11 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Rid of Lice

Millions of people will scratch their heads due to the presence of head lice this year. In fact, the CDC estimates that up to 12 million children in the United States become infected with head lice each year!

What are some cost-effective ways to treat lice?

Treating lice doesn’t have to be hard on the wallet. Coming up are a variety of ways to kick lice and their nits to the curb. The first method on our list is a tried-and-true one that always seems to yield positive results…

1. Use a fine-toothed comb

This recommendation is the number one method employed to remove lice. In fact, it’s recommended that you use a comb in combination with any other treatment.

Materials Needed

  • Fine, metal-toothed comb

The Method

  1. Grab a metal, finely-toothed comb.
  2. Section off the hair.
  3. Go to a well-lit area.
  4. Going all the way up through the scalp down to the tips of the hair, comb each section thoroughly and slowly.
  5. Repeat daily.

The following method effectively complements the use of a fine-toothed comb…

2. Try over-the-counter products

Fortunately, no doctor’s note is necessary to grab an effective anti-lice treatment at your local pharmacy. When you reach for a treatment method, though, just be sure that it contains pyrethrin.

What is pyrethrin?

Pyrethrins are insecticides, or insect-killing chemicals. They work by attacking the nervous systems of lice. Just note that sometimes this method may not work as some lice have built resistance to pyrethrin.

Materials Needed

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications containing pyrethrin
  • Comb

The Method

  1. Make sure the hair is dry.
  2. Apply the product.
  3. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Lather hair with water.
  5. Rinse.
  6. Use comb to remove stray lice and nits.
  7. Repeat one week later.


Do not trust remedies that use pyrethrum, which is the crude/raw form of pyrethrin. This substance can be dangerous to humans.

The following method is much simpler and uses ingredients that you can find in most kitchens…

3. Use olive oil and mayonnaise

This option is a low-cost home remedy that, while messy, can produce the same results as more expensive prescribed or over-the-counter store-bought medications.

Materials Needed

  • Olive oil or fatty mayonnaise
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Shower cap
  • Comb

The Method

The concept is to use either olive oil or mayonnaise to “smother” the lice. In other words, these materials will suffocate and kill the lice.

  1. Before bedtime, grab your materials.
  2. Lather/saturate the hair with the olive oil or mayonnaise.
  3. Apply shower cap.
  4. Leave overnight.
  5. Rinse with dishwasher soap in the morning.
  6. Comb the hair to remove any remaining lice or nits.
  7. Repeat one week later.

Mayonnaise or Olive Oil?

There are benefits and drawbacks to each.

  • Mayonnaise is typically much more effective at smothering lice. However, it is also much messier.
  • Olive oil isn’t as effective as mayonnaise at killing lice. That being said, olive oil is better at loosening lice and nits from hair shafts.

Whichever method you choose, follow up with dishwasher soap and combing. Why the dish soap? Because it’s effective at cutting through the grease/oil of these ingredients.

If you want a method that doesn’t get quite as messy, the following might be more to your liking…

4. Step it up with hot air methods

This option is another low-cost home remedy that delivers desired results. Best of all, it is relatively safe and not as messy as some of the other methods.

Materials Needed

  • Hair dryer with a high-heat setting
  • Comb

The Method

  1. After showering, grab a blow dryer with a high-heat setting.
  2. Turning on the device to the hottest setting possible, blow dry the hair at close range.
  3. Comb through.
  4. Repeat daily.

Note that this method is better-suited for dealing with nits, not living lice.


Do not use this method if you use any hair chemical treatments. Why? Because those treatments typically contain ingredients that are flammable… meaning applying heat to them is a big no-no.

If these home remedies don’t produce desired results, it might be time for a prescription method…

5. Get prescription medication

Prescription medication is the most consistently reliable remedy to resolve head lice and, if treated under the supervision of a physician, is also typically the safest option.

However, some of these products may not be right for everyone as they can cause eye or skin irritation in some patients.

Common Prescription Medications

Visit your treating physician and have them prescribe one of the following prescription medications.


This insecticidal lotion is naturally made by bacteria found in soil. Approved since January 2011, clinical trials show that over 84% of patients had no lice after approximately 14 days/2 weeks of use.

How to Use

  1. Apply liberally to the scalp.
  2. Lather from the root to tip of the hair.
  3. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse hair.
  5. Comb for lice and nits.

Lotions Containing Benzyl Alcohol

This product suffocates lice. Studies show that at least 75% of patients experience no lice after 2 weeks of treatment.

How to Use

  1. Apply to wet hair.
  2. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. You may follow up with shampoo.
  5. Comb for lice and nits.

Malathion/Ovide Lotion

Effective for both live lice and nits, this lotion is also quite flammable and must be left in the hair for at least 8 hours. So, it might not work well for everyone.

How to Use

  1. Apply to dry hair.
  2. Let sit 8-12 hours uncovered.
  3. Put on clean clothing.
  4. Do not expose hair to heat.
  5. Apply shampoo.
  6. Rinse.
  7. Comb out lice and nits.
  8. If lice and nits are present 7-9 days later, repeat.

Ivermectin/Soolantra, Sklice, Stromectol

This option is an oral (by mouth) tablet that is most commonly used to treat infections caused by parasites. In one trial, only 23% of patients using this method were relieved of their hair lice. Therefore, it might only be used in cases where lice are resistant to other forms of treatment.

The following methods for treating lice? They don’t require a doctor’s note at all. In fact, you may even have them lying around your house…

6. Lather in Vaseline and hair gel

If you’re not a fan of sticking mayonnaise or olive oil in your hair, this option might be more to your liking.

Materials Needed

  • Vaseline/petroleum jelly or hair gel
  • Dishwasher liquid
  • Shower cap
  • Comb

The Method

  1. Apply jelly or gel to hair right before bedtime.
  2. Apply shower cap.
  3. Leave in hair overnight.
  4. In the morning, wash the hair with dishwasher soap.
  5. Rinse hair.
  6. Comb hair.
  7. Repeat in 1 week.

Petroleum Jelly or Hair Gel?

There are benefits (and drawbacks) to both.

  • Petroleum jelly is more effective at suffocating lice. However, it is also much harder to rinse out of the hair.
  • Hair gel is much easier to wash out, although it won’t be as effective as petroleum jelly.

Don’t have Vaseline or hair gel? Reach for the following instead…

7. Grab the vinegar

White vinegar is a low-cost home remedy that is safe and relatively mess-free. Why vinegar, though? Well, vinegar is believed to detach nits from hair shafts. Additionally, white vinegar’s acidic nature prepares the hair for a proper combing through.

Just know that this method is not exactly effective for killing live adult lice.

Materials Needed

  • White vinegar
  • Comb

The Method

  1. Dilute equal parts vinegar with water.
  2. Use the solution as a hair rinse.
  3. Comb through the hair.

The following method is incredibly cost effective and may only require that you do it one time…

8. Try out some skin cleanser

Two trials report that nearly 96% of the patients ended up completely cured at the conclusion of their treatment. Even better, up to 94% had no evidence of lice six months later.

Materials Needed

  • Non-toxic, gentle skin cleanser
  • Blow dryer
  • Comb

The Method

  1. Apply skin cleanser to dry hair.
  2. Comb hair.
  3. Blow dry.
  4. Repeat once weekly for at least 3 weeks.

The following method might be a little pricey, but that’s only because it’s extremely effective…

9. Order a LouseBuster

This chemical-free device resembles a vacuum, although it functions more like a blow dryer. Essentially, a LouseBuster brand device dries out (and kills) lice and nits. In fact, some studies show that this device was effective in reducing 98% of nits and 80% of lice after a single treatment!

Materials Needed

  • LouseBuster

The Method

  • Use the device’s comb to brush through the hair for a full 30-minute treatment.

The following method is no fun, but it’s necessary to prevent reinfection…

10. Deep clean items that come into contact with the infected person’s head

Cleaning any item in the home that the infected person’s head came into contact with is an absolute must in order to ensure that all lice and nits are killed or removed. Otherwise, you run the risk of reinfection.

Materials Needed

  • Hot soap and water
  • Garbage bags or other sealed bags
  • Vacuum cleaner with furniture-cleaning attachments

The Method

  1. Gather up all linens that may have come into contact with the infected person’s head (towels, hats, scarves, jackets, pillowcases, etc.) and wash them in hot water with soap.
  2. Gather up all other materials that could come into contact with the head but cannot be washed (pillows, stuffed animals, etc.). Seal them in airtight bags for 2 weeks.
  3. Soak brushes and combs in hot soapy water after each use. Then, dispose of all combs and brushes and buy new ones once you are completely cleared of lice.
  4. Wash car seats thoroughly.
  5. Vacuum flooring and upholstered furniture.

Not a fan of extra cleaning? Let professionals deal with your lice problem…

11. Call for a de-lousing service

Although more expensive, results are more immediate and permanent than do-it-yourself methods. This method involves calling a professional to remove lice and nits from the infected person’s hair for you.

How Much Does a De-Lousing Service Cost?

Costs will naturally vary. That being said, a standard 1-2 hour session will cost about $100 dollars/hour.

How Do I Find a De-Lousing Service?

A simple Internet search can turn up options in your area. Places certified as members of the National Association of Lice Treatment Professionals are typically well-respected in the industry.

What’s Next?

What’s the single-most effective method for avoiding lice? It’s coming right up and it’s absolutely free…

Stay Away from Infected Hair & Avoid Reinfection

Head-to-head contact is how lice transfer from one person to another. Therefore, avoiding this type of contact will ensure that they do not transfer and continue to reproduce.

Helpful Tips

  • Any individual that has long hair should keep it in a ponytail that is drawn tight or braided.
  • Do not share any items related to the head such as combs, brushes pillows, scarves, hats, or hair ties

Avoid Reinfestation

Lice cannot live more than 2 days without a host. However, that also means that they can wait up to 48 hours to reinfect you and your home. Therefore, it’s important to take proper measures to avoid reinfestation. These measures include:

  • Not sharing combs with an infected person
  • Bagging personal items that may be infected with lice or nits in airtight containers for 2 weeks
  • Combing hair in a well-lit area for nits and lice daily
  • Not allowing other people to come into close contact with the infected person while lice and nits are present

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