Natural Remedies for Head Lice

Category Home Remedies
Head lice often seem to be an annual plague for families with school age children. This is a page about natural remedies for head lice.


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Recently my 2 granddaughters got head lice from school. After using a Rid kit and 3 trips to the doctor they finally told me to use Listerine mouthwash and vinegar.

Using a spray bottle so you don't get it in their eyes, saturate the hair with mouthwash, you can use generic and mint flavored if you want. Cover the head with a shower cap to keep the heat in and leave on overnight or all day until hair dries. Rinse out mouthwash, towel dry, and spray hair with vinegar, cover with shower cap and leave on overnight or all day until hair dries. Shampoo and condition then comb with a nit comb.

This might take a few treatments, but it worked and was much safer than the chemicals you can only use once every 10 days, and it is much cheaper. I know this sounds crazy I thought so too, but it does work.


By Tonya from Cushing, OK

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My husband and I discovered head lice in our teenagers' long hair. My youngest is 13 and has apparently not been doing a good job of washing or brushing his hair. His head was full of lice and nits. His older brother was better but not unscathed. It has been a few years since our last outbreak so I did some quick research online to make sure I was treating the infestation correctly. Here is what I discovered.

On a human head, lice can live for a full month, hatching wave after wave of new generations. Shampoo and conditioner can help to prevent an initial infestation but won't be enough to eliminate them alone. Lice have been shown to survive through two thorough shampooings or immersed under water for hours. The adult lice blend into hair very well as do the sticky tiny light colored oval shaped eggs (nits). They resemble dandruff but won't fall off the hair when brushed, only with a fine toothed comb. Removing these eggs before they hatch is key to controlling the outbreak.


There is a bewildering array of medications at the drugstore for treating lice. The medication we used (Rid) is made from chrysanthemum flowers and kills off the adults, leaving the nits to be removed with careful combing. Unfortunately, overuse of these medications has caused resistant strains of lice, so you may have to try a different formulation for your area.

The kit also came with a combing gel and a spray for our furniture. As far as I can tell, both of these other products are not very necessary or effective. Lice cannot survive long away from the human body, no more than 24 hours. The furniture spray appeared to be mostly alcohol. We used it on the fabric furniture after vacuuming the living room furniture entirely. A sheet or towel to cover the backrest would have been just as effective, as the boys could reinfect any of the surfaces. Keeping their heads from contacting the couch was our best remedy.

Other than personal items like a cuddle toy, most clothing and furniture should not need to be treated. We washed all our bedding and any hats or hoodies that had been recently worn. When our children were small, we would take a garbage bag and pack up any stuffed animals, pillows or other soft toys. We would tie them up and place them into the garage for two weeks, the suggested length of time to ensure no lice remained. They can also be killed by high heat (5 minutes at 130 degrees F) if the items can stand a hot dryer for that long.

We used up the combing agent quickly and it didn't seem to work any better than anything else. We still had nits after a couple of days. Many treatments use conditioner or mayonnaise as a combing agent, often after having it sit or even with a hot hair dryer. Curling or flat irons have been suggested to be effective at killing off the lice and nits as well. As far as I can tell, any of the combing agents are basically making it easier to get through the hair. There could be an added benefit of making the nits less sticky so they can be washed away.

The best preventative we have found is tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner. We get ours from Trader Joe's but you can buy a version from most brands or even make your own with a little bit of tea tree or cinnamon oil. I have them leave the conditioner on their hair for about 5 minutes before rinsing it out. They have also sat in the bathtub with conditioner and a lice comb but it is most effective to have another person comb it out.

We still found nits this morning, almost a week from when we discovered it. They are much reduced though, so I hope that we are on top of treating these pests. I used the flat iron on my oldest, in hopes it would kill off any eggs that I might have missed in the combing process.

I'd love to hear your own advice on how to treat lice naturally. Tell me in the feedback below.

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This is a lice treatment I learned about today on my trip to Walgreens, from a dear friend who I go to church with who works there. Combine 6 oz. Dawn dish detergent, 2 oz. white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons tea tree oil. Put on hair for ten minutes.

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I came across this tip about removing lice. In a nutshell, it says that by putting conditioner in damp hair and then dipping a metal (not plastic) comb in the baking soda and combing through hair, it gets them out a lot faster.

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I was going to buy a bottle of Rid, which would have been 40 bucks. The pharmacist told me to buy green Scope, which was only $3.00.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

Does baking soda really kill lice eggs?

By Mandy Brittingham from Wilmington, DE


July 15, 20090 found this helpful
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I am sure that baking soda doesn't work. If it did, people would have used it in pioneer times. My mother said that they used kerosene!


Don't fool around with home remedies. Use the proper products purchased in the drug store, save your self a lot of grief, and avoid spreading the lice to the whole neighbourhood.

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I am a huge fan of Dawn soap. You can let it sit on stained clothing and it takes the stuff right out. But the best thing for the use of this soap other than it's cleaning ability is for lice. The junk they sell at the stores is expensive and can seep into the person's head. It damages the hair.

I used Dawn soap on my granddaughter's head, bagged it for about 15 minutes and combed them suckers right out. Dead, dead, dead. Then I used a good conditioner like Pantene. Now we have no hair damage, a huge savings in the cost of treatment, and a child who is not feeling bad about the situation.


I took her back to school within the hour and they said that she could not be 'clean' but after they looked, they knew it worked!

By Dorene Boydstun from Galesburg, IL


June 2, 20090 found this helpful

I can't wait to tell my daughter about this one! What a nightmare. My sweet granddaughter has lived this nightmare over and over. She has the silkiest hair and the doctors tell us that lice loves this stuff and that we keep her hair too clean (another thing they love). We have spent hours combing and washing everything in the house. Not to mention how expensive (even doctor visits). Nothing like I have ever experienced before - we all get a sick feeling if we see her innocently scratch now. Now maybe we can let her hair grow and she can wear pig tails instead of keeping it in a short bob.

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July 19, 2016

This page is about using mayonnaise for head lice. Finding a natural way to get rid of these persistent human parasites can be a challenge.

Pile of mayonnaise on white background

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 6, 2011

Is there an economical way to rid children of head lice? (This was originally posted 10-01-2001)

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November 11, 2010

Once you get rid of head lice you should put 10 drops of tea tree oil in your shampoo and conditioner bottle, and you will never get it again. There is something in it the the lice do not like, and they will stay off your head. You can also do 10 drops of tea tree oil and some water in a small spray bottle and spray on hats, furniture, seats in your car, etc. I am a firm believer this really works!


By Laura from Orestes, IN


Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

You are right there. I use tea tree shampoo and conditioner from Swawson. (06/17/2009)

By Joyce

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

My DD was sent home last year with head lice, and one other girl was sent home. The next week, they were both sent home again with head lice, along with a third girl. It was the third girl that must have had it to begin with because neither girl had it again after that. I am going to get some tee tree oil and put it in my DD's shampoo. Thank you for sharing this. (06/17/2009)

By janice

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

I love tea tree oil. It has really helped my rosacea. It's good to know this hint, just in case! (06/17/2009)

By Janet

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

Please be careful not to use on furniture, if you have cats. Cats can get sick and even die with exposure to tea tree oil. Even the particulates in the air released by the essential oil can cause concern. (06/17/2009)

By Mary Ross

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

I would like to add that my podiatrist suggested I use it on my nail fungus. The directions say to mix tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as olive oil, and it will absorb through the nail to where the fungus starts. (06/17/2009)

By Coreen Hart

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

I do the spray bottle and every morning after I brush my daughter's hair she gets sprayed with it. I started that when she started school. ;) (06/17/2009)

By Brandi

Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Head Lice

Wish I'd known this tip years ago, when my kids were fighting the problem (and the embarrassment!). Could've maybe saved my daughters' beautiful hair that summer. They looked like Sinead O'Connor for a few weeks! (06/21/2009)

By Lelia Jo Cordell

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September 22, 2010

How do I get rid of lice?

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May 20, 2010

If you are like most parents, you want a safe and effective treatment for head lice.

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March 26, 2010

I would like a home remedy for head lice on children.

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May 19, 2009

My daughter has problems with one of her children with head lice. She hates using the chemical cure once a month for this. Would normal cooking oil work and smother them?

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February 24, 2009

To get rid of head lice, just buy a cheap bottle of mouth wash (the kind that contains alcohol).

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