Home remedies for head lice: Do they work?

The increasingly poor performance of head lice products and concerns about chemicals means more and more people are looking for home remedies for clearing head lice, including using vinegar and hai dryers. But are they really effective?

There is a common understanding that head lice products just aren’t as effective as the advertising and the manufacturers’ claims tell you they are. There are studies that examine their effectiveness, giving a more realistic understanding than the 100% they promise.

However, the best thing is to examine your own experience in using the products. Did it clear it 100% or did you still find live lice, eggs and three weeks later an active infestation? If you did then it didn’t work. Head lice infestations can be incredibly damaging to a child’s self esteem so it is important to kill the lice effectively so that they do not return.

If you are looking for home remedies for head lice, there are a host of natural remedies touted on the internet. However, the reality is many are not valid, and some operate simply as a combing aid. You still need to comb out the nits and lice with a long-toothed metal nit comb to shut down a lice infestation.

Here is an analysis of the most common home remedies to get rid of lice that we have found on the Internet.

1. Can vinegar kill lice eggs?

Vinegar is one of the classic home remedies for lice. However, if you are trying to find out how to get rid of nits using vinegar, you should know that using vinegar to kill nits or lice eggs is totally ineffective. Vinegar has no negative effect on the lice eggs. What it will do is sting like crazy if there is any kind of cut on the scalp. You are much better off removing the lice eggs using a detangler or conditioner and nit combing them thoroughly out of the hair.

2. Does a hair dryer kill lice?

If you use your hair dryer to kill the nits and lice you will run the very high risk of burning the scalp, which is a very dangerous thing to do. A standard hair dryer is too hot even at the lower setting to be used for this purpose.

There is a university developed controlled heated air machine that has been designed for the sole purpose of dehydrating nits and head lice. However, this is not available for the public to buy.

This controlled heated air technology has an over 95% effectiveness rate. It is cooler than a hairdryer and delivers the heated air through a specially designed applicator. This technology is available as a part of a professional clearing process at any of The Hairforce nit and head lice removal clinics in the UK.

3. Can apple cider vinegar kill nits?

Apple cider vinegar will not kill nits. It isn’t even a good combing aid as it feels very dry on the hair. Its acidity can have adverse effects on the hair. This can severely dry it out and it can also burn the scalp if applied undiluted.

Cider vinegar is not recommended to use to clear nits and head lice. You are better off with some conditioner and a long-toothed metal nit comb and combing in an organised and thorough way removing all the lice and all the eggs.

4. Can hot water kill lice? Can a hot shower kill lice?

As a home remedy for head lice, hot water doesn’t work. Significantly, lice can survive up to four hours under water – hot or cold. They survive in water by shutting down their breathing apparatus – their ventricles – to breathe at a lower rate, staying still to conserve energy.

You need to also be careful with hot water which could burn the scalp and face when using it.

5. Does salt water kill head lice?

If you are wondering how to get rid of head lice with salt, the answer is that saltwater does not kill head lice. Nor does salt or water on their own.

6. Can nits drown?

Lice can survive up to four hours underwater so swimming or lying with your head in saltwater or any other kind of water isn’t really an option to kill them. Don’t seek to drown them, comb them out with a long-toothed metal nit comb and some conditioner!

7. Does lemon juice kill lice?

If you’ve ever wondered how to get rid of head lice with lemon, you should know that using lemon juice to kill lice or nits is totally ineffective. It isn’t even a good combing aid, as lemon juice feels very dry on the hair. What it will do is sting like crazy if there is any kind of cut on the scalp because of its acidity. You are much better off removing the lice eggs using a detangler or conditioner and nit combing them thoroughly out of the hair.

8. Does colouring hair kill lice?

Head lice have evolved around serious pesticides and other chemicals, so hair dyes don’t really have much of a chance. Therefore, home remedies for head lice that involve colouring and bleaching hair do not kill lice or their eggs, the nits.  

9. Will coconut oil kill lice? Can baby oil kill head lice?

Different types of oils do not work as home remedies for head lice. Smothering the hair with coconut oil or baby oil will not solve your head lice problem. The coconut or baby oil is simply a combing aid, a lubricant for the nit comb.

You still need to get the head lice and the nits out of the hair by combing thoroughly with a long-toothed metal nit comb. You then will need to get the oil out of the hair, or it will be greasy. Too much oil on the scalp can also start to clog up the hair follicles so you need to ensure you cleanse the scalp.

What is the most effective home treatment for head lice?

The most effective treatment for head lice is the most natural – nit combing the lice and eggs out of the hair. You can do this using a long-toothed metal nit comb and applying a conditioner to the hair to ensure the nit comb gets through the hair easily. This will allow you to pull off the eggs and pulling out the lice as you comb.

An alternative is to take them to the professionals to clear it for you – 2 appointments, 7 days apart. The Hairforce Clinics clearing process uses a combination of clever technology and forensic hand clearing to get it all out and shut it down. The process of head lice removal is entirely natural without the use of any head lice treatment products.

How do you get rid of lice overnight?

If you want to get rid of lice as fast as you can then as soon as you find them, you need to do the following:
  1. Divide the hair into 8 sections – 4 on either side of the head. Then tie each one up with a hairband.
  2. Take your first section and apply some conditioner to it. Then, nit comb thoroughly that entire section using a long-toothed metal nit comb. Clean it with white toilet paper as you comb and put the used toilet paper with the lice and eggs straight into a waste-paper bin you have lined with a carrier bag or bin liner.
  3. When you nit comb you need to ensure that the teeth of the nit comb touch the scalp which is where the head lice and the fresh eggs will be. Run the comb from the roots right through the hair and out at the tip ensuring that what you have picked up on the way are all removed.
  4. Keep combing the section until nothing else is found in the nit comb
  5. Then move on to the next section and repeat
  6. Do this for all 8 sections which means you will then have thoroughly combed the entire head of hair
  7.  Make sure there is fresh bed linen, fresh towels and fresh pyjamas. Hoover the sofa, hoover the favourite toy that is cuddled at night and hoover the coats and hats. If there are items you don’t want to wash, put them in a plastic bag for 48 hours. If there are any lice there, they will simply dehydrate.
  8. When head lice lay their eggs, they lay invisible sacks of liquid which you will not be able to see at that first comb out – even if everything looks like it has gone already. This means you need to comb again to ensure you get rid of the infestation. You need to comb in the same way described above on days 1, 2, 6, 9 and 12 to get rid of it all.

How do you kill nits naturally?

As we’ve seen, most of the home remedies for head lice don’t really work. The most natural and most effective way to kill nits is to use a long-toothed metal nit comb and some conditioner and nit comb them out of the hair following a set timetable.

Nits, the eggs, are invisible when they are laid and then take 7 to 11 days to hatch. Nit combing to the following timetable means that as the eggs develop and become visible, they can be removed before they hatch:

  • Comb 2 days in a row – Day 1 and Day 2 – to get all the lice and all the visible eggs out. If you get all the lice out of the hair, then nothing new can be laid
  • Have a break for 3 days – Day 3, 4 and 5
  • Comb again – Day 6
    • You may find some baby lice (newly hatched eggs) or mediums from eggs you missed when you last combed. Don’t worry these cannot mate and so they will not have laid more eggs
    • Eggs take 7 to 11 days to hatch so a good thorough comb on Day 6 should head off any further hatching
    • If you find adult lice then you are likely to have missed these on your Day 1 or 2 comb outs. If so, then start the process again and treat this as Day 1, combing again tomorrow, Day 2
  • Give yourself a break for 2 days – Day 7 and 8
  • Comb again on Day 9. If you combed well on Day 6 then this should be all about the stragglers
  • Give yourself another well-deserved break for 2 days – Day 10 and 11
  • Final comb on Day 12. You should be done.

Doing this will mean that you break the developmental cycle of the infestation and nothing more will hatch.

If your child have nits and you want to get rid of them swiftly, visit one of our lice removal clinics

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