How to Treat Head Lice with Vinegar

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Vinegar is commonly used to treat head lice, but is actually often misused, as many people think that it will remove both adult lice and head lice eggs. And people who sell commercial anti-lice products take advantage of this to say that home remedies such as head lice vinegar don’t work.


Now let’s see what vinegar for head lice can do and cannot do.

The truth is that vinegar will not kill adult head lice, because it simply lacks the properties to do so. The acid contained in vinegar might kill nymphs, though, which are young lice that cannot lay eggs yet.

However, vinegar is a very powerful weapon against head lice eggs, called nits. And a vinegar lice treatment combined with careful combing  is definitely powerful to get rid of head lice eggs. But if you also want to kill adult head lice, you’ll have to use another home remedy such as olive oil and essential oils.

So just remember:

Vinegar can help you get rid of nits or head lice eggs.

Vinegar canNOT help you get rid of adult head lice.

Why is vinegar effective to remove head lice eggs?

head-lice-vinegar

The word vinegar derives from the Old French vin aigre, meaning sour wine. Vinegar is the result of two biochemical processes: alcoholic fermentation, which converts natural sugars into alcohol, and acid fermentation, in which microorganisms present in the air we breathe, convert the alcohol into acetic acid. This acid has antiseptic or germ killing properties. Vinegar usually has an acetic acid concentration of around 5% and is safe to use for head lice.

The acetic acid contained in vinegar will dissolve the exoskeleton (the protective shell of nits) of lice eggs, and they will no longer stick to the hair and will be easy to remove with a good nit comb.

What type of lice vinegar can we use?

You can use different types of vinegars for head lice, such as white vinegar, wine vinegar (red or white), or apple cider vinegar.

1. White vinegar and head lice

White vinegar is distilled vinegar. It is plain acetic acid in water, either as a simple chemical mix (usually very cheap or cleaning grade vinegar) or obtained through fermentation of distilled alcohol. It has usually a 5% acidity level. Thus this vinegar is harsh and has a sharp flavor. It is cheaper than other types of vinegar, and it can readily be found in most grocery stores.


2. Wine vinegar for head lice

  • White Wine Vinegar: this type of vinegar is light flavored and is used for cooking. Its color can vary from white to pale gold and its acid level varies from 5% to 7%. It is made from the fermentation of real white wine, and thus retains much of its original white wine taste.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: it has been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Its color can vary from light rose to deep red and its acid level also varies from 5% to 7%.

3. Apple cider vinegar

What apple cider vinegar to choose for head lice? Your best bet is to buy an apple cider vinegar which is not filtered, not pasteurized, and made from organic apples. This is because it will most of the time have a 5% acid concentration, which is what you want. A higher concentration would not be so safe to apply to your scalp, and a lower concentration would not be as effective to unglue the nits from your hair.

Is vinegar safe to use?

Vinegar is a natural organic bi-product of fruits, vegetables and grains. It is therefore edible and biodegradable. It is perfectly safe for the environment, for family members, especially those with asthma, and around young children. It doesn’t contain harmful toxic chemicals.

Vinegar will sting your eyes if sprayed directly into them, so direct contact with eyes should be avoided. Vinegar will not, however, cause any short or long-term damage to your eyes.

Warning: if your child has red marks on the scalp or has an irritated scalp (this can happen if the child has been infested for a while or if you have previously used a commercial lice killing shampoo), you want to avoid putting vinegar on the scalp, as it may irritate it too much.

How can you use vinegar to get rid of nits?

The process for a vinegar lice treatment is very simple and should be done in 3 steps:

  • Step 1: use pure vinegar to unglue the nits from the hairshaft. You should apply pure vinegar to your child’s hair, especially close to the scalp, behind the ears and in the neck area. Then, wait for a few minutes.
  • Step 2: you should now rinse off the vinegar with water or 50% water/50%vinegar. Then, you need to spend time combing all nits out. Click here for more info on How to use a lice comb. This is a crucial step, so don’t skip it, thinking that the vinegar will do the trick. It will NOT.
  • Step 3: repeat this process for two days or more until you can see no eggs and you are sure that all live nits are gone. Nits will hatch within 7 days of being laid, this is why you should really get rid of all live nits within a week from the date of your first vinegar treatment and combing out.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

eufemia October 6, 2011

Headlicecenter thanks a lot for a nice site, especially for mothers.
Just went through the site today ,thanks a lot i surely try it on my daughters.
Thank you.

tiggy October 12, 2011

Thank you so much for all the great information. I just discovered we had a head lice infestation. I tried an OTC shampoo last week and clearly still have a problem. I am going to try the olive oil and vinegar. I am concerned with so many comments about the ongoing problems people have had. I much prefer the natural remedies to harsh chemicals. Thanks very much for your help.

eve November 18, 2011

Thank you so much for this site you have created. you ‘ve had soo many people that have visited your site because this is soo common and a pain in the ***!!! i followed your steps. i am on day 3 and almost completely egg/nit free for my daughter. ive been leaving olive oil over night onher scalp to help soothe the irritation and it has worked. i will wash her hair with vinegar for next couple of days, on day 7 i will do both oilive oil then vinegar again. thank you so much for offering this free and helpful information it is so appreciated. i have e maile dmy friends to have your site on their favorites!

goodMom December 20, 2011

I have 3 girls and they have all been infested with head lice. It has been a battle for me for about 5 months now. My tow little ones don’t have as much hair and have been manageable but my older daughter has the hair of all 3 of us put together and has been the greatest challenge. I’ve used hair shampoos, washed everything out in hot water daily and spent many evenings removing nits. The problem is still there and i am glad to finally know what will kills the nits! We are on vacation right now and will take the extra time to completely get rid of these horrible bugs. Thanks for all your comments. Very useful information.

Karla Vidal March 1, 2012

My 5 year old daughter was treated for headlice Saturday. Her head was COMPLETELY covered, it looked like parmasean cheese was sprinkled on her hair. I did not pay any attention to the white speks I saw periodically, we switched shampoo because of dandruff so I thought nothing of lice. I have never had lice and I wasnt educated on it either. Once my mother told me it was lice, I googled it. Checked her head and sure enough, LICE! I did a store bought treatment (RID) right away. I cleaned EVERYTHING cleanable, BUT the nits hatched the next day. I googled all night Saturday and Sunday and found this website. I did the olive oil Tuesday night, the aftermath was incredible. The treatment didnt even allow us to comb out that many nits/nimphs. It is Wednesday night and I have done the Apple Cyder Vinegar. It worked WAY better than the RID as well. Continuing with the Olive Oil & Vinegar for the next month. I hope this goes away FOR GOOD, so my babygirl can go back to school. Thank you Headlicecenter.com and those who posted your comments/experience! :)

nikki April 25, 2012

What a nightmare! This is the second time in 3 months my daughter has come home with it. I completely agree the over the counter stuff does NOT work! Not to mention is so bad for the child. I did a combination of salt, olive oil and dawn dishsoap. Let it sit on for 30 min or so, rinse it out with water and comb, comb, comb. The olive oil will suffocate the adult louse and nymphs. The salt I was told dehydrates the egg shell, and dawn is a degreaser, so it helps loosen the glue and makes for easy comb outs. Use a metal lice comb, plastic ones are useless. I did this yesterday and it was scary how many came out. I’m going to do the vinegar today. And thanks for the tea tree and lavendar oil suggestion!

Tena May 14, 2012

I read somewhere to use Listerine to kill head lice, so when my step daughter came home yesterday from her moms infested with them I grabbed our generic brand and soaked her head. Works better than anything I have ever found, and it’s cheap. All I have to do now is the vinegar treatment.

Michelle May 21, 2012

My daughter came home from a four day stay over with a friend and comes home with head lice. The man made products do not work. I did the rid treatment and combed and she still had live bugs. I went and bought olive oil, had her sleep in it. We still had live bugs but they combed out pretty easily. I went back and bought the Quit Nits which has Quarria oil in it and also a spray that has eucalyptus oil that prevents it from coming back. I had used this before but it is very expensive. I have learned that tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil in the shampoo helps but the nearest health food store to get these is over an hour away, with gas prices it would have added up to the $25 I spent on the Quit Nits. I’m content with my choice but I will be using the vinegar to make sure I rid all the nits. Thank You for all the input on this site. I will be passing on this information to the people we contracted it from since they think if you color your hair it rids it which it does not. Make sure you sweep the beds and put all the linens in washer on hot. Pillows and stuffed animals can be put in the dryer on high heat for 30 min. The live louse has to eat every hour or it becomes weak, within 24 hours they will die, but the pesty little nits can hatch so be sure to get them all…

Anony July 14, 2012

I found that if you use vinegar ( soak hair in it and wrap In shower cap and leave for an hour) wash it out then using mayo or coconut oil ( douse in hair use shower cap and wait One hour) rinse then using shampoo cover hair and brush out with lice comb it works great! Simply use the treatment 7 days later. If needed do 3 rd treatment.

Tammyb July 24, 2012

Thanks for all the advice, likewise weve spent so much money on lice meds for wks now on my daughter and she still has them!im gonna try the vinegar treatment tonight..we did the tea tree oil in the past and it honestly didnt work for us but coconut shampoo did the trick for the school year..

MaDonna Lemmen August 19, 2012

I’m sitting here with mayo and a shower cap on now. Going to the store tomorrow for the vinegar. Thank you for this site!

Christina September 5, 2012

My kids have had it 3 times now and I have always used vinegar.. heard about it the first time they got it and my mom use to use it when I was younger but didnt think it actually worked but now that I have kids and use it I know it works GREAT and cleans the hair and scalp.. the shine after words is an AWW!!! I just pour straight vinegar on there heads towel wrap it and leave it for 20 min.s rinse and pull nits off hair cause combs leaves to many.. I would rather take the extra time and go through strand by strand and make sure I get them out of my kids head so they can get back to school.. ASAP. I got my daughter back to school in 1 DAY. SHe has long fine brown hair. I will repeat the treatment daily and checking of head daily just to make sure for a week or a fews days at least. IT ALWAYS WORKS AND VERY FAST AND THEN START THE CLEANING AFTER I KNOW THERE CLEAN. VACCUM EVERYTHING.. WASH EVERYTHING AND I EVEN MAP AND SWEET LIKE THE BATHROOM AND KITCHEN. With the cleaning included.. it usually takes me a week at the most to get the WHOLE infestation under control.. my kids have only missed at the most todays of school because of it!!! Thanks for the TTO in the shampoo.. to keep away tho!! VERY HELPFUL PAGE TO PARENTS!!!

Christina September 5, 2012

I meant MOP AND SWEEP!! LOL THey have missed at the most two days of school because of it. and of course after you do the treatment..then comb and then head check and pull remaining.. MAKE SURE THEY DONT SLEEP OR SIT ON ANYTHING THAT HASNT BEEN VACCUMED OR CLEANED YET(VERY IMPORTANT CAUSE THEY WILL JUST GET IT BACK IF YOU DONT SANITIZE AND CLEAN AFTER YOU HAVE CLEANED THERE HEAD) !! HOPE YOU GUYS GET THIS! LOL SORRY SO SLOPPY

Vickie October 15, 2012

The absolute best way to get rid of lice is coating the head with mayo and covering with plastic. I try to make my kids leave it on for atleast 3 hours. Then after I shampoo it out of their hair, I cover it with vinegar and let that sit for 20 minutes. The dead lice just fall out and the nits glide right off the hair. Then I thoroughly clean the house and pack away stuff i cannot wash. Then I repeat 7 days later. Works every time! To prevent further infestation I make everyone use coconut shampoo conditioner and body wash. Whoever said vinegar doesn’t work on nits didn’t do it right. I have wasted time and money on Nix and Rid, and it is a joke! After I washed my daughters hair with it they were alive as could be.

Mom of 3 November 19, 2012

I have 3 kids all in school. The best way I found to get rid of lice, is to soak hair in Original Listerine, or in my case, I used a generic Original flavor mouthwash equivalent to Listerine’s ingredients. Soak hair for 2 hours with shower cap on. Some 30 mins. will work, but lice can hold their respiratory systems for up to 2 hours, only appearing to be dead. So 2 hours as a safeguard minimum, better yet, overnight is better. Then rinse out well with warm water. Next, towel dry and soak hair with vinegar for about 1 hour with shower cap. Do NOT rinse out vinegar. Comb through with metal nit comb. The nits will no longer stick to hair and combs out easily. After combing, use a blow dryer to dry hair. The heat is also effective. Then I CAREFULLY use a hot flat iron as close to scalp as possible to kill off any missing nits. You can also use hose attachment to vacuum up the hatched lice. Vacuum everything you can at home. Lice can live without a host head for 6-26 hours waiting to find a host head to call home. I put all bedding, pillows, backpacks, hats, coats, stuffed animals on HIGH heat between 30 mins to 1 hour at a time. Brushes, combs, hair accessories get boiled for one minute and put in Ziplock bags in freezer overnight. Extreme high or low temps. helps kill them.

Debi December 27, 2012

At 49 years of age, and my daughter at 15, I never expected we would be dealing with an infestation of lice. Like many others that have written, we started with an over the counter pesticide treatment. Another treatment, recommended by the school nurse was used as a follow-up treatment the following day. That was using cetaphil gentle cleanser. The final step in that treatment is a vinegar/water rinse, followed by coming. Yesterday, I came to realize I too had lice so I started with the cetaphil treatment followed up with a venegar rinse, however I used undiluted white vinegar and am now wearing a shower cap over my unrinsed hair. I really appreciate this site with all this information and people sharing their stories. It makes me feel not so alone when we have had to become so isolated from everyone, especially as it is Christmas break and I normally have lots of extra kids around. Thank you!

Lara January 29, 2013

We soaked our hair in olive oil over night with syran wrap wrapped around our heads and combed it out with the nit comb the next morning. Dead lice came out. Shampooed and blew hair dry. Then we used 8oz of cetaphil cleaser, soaked the hair completely and brushed through. Then you blow dry the hair completely with the cetaphil still in the hair. It takes longer than usual to blow dry with the cleanser in the hair. We left that on all day and over night. The following morning we did the apple cider vinegar rinse…soaked hair completely and combed it with the nit comb again. Rinsed out the vinegar in the shower and then the following day did a double shampoo and conditioner. These are all the effective homeopathic treatments I have read about combined and it worked for us! Also, out hair is so soft, shinny, silky now too! Small bonus for all this torture. Just ordered fairy tails shampoo and conditioner and the rosemary repel leave in conditioner too. They are supposed to help prevent lice bc they have tea tree oil, rosemary, etc in it. Good luck.

Anna March 17, 2013

I’ve been fighting lice for almost 6 months already! My daughter has super long, thick, curly hair! I bought over 100$ In treatment shampoo but they don’t seem to work! I used put a thick layer of mayonnaise on last night and put a plastic bag on. This morning DEAD lice! After rinsing The mayo out, I put some white vinegar all over her hair! I brushed the nots and started combing with the nit comb. Its amazing how easily they come out! this truly works! Thank you!

IN Mom March 20, 2013

I really wish I would have came across this before I did the OTC treatments after doing research online abt the harmful side effects of those treatments I WILL NOT ever use them again. And I wish i had known to use the apple cider vinegar instead of white I bought tons of white at the store after my grandmother suggested using vinegar. Definitely doing the vinegar again, I’ve already done one wash with it on day 2 of trying rid my household of it, then we did olive oil on day 3 of it. But tomorrow is vinegar FOR SURE!

Michelle March 27, 2013

Wow! I am sooo extremely happy to find this site! Thank you to whoever had the idea to begin it and to everyone who has posted. My daughter started the winter off with dry, itchy scalp, like she does every winter. We started using her ‘winter’ shampoo, and didn’t give it much more thought. This has been a weird winter, so it wasn’t working as well so she was scratching more. I checked her hair and things looked fine. So we went on about our merry way. A few weeks back I ended up in the hospital and one day she was visiting me and she was in the bed snuggling with me and I saw some ‘stuff’ in her hair, but she had a stomach thing and said she had thrown up and probably didn’t get it all out. The next morning my hair is all itchy, but I chalk it up to icky hospitals. A couple days later when I’m home, after been scratching like mad, I hug her and to my horror see lots of creepy crawlies! The horrors! How did it get so bad? My son had a bit, as did I and my husband, but hers was terrible. I felt so bad because she must have had it a couple weeks for it to be so bad. The over the counter stuff was an absolute joke! I swear those bugs were laughing at us. I spent a fortune treating everyone, but hers had moved in and didn’t want to vacate the premises. Two hours of desperately trying to comb out nits with virtually no success and her in tears, I visited my friend Google and found this amazing site! Oh my gosh! Vinegar! I use vinegar for cleaning as I do everything all natural. I had no idea how wonderful it did for nits. An hour of combing and she was nit and bug free. When they first started coming out so fast it was like a huge weight was lifted and she kept wanting to see the full comb as I got cleaned it off and went back for more of those nasty eggs. The whole house is getting a good scrubbing and my skin feels like it’s crawling, but it worked. $80 for lice treatment for the whole family versus $3 for a gallon of vinegar! Ugh! I plan to keep checking daily until I’m sure everything is clear, but I feel so much better knowing there is a natural, cheap, and very effective treatment!

mom April 15, 2013

Well my daughter has head lice and I wish I would of know this before because I spend more than $100 dollars on other shampoo that said it will work. but sadly it didn’t. But then I saw this site. and it worked vinegar got rid of the nits ( eggs ).im so glad I found this site. So thank you.

Ana April 30, 2013

My 3 year old’s babysitter informed me on a Friday evening when I went to pick her up that she had lice!! I rushed home and put her in the bath and I didn’t have shampoo for lice so I just put regular shampoo on her and grabbed a comb and combed out about at least 7 lice! Luckily I think they were small so it helped control some damage. Anyway that night I put some lice shampoo in her head (the box says 10 minutes but I left it on at least 30 mins) with a shower cap on her head. I once again gave her a bath and combed her hair like crazy and I only combed nits out. The next day I put vinegar in her hair for at least 45 mins with a shower cap. Then I melted coconut oil mixed in with some drops of tea tree oil and put it all over her hair (on top of the vinegar) for like at least 3 hours or more. I did all this Saturday and her lice were gone! She probably had less than 5 nits that day but it worked.

Dianna August 14, 2013

I just sprayed my kids’ hair with apple cider vinegar. I’m trying to get rid of the nits. Killing the lice themselves has been easy its been trying to get rid of the nits glued to their hair that has been the problem. The first time I treated the lice I didn’t know anything about using vinegar to break down the glue so it was hours and hours of nit picking and children crying. I used undiluted apple cider vinegar and I’ve left it on for a little over an hour time to start combing I sure hope it works!

Lynn January 4, 2014

We just found lice on our two girls’ heads two days ago. What a way to start 2014!! Anyway we heard about a nitcomb that is battery operated-called “Robi Comb”. What a help! It not only detects nits and lice, but kills them on contact. It emits a hum until it contacts the lice/nit then it is “deadly silent”. You pull it out and wipe the offending critter out into a cup of water, then the hum comes back. You can use this on everyone’s hair just to check for nits quickly and periodically as well. Thanks for this great website!

Leann February 13, 2014

I used RID on my son’s and my hair 25 years ago and it worked no problem….HOWEVER, like all “bugs” these days, they are more resistant. I was meticulous. Washing, picking, vacuuming, boiling, drying, spraying, bagging, sweeping, mopping, etc. and thought we had it licked. Did the 2nd shampooing as well bur today we find lice! I am overwhelmed honestly. Having been so careful and yet they won’t die!! We are sitting with mayo now and sleeping with it….. Will do apple cider vinegar tomorrow and will let you all know. Thanks for all the posts!

Leann February 14, 2014

I posted the night we found lice in my 10 yr old’s head. We put mayo all over, wrapped in saran wrap and slept in it. We left it in 12 hours. Washed out with Dawn Direct Foam (3 pumps for medium length hair) and it all came out no problem the first time. I then towel dried, and sprayed (from a reusable spray bottle) the apple cider vinegar directly on her hair – saturated – put on shower cap and left it on 2 hours. DIDN’T RINSE. Then got to picking and combing. Lefts just say it…. UGH and DISGUST! Eggs, nymphs and even found 2 adults (Hadn’t seen any of those before when we used RID). DEAD BUGS and EGGS combing out. After combing and picking for about an hour, I did give her hair a light rinse and HOT near scalp blow dry and used hot iron. This works! Will repeat vinegar treatment for 2 days then after the 7 days I am going to use 3 tbls. olive oil, 1 tsp. tea tree oil, 1 tsp. rosemary OR Euculyptus oil and leave on for 2 hours. Then I will add a tiny bit of the oils to her shampoo for washing over the next week (not soaking just regular wash). Will continue to post updates. Thanks for each of you!!

Mother of 5 March 12, 2014

Wow , whomever made this site, I thank you so much, I have 3 girls with thick long hair, and they get the nasty critters so easily, I am overwhelmed with all the different stories and how the different home remedies worked!! wow I am definitely going to give a few of these a try on my girls… I uses the over the counter treatments such as nix and kwellada and r&c a try, but dr told me wash with non-conditioned shampoo then towel dry and put on treatment, lather it bit then put on a plastic bag n tie it off or a shower cap and leave on over night, it worked perfect but I was worried if my kids scratched their head in their sleep n possibly touched their eye or mouth , in their sleep so I did not want to do that again, lol
so I thank you all for sharing, I very much appreciate it, good to know that im not alone here with these ugly and nasty critters.

Joelle May 13, 2014

I used mineral oil and vinegar soaked my daughters hair put a shower cap on for three hours it work great as well

maria June 30, 2014

I’m so glad for this site. my daughter and I have a small infestation of lice. We just used the mayo and shower cap. Tomorrow olive oil,salt,dawn soap leave it in for at least 3 hours.

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