What If I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings? Tips For Cleaning Mice Poop

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 18, 2024

Woman vacuuming wonders, I accidentally vacuumed mouse droppings, is it dangerous, can mouse poop (dried mouse droppings) vacuumed spread hantavirus and what do mouse droppings look like?

I accidentally vacuumed mouse droppings..now what?

In most cases, vacuuming up the poop of the various creatures that can make their way into our home wouldn’t be cause for much concern.

But when it comes to dried mouse droppings, which carry a risk–albeit a small one–of spreading serious diseases from rat poop, wanting to know if you need to do anything to keep yourself safe is a legitimate question.

This guide outlines how to proceed if you’re asking yourself, “what if I accidentially vacuumed mouse droppings,” and additional information about mice that would be helpful to know to keep them out of your home and yourself safe.

I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings. Is That Okay?

It’s not uncommon to encounter unexpected situations like vacuuming mouse droppings, but understanding the potential risks and proper cleanup methods can help ensure a safe and healthy environment.

Mice poop, depending on the type of vacuum you use, can become particulated and end up in the air in your home.

Can You Vacuum Mouse Poop?

Vacuuming mouse poop could be hazardous to your health. It could spread particles containing the virus around your home.

You should not vacuum mouse poop or any nesting material unless they have been soaked in a mixture of bleach and water, or a commercial disinfectant.

To be on the safe side, you might consider removing them some other way, like picking them up with a paper towel.

I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings. What’s Next?

First off, don’t panic too much.

As stated above, the likelihood of coming into contact with hantavirus is rare.

Graphic with texts and images that show what do mouse droppings.

But you don’t want to take any chances. If you or I accidentally vacuumed mouse droppings, it is a must to clean the vacuum.

Here are the steps to do so:

Step 1: Put On Protective Gear To Take Apart Your Vacuum

Put on rubber gloves and a N95 mask.4 Separate out the bag, hose, canister, filter, and any other attachments.

If you are not sure how to take apart your vacuum, consult your user manual. You can also probably find information online.

Step 2: Disinfect the Filter and Canister

You can do this with dish soap and water. Fill the sink with warm water and scrub the inside of the filter with a toothbrush.

If you can’t wash your filter, wipe it off with a dry cloth. Empty the canister in a plastic bag and close it up.

Wash the canister as well. Of course, if your vacuum doesn’t have a canister but a bag, all you need to do is throw it out and put in a new one.

Let the canister and filter dry for at least 24 hours before putting them back in the vacuum.

Step 3: Clean the Remaining Parts of the Vacuum

Clear any hair and debris from the beater bar–the cylindrical brush at the bottom. If you can remove it, clean it as well.

Clean the hose and any attachments that were on the vacuum at the time you used it with warm water and dish soap. Let all the parts dry for at least 24 hours.

What Do Mouse Droppings Look Like?

Mouse droppings are typically spindle-shaped–meaning they have pointed ends– and can be easy to miss being they are about the size of a grain of rice.

Their feces are usually about ¼ of an inch long, dark brown to black in color, granular, and kind of shiny looking.

Photo of a lady who may be vacuuming mouse poop.

(Image: Liliana Drew5)

It is easy to confuse mouse droppings with other rodents or insects, like squirrels, cockroaches, or bats. You probably wouldn’t confuse them with rat droppings, however, since they are about 2 to 3 times as long.

Is Mouse Poop Dangerous?

Mouse poop can be dangerous. Mice and other rodents carry hantaviruses, a group of viruses that can cause a rare disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS.)1

Not all rodents carry a form of the virus capable of causing HPS in humans. In North America, the only ones that pose a risk are the deer mouse, white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat.2

And even amongst these specific rodents, not all of them will automatically have hantavirus. While HPS is a pretty rare disease, cases have been reported in every state except Hawaii and Alaska.

How Do You Contract Hantavirus?

You can get hantavirus in a few different ways:

  • Breathing in the virus from droppings that have been stirred up in the air
  • Touching droppings, urine, and nests infected with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Being bit by an infected rodent

Activities That Can Put You at Risk

  • Improperly cleaning up droppings, urine, or nesting materials
  • Working in areas where mice and other rodents live
  • Cleaning a barn, shed, or other area that has been closed for a long time without ventilation

Hantavirus Symptoms

Because HPS is a relatively rare disease, it is difficult to pinpoint a clear ‘incubation time.’

Graphic with images and texts about understanding hantavirus symptoms and statistics.

It is believed symptoms can appear anywhere from one to eight weeks after exposure to the virus by way of droppings, fresh urine, saliva, or infected animals.

Early Symptoms

The first signs of hantavirus typically include muscle aches, fever, and fatigue. You are most likely to feel pain in the large muscle groups such as the back, hips, thighs, and shoulders.

These symptoms are considered ‘universal’ meaning everyone who has the virus will experience them. Other possible symptoms experienced by about half of people with HPS include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, chills, headaches, and nausea.

Late Symptoms

These late symptoms typically appear four to 10 days after the early symptoms appear. They include coughing and shortness of breath.

These symptoms are a result of fluid filling the lungs and might be described as feeling a tight band around the chest.

I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings: What Are the Chances of Getting Sick From Mouse Droppings?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDD) started tracking hantavirus cases in 1993. As of 2023, there have only been 850 cases reported.3

So the chances are quite low.

Mortality Rate

HPS can be fatal–38% of people who contract it die.

How To Clean Mouse Droppings

Any area infested with mice needs to be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned. Urine, droppings, and nesting materials must be soaked with a commercial disinfectant or a bleach solution consisting of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach for at least five minutes.

However, you can use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect surfaces and other items. Just keep in mind that although this is a very safe way to disinfect things, it can cause discoloration.

Make sure the commercial product you use is specifically labeled as a ‘disinfectant’ and follow the label’s instructions for proper and safe use. Carefully handle droppings and other debris with nonabsorbent gloves, paper towels, or cleaning rags.

Any cleaning items used should be placed in trash bags. Any clothing worn during the cleaning process should be washed separately from other clothes.

Spray gloves with a disinfectant before removing them. For good measure, you might consider just throwing out the clothing and any other gear you used during the cleaning process.

Cleaning Mouse Poop From the Carpet

If you only see a few droppings on the carpet, you can pick them up with an adhesive cardboard pad and paper towels. Put any items in direct contact with the droppings into a plastic bag and then place that bag inside another.

Clean the carpet with a commercial-grade disinfectant or a commercial-grade steam cleaner. Follow directions carefully to avoid damage to the carpet.

Be sure to check the product you are using can actually be used on carpets.

Cleaning Mouse Droppings Off Hardwood Floors

This process is very similar to cleaning mouse droppings from carpets. Because cleaning hard floors is easier than carpets in general, cleaning with a disinfectant or steaming the floor may not be necessary, though you might feel more comfortable taking this extra step.

Be sure the product is safe to use on wood.

Cleaning Mouse Droppings From Clothing

If mice made a nest in areas where you may be storing clothing, like drawers or boxes in the basement, you might find they have been using it as a bathroom. Remove the droppings with a paper towel or adhesive pads and dispose of them in a plastic bag bagged inside another plastic bag.

Wash the clothes at the highest temperature setting possible, and be sure your detergent has disinfectant ingredients.

Natural Ways To Keep Mice Away

Mice and other rodents can be a problem any time of the year, but particularly so in the colder months where they hope to find a warm place to call home. They can gain entry into even the best-sealed homes through the gutters, chimney, foundation, siding, or garage.

If you have seen mouse droppings, that’s a pretty clear sign you probably have some unwelcome house guests.

Remove Nest Building Materials

Mice like paper and fluffy materials of all kinds to build their nests. Keep such materials out of their reach.

Repellent Smells

Mice have a very strong sense of smell to compensate for poor eyesight and rely on it to find food, get around, and protect themselves from predators. So it is believed very strong scents overwhelm rodents and they will steer clear of areas emanating from them.

The one thing to keep in mind about using this DIY method is the scents may not last long so you would need to be consistent with it to gauge whether it is working for you. You might find better success using a commercial product designed to repel mice with scents they find unpleasant rather than methods such as soaking essential oils on a cotton ball for example.

Some smells they may find unpleasant include:

  • Essential oils like peppermint, clove and cayenne pepper, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and citronella: Soak a cotton ball in the oil and place it in areas where mice are likely to be.
  • Chemical scents like bleach, ammonia, and mothballs: Ammonia smells similar to a predator’s urine.
  • Dryer sheets
  • Cat litter: They don’t necessarily find the smell repellent but if they think a cat is nearby they may steer clear.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Mix it with some water and spray it in ‘problem’ areas.

Calling in the Pros

Mice can reproduce pretty quickly and it wouldn’t take long to have a serious problem on your hands. Exterminators typically offer a free inspection to identify entry points and suggest a plan of action.

Exterminator prices vary based on a number of factors from where you live to the extent of the problem. A single visit may cost anywhere from $200 to $600 dollars.

Depending on the extent of your problem, you might opt for a yearly plan which may cost a couple of hundred dollars up front, and a fee for each subsequent visit that may range anywhere from $50 to $150.

Mice can be pesky little buggers to deal with, and the possibility of their droppings spreading disease can be a bit unnerving no matter how small the risk.

But as you can see from this article, if you are thinking ‘I accidentally vacuumed mouse droppings, am I in danger, the answer is very likely ‘no.’

Frequently Asked Questions About I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings

Does Vinegar Disinfect Mouse Droppings?

In the absence of bleach, white vinegar can offer the same benefit. Use the same ratio of 9 parts water to 1 part vinegar.

How Much Do Mice Poop?

A single mouse can drop as many as 70 pellets a day! That is a lot and seeing a lot of droppings is a good indicator that it is a mouse and not another creature like a roach.

Read More About I Accidentally Vacuumed Mouse Droppings


1Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Facts About Hantaviruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from <https://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/pdf/hps_brochure.pdf>

2Tennessee Wild Life Resources Agency. (2023). White Footed Deermouse, Peromyscus-leucopus. Tennessee Wild Life Resources Agency. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from <https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/mammals/small/white-footed-deermouse.html>

3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 25). Rodents in the United States That Carry Hantavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from <https://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/rodents/index.html>

4U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2023, March 10). N95 Respirators, Surgical Masks, Face Masks, and Barrier Face Coverings. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from <https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-face-masks-and-barrier-face-coverings>

5A Person Vacuuming Under a Side Cabinet Photo by Liliana Drew. (2021, September 6) / Pexels License. Resized. Pexels. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-person-vacuuming-under-a-side-cabinet-9462147/>