How to Use Home Remedies to Get Rid of Head Lice and Their Eggs

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When it comes to treating head lice, some people swear by chemical treatments and other people highly prefer using home remedies they can make themselves. This way they know better what they put on their kids’ heads and there is much less risk of having to deal with undesirable side-effects.

Home remedies for head lice are most of the time grandma’s recipes, but most of them are proven solutions, sometimes even by scientific trials and a few studies.

It is true that there are very few studies that have been conducted to evaluate the efficiency of homemade remedies, because who would finance such studies? It’s just not profitable to spend money to know if olive oil or vinegar are effective against lice. It’s much more profitable to spend money to show that commercial lice shampoos have some efficacy, even if it’s not 100%. And in absence of studies, the medical community doesn’t trust natural remedies and doesn’t consider them as effective.

However, lice remedies that use readily available ingredients have one thing in common: they have no side-effects (for most of them), and they can fight both head lice and their eggs. The other major advantage of such home treatments is their low cost.

Why do many parents prefer home remedies for treating head lice?

Anti-lice shampoos used to be very effective a few decades ago but are now not so powerful anymore, especially because head lice have developed some resistance in many western countries including United States, Canada, France, and United Kingdom.

But the big drawback of pesticide products are the side effects they can have. After all, what they contain are pesticides (insecticides, because they kill insects), and when we know how bad for our health pesticides can be, we’d most often rather stay away from them. Pesticides on our food have been shown to cause illness, and putting pesticides on our scalp is not safer, as our scalp absorbs about 50% of any substance put on it.

If you think that these shampoos and lotions that contain chemicals are safe, take a look at Jesse’s story here, and think twice before you use them. Thousands of parents are using them every day worldwide, and many have no issue at all, but caution should be the rule.

If you are looking for a 100% risk-free alternative to using an OTC lice shampoo on your child’s head, the simplest home remedy would be to just comb his hair or pick the lice and nits out using a lice comb or tweezers. This would have to be done over several days and would thus be very time consuming. But it has been shown scientifically to be the only solution that works 100% (apart from head shaving, which is not recommended for obvious psychological reasons).

Basically it is important to understand that if you want to be successful in your battle against these parasites, you’ll need to find the right home remedies for killing adult head lice and nymphs, and other remedies for getting rid of nits.

It is crucial to keep in mind that the same remedy will not always work for both head lice and their eggs at the same time.

Home remedies for getting rid of adults and nymphs

In order to kill adult head lice and their nymphs (the baby lice), you can use home remedies that contain suffocating substances. This is for example oil, petroleum jelly, or any substance that has some viscosity.

Why can it work? Because suffocating substances will prevent lice from breathing, and once coated in the substance, they will die asphyxiated. Of course, like any other natural remedy, this one will not be 100% effective and there is no guarantee that it will work for you, but many people have had good results and it may be worth a try. In a 2004 study, among 6 remedies including olive oil, vinegar, butter and mayonnaise, petroleum jelly was the most effective of all, and had some ability to kill eggs, too.

Here are some useful resources on suffocating substances:

Another option is to combine a substance like oil with essential oils such as lavender or tea tree oil. Tea tree oil contains terpenoides, which act pretty much like pesticides on the nervous system of the louse. However, you should know that just like pesticide shampoos, tea tree oil can have undesirable side-effects and should be used with caution.

What about essential oils on their own?

A few drops of lavender essential oil behind the ears make head lice flee… If this solution can work, be careful to not use it as a real treatment though. Its effectiveness will depend on each child, but also on the degree of the current infestation.

There are dozens of formulations based on essential oils of many plants, but in practice the majority of these essential oils are only effective if their application is combined with other substances like olive oil and with adequate combing of the hair. There are some essential oils that are effective on their own, this is the case of tea tree oil, but it should be applied with great care, as mentioned previously.

Home remedies for eliminating lice eggs

One of the best ways to kill live lice eggs, also called nits, is to dissolve their protective shell. They will for sure die if they are no longer protected by their exoskeleton. Doing so will also help to comb them out because it will unglue the shell from the hair shaft.

To dissolve the shell of nits, you can use products that contain acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

Then, you need to comb nits out until there are no more left in the hair. This is an unavoidable step of the treatment and should never be overlooked.


More questions about home remedies? Check out our FAQ section on home treatments.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

James December 21, 2011

Easy, inexpensive remedy that completely eliminated lice after 3 treatments. Mix equal parts of 91% rubbing alcohol and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Add 1 drop of tea tree oil for every fluid ounce of mixture. 3-4 ounces will be sufficient to treat a head of long hair. Thoroughly wet hair with mixture, and comb out in sections with metal nit comb. After every few strokes, rinse the comb in a container of water to see what is coming out of the hair and to track progress. Wash and condition hair afterwards with coconut based products. Repeat treatment every other day to break the reproduction cycle until lice are gone.

audrey March 7, 2012

i have been searching for any way i can,to take control over as i read this treatment i have began to get hopes up! i surely do hope for this to work. i am a single mother of 3,an take care of my 80 year old mother,we are on a low fix income. we live in a appartment with only coin op. laundrey room,to wash all the beddings/towels etc. is a large extra exspence of its own. i can’t keep going in circles with this. so i wish to thank you in advance for shareing your treatment!


MARCY March 16, 2012

My daughter and i have been battling lice for two months now. We spent hundreds on treatments, but nothing seems to work. BUT i found a way, get some vinegar and cover their hair in it, put a shower cap over their head and let it stay for about 2 hours, but watch out for the vinegar getting in their eyes. Then wash their hair out with Palmolive dish washing liquid, then starting combing, comb comb comb, and comb some more. Once you are sure you got all those nasty bugs out, blow dry and straighten the hair, and just keep repeating every day. Also make sure you wash the bed lining, and pillow cases.

Suzanne June 5, 2013

The story:My hair is 38″ long. I’m a single mom w/ only my 11 y/o son to look thru my hair. Combing my hair all the way thru is not an option and NOT possible w a lice comb. When my son looks it takes approx SIX hours (and that’s only focusing on the scalp). We are on day 9 of the battle. My 2 boys sleep together. The 11 y/o got it from school… So far: I used Rid, combed (a lot) on boys. Didn’t see any for 2 days on 4y/o and then did Rid treatment #2 on day8 n found 5 nits on him. Tonite found 1 nit more. This means we’ll do a 3rd Rid trtmt next week n that’s the last one period. 11 y/o- Day 3 is nit free still. I check 3X daily. Me-who knows for sure, I can only see the front. So far, I have been using a RobiComb on scalp and 4-5″ out only, for 3 days, used mayo (it runs and drips!) on head for 46 hrs, 2 d post-Rid, and washed w/ Selsun Blue Medicated on scalp and blue Dawn on bottom rinsing in 126 degree H2o (I checked temp (130 kills’em)). AND we’ve all been sleeping in caps since it started n caps are sprayed w 91% daily. I heat linens on TIMED high heat for 45 min nightly and plastic bagged the bed n pillows and spray w 91% alcohol daily before linens are replaced. (Use timed heat for anyone w a dryer that ‘senses’ when its done.) Since I know a FROG survived the washer, that’s not where I put my stock. Your dryer is doing the killing. Really, for me I figured, if nits are laid too far from the scalp, they are not viable. So, if I could just get nits 5″ away from the scalp, that would make it very difficult for them to survive, plus I continue to shock w RobiComb (CVS, Walgreens, Tomorrow, I do James’ treatment above- the vinegar hurts their exoskeletons on eggs and lice. Then, olive oil for a REAL comb-thru with a friend. But, I have to say, I DID have them too and nothing is being found on me. Heck, I was ready to try food-grade Diatomaceous Earth! (IF u do that, wear a mask and goggles and make SURE its food grade and NO, I’m not telling YOU to- just saying I’m willing to do it to MYSELF for 2 days w a cap and NOT on my kids.)

The rest is of ppl who are reading this and YOU THINK YOU HAVE LICE: use a LED flashlight ( n hold it at diff. angles while checking) or go in the sun and be checked. You are looking for, of course any bugs from 1mm to 3 mm on the scalp. But check VERY THOROUGHLY for nits/eggs which appear similar to a SINGLE HAIR STRAND that is tied in a knot within 1″ (3cm) of scalp. These are HARD to see. Some are very clearish. Nits and lice SEEM TO camouflage to the color of hair. You NEED someone who is thorough and has good eyesight. The smallest I’ve seen was ~1/3 of 1 mm. (Ps. I’m not screaming w caps, I can’t change the font or underline…)
Off your head, adults live up to 50 hrs, nymphs several hours, and nits will die within a week and won’t even hatch if the temp is not close to a person’s body temp. Your dog/cat won’t catch them. On your head: Nits take ~ 8-9 days to hatch. U won’t know the diff btw a nit/egg on hairshaft. NYMPHS are a real problem. SO don’t let them survive the nit phase!!! Nymphs mature in 9-12 days and crawl and eat blood and molt (like bedbugs). They are VERY hard to see and catch. At first, they are the SAME size as the EGG! (For msrmt impaired ppl: look at back of penny. Eggs are size of a letter in ‘E Pluribus unum’ to the ‘Un. St. of Am’ letter size. Nymphs are same size as eggs up to the adult size of the 2 letters in ‘one cent.’) Adults live ~30 days and Females lay ~6 eggs a day, do the math. So it gets out of hand fast. AND guess what, they will avoid the light. Advice: Comb til your head hurts and your hand can’t hold the comb anymore, check n wipe the comb after every go-thru and clean it w 91% alcohol for a good 10 min soak when done. If you check 3X daily for 3 weeks (or ~9+12 days, see above) and find nothing, the battle is over. You won, congrats! Celebrate and be grateful it’s not bedbugs.

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