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Lice: Cleaning Lice From Combs, Clothing, and Other Items

Topic Overview

Lice can spread from human to object to human, but it's more common for lice to spread by human-to-human contact.

Removing lice from objects such as combs, clothing, and furniture is not a necessary part of treatment for head lice, but some people choose to do this as a way to help prevent lice from spreading to other household members.

Lice don't live longer than 2 days when they are not on a human. So you would only need to remove lice from items that the person with lice has used or worn in the 2 days just before he or she used lice-killing medicine.

If you choose to remove lice from household items, here are some tips:

  • To rid hair brushes, combs, barrettes, and other hair ornaments of lice, soak them in hot water [at least 130°F (54°C)] for 5 to 10 minutes, soak them in isopropyl alcohol, or wash them with a shampoo that is used to treat head lice.
  • Machine-wash towels, hats, scarves, clothes, bedding, and cloth toys in hot water [at least 130°F (54°C)] or place them in a dryer on the high heat setting for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Dry-cleaning or storing clothing in a plastic bag for 2 weeks will also destroy lice. These methods are the main treatment for a person who has body lice.
  • Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and mattresses to remove hairs that might have live eggs attached.
  • You do not need to fumigate the house with insecticide sprays. This will not help treat or control a lice problem and may unnecessarily expose family members to toxic fumes.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised August 30, 2012

Last Revised: August 30, 2012

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