Ten Perfectly Pure Gadgets

Over at BB Gadgets, John posted their list of "perfectly pure gadget," which he describes as gizmos that don't need any additional technological advancement. From the entry on the mousetrap:
 Images  Mouse-Trap What the guillotine is to the French, the mouse trap is to unhygienic Americans. A spring-loaded mousetrap is (usually) a clean way to kill a mouse. But spring for a non-lethal trap out of the kindness of your heart and when you release that mouse, you'll see it poking out of your Cheerios the next morning. Try a glue trap, and you'll hate yourself for years as you torture a cute, fuzzy animal to death. And poison is a painful crapshoot.

Oh, sure. It's a cruel gizmo. But it is perfectly designed: "build the better mousetrap" has become an ironic cultural shorthand for "waste of time."
Ten Perfectly Pure Gadgets (BB Gadgets)


  1. And after a closer look, I’m irrelevantly interested in what they were hiding with the clone tool in that photo.

  2. but it can be improved. I once had a rat trap in the classic wood design and bugger me if those huge rats didn’t drag the thing all over the place and still remain living when I came to dispose of the remains. Yuck.

    So, I found one, all steel with serated edges on the base and trap. A total rat killing machine.

    Of course, in the end I got natures “mouse trap” and bought a cat :)

  3. I lurked around a green site awhile back, and they express abject horror at the idea that one would let one’s cats hunt vermin, which for most people is part of the whole point of having cats. Apparently some people like seeing mice in their Cheerios.

  4. Noooooooo! In reality, the trap sometimes catches the mouse on the muzzle, crushing its face without killing it. Then you have to get the shovel and finish the job. Seriously, I’ve killed more rats with a shovel than with traps. Poison is horrible. They die in the walls and stink for a month. A shovel and patience – it’s the best way.

  5. I don’t think “Build a better mouse trap” means what you think it means.

    “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” is a call to innovate, not to avoid wasting time.

  6. @2 I’d guess a watermark, it’s probably a copyrighted image. I’ve seen this image used before in a fake motivational poster, but the cloning was there too.

  7. If you have a real rat problem, they’re smart enough to figure out that wood thing with the food hurt Bob and eventually will avoid the traps (maybe just the smell of blood?)

    I bought a $50 electric trap after the spring traps went untouched for a couple weeks even when moved to new locations. No such problems, they nicely take their turns, they seem to think Bob, that greedy bastard, ate so much he fell asleep then come take their turn the next day.

    Plus you get to say “the light is green the trap is clean” followed by maniacal laughter.

  8. hey j.p., yes they is some smart critters, but if you melt a little chocolate onto the bar and don’t reset it for a coupla nights they will learn that it is just a harmless little wooden chocolate dispensing device. then you reset and WAAMMOO! (heh heh heh)

  9. Cats? Excuse me while I ROFL. Our cats never did anything to the mice- the little buggers would climb up from the basement and watch tv with us. And we always had at least five cats in the house.

    They killed birds well enough. Frogs. Moles. Mice? Never.

  10. I totally agree with the article about the glue trap. I used one, once. I was trying to be humane because it was just a lost little shew. It ended up being a gruesome and horrifying experience.

  11. Reminds me: Does anyone happen to have a citation for the first use of “ball-bearing mousetrap” as a joking reference to a tomcat? Obviously it has to be after ball bearings became a common technology, but it should be possible to narrow that down further…

  12. The mousetrap should never be used as an example of refined engineering as building a better trap is nothing but an exercise in futility.

    If you need a trap then trapping rats and mice is the least of your worries. The vermin are there because they have found a food supply. Trap a rat and there’ll always be another. Remove the food supply and you remove the problem. Secure your larder, secure your bins, secure your property. Keep your home, your garden and your street clean and tidy. Talk to your council or the police about any serious dumping issues or unsanitary properties nearby. Waste ground is not a problem so long as no one is leaving their rubbish on it.

    Yes, cats may keep rats and mice from voluntarily entering your home, but that is NOT A GOOD REASON TO GET A CAT.

    A real engineer won’t improve your mousetrap, she’ll make it obsolete by improving your living conditions.

  13. My cat presented me with her first roof rat kill (and a nice, large male at that) two days ago. Good Kitty. Hopefully she will feel her obligation toward providing for the house over now, and will simply eat what she catches.

    Glue traps are awful, even if like me, you consider rodents to be destructive vermin with no ‘cute’ redeeming factor. They strike me as though the inventor was a sadist with a particularly cruel frame of mind.

  14. The best mousetrap we ever used was a RatZapper. Mice learned to avoid all the other types of traps, but the RatZapper gracefully executed all of them one at a time.

    They really did make a better mousetrap, and sadly the world hasn’t beaten a path to their door. At least they’re still in business, so we were able to get a replacement when friends lost our first one.

  15. A few remarks:

    1.) Yes, the Rats of NIMH will deftly circumvent your traps.

    2.) Yes, poison is horrible and too unpredictable. Imagine the cat that eats the rat that eats the poison, or as another commenter mentioned, the ones that die in your walls to rot and stink.

    3.) So does anyone sell that t-shirt from Flight of the Conchords with a print on it of a mouse having sex with another mouse stuck in a mousetrap? I want one, and would wear it with pride.

  16. Greetings

    Peanut Butter!

    Seriously its ‘rat crack’ they completely lose it to get the Skippy.

    Called Animal Control to get the rat out of my toilet (nope not an urban legend at all!) and the dumb bastards released it into the house. I was on my own…

    Rat actually licked the peanut butter off one trap trigger before I got him but in the end dumb luck prevailed

    The moral?

    Keep the lid down on your toiler and when your daughter says: “There’s someting you need to see in the toilet.” be very afraid…

    Enjoy the journey


  17. You know, the pet rat I had in the 90s was a VERY good mouse trap. She also took care of pesky birds, snakes, all manner of insects, and other rats. She nearly took the cat out once.

    I’m thinking that she might’ve been a little rodent psychopath.

  18. Just a note for those who find a critter in a glue trap still alive.

    I caught a lizard instead of a mouse, and had no quarrel with him.

    With some gloves, and liberally applying vegetable oil, you can dissolve the glue, and free the little critter.

    Then, some washing off with the garden hose, and he was good to release into the garden…

  19. We bought mousetraps that had the trigger molded out of yellow plastic and shaped like cheese. They worked marvelously, with no added bait necessary. But nothing will crush that “at least I’m giving them a quick, humane death” like trapping a mouse by the tail.

    The mice would avoid traps that had previously caught other mice, so I spritzed the traps with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray (it was handy, and wouldn’t go rancid). Not 20 minutes later we had two more dead mice (from the sprayed traps, not from the spray). Evidently they couldn’t believe it, either.

  20. i found that, if you have the old school metal triggers, heat them and melt a little chocolate ( dark or milk) to it. if skippy is rat-crack, chocolate is ratoin, or crystal rat-meth, or something like that. the key is to slightly melt it onto the trigger. that way they have to work at it to get the bait.

  21. I had a big mouse problem in my old apartment.

    My roomate was a complete slob.

    So, I set out some glue traps.
    I woke up the next morning to see I caught one.
    A little grey mouse, sideways with all four of his legs stuck to the trap, completely immobilized.

    But I just couldn’t bring myself to hurt him.

    His little black eyes looking up at me behind his whiskers, I could see he was breathing heavily and terrified.

    So I very carefully wedged a butter knife under the layer of glue and scraped it off, with the glue between the knife and the mouse.

    There was still a lot of glue on him, but he was okay, so I stuck him in some tupperware, and the next morning I let him go on the subway platform after the crowd of commuters got on a train.

    Someone did see me releasing him though, and I got some strange looks.

  22. All that about cleaning up your food supplies so that the mice won’t visit is fine, but for us apartment dwellers, we aren’t allowed to clean up our neighbors’ kitchens, and have to deal with whatever their hygiene level attracts. So trap expertise is required anyway.

    In my last place, mouse migration began in the fall, and I had good results with the classic Victor traps. I would buy them 4 or 8 at a time (they’re really cheap) and set them across all the mouse paths and trails, in the corners, narrow spots, doorway squeeze-holes, etc., leaving them unsprung and unbaited for several days. That way, the mice got used to running over them. Then, all in one night, I would bait them all, with two or three different baits on different traps: as suggested, peanut butter, cheese, milk chocolate worked well. For the next several nights, I would hear the occasional *snap* and slam of an upset trap. There’s no point in trying to reuse a trap, so just dispose of it with the ex-critter. The other mice never caught wise, and after a week, I would have them all cleared up.

    A perfectly pure gadget indeed. I tried the “plastic cheese” trigger bar kind, and they didn’t work as well.

    I’m living someplace much cleaner now. Plus, we have a cat. Sometimes I miss that *snap* sound in the night.

  23. Am I really the first to express my sadness over this photo? Ugh, I am such a softy. Oh well, it’s nothing that can’t be corrected by playing a few hours of a gratuitously violent, desensitizing video game. (incidentally, if there are ever any green, 3m tall, heavily armed and unreasonably violent aliens in my pantry, I am sufficiently numbed to eradicate them without any remorse)

    @Tarmle, no doubt a clean and tidy house will go a long ways towards preventing rodent problems, but eliminating a food source doesn’t always do the trick. Here in Minnesota, it seems that every November there’s a mass migration of mice into our warehouses at work, and it appears they’re simply desperate to evade the harsh winter.

    Curiously, I ended up befriending just such a mouse this last fall. For any fellow mouse sympathizers, I even dedicated a short blog entry to my little friend.

  24. I heard somewhere that if you just moisten a cotton ball, it will pique a mouse’s curiosity enough to try to pick it up. Apparently, they would consider it for bedding, or try to drink from it, or something like that.

  25. no one has mentioned any of the other items listed on the site! i must say i agree with most of the rest.

    however, if they ever invent a small lightsaber for cutting bread that instantly toasts it, like in the recent Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, i’m all over it!

  26. Maybe some cats are not so good mice catchers, but ours sure are. They brought one to us dead, as if to say, “Hey, this nifty toy just broke. Can you fix it for us?” Ever since they stand guard in the kitchen every night. They can swat flies and moths right out of the air too, and they eat ’em right up.

  27. Is it just me or should Utensils be added to this list? You can not really improve upon the fork, knife or spoon. And do not give me Sporks or Foons as a reference. Because we have already been there- http://xkcd.com/419/

  28. The first time I used a mouse trap I found a little nose in it in the morning. It was horrifyingly sad. Since then I only use live traps and release the mice away from big, mean humans.

  29. My cats are evil bastards. We had a family of mice move in one winter. A trap killed the two adults, but the babies came upstairs a couple days later, probably looking for food. Those poor mice had to deal with my cats. Some cats would kill them and either eat them or show them to prove that they’re good hunters. My cats play with them.

    The game is simple: give the mouse a little swat to let it know that you’re there. The mouse will freeze and try not to make a move. But the cats are patient. Eventually the mouse will try to run away but a cat will pounce and give it another swat. Then the cycle continues. I assume that the mouse eventually has a heart attack and dies.

  30. I used to work in a university agronomy department in the wheat breeding program. Needless to say, rodents were a big problem, since they could destroy years of research in a short matter of time. We had glue traps everywhere and I hated them, even our pest control guy said they made him feel bad.

    Having the mice run up your leg while wearing shorts will take away a little of the guilt though. We all periodically did the “mouse dance” and the cute little buggers just aren’t that sympathetic after that.

    And yes our lab was clean, but it was still a granary more or less. We mixed a lot of our long term storage samples with diatomaceous earth to deal with the insect problems. Talk about harsh punishment.

  31. That picture on top looks completely staged. I’ve caught 2 mice on one trap before, but only once. Out of the 50 – 100 mice I caught in the last year or so.

    #2 and #8, you need to take a break from computers. No need to use Photoshop’s clone tool. Just take 5 dead mice and put them on the trap …

    #3, the metal trap with sharp serrated edges on the base usually works, but you’d be surprised that it does not always work. Last month, I had a mouse with it’s head caught there, but it didn’t die. So I put it into a “cage type” trap, and fed it every 2 or 3 days. After a week, there were 8 baby mice. They all died though, but mum is still alive. She seems to be a bit unhealthy now though. Perhaps I should give her something else besides bread and crackers.

  32. Water based toilets are actually really bad for the environment, and not used in many parts of the world because they pollute the water system and needlessly dispose of useful fertilizer. I just got back from staying in an eco-lodge in Ecuador where they used dry toilets to collect fertilizer and channelled urine directly into gardens to water the flowers. We spend millions of dollars treating tonnes and tonnes of sewage before pumping it into our water systems that if proper controls were in place could actually be constructive rather than destructive.

    And of course recumbent bikes are a big improvement over the regular bicycle, the idea of which is a direct descendant of the horse. Recumbents get you more power and speed, and less back strain.

    Now all we need is the iPhone to go down to watch size and we’ll have a lot of this list improved!

  33. As bicycles go, I’d have to go with the Surly Cross-Check bike frame. It’s hard to imagine anything better. Steel. Tough, lightweight. Takes a wide variety of tires, from skinny road wheels to fat knobbies. Braze-ons for cantilever brakes. Plenty of room for fenders. Braze-ons for two water bottles. You can gear it up as a single-speed, a touring triple, or anything in between. The chain-stay design is really elegant. Mine is a beautiful olive green, alas they don’t offer that color any more.

  34. I imagined that picture was faked at first (perhaps he saved some mouse corpses and placed them all in one trap), but then remembered footage of huge infestations– that could be real, if the mice were hungry enough, or used to human presence, they could have rushed the trap as soon as it was set down. Or that’s my fantasy anyway.

  35. My toaster!! How’d you get my toaster!? Sneeky buggers.

    Seriously, I have that exact one. Love it. I feel so…retro when I use it.

  36. A lamp cord (plugged in) covered with Cheez Whiz may not work that great but the tried and true method of RnR, or Rum n Ratshot usually does the job lol. Works best if you have carpet and wood paneling though btw (no holes. Well okay, not as visible holes). I have some funny stories from my dad’s workshop back when we lived out in the sticks. By far the best rat device we had was a Chocolate Lab raised on Jerry Clower.

  37. I don’t mean to be a dick, imposing my beliefs… But for those people who already don’t want to kill the mice in their house, but are afraid to use the trap-and-release type traps because, as the article says, they come right back to your house… But really, it’s just a matter of driving a bit farther away. Drop them off on your way to the office or whatnot.

    P.S. The mice around here go nuts for soap! We have a hard time luring them into our catch-traps, but they always eat our soap, right off of our sink! I’m sure it’s not good for them, but we’ve had whole bars go missing in a matter of a day, with no dead mice in sight…. crazy fellers.

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