This fall, I got the call that all parents dread: there was an outbreak of head lice in my daughter’s classroom. As soon as she arrived home from school, I checked her head, and sure enough, the nasty little buggers were there. The worst part: she had managed to spread it to her sister before the school called.

After the initial freak-out at the grossness of it all, we did what most parents would do: headed to the drugstore for the strong smelling, super-expensive lice shampoo kit. We applied immediately, being sure to follow the instructions to the letter. We bagged stuffed animals, stripped all of our bedding, did about 1,000 loads of laundry. And yet, the lice returned.

Reluctant to shell out more of our hard-earned cash for more over-the-counter lice treatments that didn’t work, we started scouring the Internet. What we found was more effective, much safer (commercial lice shampoos contain pesticides), and far cheaper than another trip to the drugstore. You probably already have most of the tools necessary for eradicating head lice in your pantry and under your sink.

Treatment for Hair

  • Mayonnaise or Olive Oil. Completely coat the hair and scalp in the mayo or oil (we used olive oil) until hair is saturated. This should kill any adult lice on the scalp. Wring out any excess to limit drips, then wrap the hair in plastic wrap (with long hair, pull it into a ponytail before you wrap it to hold it in place). Leave the oil on for at least 3 hours, or longer for added benefit (I’ve heard stories of people sleeping with this treatment in, but I’d imagine that could get messy, so proceed with caution). We put a shower cap on over the plastic wrap, just to be safe.
  • Distilled White Vinegar. After you’ve finished the oil treatment, wash hair with shampoo (it may take a couple applications to get all the oil out). Towel dry hair, then completely saturate hair with vinegar, making sure it reaches the scalp (if there are already open sores on the head, you may want to skip this step, since it could burn). Leave the vinegar on for 15 minutes, then wash with shampoo. The vinegar dissolves the “glue” that holds the nits to the hair, making them much easier to comb out.
  • Coconut Oil. We’ve already stocked up on coconut oil because of all the benefits, right? Well, add this one to the list. Coconut oil is deadly to lice and will kill the adult lice as well as the nymphs as they hatch. Work a couple teaspoons of oil into damp hair, making sure to work it into the scalp. It will make the hair soft and shiny, and it smells fantastic (which is good, considering you just doused the hair in vinegar). After you have eradicated the lice, you can continue to use the coconut oil as a hair treatment, or simply dab a couple drops behind the ears to prevent future infestation.
  • Comb, comb, comb. Warning: this step takes forever. With small kids, we found it was easiest to put on a movie to keep them still. For a detailed description of how to use a lice comb, go here. This should occur every day to every other day for at least 2 weeks.

Treatment for the house

  • Wash it. If it can be washed in hot water and/or dried on high heat for at least 30 minutes, do it. Nothing should be re-worn or reused for more than one day. You’ll be doing a lot of laundry, but it’s better than dealing with lice forever. This is especially true of things that come in contact with hair, like pillowcases and towels.
  • Bag it. If it can’t be washed, bag it up in an airtight container or garbage bag for two weeks. Lice can’t live away from a human head for longer than that, so after two weeks it will be perfectly safe.
  • Wipe it. Hard surfaces should be wiped down with rubbing alcohol to kill any nits or live bugs that have transferred to the surface.
  • Soak it. Hairbrushes, hair clips, and the lice comb can be soaked in rubbing alcohol for an hour to kill any bugs on them. Make sure no one is sharing hair supplies. Clean hair out of brushes after every use.
  • Vacuum it. Upholstered furniture, carpets, throw pillows, car seats, and headrests should be vacuumed regularly.

While head lice is always an extreme annoyance, it’s good to know now that I have everything I need to take care of it already at my fingertips. No more expensive trips to the drugstore for dangerous chemicals that don’t work! These home remedies are safe, cheap, and effective.  They wiped out our infestation in just a couple days! Good luck, and I hope you never have to use these tips.

This has been a guest post by Lauren from Brentwood, TN
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!