Once again newspapers are headlined with the word "Rats," and the questions on every resident’s mind are, "Where did they come from this time?" and "How do we get rid of them?" Like many other problems that face large groups of people trying to live together in small spaces, a solution requires a team effort. But, before we can begin an effective program to exterminate the rodents, it is necessary to understand why they infest our homes and neighborhoods, what we can personally do about it, and where we need professional help.
Rats are typical New Yorkers–they go where the food is good. The very first and most important step in any extermination program is to completely remove–not just reduce or diminish–any food source. The most obvious locations, the compactor and recycling areas, should be scrubbed with degreasers and disinfectants daily. The inside of the compactor and the inside of the entire compactor chute, from top to bottom, should be cleaned frequently and thoroughly.
Recyclable bottles and cans should be placed in sealed containers. Plastic and rubber containers are available in many sizes and even come color-coded. It is important that an ample number of containers be distributed strategically throughout the building. People are much more cooperative when it is convenient for them.
Kitchen exhaust ducts are favorite places for vermin who prefer high-cholesterol diets. The grease that collects on the interior walls or oozes through the joints, along with the warmth of the ducting, is like a suite at the Plaza in the middle of the winter. It is also not unusual to actually find droppings in the ductwork. It is very difficult to locate damages or holes in the air ducts in existing 20- to 70-year-old buildings, so it is extremely important to keep them clean. Regular periodic cleaning removes the source of food and motivation for rodents to enter the ducts.
Besides the more obvious areas, like basements and compactor rooms, "quiet areas," such as backyards and unused alleyways, should be policed and kept free of any debris that offers a safe and undisturbed place for nesting. Vermin will visit the garbage can for dinner, but they don’t like to sleep there. They need a safe place to nest. Removing anything, including rubbish, furniture, etc. that is not mobile or moved on a regular basis, forces rats to travel greater distances, and finally to relocate.