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Can Head Lice Live On Pillows and Sheets?

Can Head Lice Live On Pillows and Sheets?
Created on 
April 10, 2017
Updated on 
September 29, 2022

When treating lice, many families are exhausted just thinking about the added task of killing lice on bed sheets and other linens. Cleaning a home after head lice treatment seems like it may take longer than just treating the infestation on the head would. You will be relieved to know that additional cleaning of bedding, bagging of toys in the bedroom, and vacuuming is not required for the total eradication of an infestation. Simply treating the head by removing bugs and nits with lice comb and proper follow up is all that is needed for successful eradication.

WHAT ARE HEAD LICE?

Head lice are parasites that affix themselves to human hair in order to feed from blood on the scalp; they lay eggs on the hair shafts of individual hair strands. It is a common ailment in school aged children and is not a result of poor personal hygiene - live bugs can even survive shampooing. A lice infested person will have both live lice bugs (singular louse) as well as lice eggs (called nits) which are the size of a sesame seed and laid 1/4 inch from the scalp. An infected person with a lice infestation will spread head lice to another person's head by head-to-head contact or hair-to-hair contact with the bugs moving from one head to another.

UNDERSTAND HEAD LICE LIFE CYCLE

Lice live on the head, not in the home. Off of the head without their blood meal from the scalp, head lice can live only 24-36 hours, so it is not necessary to put items in plastic bags, machine wash pillows in hot water, machine wash bedding in hot water or put linens in a tumble dryer on a high heat drying cycle. An adult louse or a few adult lice off of the hair shaft of the human host will not live on pillows or other places like on stuffed animals, hair ties or other hair accessories as they will die when separated from the hair strands on the head, away from the warmth of the scalp, within a day and a half. Because of this, you will likely not find head lice in your home either dead lice or alive. You cannot kill eggs laid by a female louse, so the most effective way to treat head lice on a lice infected person is to remove lice and lice eggs from the hair. To prevent lice from coming back, a follow up head lice treatment of the head is most effective. FAQs of lice and lice removal here.

WHAT TYPES OF LICE CAN BE FOUND IN BEDDING?

There are 3 types of lice that cause an infestation on a person. They are head, body, and pubic lice.

  • Head lice live on the human head. An infected person will spread an infestation via direct hair-to-hair contact with someone else. Head lice die when away from the scalp of their human host. In-home lice treatment services and lice clinics can treat head lice infestations and help you get rid of lice and educate you on how to prevent lice in the future.
  • Pubic lice live in the pubic areas of humans. They are spread usually by way of sexual contact with another person with an active infestation. Lice clinics cannot treat individuals with this form of lice.
  • Body lice infest the body. They live in and lay eggs on pillows, in bed linens, on stuffed animals, and clothing and periodically visit the human body to feed. With this type of lice, it is important to machine wash pillows in hot water, machine wash bed linens in hot water, and put in a tumble dryer on a high heat drying cycle. This type of lice cannot be treated by lice clinics.

HOW LONG CAN LICE LIVE ON BEDDING?

In the unlikely event that a louse is separated from one head, it will die in 24-36 hours. During this time it becomes weaker, so it is highly unlikely that the louse will re-attach itself to the head. In addition, nits do not detach from the strands of hair. Once off the head, they will not hatch. The bottom line is that the risk to your family of being infected or re-infected with head lice from the furniture, bed, clothes, etc. is exceedingly low. Treating the head will successfully eliminate a lice infestation.

HOW TO GET RID OF LICE ON BEDDING?

Some families still may be skeptical that they can get rid of a head lice infestation without killing head lice and nits that may be living in the home. We've previously addressed that it is impossible that head lice to live on pillows or other places in the home, as lice cannot survive off of the head, so the first priority is to treat the head and get rid of head lice and nits on the hair using a professional lice comb. Anything alive in the home is secondary and will go away on its own.

KILLING LICE ON BEDDING

live on pillows

It is not necessary for successful head lice eradication to do anything with the bedding. It is incredibly rare that you will find lice off of the head. A washing machine likely won't kill lice and their eggs as the temperature in most household machines does not reach a high enough temperature. Fumigating the home is also unnecessary. Likely, an exterminator will not be available within 24 hours, during which time the bugs will have died on their own leaving you family exposed to potentially harmful chemicals that have done nothing to help you get rid of head lice and nits. If you are thinking, "I get it. It is not likely that there will be a louse in my bedding, and if there is, the oil will protect me. BUT I don't want to take a chance." We understand that. For peace of mind, simply take sheets, pillowcases, and the comforter and throw them in the washing machine and then the dryer. If you can't wash the comforter, set it aside or put it in a bag for one day. You may read intricate step-by-step cleaning protocols on how to kill lice on bedding. We cannot emphasize enough how unnecessary these steps are. They will sap your energy and will not move you closer to ending the infestation.

WILL BED BUG SPRAY OR OTHER PESTICIDES KILL LICE IN THE HOME?

You should NOT spray your home. First of all, sprays may be toxic. We do not recommend using these chemicals as they may have side effects. Second, it is overkill!  Since head lice will die within a day off the head, it is not likely that you will even have a louse on your bed sheets or furniture. After you have been treated by LiceDoctors, the oil that you put in your hair that night will do the job of killing any head lice that crawled out of your hair earlier, and then try to crawl back in. Treating an infestation is simple - focus on the head and you will not need a supplemental lice treatment for bedding.

LICEDOCTORS IN-HOME LICE TREATMENT SERVICE WILL HELP YOU

Once LiceDoctors treats you, your lice infestation will be behind you, so you won't need to worry at all about the bedding or anything else in your house! Your technician will treat the head and that stops lice in their tracks!  

LiceDoctors is the most experienced and cost-effective lice removal service in the area; LiceDoctors operates under the guidance of a board-certified, on-staff medical doctor and we back our service with a full guarantee!

Your experienced technician will provide you with complete and private care in the convenience and comfort of your own home, answer your questions about head lice infestation, and educate you on how to prevent future infestations.  And LiceDoctors prices are lower than salon prices!  We accept FSA and HSA cards, and some insurance plans will cover treatment. Put an end to your lice infestation today by calling LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537Service is available day or night every day of the year.

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