I Tasted Honda's Spicy Rodent-Repelling Tape
And I will do it again unless someone stops me.
A while back, after a series of car troubles too boring to enumerate, I learned about the existence of mouse tape.
Mouse tape exists solely to make Important Wires less delicious. Honda started selling rolls of the stuff a few years back to keep rodents from partying in their engine blocks.1 You see, the thing about rodents—be they rat or shrew or vole—is that they really like to gnaw.
I don’t know much about cars, but I do know you’re not supposed to chew on them. So I nodded along while my mechanic explained that there was “rodent damage” on some mysterious bundle of wires beneath the manifold and that he would need to wrap the fresh, un-gnawed wires in a rodent repellent.
Then he told me the “rodent repellent” was a roll of gray vinyl tape printed with cute little mice silhouettes and coated in pure capsaicin. Spicy mouse tape.
When I got home, I Googled it. I had a mad compulsion to taste it, but I didn’t want to gnaw on my brand new car wires. Plus, my head wouldn’t fit beneath the manifold.
I found the tape immediately—OEM Honda part 4019-2317. It was outrageously expensive, like a white truffle or a tin of Ossetra caviar. Fortunately, a reader had recently Venmo’ed me $50—almost the exact cost of a roll of mouse tape. I took it as a sign.
This is the Haterade promise: I will only ever use your money irresponsibly.
Almost as soon as the tape arrived, I began to have second thoughts. Each printed mouse had a little gray “X” on its head. This could mean only one of two things: either the mice were being poisoned, or someone was about to drop a piano on them.
Was the “repellent” really just capsaicin? Fearing the worst, I reached out to Honda:
Honda never replied to my tweet. To be fair, I hadn’t really expected anyone in the company to get back to me, a clear and present danger, on whether their autoparts could be licked. That is a pervert’s question.
Still, I fired off a couple emails to Honda’s PR team just in case. My first went to Chris Martin, who was listed on the website as the media contact for “Safety, Regulatory, and Recalls.”
To my great surprise, Chris got back to me the next business day:
…wink, am I right?
Look, I resigned myself a long time ago to the fact that I was going to die doing something so stupid, no one would ever mourn me—like French kissing a komodo dragon or running the Kentucky Derby as a pantomime horse.
But for Chris, I scanned the accompanying Materials Sheet. There were no alarming skull-and-crossbones labels on “rodent-proof vinyl adhesive tape No.347”—just one “Class 1 Designated Chemical Substances”: bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, better known as DEHP.
DEHP is a compound added to plastics (like vinyl tape) to make them more flexible. It’s used in hundreds of household products, which means lots of people who bathe in Dr. Bronner’s Useless Fluid think it will kill them. And sure—at high doses, DEHP can reduce both sperm count and sperm motility in rats.
But I scaled the dose up for my own weight and determined that I would need to ingest 36,000 mg a day to approach the Rat Contraceptive dose.
I licked the tape.
It smelled like a Band-Aid-flavored Rockstar Energy drink. It tasted like…heat. The capsaicin was subtler than I expected: nothing abrasive or punishing, just a blushing, ambient warmth like a string of white Christmas lights. There was almost a numbing, mala element, in the vein of a Sichuan peppercorn.
Mouse Tape could have a future in modernist dining circles—you know, for the Willy Wonka, lick-the-wallpaper set. (“The schnozzberries taste like schnozzberries!” “The pepper mouse tastes like a pepper mouse!”)
That might be a better gambit for Honda. I found a live shrew in my husband’s slipper yesterday, so I’m not sure the tape is working as originally intended. (I am surrounded by rodents always, like a dumpster princess.) Plus, I really lathered my tongue with it and never felt like I was in any danger of being repelled.
As a culinary novelty, though? I can think of a few uses:
This is not a recommendation, of course. You should not take any advice from this newsletter in general, but you should not lick Mouse Tape in particular. Chris strongly recommends against it.
When I am on my deathbed, wasting from Stagnant Rat Sperm Disease, my last words will be “CHRIS MARTIN DID EVERYTHING HE COULD TO TALK ME OUT OF THIS.”2
I haven’t emailed him yet to break the news. But I think he knows. I think he always knew. I think he will be unsurprised when this arrives in his inbox:
This Is Just to Say
I have eaten
that was in
the mice box
you had probably
not intended for
it was delicious
and so bold
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This proved somewhat prescient, as several class-action lawsuits would later allege that the soy-based insulation used in Honda’s wiring attracted rodents.
Followed by “NO, NOT THAT CHRIS MARTIN.”