keep in mind that the mice’s weight may occasionally rip or damage the paper, so it will need to be replaced, especially if you intend to use this trap multiple times.

The Rolling Can Trap

This DIY trap is the most popular, effective, and difficult to construct. On the plus side, you won’t need to replace any components, as with the paper trap. To build this trap, you’ll need the following:

  • Bucket, trash can, or another tall container
  • Piece of lumber
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Empty soda can
  • Pair of tin snips
  • Pair of needle-nose pliers or a hammer
  • Hand drill with a twist drill bit (preferably one designed for metal)
  • Peanut butter

To build this spinning trap, you must:

  1. With the drill and twist bit, drill two small, parallel holes, one at the top of the can and another at the bottom.
  2. With a pair of tin snips, remove the top of the coat hanger.
  3. Unwind the coat hanger until it’s a straight cord.
  4. Fit the wire coat hanger through the holes in the can. If done correctly, the can should spin freely.
  5. Make two small holes on opposite sides along the top of the bucket.
  6. Fit the wires through the holes. You should have the can suspended in the center of the bucket, with several inches of wire protruding from its sides.
  7. With the needle-nose pliers, bend the extra lengths of wire down, setting the wire in place in the bucket.
    1. If you don’t have a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can instead use a hammer to tap the wire downward.
  8. Apply peanut butter to the can.
  9. Place the trap in an area mice frequent or are nesting.
empty soda can for mousetrap
Image Source: Canva

This trap has several benefits over the others on this list. First, mice are more likely to fall into it because the peanut butter is at eye level and is slightly within reach. The mice can typically get to the peanut butter by stretching or carefully walking across the wire, but they’ll fall in once they place their weight on the rotating can. Second, you can disassemble the trap by bending the wires back and slipping the can out of the center, allowing you to dispose of the rats in the bucket and reuse the trap later without replacing any parts.

Mouse/Rat Traps We Don’t Recommend

While researching this topic, we found plenty of online tutorials for mousetraps that were either incredibly ineffective or cruel in practice. Here are some of the most common traps we don’t recommend:

  • Funnel plastic bottle mousetraps: These traps use large water bottles, removing their caps and flipping the top upside down to create a basic funnel trap. These are common traps for catching other pests like hornets, wasps, and flies. However, with mice, things become more difficult. While it will trap the mice, disposing of them once inside is a different story. You’ll have to remove the top of the bottle to get them out, putting yourself at risk of getting bit.
  • Water bottle rubber band trap: These traps bait mice into a large water bottle or gallon jug, only to use a trip mechanism to close the bottle shut. While some of these traps online seem to catch mice, they can have difficulty holding them. According to some online reviews, the mice chewed through the bottle once inside. We don’t recommend it unless you’re planning on checking this trap every morning.
    • Some versions of this trap use PVC piping that appears to have good results but is complex and difficult to make.
  • Shoebox trap: This trap uses a shoebox with a hole cut in the top and a toilet paper roll positioned along the hole. As the mice walk onto the roll, they fall in and are trapped. Much like the water bottle trap, a mouse will make quick work of the cardboard sides of a shoebox.

Final Thoughts

Mice can be one of the most difficult pests for homeowners to handle. With their damaging habits, fast multiplication, and stubbornness once inside a home, mice can quickly become a living nightmare. Thankfully, the traps in this article are designed to capture multiple mice, so if applied early enough, these can prevent infestations in their tracks. However, we want to stress that there is a limit to the number of mice DIY humane methods can handle. In the case of full-blown infestations, you’ll want to contact a pest control company.

Mice can carry dangerous diseases, cause structural damage, and can even infest multiple nearby structures if given enough time. If you’re experiencing severe mice issues, you should call an exterminator ASAP. Furthermore, if you experience frequent mice problems, a consultation from a pest control company can help you prevent further infestations down the line.

Editorial Contributors
Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson

Staff Writer

Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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