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How to Use Lice Comb: Wet Combing Step-By-Step Instructions

How to Use Lice Comb: Wet Combing Step-By-Step Instructions
Created on 
April 10, 2017
Updated on 
November 23, 2022

The best way to remove lice is by using a lice comb. Read this to find out how to comb out lice and nits and how often to use a lice comb to get rid of lice. Whichever head lice treatment you opt for will likely involve combing out the nits and bugs. If it does not, then you are risking the possibility of leaving behind lice and eggs that will soon expand again into a full-blown infestation, and sometimes lead to other diseases. A lice comb must be a fine-toothed comb so that it can be effective in extracting both head lice and their eggs. 

Many parents are unsure how to use a lice comb to maximize its effectiveness. For a lice comb to be an effective way to eliminate a lice infestation, you need to know how to use it properly. If you try to use a lice comb on tangled hair, it will likely hurt and pull the hair, and it won’t get rid of an active infestation.

What You Need to Get Ready for Lice Combing 

With this guide, you'll discover both how to comb for live head lice and how to comb out lice eggs without chemicals. The quality of the lice combs is important; it needs to be a metal comb with close-together tooth spacing. You'll need to have on hand:

  • regular comb;
  • metal-tooth lice comb;
  • shampoo;
  • conditioner;
  • olive oil;
  • drop cloth;
  • paper towels;
  • plastic hair clips;
  • patience;
  • time;
  • bright light;
  • either excellent vision and/or a magnifying glass.
lice combing

When to Use a Lice Comb

Our experience, backed up by research from the National Pediculosis Association in Newton, MA, shows that lice combs should be part of every head lice treatment plan. Nits can be very tiny and the human eye may miss some. In addition, live lice can be hard to find and catch so using oil or conditioner together with lice combs, is far better than depending on lice chemicals which often are not effective as lice have become resistant to them. If after combing, you encounter a live louse, then add more oil and comb again. Finding a live louse signifies that you have not used enough oil on the head. Combing can pull out oil so refresh the supply while you are treating.

How to Comb Out Head Lice: Step-By-Step Instruction

Combing out lice and nits is not difficult, but it does take careful attention and patience. Here are 5 steps to combing out lice using a lice comb.

Step 1 –  Wash and Condition Your Hair

  • The best way to comb out lice is to do it on wet hair. When using a lice comb, wet or dry hair makes a big difference in comfort and effectiveness!
  • Leave enough conditioner to make your hair very slippery.
  • Alternatively, saturate dry hair with olive oil which is excellent for combing lice out of hair.
  • Enough conditioner or oil will immobilize the live lice so you can comb them out easily.
  • You do not need to use lice shampoo as the combing is the active and effective part of the head lice removal process.

Step 2 – Remove Tangles With The Wide-Toothed Comb

  • The longer the lice have been there, the more the hair tends to tangle, which will cause your lice comb to get stuck!
  • The oil or conditioner makes the hair smoother and should help you to remove knots without causing discomfort to the scalp.
  • Use a regular comb first to get out tangles which will make it easier to use the lice comb.
  • Head lice cannot live on combs or other items, but if you're worried you can boil the comb, dip it in soapy water, or freeze it overnight to sanitize it.

Step 3 – Comb Through Your Hair with a Nit Comb

  • It is helpful to start the treatment by sectioning the hair using clips.
  • Be gentle, especially when combing a child's hair. You want the head lice removal experience to be as positive as possible and a child's head is usually more sensitive than an adult's.
  • The more textured the hair, the smaller the sections should be, especially on a child.
  • Secure the comb's teeth in the hair and starting at the scalp, drag it through the section all the way to the tips.
  • Combing from the top, bottom, and both sides of the section is the most thorough way how to comb for lice.
  • Whether your child's hair is short, long, or to the child's shoulders you much comb the whole length of the strands to eliminate all head lice.

Step 4 – Clean Your Comb

  • Wipe your comb on a paper towel after each swipe through the hair.
  • You may see nits or lice stuck in the teeth of the comb. Rinse the comb or dip it in soapy water to pull out debris.
  • If you're wondering how long to comb for lice – you need to keep combing out each section until you are not seeing anything on the paper towel after several swipes.

Step 5 – Repeat

  • Continue steps 3 and 4 through each section of hair. You want to be thorough with a child's hair so the child does not have to go through another lice infestation from a case that was not completely treated.
  • Keep checking your child for a few weeks! There may still be nits too underdeveloped to see.
  • It's important to understand how often to comb for lice. Lice can be cagey and you must be sure to get them all or the case will start over again.
  • Combing every few days will help ensure nothing recurs.

Step 6 – Check Everyone’s Head in Your House

  • Lice spread from one child to other family members long before symptoms start so don't wait!
  • Use wet-combing to check everyone in your household for lice and nits.
  • Using the comb instead of your eyes will allow you to find nits that aren't even visible yet, and catch bugs while they're immobilized.

How to Choose the Best Lice Comb?

The quality of lice combs makes a difference; not all lice combs are created equal. The flimsy plastic lice combs that come with chemical shampoo kits are not particularly effective at removing tiny nits. So what is the best lice comb? You want a comb where the tines are close to each other. Tooth spacing of .09 inches is superior to lice combs with tooth spacing of .2 inches as those tend to be effective mostly for getting adult lice. Combs with teeth that are close together are best for getting out small eggs. The cost of high-quality metal head lice combs is usually $15 or more, but parents find these tools are so helpful that it is money well-spent for lice treatments.

You want to use the lice comb on all the strands of hair. Do not skip a section. Pay close attention to the hair on the scalp around the ears and in the nape of the neck. The success rate of treatments is much better when hair is combed with a high-quality tool.

combing out lice

How Often to Do Comb-Outs

We recommend that you do comb-outs, after a lice infestation, twice or three times during the first week and then once a week for the next two weeks. On any day, when you first attempt to do a treatment, there may be tiny nits that were just laid. As they grow and/or hatch they will be easier for the teeth of the lice comb to capture during treatments. Remember with head lice infestation, wet combing is the way to go. Keep up the treatment until no more nits or lice are found on your child or other family members.

When Should You Visit a Lice Doctor?

We have found that it is often most cost-efficient to call in a lice professional as soon as you find lice. It can be very tricky to treat lice at home on your own. The bugs camouflage and the live lice scoot very quickly across the scalp. Removing lice from long and thick hair is even more challenging. You may wonder how to use a lice comb for curly hair. Same as with treating others, you need to start combing at the scalp and comb through all strands to the bottom; it often takes practice. If you can learn how to use a nit comb on yourself, then try it, but remember it is difficult to do.

Long-term infestations can lead to school absenteeism, social stigma, and if there is excessive scratching, skin infections that if they are severe can land your child in a children's hospital (not typical). There is no need for parents to shave the head as that can be traumatic.

If you don’t have the time, patience, or expertise to do this yourself (most people don’t!), call LiceDoctors for lice removal service at 800-224-2537 or book an appointment. We exist to help families like yours!

We provide a friendly in-home lice removal service

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