Tips to deter mice, ants and other critters
How do people keep out RV pests (creepy crawlers such as mice, spiders, scorpions and ants) from their RV interior and lower storage areas?
Here are a few suggestions for deterring RV pests, which seem to be able to get into the tiniest spaces, make themselves at home and possibly cause damage to wiring, plumbing or other components of your RV.
Personally we have been fortunate, not having any major issues with pests. One time we did have ants get into the motorhome via the power cord. We discovered this after driving one day – we opened the rear wardrobe and found the poor critters in the corner of the closet nearest to where the power cord is stored. They were running for their life, trying to escape the heat of the rear diesel engine.
Believe us, this was an unsettling surprise to find, but the critters were quickly vacuumed up and we now are extra careful to keep the power cord off the ground when possible.
Another time, we had a couple mice get into the RV. This occurred at a time when we were still working at our corporate jobs and had been stationary for about nine months. It was in the middle of winter and no doubt the mice came in to keep warm. We also had a neighbor who had hay bales stacked around his rig, so we think that might have brought the mice into our vicinity. Our intruders were quickly captured with some mice traps, and we were lucky not to have suffered any damage to wiring, etc.
In general, we suspect that we avoid some pest problems just because we are frequently on the move and are not staying in a given location for any length of time. There are appliances and cooling/heating systems running on a regular basis. We don’t have anything stacked up around the RV (such as wood or possessions of any kind). We are careful to avoid clutter inside the RV and keep all food products well sealed. We clean house and vacuum frequently.
There is probably more of an issue with RV pests when a rig is being stored or is stationary for a long time.
Ideas for dealing with RV Pests:
While we can’t vouch for their effectiveness, we have uncovered a variety of suggestions from RVers which are listed below:
RV Pest deterrent – Mothballs: Some people suggest using mothballs while an RV is stored. Others are concerned about poisoning pets or small children, or say that it near to impossible to get rid of the odor. We have also heard that mothballs will work for a while but eventually rodents will get used to the smell and it will no longer deter them.
One suggestion claims that the trick to using the mothballs while storing your rig is NOT to scatter them, but instead to purchase some inexpensive disposable bowls with lids and pour the mothballs into these containers. Then poke holes in the containers – sufficient for air flow, but small enough to keep the mothballs “contained” as they diminish in size over time. Place these containers through out the RV, including basement storage compartments. The containers can just be collected when you take the RV out of storage.
RV Pest deterrent – Fabric softener dryer sheets: Place these inside drawers and cabinets and other compartments. These are supposed to be good mice deterrents. We have read mixed reviews. Some claim they work and avoid the unpleasant odor of mothballs. On the other hand, we have read cautions that the sheets may not be effective once they dry out, and one report that the targeted mice built nests with the sheets.
RV Pests – Prevent entry: Probably the best bet is to try to prevent mice and other rodents from getting access into your RV in the first place. This can be difficult because even the very smallest of spaces are big enough for entry by a small rodent.
Inspect the underside of your RV for any gaps or holes. One way to do this is to wait until dark, open and illuminate all interior closets and cabinets next to the floor, and then look for places where light is coming through. Or do the opposite and light up the outside of the RV and see if you can see light coming through into a darkened RV interior.
Fill any gaps using silicone or expanding foam. Important: expanding foam can expand a lot more than you might expect – so experiment first on something other than your RV. Guard against using so much foam that you damage something when it expands. One advantage to this foam is that it can be easily removed if the plumbing or wiring has to be worked on. A related idea is to use stainless-steel wool into the openings AND then spray expandable foam into the steel wool. Using duct tape to secure the stainless-steel wool (not regular steel wool) has also been suggested to block openings.
If possible, store your RV on a solid surface like pavement or concrete instead of on grass, fields or wooded areas. This may minimize the likelihood of critters gaining entry to your rig.
If you are storing a motorized RV, starting it every week may help run off rodents that are using the engine compartment and causing chewing damage.
Avoid having anything stacked up around the rig that would be attractive to RV pests.
Protection for LP areas: Insects are attracted to the odorant that is added to LP gas, and we have read that mud daubers and wasps may build nests in and around your gas appliances and vents. We have not had any problems with this.
We suggest that you check vents for nests as a regular part of your “walk around” routine, and include checks and cleaning of these appliance systems as part of your regular annual maintenance.
We don’t recommend using wasp killer sprays near furnace vents, due to potential for flammability. Knock off the wasp nests at night.
Some suggest covering the furnace vent, water heater vent and refrigerator vent with mud dauber screens. We suggest a lot of caution should you decide to do this. Check with your manufacturer and make sure that you do not cause obstruction that could lead to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes or other problems. RV furnaces and water heaters systems are designed with proper ventilation. Obstructions may cause problems, so the screens may cause more harm than good.
If you are storing the RV with all appliances off, another suggestion is to cover the vents with tape AND, very important, post a note over the furnace thermostat or water heater switch warning the user to remove the tape before firing up the appliance.
We have also read a suggestion to minimize spiders’ attraction to the smell of propane – by placing a few pieces of flea collar in refrigerator and water heater outside access compartments when storing the RV.
Electronic Devices: Some people have had success using devices such as the DX610 Pest-A-Repel Electronic Ultrasonic Pest Repeller.. This could be a good solution when the RV is being stored, or not in use.
RV pests – Ants: If you camped in an area with a lot of ant activity, spread a small amount of borax powder or kitchen cleanser containing bleach around the tires, leveling jacks and any other items on the RV that contact the ground. Another tip is to spread a one-inch band of petroleum jelly around the electrical cord, water hose and sewer hose to discourage ants from becoming RV pests.
RV Pest deterrent – Alpine product: If all else fails, we have heard of a product called Fresh Cab that claims to put off a sweet woodsy-alpine scent that will keep mice away for up to three months. We haven’t tried it, but you can read more at www.goodearthenterprises.com.
Trap RV Pests: You can set traps for mice until they are gone. Some swear by glue traps, claiming they catch bugs, snakes, mice and anything else that crosses over them. Others find these inhumane. Snap traps baited with peanut butter seem to be a popular suggestion.
RV Pest deterrent – Fox/predator urine: We have heard that you can purchase these sorts of products at some hardware and sporting good stores as a possible solution. It creates the illusion that a fox is present, deterring mice.
Oil of Peppermint is suggested as a good way to get mice to leave. They hate the smell. You must use real oil of Peppermint and not the extract. Place some on cottonballs an place around the rig. It makes everything smell good and gets rid of the mice. You have to repeat when the smell goes away. Peppermint plants also work. Sounds better than fox urine to us:-)!
Thankfully, we have never encountered a scorpion (yet). We think the ideas for preventing entry would be the way to go here.
That’s all we have for now. Let us know if you hear of any other ideas.
Jill Miller is the founder of Your RV Lifestyle. Trading corporate America for the open road, Jill, along with her partner Jose, began their RV journey, making an unconventional start by wintering in New Jersey. A natural adventurer, she was motivated by a desire to explore the USA and beyond, embracing the varied landscapes, communities, and cultures across the country.
For Jill, the allure of RV living was not about material accumulation, but rather the pursuit of an adventurous, fulfilling lifestyle. A lover of golf, bicycling, hiking, and line dancing, she has carried her passions across the country, engaging with them in diverse settings. Jill’s commitment to the RV lifestyle came after years of careful research, numerous consultations with RV owners, and personal trials, including living in a rental RV.