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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Wave your Magic Wand (AKA: Pictures this…)

Recently, an article has hit the mainstream claiming a “silver bullet” for controlling rats, specifically Norway rats. Stories like this hit the news regularly, but this time, it seems to have gone almost viral. Unfortunately, there are many of these stories, and often products that go with them to “magically” eliminate your problem with one easy step. If only it were so easy.

The so-called “hack” this time? Use bleach.

In all fairness, the quote that was taken was to use bleach to help clean out trash receptacles however the implication was that by using bleach, it would completely stop rodents. I’m also hoping the quote was taken somewhat out of context. The article even went on to say that if something tasted of bleach, the rodents wouldn’t eat it. As most professionals know, this is just not true.

Using bleach can help…to a degree. Picture this: it’s lunchtime, you are hungry, and someone brings in some steaming hot pizzas and drops them in the breakroom a few doors down from your office. However, the cleaning team just cleaned the carpets in the hallway and it smells of the cleaner. Chances are, your hunger, and the wonderful smell of that pizza is not going to stop you from finding it and eating. Rodents do have a strong sense of smell and can be temporarily put off by strong scents that are not food. When there is a food source present, and they are hungry, that will be a strong attractant for them.

Don't judge, they really are awesome

An appropriate cleaner can help to clean up small amounts of food debris and may be useful in disrupting rodent trails somewhat. Picture this: I’ve just made my famous chocolate chip cookies. They get devoured faster than you can say “best chocolate chip cookies ever”. However, there are still some crumbs left and little bits of chocolate littering my counter. Despite the rest of my counters being cleaned with a cleaner, if I don’t scrape of those cookie crumbs, my spouse is not going to hesitate to try to eat them.

messy trash bin
Not my bin...but I did take the pic!

Let’s talk about cleaning trash bins for a minute too. As much as it would be nice to say that they should be cleaned out after every use, no one is going to do that. Picture this: a dumpster, in a back alley, that serves a small strip mall including restaurants and stores. When the trash service empties the dumpsters, they hose out the dumpster and clean off the dumpster pad. Wait, what? They don’t do that? Oh. To be fair, many accounts do clean the area around the dumpster on a regular basis. That regular basis might be twice a year but it’s still regular. To be honest, my trash bins probably only get cleaned every few months. Even if I did clean my trash bins (with a cleaner like bleach), a cleaner alone won’t deter rats, especially if there is still a food source around the area.

Let’s talk about bleach for a minute also. Customers reading this may assume that there is a quick fix to their rat problem and could expose themselves to danger. Chlorine bleach inhalation can cause discomfort, coughing, and can lead to acute, or long-term chronic chemical pneumonitis. When your skin comes into direct contact with bleach you may experience burning, itchiness, and general discomfort. Since the start of the pandemic poisoning by bleach and other disinfectants has risen sharply, mostly from people using them incorrectly.

Picture this: the pizza is still in the breakroom, the hallway to that breakroom is smelly with cleaning products, but my cookies are in the conference room in the other direction with no stinky chemical smells. Where do you go? Probably to the cookies because there is less distracting you. You have now changed your foraging pattern and gone in a different direction. Stong cleaning agents (particularly if they are applied by customers) may temporarily displace rats from hiding spots and drive them into other, indoor areas. It could steer them away from traps and bait stations, making these tools less effective.

Unfortunately, articles like these imply customers can do it themselves easily and quickly. The truth is that bleach (and other DIY products) can be harmful and make rodent issues worse if they are not used correctly. Using an integrated approach with sanitation, exclusion (including safely using cleaning products), traps, and treatments can significantly reduce rodent issues. If you’ve been dealing with some tough rodent issues, contact us to see how we can help you!

Lagniappe - a classic: turn up the sound for this one

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