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How To Get Rid Of Head Lice For Good Safe Home Remedy

Updated on November 15, 2013

Some people think that only dirty people get head lice but the truth is they prefer clean heads.

Lice prefers clean hair

Lice feed on human blood and if there is too much oil in the hair they can’t get a good grip on the hair follicle; if there is too much dirt it’s difficult for them to find a clean place to bite. They lay their eggs on hair follicles the eggs can’t stick on oily hair.

I used to keep foster kids and many of them came to my home with head lice so I soon learned how to get rid of it before it spread to other family members.

Where to look

For some reason they love the back of the head in that indention we all have. Start there using a pencil or comb tail to move a hair follicle a few at a time to make sure you check thoroughly. They are light grayish to brown in color so they are hardest to find on white people with brown hair.

The eggs are a whitish color and very tiny so you may need to use a magnifying glass. Eggs are hardest to find on blond hair.

Over the counter head lice remedies are poison

The chemicals you buy in the store are harsh and if you read the fine print it tells you not to redo treatment too soon. What they don’t tell you is why. The truth is those chemicals can cause brain damage if used too often.

A home remedy that works well is petroleum jelly. I've read that some use mayonnaise, I don't recommend this. It's basically doing the same thing as Vaseline and I'd rather not have an edible substance in my child's hair for several days possibly attracting more insects and going rancid.

You want to put a heavy coating of petroleum jelly on the entire head thoroughly and put a shower cap over this so it doesn’t make a mess anywhere else in the house. No need to cut their hair unless your child is a boy and you just want to. They will need to wear this for at least a couple days; a weekend usually does the trick before combing out the nits or eggs and louse residue.

The Vaseline smothers the bugs so they will die. The petroleum jelly makes the hair slippery so it’s difficult for them to get a grip on the hair follicle so they are easy to comb out.

Combing out the lice

You’ll need a fine tooth lice comb to comb out all of the eggs and dead bugs. Don't waste your money on those flimsy plastic combs, they don't work as well. Find a good metal comb that will hold up under a lot of combing.

Nit combs have more teeth closer together than your usual comb so make sure you buy the kind for head lice. I know it sounds gross and it is but just realize you are not alone, many before you and many after you will have to deal with these critters.

Make sure you destroy any eggs or bugs you comb out or you can get them again. Flush the mess down the toilet or carry the trash bag to the outdoor can. Don’t leave them in a waste receptacle in your home or you can get infested again. You don’t want to have to do this again.

After combing with a lice comb, shampoo their hair really well to get all the petroleum jelly out.

Proof your child is louse free

You still might have to buy a box of that poison in some cases to prove to the school you’ve done your part because they are usually the ones that find the little bugs in your child’s hair.

Nurses do routine checks especially after they've had a case because where there's one kid with head lice there are usually many more.

Ask your school what their policy is. Some will simply check your child to make sure there are no more lice or nits but some require proof of treatment and you’ll have to send the box with your child to school.

How we get head lice

Children are lovable little people that hug each other, put their heads together and hang their coats next to others in coat closets and lockers. These are all ways of moving from one head to another. Hugging your child can then transfer a few to your head.

You will need to clean all bedding, couch, chairs, any fabric, coats, hats that your child’s head came in contact with. Disinfectant and hot water should work in many cases. Vacuum thoroughly with mothballs in your cleaner bag any surfaces that cannot be washed.

Luckily most children’s outerwear is machine washable. Don’t forget the car seats. If you don’t get all of these areas your child and other family members can get them again. They multiply very quickly.

Check the school

Make sure any coats or belongings that are in your child’s locker or desk at school are cleaned or removed. If they share with someone else make sure that child doesn’t have any clothes in their shared storage facility that hasn't been cleaned.

Don’t count on teachers to know this; some are young and never dealt with head lice before. It’s up to you to make sure your child isn’t re-infested.

Oh no more head lice

If your child becomes re-infested with head lice you can redo the petroleum jelly treatment without worrying about harm. It is safe and has no side effects. African Americans used this product for years as a hair dressing treatment, some still do.

Just redo the treatment per the above instructions and make sure you comb their hair thoroughly. What usually happens is that the eggs didn’t all get combed out and they are able to hatch. Eggs don’t need oxygen so they can make it through a two-day Vaseline smothering treatment.

Keeping bugs away

Teach your children to never use another person’s brush, comb or wear other people’s hats. These are all ways to help keep good hygiene and keep head lice away.

In the old days

You may have heard an old saying, “He’s walking like the dead lice is falling off of him.” Some variations will say bugs instead of lice.

The reason for this old tale is because the home remedy was a harsh grease that smelled badly and burned the scalp. I’m told it was a petroleum product used to grease gears and not meant to be used on the skin but that was what they had available and the harsh remedy of the day. People would walk around slowly because they were in pain and miserable due to their heads burning. Can you imagine?


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    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 

      5 years ago

      My brother in law uses no hair dressing of any kind.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      That's interesting, Hubert. I know men that use oily hair dressing don't get head lice because they can't get hold of greasy hair and the product smothers them.

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 

      5 years ago

      In the Philippines I noticed that my brother in law never has lice. What I learned was that he always washes his hair with a bar of Tide laundry soap. While I don't recommend your children do this on a regular basis, I do suggest that you try it on a person with lice. When my son or I get lice I lather our hair with the bar soap and let it stand for 3-5 minutes rinse thoroughly. We are lice free until the next contact with the little critters. Maybe it will work for you also.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      That is true, keep him away from open fires until you wash his hair. You should wash it thoroughly so there isn't any residue left. Actually, hair is quite flammable so you should keep your child away from any open flame anyway.

    • profile image

      Chewy Mommy 

      6 years ago

      My head is itching just reading this! My son just started kindergarten and his getting lice from school is a major fear of mine. I have heard of using tea tree oil as a preventative measure so I use it on him one a week.

      I am hoping we never have to deal with lice but if we do I will give the Vaseline treatment a try before resorting to the poisons. You do have to be careful though because Petroleum Jelly is actually very flammable.

    • saday profile image


      6 years ago from India

      Absolutely, one can also try the remedy suggested by Connieow.

    • connieow profile image

      Connie S Owens 

      6 years ago from El Cajon, CA

      A shampoo made with tea tree oil used once or twice a week is a better, safer, and more pleasant alternative remedy. Straight tea tree oil massaged into the scalp kills the lice and eggs. A couple shampoos and gone. But if you start using the shampoo now, you won't have to worry about the other. Honest.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Ngureco, I wouldn't use kerosine. I suspect it would be just as burning as that old remedy and not safe around fires. Petroleum jelly should be available.

      Saday, olive oil might probably work too but more expensive in some areas and would drip out of the shower cap. A thicker product like petroleum jelly would stay in place better.

    • saday profile image


      6 years ago from India

      If will prefer Olive Oil treatment to remove Lice from head.

    • ngureco profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for this article, Pamela.

      If you are widely traveled in this planet, you may agree that in some places, people are very poor such that they use kerosene or firewood for cooking. So, kerosene is available to them but then it’s a very precious commodity for one to go about 'misusing' it. I was wondering how effective is kerosene in fighting head lice and jiggers, and what are the possible dangers of trying to use kerosene for such purpose.

      Between, never mind why one would have asked this question.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      JustAskSusan, I have recently read about rosemary and tea tree oil. Vaseline is an old country remedy and works really well and yes it's cheap. It is odorless too so if a person is sensitive to smells they will be fine.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wish I'd have know about Vaseline when my children were small. I used tea tree oil and tea oil shampoo and it worked quite well, but the Vaseline would have been a lot cheaper. Glad these days are over with :)


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