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How to get rid of lice…it can happen to anyone. No matter how clean you and your kids are, you’ll likely have to deal with lice at some point. And it struck our house a few weeks ago. EWWW!

Yes, it’s a total nightmare, especially when you have long hair and lots of it (like we do with three long-haired daughters!), but it’s nothing to freak out about. We’ve put together some easy tips to teach you how to identify, treat and prevent lice. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with this problem again. But if you do, you’ll be a pro at getting rid of it quickly.

How to get rid of lice - photo showing kids hair and back partially, and captioned What Should You Do When Your Kids Get Lice?

What Should You Do When Your Kids Get Lice?

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional. My advice, experience, and suggestions are not to be considered medical advice, but mom advice.  Real mom who has dealt with lice advice.

Lice are not gross. They are simply a resilient, highly adaptable species with a particular fondness for humans. Their purpose on the planet? To keep us humble, of course, and to remind us to slow down and take a good look at our kids

– Beth Berry

How to Get Rid of Lice

1. To Get Rid of Lice, First Know Thine Enemy

You’ve gotta know what lice look like as well as how to detect them to properly get rid of them, and stop them before an infestation happens. Lice exist in 3 stages, nits, nymphs, and adults.

Lice eggs are whitish and can be commonly mistaken for dandruff or product residue. Nymphs are the hatched lice whose color is a grayish tan, and finally, the adults are the size of a sesame seed. So tiny at about 2-3 millimeters but very destructive bloodsuckers.

2. If It Walks And Quacks Like A Duck, Is It Always One?

Kids will scratch their heads but this doesn’t always mean they have lice. It could be dandruff or an inflamed skin condition, though it’s always best to check out why they’re scratching their head. If you’ve not had a lice infestation at your home you might not know how to check for lice and nits and so we’ve got you covered.

Before you start checking for lice, here are a few pointers:

  • It’s best to check on dry hair. Wet hair takes longer to check, with dandruff and nits sticking, making it harder to tell them apart.
  • Always wash your hands before and after checking each kid.
  • Let others know – your kids have friends and it’s good to let their friends’ parents know so that they deal with it sooner than later. It will also help avoid a lice comeback.

To check for lice:

  1. Section the hair into 4
  2. Using the end of a rat tail comb, section the hair in 1/4″ portions and keep checking as you go through all the hair.
  3. Lice will always try to move away from light so be keen to check for any movement. Nits stick to the hair like they’re somehow glued to it and won’t slide down the hair shaft. If it slides, it’s likely to be dandruff.
  4. Repeat through all 4 sections to confirm there are lice or no lice.

3. Found Some! Now You Really Have To Get Rid Of Lice

You’ve confirmed there are little pests crawling in your kiddos’ hair so, next, comes the treatment. If you have access to the lice shampoo, use it. But if you are like us and have a kiddo who is highly allergic to the chemicals and don’t want a case of hives, or you’re just wary of using pesticides on your skin – there are other options.

4. Get Rid Of Lice By Suffocating Them

Sound trivial but that’s all there is to it. These pesky little pests are living and breathing creatures. To kill them, cut off their oxygen. To suffocate/smother the lice – you can use mayonnaise. Sounds weird, but it works. The mayo and vinegar make the eggs not be able to breathe, and it’s so much easier to comb out the nits when they’re dressed in mayo!

Tip: Use the real deal mayo, not some fancy low fat. It’s got to be thick and oily as it can get to kill these pests.

While this is not a quick fix (takes 8-10 hours), it really works. Slather a generous amount of mayo to cover the entire scalp and roots of the hair. To prevent the lice from breathing fresh air or running away, have the kid wear a shower cap until it’s time to rinse out the mayo.

5. Get Rid Of Lice By Suffocating Them, Again

Not a fan of the mayo treatment? We get it, not everyone can stand that slickness but you can also suffocate the mature lice with a combination of coconut oil and tea tree oil.

Apply the coconut oil and work it through brushed hair being sure to cover the scalp. Then sprinkle the head with tea tree oil before covering the head in a plastic bag for about 6-10 hours. When it’s time to remove the plastic bag, comb through the hair with a rat tail comb, wiping the nits and lice on hair as you go. Once done and sure you’ve gotten all the dead lice and their nits, wash the hair thoroughly.

how to get rid of lice - child's hair with visible nits

How To Get Lice: The Miserable Part…

6. An Important Step In Getting Rid of Lice – The Combing

Combing. This is by far the most effective method if you are looking for how to get rid of lice. We suggest starting at the nape of the head and working your way up. It helps to be watching TV too. Get a rat tail comb now, even if you don’t have lice yet. There is nothing worse than waiting to get it – and the combs at the grocery store aren’t as effective as that bad boy!

Even though it’s an important step, it’s a miserable one. It really takes time to painstakingly comb through sectioned hair on everyone, and also it’s not fun to be seated for that long, or either be the one to comb through all those lice-infested heads. Some form of entertainment and inducements always works to get the kids to sit for as long as needed to get rid of the lice.

7. How To Get Rid Of Lice – Murder Them With Listerine

While this isn’t that miserable unless you don’t like the smell of mouthwash, did you know that Listerine is an effective lice treatment? You’ll smell minty fresh, too! After you comb all the nits out try Listerine if you have it on hand (we did not try this method, but heard from pals that it worked well).

Drench the hair in Listerine taking care to avoid the face and ears, and once the hair and scalp are full of the stuff, cover with a plastic bag for at least 2 hours. Once dry, use your rat tail comb to get rid of all the dead nits and lice. Should you notice lice that are still alive, repeat the process.

Tip: Use the real deal Listerine as the flavored ones have sugar that will help the nits to stick to the hair, and nobody wants that. And also don’t use it in case a kid has open sores. Listerine will burn and there’ll be a lot of tears.

8. Soapless Cleanser For Sensitive Skin Works To Get Rid Of Lice

Several Cetaphil (lotion) applications are shown to be 96% effective at getting rid of lice and work way better than the over-the-counter treatments such as Nix® and Rid.® If you don’t have access to these lice meds yet, try this until you can get them!

Start by slathering the hair and scalp with the lotion. Next, comb out the excess lotion and blow-dry the hair. Drying the hair with the lotion still on creates a shrink-wrap that works to suffocate the lice. Keep this dry lotion on for at least 8 hours and you can rinse it out during their next bath the following day. Repeat the procedure a total of 3 times at 1-week intervals to completely get rid of lice.

9. ACV – Another Way To Get Rid of Lice (Or At Least Try To)

Although not effective against mature lice, apple cider vinegar is good for removing nits. It softens and dissolves them, but you still need to comb through with a nit comb to ensure that you get them all.

how to get rid of lice - nit comb

10. Heat Kills – It Really Does And Gets Rid Of Lice

Wash everything, on high heat. If you can’t wash it – bag it!

Don’t forget to wash all clothing and bedding that the infested person has come into contact with recently. Not forgetting the stuffed animals, upholstery and any other place the lice could seek refuge in.

11. Prevention Is Way Better Than Waiting To Get Rid Of Lice

You’ve combed out the hair, washed everything in sight, now it is time to keep the lice away so you don’t have to repeat the whole process a week later! For this, you’ll need a lice prevention spray, and you’re in luck because essential oils make a really nice (and pleasant-smelling) one.

Thankfully, it’s so easy and simple to make and all you need is: A cheap spray bottle, some water, and tea tree oil (essential oil), and purely optional (extra drops of Lavender essential oil or any oil you like the smell of). 

pink spray bottle of Lice Prevention Spray. Mix tea tree oil in water & spray hair each day labeled 'Girl's Hair'

How to Make Natural Lice Prevention Spray

  1. Fill the bottle with water, then add 10+ drops of tea tree oil. I added 5 drops of lavender oil for a pretty smell.
  2. Every morning before school, spray on the hair & brush.
  3. For further prevention of lice, you can also add tea tree oil to their shampoo.

Now that you know how to get rid of lice, here’s a collection of hair hacks you might be interested in: