Feb 10, 2022 - News

An urban rat expert shares tips for D.C.'s rodent issues

A rat looks for food around a D.C. trash can

Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Forget rat exterminators and expensive traps, says rodent expert Bobby Corrigan. His silver bullet for deterring rats involves some discipline and bleach.

The big picture: Rats usually don't return to places where they can't find food. The trick is to keep alleyways, sidewalks, and homes clear of food scraps and messy garbage cans.

  • It's a simple rule-of-thumb to follow when you have a rat problem, according to Corrigan, who has a Ph.D. in urban rats studies and advises cities, including the District.

The details: He says residents should spray their garbage cans and trash bags with 10% bleach solution when taking out trash.

  • “The rats do not like to chew into bleach tasting anything,” he says. “If the outside of the can smells like bleach to that famous nose of theirs, they're like, 'Well, this ain't food.’”

Keeping garbage cans tightly closed is also imperative and requires cooperation from everyone in a neighborhood.

  • “If those rats show up in that alley night after night, and everything's tidy, and everything's been cleaned up, and everything's in tight cans, and so forth — if they don't get food, they don't come to that alley anymore,” he says. “Period.”
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