At LiceDoctors, we often get calls from school nurses, directors, or other personnel at local schools who are completely fed up with the seemingly endless task of eliminating a head lice outbreak. It is not unusual for us to hear a parent or school administrator (especially from preschools) say that she or he has disinfected the entire classroom (or house) with lice disinfectant sprays and yet the lice infestation persists. “Do you do lice fumigation, or can you recommend a pesticide for head lice in classrooms?” they ask wearily. We try to gently explain that, although their efforts are valiant, they will be in vain until they start asking the right questions...
DO LICE PESTICIDES REALLY HELP?
First, we should be asking, “can lice infest classrooms?” Head lice do not survive long off the head; once parted from the host, they will die in approximately 24 hours WITHOUT ANY INTERVENTION. There is a lot of confusion between different types of lice and other bugs perpetrated by the internet that leads people to believe that a massive amount of environmental cleaning is necessary to eliminate lice; it's not uncommon for even doctors and health professionals to believe in this myth if they have little personal experience with head lice. Save yourself a headache, and truly absorb these words: head lice cannot infest environments, period, therefore pest control in a classroom should not include using pesticides for head lice in the room.
Second, we should ask, “does disinfectant spray kill lice?”. It seems a silly question since that is the only intended purpose of lice disinfectant spray... but the answer is shockingly disturbing: if these sprays contain common pesticides like pyrethrins or permethrins (check the label; most do), experts have known for over a decade now that over 99% of American head lice are genetically resistant to these pesticides! You may even reach for the bleach, but again, bleach has not been found to be effective at killing head lice.
Many school personnel takes the chance anyway, feeling pressure from parents and staff to control the situation, at a loss for other options, and working off of inaccurate information. But it's important to know that many lice fumigation sprays are filled with harsh chemicals that people and pets inhale, and they may cause side effects for the children and teachers who are exposed.
People often wonder what can I spray on my furniture that kills lice? The answer will surprise you.
HOW TO CLEAN A HOUSE AFTER FINDING LICE?
Many parents, after having been treated for head lice, wonder how to clean the house after finding lice and how to clean the house from head lice effectively. You will be relieved to know that if treated properly, cleaning the house is not necessary. In other words, you don't need to spray the furniture at all!
Will Lysol Kill Lice?
While frantically cleaning, parents often wonder what cleaning products to use after a lice outbreak. They consider what can I spray on furniture to kill lice or what can kill lice on furniture? Many reach for Lysol thinking it may have an effect. Does Lysol kill lice? The active ingredients in Lysol are a form of benzalkonium and ethanol (alcohol), which are intended mainly for killing viruses and bacteria, but does Lysol spray kill lice on surfaces? Does disinfectant spray kill lice? There's no published evidence that Lysol is effective at killing lice, but of course, we've wondered ourselves; can Lysol disinfectant spray kill lice on contact, just to go the extra mile with clean-up after lice removal? Our own experimentation has shown that lice can be doused in Lysol and survive seemingly unscathed.
Plus, again, we were asking the wrong questions...instead of “can disinfectant spray kill lice?” or “what can I spray on furniture to kill lice?” we should be asking, “is it helpful to attempt killing lice in the household surfaces after lice treatment?”. As it turns out, with our process, it doesn't matter. These parasites will not survive off of the human head for more than a day or so because they need human blood for their nourishment. Lice have about equal chances of surviving on a hard surface like a floor or countertop overnight with or without intervention. Sometimes, though, we wonder if there is a more serious intention behind the question “will disinfectant spray kill lice?” so we feel it's important to mention that nobody should ever spray surface disinfectant on their hair and scalp to attempt to get rid of lice...this is not only ineffective, it is also unhealthy and potentially dangerous.
HOW TO DO HOMEMADE LICE SPRAY
We are occasionally asked this question. By now, you can probably guess our answer. Since lice reside in the head and will die off the head within hours, you do not need to spray anything on the furniture. Direct your actions toward your head.
A WASHING MACHINE CAN KILL LICE...OR NOT
Many families feel the need to launder everything, curtains, bedding, clothes, etc. We know that head lice live on the head, not in laundry, but if you insist on putting everything in the washing machine, just know that this is for your peace of mind. The lice will die off the head within a day so you can just take those clothes or sheets and isolate them for a day. The bugs and eggs are not affected by laundry detergents; in fact, you would have better success killing head lice by skipping the washing machine altogether and throwing the laundry in the dryer on high heat. We reiterate: that this is optional. It's the head, not the clothes that matter.
HOW TO CLEAN AFTER HOUSEHOLD LICE INFESTATION
Cleaning your home after a head lice infestation seems like an added step that, after treating a large family, would help get rid of lice. This is false. Off your child's head, lice in the home will not survive for very long. If you want to do something for peace of mind here are a few steps you can take:
- Put hair accessories like brushes and combs in a plastic bag into the freezer overnight.
- Use a sticky lint roller on furniture or car seats infested individuals have had access to.
- Vacuuming is not necessary, but if you like, you may run your vacuum cleaner.
Alternative Lice Treatment
Many families choose alternative head lice treatment as opposed to the typical chemical shampoo method for health reasons; while we agree that pesticide-free lice treatment is usually safer and healthier for your family, some alternative treatments may cause side effects or allergies. There are different options when it comes to natural lice treatment, but only LiceDoctors’ proven and time-tested methods are able to boast a phenomenal success rate of 99.6% with no side effects. In fact, we even guarantee that the lice won’t come back after our treatment, even if you do no significant cleaning, laundry, or disinfecting.
It's Better to Wait Them Out Than to Clean Them Out
The target of any effective head lice treatment should be the heads and people, not the house or the classroom. You can disinfect a whole school every minute of every day, but if just a few lice eggs remain in someone's hair, then you still have a lice problem. But on the flip side, any school that is closed on the weekends should be lice-free by Monday since the bugs cannot survive for more than 24-36 hours tops (and usually far less time) after falling off of a human host. Lice can barely move around if they're anywhere but in human head hair, and they can't lay eggs on anything but human hair attached to a human scalp. Eggs attached to shed hair die without warmth from the scalp, and cannot reattach to new hosts. It is estimated that only about 5% of cases are transmitted via objects like hats, and again, there is a time limit on that possibility that wouldn't last the weekend.
So please, don't waste time or money attempting to bag, launder, or clean your classroom or home; focus on the heads. Chemical pest control in classrooms is not healthy or useful. Parents and school personnel may feel a need to be proactive, which is understandable, but using a pesticide fogger or disinfectant spray is not the answer.
The best way to help with a lice outbreak at your school is with student head checks and parental notification (where permitted). There is no reason to feel guilty for telling parents about an outbreak; educate parents that lice live on kids, not in schools. LiceDoctors can provide school checks any time you need them, so your valuable personnel can continue their important jobs.
As we have made clear, there is no need to tackle the onerous task of major cleaning after a lice outbreak. Using a vacuum, washer with hot water and dryer for infested items, clothing, bedding, and/or cleaning products on furniture may make you feel proactive, but your energy is best spent focused on the scalp. When help is needed, call LiceDoctors and a lice technician will safely and effectively get rid of the lice today.