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Public Health - Seattle & King County

How to get rid of rats

Rats are dangerous! They can ruin your food, destroy things in your home and start electrical fires. Rats and their fleas can carry disease.

How to file complaints about rats
Where do rats live outside?
Where do rats live inside the home?
What foods brings rats into my yard and neighborhood?
What do rats eat when they get inside the house?
Keep rats away from your home!
Keep rats out of your sewer pipes!
To kill a rat, use a rat trap!
How do I clean an area where rats/mice have already been?

How to file a complaint about a rat infestation, rats in toilets and rats associated with illegal dumping of garbage and solid waste

Please read the criteria below before filing a complaint about rat problems. To file a complaint about rat infestations, rats in toilets or rats associated with illegal dumping of garbage and solid waste you can call us at 206-263-9566 or write us through Environmental Health's online services portal.

City of Seattle residents:

  • Rats in Toilets: Public Health investigates complaints about rats in toilets. Investigators may follow up on your complaint by inspecting sewers near your residence, and baiting them if evidence of rats are seen.

  • Rodent complaints: In the City of Seattle, Public Health responds to complaints about rodent (rats and mice) infestations and neighborhood rodent issues. We can provide information to the property owner about rodent control and enforcement of the King County Board of Health Title 8 requirements for rodent control. City of Seattle residents can report illegal dumping of garbage and solid waste on private property where rats have not been sighted to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development online or by calling 206-615-0808.

  • Homeowners and general questions about rats and rodent control: If you are a homeowner and are having a rat problem please read our website for information about rodent prevention and control for homeowners and tenants below. Public health cannot come to your home to eliminate rats.

King County residents outside the City of Seattle:

  • Public Health does not respond to complaints about rat infestations outside the City of Seattle limits where there the complaint is not directly associated with illegal dumping or accumulations of garbage and solid waste. This includes rat complaints where the problems are due to wildlife feeding, overgrown vegetation, unmaintained property, or rat infestations inside buildings. For other cities and towns in King County, please contact your local Code Enforcement office. See list of links to cities and towns in King County then conduct a search for Code Enforcement on their websites.

  • When there is an accumulation of garbage, solid waste or illegal dumping on a property a complaint can be filed with public health. Public Health will investigate the illegal dumping or garbage storage based on the implementation of our solid waste regulations. Visit our Illegal Dumping website for more information about accumulations of garbage, solid waste and illegal dumping.

  • If you are a homeowner and are having a rat problem please read our website for information about rodent prevention and control for homeowners and tenants below. If you are a tenant you may want to call your city or county code enforcement office.
Where do rats live outside?
  • Under wood piles or lumber that is not being used often
  • Under bushes, vines and in tall grasses that are not trimmed or cut back
  • Under rocks in the garden
  • In cars, appliances and furniture that has been put outside and is no longer being used
  • In and around trash and garbage that has been left on the ground
  • In holes under buildings
Where do rats live inside the home?
  • In the insulation of walls or ceilings
  • Inside the crawl spaces
  • Behind or under cupboards, counters, bathtubs and shower stalls
  • Near hot water heaters and furnaces
  • In basements, attics and wherever things are stored in boxes, paper or cloth
What foods brings rats into my yard and neighborhood?
  • Garbage that rats can get into, like garbage cans with loose lids, plastic or paper bags, and litter.
  • Food for pets and birds that has not been eaten. Birdseed on the ground, pet food in pet dishes, bread crumbs, etc.
  • Fruits and berries that have fallen to the ground.
  • Compost pile or worm bin that isn't taken care of the right way (do not put meat, fish, poultry, or dairy in the compost)
  • Dog droppings
What do rats eat when they get inside the house?
  • THE SAME FOODS WE DO!
  • Foods, fats, oils that have been spilled and left on counters, floors, appliances and tables
  • Grains, like cereal, oats, rice and vegetables like potatoes and carrots that are in cardboard boxes and plastic bags
  • Pet food in boxes or bags
  • Any garbage that is not in a can with a tight lid
Keep rats away from your home!

Do not give food and shelter to these most unwanted guests!

  • The time to act is before the signs (droppings) of a rat or mouse.
  • Stack fire wood 18 inches off the ground and away from all buildings.
  • Birdhouses and seed should be on poles and in trays rats can't get.
  • Keep garbage can lids closed tightly.
  • Plant bushes so they will stay at least 3 feet from your house.
  • Keep yards and alleys clean. Take junk to the dump!
  • If you feed them, they will stay. Pick up fruit and vegetables in your yard.
  • Do not compost any animal products (fish, meat, chicken, cheese, butter). Keep lids tight.
  • Use only rodent resistant composters.
  • In basements keep any food in closed containers that rats can't chew through.
  • Cover all openings to your house. Rats can get into very small places.
  • Do not leave your pet food outside. If your pet doesn't eat it, the rats will.
  • Roof rats get into your house from tree branches that hang over the roof. Keep trees cut back and cover any openings in the eves.
Keep rats out of your sewer pipes!

Rats live in sewers and can follow the food in pipes up to your toilet.

  • Keep your kitchen sink rinsed clean and use garbage disposals as little as possible.
    • Rinse out your kitchen sink once or twice a month.
    • Use 1 cup of bleach (an alternative to using bleach, 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar) and rinse with boiling water.
  • Never throw grease down the drain.
  • Keep your toilet lid down when not in use.
  • If you find a rat in your toilet, flush it! (hint: squirt a little dishwashing liquid under the lid into the bowl, wait a couple of minutes then flush)
To kill a rat, use a rat trap!

The best trap is the large, simple, cheap wooden "snap trap." They are sold in hardware stores.

To use the trap:

  • BAIT IT with pieces of apple, potato, raw bacon or with peanut butter spread on a cotton ball. Make sure the bait is attached to trap.
  • ATTACH IT firmly to the ground or solid place to keep the rat from dragging the trap away.
  • PLACE THE TRAP near where you have found the droppings. Make sure the trap is safe from people, children, pets or animals who could get hurt from it.

Poisons are not recommended for rat control inside buildings, since poisoned rats can die in hard to reach places causing a very bad smell. When poisons are used, they must be secured (such as in a bait station) so that they are not available to children, pets or non-target animals. They must also be used in accordance with the directions on the label. For additional information, see also the WA Pesticide Control Act (Chapter 15.58 RCW), the WA Pesticide Act (Chapter 17.21 RCW) and the Rules Relating to General Pesticide Use (Chapter 16-228 WAC.)

DEAD RATS must first be wrapped in newspaper, or placed in a plastic bag before putting it in a tightly covered garbage can. Injured or sick rats must be killed, then wrapped and put in the garbage can. Try not to touch the dead rat. Use gloves if possible.

WASH YOUR HANDS WITH HOT WATER AND SOAP AFTER GETTING RID OF DEAD RATS! (even if you used gloves).

How do I clean an area where rats/mice have already been?

If you are cleaning out a building that has been closed up, such as a cabin, shed, or garage, or areas where rodent nesting material have been found, follow these steps.

  1. Air out the building for at least 30 minutes by opening windows and doors. Leave the building while it is airing out.
  2. Wear latex or rubber gloves and a dust mask while cleaning.
  3. Avoid raising dust that may spread the virus through the air: Do not vacuum, sweep or dust. Carefully wet down areas with disinfectant before cleaning.
  4. Use rags, sponges and mops that have been soaked in the disinfectant solution to wipe down counter tops, cabinets and drawers, mop floors and baseboards.
  5. Mix a solution of 1 cup bleach to 10 cups water or use a household disinfectant.
  6. Steam clean carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture.
  7. Thoroughly spray or soak any dead mice, droppings, or nesting areas with disinfectant or bleach solution.
  8. Wash clothes and bedding in hot water and detergent. Set the dryer on high.
  9. To dispose of contaminated items, including dead mice, put them in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and put it in another plastic bag. Seal the outer bag and put it in your outdoor garbage can.
  10. When you are done, disinfect or throw away the gloves you used. Wash your hands or shower with soap and hot water.
Watch a streaming video on rats in toilets by the Seattle Channel
(NOTE: This is part of longer series of stories in this video and starts in the video timeline from 8:47 and ends at 15:17)

Seattle Channel Video can be played in Flash Player 9 and up


Watch a streaming video on how to prevent rats from getting into your home and what to do if you find rat droppings.


Seattle Sewer Baiting Program

Fact sheets and brochures in PDF format:

Rodent and illegal dumping complaints:


Rate mite information

Rodent regulations: Board of Health Code, Title 8