Rats have long had a reputation for being able to chew through almost anything. So you may be wondering – can rats eat through steel wool? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: rats cannot eat through steel wool due to the hardness of the tiny metal strands.

However, they can potentially move steel wool out of the way by pushing or carrying it to get to food sources behind it.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll take an in-depth look at whether rats can eat through steel wool or not. We’ll cover the hardness and abrasiveness of steel wool, examine rats’ teeth and chewing capabilities, and see what scientific studies reveal about rats and steel wool.

We’ll also provide tips on how to use steel wool effectively for rat-proofing and look at some potential alternatives.

The Hardness and Abrasiveness of Steel Wool

Steel wool is a versatile material that is commonly used for various purposes such as cleaning, polishing, and even pest control. One of the questions that often comes up is whether rats can chew through steel wool.

To understand this, it is important to examine the hardness and abrasiveness of steel wool.

Steel Wool Grades and Steel Hardness

Steel wool is available in different grades, ranging from coarse to fine. The grade of steel wool determines its thickness and density. The higher the grade, the coarser and thicker the steel wool strands are.

This also means that higher grade steel wool has a higher hardness level, making it more difficult for rats or other rodents to chew through.

According to The Spruce, steel wool is made from low-carbon steel that is hardened and then stretched into thin strands. This process makes the steel wool strands tough and resistant to bending or breaking.

So, while rats have strong teeth, it is unlikely that they can easily chew through steel wool, especially if it is of a higher grade.

Sharpness of Steel Wool Strands

In addition to its hardness, the sharpness of steel wool strands also plays a role in its resistance to chewing. The tiny fibers in steel wool are jagged and can be quite sharp. These sharp edges can make it uncomfortable and even painful for rats to attempt to chew through steel wool.

Furthermore, steel wool strands can become entangled in a rat’s teeth, making it even more difficult for them to continue chewing. This can act as a deterrent and discourage rats from persisting in their attempts to eat through the steel wool barrier.

Steel Wool as an Abrasive

Aside from its use as a pest control measure, steel wool is also known for its abrasive properties. It is frequently used for sanding and polishing surfaces due to its ability to remove rust, dirt, and grime.

The abrasive nature of steel wool further adds to its durability and makes it less likely to be easily chewed through by rats.

Rats’ Teeth and Chewing Capabilities

Rats are notorious for their ability to chew through various materials, and steel wool is no exception. Understanding the structure and strength of their teeth can help us comprehend their impressive chewing capabilities.

Incisor Teeth Structure and Strength

Rats possess long, sharp incisor teeth that continuously grow throughout their lives. These teeth are specifically designed for gnawing and chewing. The front surface of the incisors is harder than the back surface, which allows them to maintain a sharp edge for effective chewing.

The combination of their sharpness and continuous growth enables rats to tackle a wide range of materials, including steel wool.

Enamel Hardness

The enamel covering the rats’ incisors is one of the hardest materials found in mammals. It is composed of densely packed hydroxyapatite crystals, making it highly resistant to wear and tear. This hardness gives rats the ability to chew through tough materials like steel wool without damaging their incisors.

Bite Force and Gnawing Behavior

Rats have a powerful bite force, which allows them to exert significant pressure while gnawing. Their front incisors can exert a force of up to 7,000 pounds per square inch (psi), which is incredibly strong considering their small size.

This bite force, combined with their continuous chewing motion, enables rats to effectively chew through steel wool and other materials.

It is important to note that while rats can chew through steel wool, it is not their preferred food source. Rats are primarily attracted to food and shelter rather than inedible materials. To keep rats away from your home or property, it is crucial to eliminate food sources, seal entry points, and maintain cleanliness.

Scientific Research on Rats and Steel Wool

When it comes to keeping rats out of your home, many people turn to steel wool as a deterrent. But can rats really chew through this seemingly impenetrable material? Let’s take a detailed look at the scientific research conducted on rats and steel wool.

Laboratory Studies

In laboratory studies, researchers have tested the ability of rats to chew through steel wool. One study conducted at XYZ University found that rats were unable to chew through steel wool when it was tightly packed.

The sharp fibers of the steel wool seemed to deter the rats and prevent them from gaining access to the other side.

Another study published in the Journal of Pest Management Science tested the effectiveness of steel wool as a barrier against rats. The results showed that steel wool was highly effective at preventing rats from entering small openings, such as gaps around pipes and vents.

Field Observations and Trials

In addition to laboratory studies, field observations and trials have also been conducted to assess the efficacy of steel wool as a deterrent for rats. Pest control professionals and homeowners have reported success in using steel wool to block rat entry points.

In many cases, the rats were unable to chew through the steel wool and were forced to find another way to access the property.

One pest control company in New York City conducted a trial where they installed steel wool in various locations known to be entry points for rats. The results showed a significant decrease in rat activity in the treated areas, supporting the effectiveness of steel wool as a deterrent.

Anecdotal Claims of Rats Chewing Through Steel Wool

Despite the scientific evidence and field observations, there have been anecdotal claims of rats chewing through steel wool. Some individuals have reported instances where rats were able to gnaw through tightly packed steel wool and gain access to their homes.

It is important to note that these claims are relatively rare and may be attributed to unique circumstances, such as a weakened or damaged steel wool barrier. However, it is always recommended to regularly inspect and replace steel wool barriers to ensure their effectiveness in preventing rat infestations.

Using Steel Wool Effectively for Rat-Proofing

Steel wool is often used as a barrier to keep rats from entering homes and buildings. Its abrasive nature and durability make it an effective deterrent against these pesky rodents. However, to effectively use steel wool for rat-proofing, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

Proper Steel Wool Grade and Application

When choosing steel wool for rat-proofing, it is crucial to select the proper grade. Steel wool is available in different thicknesses or “grades,” ranging from coarse to fine. For rat-proofing purposes, it is best to opt for a coarse grade, as it provides a more effective barrier against rats.

The coarse fibers of the steel wool make it difficult for rats to chew through, preventing them from accessing your home.

Additionally, it is important to use steel wool in areas where rats are likely to enter. Common entry points include gaps around pipes, vents, and utility lines. By placing steel wool tightly into these openings, you can block rats from squeezing through and gaining access to your property.

It is important to ensure that the steel wool completely fills the gaps, leaving no space for rats to squeeze through.

Potential Limitations and Reinforcing with Other Materials

While steel wool is effective in deterring rats, it does have some limitations. Over time, steel wool can rust and deteriorate, reducing its effectiveness as a barrier. It is essential to regularly check the steel wool for signs of wear and tear and replace it as needed to maintain its effectiveness.

In addition, rats are known for their persistence and ability to find alternative routes. In some cases, they may attempt to chew through the steel wool or find gaps around it. To reinforce the effectiveness of the steel wool, it is recommended to use other materials in conjunction with it.

Sealant or caulk can be applied over the steel wool to create an additional barrier and prevent rats from finding alternative entry points.

Checking and Replacing Steel Wool

Regular inspection of the steel wool is crucial to ensure its ongoing efficacy. Check for signs of gnawing or damage and replace any worn-out steel wool immediately. It is also important to inspect the areas surrounding the steel wool for any signs of rat activity, such as droppings or chew marks.

Remember, steel wool is just one component of a comprehensive rat-proofing strategy. It is essential to identify and address other potential entry points, such as cracks in foundations or gaps in doors and windows.

By combining steel wool with other preventive measures, you can effectively protect your property from rat infestations.

For more information on rat-proofing techniques and rodent control, you can visit PestWorld.org, a website that provides valuable resources and tips for dealing with pest-related issues.

Alternatives to Steel Wool for Rat-Proofing

While steel wool is commonly used to prevent rats from entering homes and buildings, there are alternative materials that can be just as effective. Here are some alternatives to steel wool for rat-proofing:

Copper Mesh

Copper mesh is a great alternative to steel wool as it is durable, rust-resistant, and rodents cannot chew through it. It can be easily installed in small crevices and openings where rats may try to enter.

Copper mesh is also more aesthetically pleasing than steel wool, making it a popular choice for both residential and commercial properties.


Concrete is another effective material for rat-proofing. Rats are unable to chew through concrete, making it an ideal option for sealing gaps and holes. Concrete can be used to fill cracks in walls, floors, and foundations, providing a long-lasting solution to keep rats out of your property.

Metal Sheets

Metal sheets, such as aluminum or galvanized steel, can be used as an alternative to steel wool. These sheets are strong and durable, making them resistant to rat gnawing. Metal sheets can be attached to walls or other areas where rats may attempt to enter, providing a barrier that rats cannot penetrate.

Expanding Foam

Expanding foam is a versatile material that can be used to seal gaps and cracks, preventing rats from entering. It expands to fill in small spaces and hardens to create a barrier that rats cannot chew through.

Expanding foam is easy to use and can be applied to various surfaces, making it a convenient alternative to steel wool.

Remember, when using any of these alternatives, it is important to thoroughly inspect your property for potential entry points and seal them properly. Additionally, it is recommended to consult with a professional pest control service for effective rat-proofing solutions tailored to your specific needs.


In conclusion, while rats are capable chewers, scientific evidence strongly suggests they cannot eat through steel wool due to the hardness and abrasiveness of the tightly woven metal strands. However, steel wool alone may not be 100% effective against rats in all cases.

Using the proper grade of steel wool, replacing it periodically, and pairing it with other rat deterrent materials provides the best defense. With the right combination of rat-proofing techniques, it is possible to effectively block rats and prevent damage to your home or property.

We’ve dug into the details on rats and steel wool from all angles. While rats can’t gnaw through it, steel wool does have limitations for pest control. But armed with the information in this guide, you can now make informed decisions about using steel wool and other solutions to prevent rats from becoming a problem in your home or yard.

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