There is a reason they are called head lice and not "house lice." Even the Latin name, pediculus humanus capitis, hints that these sesame-seed-sized pests are intrinsically linked to the human head. While trying to kill lice on family members may be a challenge, home cleanup after lice can be a breeze. The reality is that you don't have to ask how to kill head lice in your house; without a human host, the remaining lice will die 24-36 hours after their last blood meal. Read on for some simple tips on how to get rid of lice in your home after a successful lice treatment.
Is It Necessary to Clean Your Home After Head Lice?
At LiceDoctors, we often get calls from frustrated and tired parents asking how to get rid of lice in their house. It is not unusual for us to hear a parent say that she or he has disinfected the entire building, in addition to trying a variety of head lice treatments, and yet the family continues to suffer. Given their short life span without access to human blood, it is not necessary to know how to treat a home to make it lice-free. You can clean day and night, but if there are still bugs and/or nits in the hair, the case has not ended.
Despite the fact that head lice and nits will not be able to survive off of the human scalp, many families, school nurses, pediatricians, and even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still insist that cleaning the home from top to bottom, including vacuuming, disinfecting surfaces, boiling hair accessories, and laundering everything your family may come into contact with, is necessary. Often, this is the part that families find most stressful, even more than treating head lice in the child's hair. When you understand the physiology of the louse and the environment it needs to survive, you will comprehend why this is overkill.
However, we still understand that some families are seriously preoccupied with how to get rid of lice in the house, and need to do at least something to the home to address this situation. Often, when speaking with our clients, we tell them that while it is not necessary to know how to clean their home after lice, they should do whatever they need to do to feel at ease.
How Do You Clean Your House After Lice?
These are a few of the practical things we suggest on how to clean a house after lice.
1. Take Care of Hairbrushes and Head Accessories
There is no need to throw anything away, simply avoid direct contact with hairbrushes, combs, hair ties, hair clips, headbands, wigs, and other hair accessories that your family has used in the last couple of days, for at least hours to be safe.
If you'd rather use these items sooner, there are a few ways to kill head lice eggs and adult lice faster:
- Put hair brushes in a sealed zipper plastic bag in the freezer overnight. If there are lice and nits on a hair shaft caught in hair brushes or combs, they will die quickly when separated from the child's head.
- Soak water-proof and heat-proof items in a pot of boiling hot water for 5 minutes; the high heat will kill adult lice quickly.
- Your dishwasher should also get hot enough to kill bugs and eggs on hair accessories and your lice comb. While high heat and very hot water are effective, regular warm water from a shower or bath won't kill lice.
- If you want to be extra cautious, soak anything that cannot tolerate high heat or freezing in rubbing alcohol overnight.
2. Use Lint Roller in Places that Had Contact with Lice
It can be distressing to see bugs crawling on surfaces like car seats, and one rogue bug often spurs parents to ask how to clean their home after head lice. You can clean quickly and easily by using a lint roller on surfaces your infested family members may have come into contact with like stuffed animals, couches, recliners, pillows, curtains, car seats and seat belts.
3. Vacuum Clean the Surfaces
We are often asked how to clean a house from lice on the carpet, furniture, and other surfaces. Vacuuming is not strictly necessary, but it's fine to do a little extra cleaning if it gives you peace of mind knowing that all the carpet lice have been vacuumed. Put the head lice vacuum cleaner away for 24 hours so the bugs inside die. It certainly will not cause harm to vacuum-clean cloth surfaces that you cannot wash.
4. Use Washing Machine
While dry cleaning will kill insects, a simple machine wash and dry is sufficient without the chemicals involved in dry cleaning. Hot water helps a bit, but the high heat of the dryer works even better. Be sure to dry on high for at least 20 minutes. This is a great trick for how to clean your house after lice specifically for stuffed animals that your child cannot bear to be parted from.
Some parents take everything they own to the laundromat to wash it all at once. This is just extra work and stress. Also, if you think about it, you're more likely to be exposed to other types of pests in a public laundromat than you are to catch lice again from your own clothes.
5. Don't Use Lice Spray to Clean Your House After Lice
Conflicting information abounds regarding how to treat your home for lice. The entire lice life cycle is lived on the head, so never spray harsh chemicals around the home to kill them. Pesticides have toxins that might cause more harm than the original infestation.
If a professional charges you to exterminate head lice in the environment, run! Concentrate on treatment for the itchy scalp using wet combing with hair conditioner or oil, and you will be attacking the lice infestation at the source.
The Bottom Line
Housecleaning is not necessary after LiceDoctors helps you get rid of head lice at the first treatment. We'll teach you a follow-up head lice treatment plan which completely eliminates the need to clean, just by using olive oil on the dry hair—no laundering, bagging, vacuuming, or pesticides! Don't waste your time and energy cleaning; call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to book an appointment.