Any parent who has experienced a lice infestation and treated it with conventional products can relate to the pain and suffering on the family pocketbook. The average cost of generic head treatment is around $9.99 for a single treatment. When each member of a family of four or five is infested, this can really add up. Between treatments and furniture sprays, the cost can be almost as much as a  family’s weekly grocery budget. Another lice breakout a couple weeks later in another child’s classroom can leave parents reduced to tears and applying for small loans. Luckily, no expensive treatments are necessary, and cheap prevention measures can prevent the whole process in the first place.

  • Cheap Prevention: It’s best to just avoid lice in the first place. First, lice hate heat and love long hair that has been washed and left to drip dry. Start using a hair dryer to dry every household member’s hair at least once or twice a week (drying hair can kill adult lice but will not kill eggs). It may come as a surprise, but the classroom coat hooks are how most lice spread in the classroom. Lice just jump from coat to coat down the line. Alert your child’s teacher to this fact and ask the school to invest in a box of trash bags for each classroom. Children can put coats in the bags during school and leave the bags on the hooks. If staff is not amenable to that idea, send your child to school with a plastic bag for themselves.
  • Kill the Adult Lice: Shampoos and sprays are not only expensive, but some parents don’t want to put insecticide chemicals on a child’s head. Luckily, everything that is frugal for killing lice is also somewhat natural and probably already in the home. Mayonnaise, olive oil and vegetable oil added to the hair can all suffocate adult lice. Add one of the above to every household member’s head and cover it with a shower cap or grocery store plastic bag (do not put plastic bags on top of a small child’s head). Leave the oil on for approximately 8-12 hours.
  • Kill the Eggs (nits): Adult lice lay eggs that hatch approximately 10 days later, so killing the adults won’t destroy the eggs. After using the above oils to kill the adults, rinse the oil with water, then do another rinse with white vinegar. Soaking the hair and neckline with vinegar will help with large nit infestation. Rinse the vinegar out and use a nit comb to comb the nits out. The vinegar loosens the nits from the hair shaft, so several should rinse out and loosen to make combing easier. In addition to vinegar, Listerine mouthwash can also destroy both adult lice and nits. Soak hair and scalp in Listerine and cover the hair with a shower cap for a couple of hours. Rinse and use the nit comb.
  • Removing Lice from Cars, Carpets and Furniture: Many parents remove lice from hair and forget that lice may already be in stuffed animals, couch cushions and pillows, and then wonder why their child gets another bout of lice. To effectively get rid of lice, you must remove it entirely from the house. Sprays are not necessary unless there is a severe and ongoing problem that does not respond to any treatment. First, wash all sheets, towels and clothing with the hottest water possible. Use vinegar in a Downy Ball or in the fabric softener dispenser. (Vinegar can be used in normal laundry as a fabric softener and germ killer anyway.) The vinegar will cause lice eggs to loosen. Now dry the clothes on the hottest setting possible. Next, put any stuffed animals or pillows that can’t be washed in a garbage bag, and put the bag in the garage or basement for up to two weeks. Vacuum the rest of the carpets, couches, chairs and mattresses well. If you have a steam cleaner, use a vinegar solution to steam clean carpets and couches after vacuuming. Then vacuum again when the carpets are dry. If you do not have a steam cleaner, vacuum daily for two weeks and get all fabric surfaces in the house. Again, many experts say that vacuuming should take care of the situation unless it is severe, so do not feel like you have to spray every inch of your house. Vacuum cars, car seats and all of the upholstery in vehicles. Make sure to change any vacuum bags after the problem is solved.
  • All of the above-mentioned processes may need to be repeated a week later if the infestation is ongoing or heavy.

This is a guest post by Victoria of St. Charles, MO
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