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Does Alcohol Really Kill Lice?

Does Alcohol Really Kill Lice?
Updated on 
December 15, 2020

When the primary caretaker of a family finds that one or more members of the household have lice, she or he will often start grasping for straws – combing the internet for something, anything, that will help get rid of lice quickly and effectively without breaking the bank. As is the case with most things, there is more than one way to try to get rid of head lice. Some of these methods may have some effectiveness, others are merely gimmicks that families end up spending a whole lot of money on with zero satisfaction and a lot of disappointment.

We have heard far too many of these gimmicky methods of treating a case of head lice recounted to us as the caregiver explains to us all of the things they have done to try to get rid of it, and yet they have failed. One of the more common techniques that we have heard relayed to us is the use of alcohol and alcohol-based lice treatment. Some even ask can rubbing alcohol kill lice eggs or can alcohol kill lice and nits? With alcohol in so many household items, and readily accessible, which ones are effective at killing lice?

Will Alcohol Kill Lice?

Can alcohol kill lice? Does alcohol kill lice on contact? These are loaded questions. While the answer to the question “can alcohol kill head lice” is technically yes, the type and strength of alcohol used will determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Benzyl alcohol 5%, formerly brand named Ulesfia, is an approved treatment for head lice in people older than six months and younger than sixty years old.

In 2019, the manufacturer ceased production for undefined business reasons. This is a specific lice treatment that had to be obtained at a pharmacy with a prescription that would be provided by your doctor. Like other lice treatments, benzyl alcohol lice treatment is a pediculicide, meaning it only kills the live bugs. It does this by suffocating the live bugs. Because it suffocates live bugs, it is not considered ovicidal. This means that it will not kill the eggs. This treatment was unable to penetrate the outer shell of the lice eggs (nits) to kill the bug that is inside the shell.

In view of this, a second treatment was required to kill the bugs that hatch out of these eggs after seven days following the initial treatment. As is the case with other prescription and over the counter lice treatments, it was not 100% effective. In addition to this, the treatment came with side effects, some serious, such as itching, numbness and pain, and pus-filled sores that many families find undesirable and not worth the risk.

Will Alcohol Kill Lice?

Will Rubbing Alcohol Kill Lice?

Will Rubbing Alcohol Kill Lice

A different kind of alcohol that clients have reported using in an attempt to get rid of lice is rubbing alcohol, most commonly isopropyl alcohol, the kind you commonly find in your household medicine cabinet to be used as a disinfectant. After hearing about the effectiveness prescription of benzyl alcohol has on lice, clients would like to know does rubbing alcohol kill lice? If so, what is the best way of treating lice with rubbing alcohol? If it is effective, can rubbing alcohol kill lice and nits? After all, there are many sources online that recommend disinfecting or soaking brushes or other hair accessories in alcohol to kill any lice on them, so it would be reasonable to conclude when pondering "can you kill lice with rubbing alcohol", that the answer is yes and that it would kill the lice on the head, right? Wrong. The keyword here is soak.

Rubbing alcohol and head lice need to be in contact for a considerable amount of time for the live bugs to die. It would be impossible to completely submerge the lice-infested head in rubbing alcohol for a long enough period of time to kill lice without putting the person being treated at risk. Prolonged direct exposure of skin to rubbing alcohol will cause irritation and dryness and can actually delay healing of any sores that might be on the head from lice bites being scratched. Speaking of scratches….have you ever poured rubbing alcohol on a wound? If you have, you no doubt understand that those scratches are going to burn very badly and cause severe discomfort.

Does Mouthwash Kill Lice?

Does Mouthwash Kill Lice

Another alcohol-based product clients have reported trying in the past is the mouthwash for lice. Sometimes when clients call they start out by seeking advice on how to get rid of lice with mouthwash. This technique is widely known and many families with extensive experience with head lice have tried this method and some claim to have had some success. So can you use mouthwash to get rid of lice?

The instructions most people familiar with this treatment abide by include putting the mouthwash in some sort of a spray bottle. Use the spray bottle to saturate the hair with mouthwash. Once saturated, this method requires that you comb, and comb, and keep combing with a good nit comb to remove all of the eggs. One treatment is not enough, this process should be completed several times to ensure that this treatment method is successful. This method, if completed as directed will be successful, but it will not be the mouthwash that gets rid of the case of lice. The reason this method will ultimately prove to be effective is because of the repeated combing. The key to getting rid of any head lice infestation lies in the ability to get rid of all of the bugs and eggs from the hair. Left behind, two eggs can start an infestation all over again. The repeated combing involved with this method, especially when repeated multiple times over the course of a week or more, if you remove every single nit (not easily done by a novice) will get rid of all of the bugs and eggs, ending a lice infestation.

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Lice?

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Lice

Hand sanitizer is something most of us have with us at all times these days, so it would be convenient if something most families have readily available to them could get rid of a case of head lice. It would be inexpensive and incredibly convenient, especially for those late night head lice discoveries. The active ingredient in hand sanitizer is, you guessed it, alcohol – either isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol. The claim to this method of head lice treatment is that it stuns the lice for a period of time which will allow you the opportunity to remove them with a nit comb. Notice – this method of head lice treatment does not claim to have the ability to kill head lice, rather, it may serve to temporarily stop head lice from crawling around, potentially making it less difficult to comb out the live bugs.

As with all effective forms of head lice treatment, something must also be done to address the eggs that would remain in the hair, and this treatment does not penetrate the shell of the egg to kill the baby bug (nymph) inside of it. Therefore, for this method to be an effective form of treatment for lice, a lice-infested person would have to either comb and handpick all of the eggs out of the hair or repeat the treatment on set days so the live baby bugs can be combed out after they hatch.

Therefore, with this method of lice treatment, while potentially effective when followed up on correctly, it is not the alcohol in the hand sanitizer, or anything else in the hand sanitizer for that matter, that kills head lice. Rather, it is the repeated combing that may ultimately cause a lice infestation to be eradicated.

Does Vodka Kill Lice?

Does Vodka Kill Lice

Another head lice treatment option that some claim to have found to be effective is vodka for head lice. The alcohol in vodka is ethanol. When clients hear that alcohol may have some effectiveness against head lice, they likely start searching around the house for anything that might have some alcohol in it so they can start with the treatment they found on the internet which may lead them to the home’s liquor cabinet. While not the cheapest form of alcohol usually, some have tried using vodka to get rid of their family’s unwanted head lice house guest. Like the hand sanitizer and mouthwash treatment methods that have been used and documented on the internet, the claim to vodka’s effectiveness in the war against head lice lies in its ability to make lice drunk or stunned, to make it easier to remove live bugs with a nit comb. If you are starting to see a trend here, you are not alone.

Again, as in the case with other alcohol-based lice treatments, it is not the active ingredient of alcohol in these products that kills the lice, rather it is the combing process that may serve to get rid of a head lice infestation. So if you are wondering how to get rid of head lice with vodka, you will need to apply the alcohol to the hair and perform a thorough comb-out process. One session or treatment with this method will likely not be sufficient to ensure a case of head lice is gone. Eggs that are laid the day of and before a head lice treatment are microscopic and are therefore not able to be seen or removed. To improve the chance of this treatment is effective and the microscopic eggs are removed, you will need to re-treat the infested person for lice again in about a week and again about a week after that.

Does Beer Kill Lice?

Does Beer Kill Lice

Sometimes clients do not have hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, vodka, or mouthwash at home and maybe it was too late to get in with the pediatrician….they may wonder does beer kill lice? After all, like all of the other alcohol-based treatments, there is alcohol in beer as well. Of course, the alcohol content in beer is lower than all of the other alcohol-based treatments we have already discussed, but is it enough to have the same effect? Better yet, since it is different, maybe it will have different, more favorable effects on a case of head lice…maybe?

The alcohol content in beer is ethanol or ethyl alcohol. The treatment for head lice using beer would be the same as other ethyl or ethanol-based head lice treatments. Start by saturating the infested person’s head with beer lice will then become stunned. Once they have been affected in this way by the beer, it would theoretically make it easier to comb all of the bugs out of the hair.

However, as is the case with all of the other alcohol-based lice treatment options outlined here, there is no evidence that beer kills lice – the combing is the key to success. To get rid of lice using beer time will need to be spent combing the hair thoroughly to remove all of the live bugs and eggs. Subsequent treatments are also needed to get out any remaining eggs or bugs before they mature and begin to reproduce – starting a case of head lice all over again.


There are many other alcohol-based home remedies that families and individuals have used and claimed to have had success with when treating cases of head lice. However, the only alcohol-based treatment that has been proven to actually kill lice is the prescription lice treatment benzyl alcohol 5%, which has been discontinued. While this treatment was proven to kill live bugs, it did not penetrate the shells of lice eggs (nits), therefore repeat treatments were necessary to ensure a case of lice is gone. Because this head lice treatment was by prescription, the cost would add up for doctor’s visits and the actual cost of the treatment, so for some families, this treatment would have been cost-prohibitive.

Other more cost-effective sources of alcohol that most people have either in their homes already or easily accessible like rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, vodka, and beer (to name a few) may aid in the removal of bugs by temporarily stunning or immobilizing live head lice, but they do not kill the bugs. Like benzyl alcohol, the eggs are not affected by this treatment so repeated treatments and an effective combing and picking technique are necessary to ensure that the infestation is completely gone for good. It is also noteworthy to mention that these “home remedy” treatments using alcohol products may also come with undesirable side effects that may even be harmful to the family members you are treating.

Lice Doctors

LiceDoctors in-home head lice treatment is 99.7% effective and is safe for everyone in your entire family. Not only is it safe, but it is also affordable as LiceDoctors pricing is lower than other lice salon options. We charge by the hour, so you only ever pay for the time that you need. Let us check everyone (recommended) and you will also get our thirty-day guarantee.

Technicians come to your home in an unmarked vehicle. Your technician comes armed with the expertise and all of the tools she needs to safely get rid of your family’s case of head lice in just one visit. She has the patience and expertise needed to get every single live bug and every single tiny visible egg on the hair. She will also provide your family with valuable knowledge about head lice and how to prevent getting future cases of head lice. When she leaves, your family will be lice free, no longer contagious, and can return to work or school immediately. Included with the treatment will be our physician-developed, easy to do follow up plan that will ensure that the case of lice is gone for good. Avoid wasting valuable time with your family with gimmicky or home remedies that likely will not even work.

Call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 and speak with a dispatcher that will put your mind at ease the moment she picks up the phone and get help out to you fast! Technicians are available at your convenience, day or night, weekdays, weekends, holidays – and same-day appointments are available – even preferred! Call us and see why more than 500,000 clients have called us and gotten rid of head lice for good. Help is just a phone call away!

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