The rats in our basement are scaring us. Our house is 120 years old and ten...

Asked March 6, 2019, 11:21 AM EST

The rats in our basement are scaring us. Our house is 120 years old and ten feet from houses on either side. A good exterminator placed traps, baits, and everything else he could think of down there, and in the year since then I've found one dead rat in a trap, and the feces didn't re-appear after that. But they're back, and we're hearing vigorous scraping under our floor. I've called the exterminator but heard nothing back, and now I'm thinking in terms of fumigating the whole house with something like sulfur candles. The house foundation is old, soft sandstone and it's impossible to find entrance points. Any ideas?

Fairfield County Ohio

4 Responses

I'm certainly not an expert in this field but you are on the right track to call an exterminator. If your previous company is not responding call another. There are several in the county/area. Fumigation with "sulfur candles" will most likely not accomplish your goal and may be dangerous. I've never heard of this method.

Call a professional and also eliminate any food source such as pet food etc. You really need to hire a professional licensed exterminator.

Sulfur candles were a common item in hardware stores up through the 1970's. They were round cans of hard yellow sulfur with a wooden wick in the center. Instructions: light wick and get out, fast. That's because they'd fill your cozy infested home with sulfur dioxide gas, one good whiff of which will kill man, beast, or bug. Generally they'd be placed in the basement or, if you were fumigating a ship, down in the hold. Nobody knows how old the technology is--the Romans probably used it, if not the Egyptians--but it seems to have been fairly effective. It's not clear why they're unavailable now.

Mark Kinsler
Lancaster, Ohio


I would never use anything like that sounds very dangerous.

Dangerous, yes. But our grandparents wouldn't have hesitated--they'd just take precautions, as we should as well. I've discussed this sort of thing with my science students: most effective chemicals and processes are highly energetic and thus poisonous, high-temperature, or otherwise hazardous to anyone's health. But we cannot make steel or electric power or concrete "with aloe leaves and spring water," as I tended to put it.

In any event, our exterminator is coming for a return visit this afternoon. It seems that his office was being mis-handled, and personnel changes have been implemented. And thanks for doing what you do.

Mark Kinsler