7 Steps to Cleaning Your Home after a Head Lice Infestation

By Caileen  |  Friday, July 08, 2011  |  ,  |  44 comments

girl vacummingAn estimated 12 million cases of lice will occur this year according to the National Pediculosis Association and chances are your child or someone you know will be affected by a head lice infestation.  Head lice are more of a nuisance than a health hazard but it is important to act quickly to relieve your family of the inconvenience and discomfort of lice infestation.  

Lice cannot survive more than 1-2 days without a human host and they cannot live on pets. Eggs will die within 2 weeks once they are dislodged from the hair shaft and host.  It is not necessary to use pesticide sprays on furniture, rugs or personal items and in many cases, this will cause more harm to your home environment than good. Your time will be much better spent combing nits and lice from the hair and following these steps to kill head lice in infested items.

1. Gather all personal items such as Combs, Brushes, Hats, Hair Clips, Headbands, Headsets, Helmets, Clothing, Stuffed Animals, Costumes, Pillows and Coats for clean up.

2. Soak all hair care items (such as combs, brushes, hair clips, etc.) in hot water (130°F) for 15 minutes.  

3. For items that cannot be soaked in hot water such as headsets or helmets, place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag and put them in a freezer for 10-12 hours to kill the lice and eggs.  

4. Wash all bedding and clothing that your child has used in hot water (at least 130°F) OR run them through your dryer's hottest setting for at least 30 minutes. Be sure to dry clean items that cannot be washed.

5. Place items that cannot be cleaned or run through the dryer (i.e. stuffed animals and toys) in a tightly sealed plastic bag for 10-14 days.

6. Follow up with the vacuum to get rid of any lice dust or egg shells that were left behind. According to the NPA, vacuuming is the safest way to remove lice and fallen hairs with attached nits from upholstered furniture, rugs, stuffed animals, or car seats- wherever someone with head lice may have rested their head.  

7. Conduct a family head check once a week.  You'll need an egg removal comb, a magnifying glass and lots of light.

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44 comments for “7 Steps to Cleaning Your Home after a Head Lice Infestation”

  1. Posted 1/24/2012 at 12:40:27 PM
    Gravatar of DWSupplies

    This is a great piece of useful information and something you don’t thing about. Its obvious treating the lice in the hair but in carpets and bedding is not something most people would think about. The toys in a bag is the best idea.

    Great article

  2. Posted 10/20/2012 at 5:17:11 AM
    Gravatar of crystal stephens

    Its been 2 days since my family and home been treated with headlice, im always drying and washing and keeping all clothes up should i still be cleaning like this my family has no live lice but i have found nits i check everyones hair like 3 times a day since i found out we had lice. i just wanna make sure im doing everythibg right

  3. Posted 10/25/2012 at 9:10:40 AM
    Gravatar of Ves K

    Great article. I like tip 5! "Place items that cannot be cleaned or run through the dryer (i.e. stuffed animals and toys) in a tightly sealed plastic bag for 10-14 days." The natural remedy is to just wait them out! lol

    Ves K

  4. Posted 10/29/2012 at 9:26:00 AM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Sounds like you are doing all the right steps and that you have done a great job cleaning up. If you haven't used a product like Licefreee Spray that kills the nits, I would recommend to keep picking out those nits daily until you don't see them anymore. A second treatment in 7 days can also help prevent a reinfestation since nits hatch within 7-10 days.

  5. Posted 5/24/2013 at 8:15:20 PM
    Gravatar of Maureen

    What do you do with pillowsand feather pillows?

  6. Posted 5/29/2013 at 12:30:20 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    Bag up pillows that can't be washed or dried for 10 days and then vacuum them. The lice will not survive when off a human host for that long.

  7. Posted 8/1/2013 at 7:19:33 PM
    Gravatar of michelle

    What about clothes? Do I need to wash clothing that's clean and hasn't been worn?

  8. Posted 8/2/2013 at 1:59:55 PM
    Gravatar of Lisa

    If you have clothing that is put away and hasn't been worn or in contact with the infested person's head/hair, you shouldn't have to wash them. We suggest washing clothing and sheets that the person who has lice has come in contact with. Hair may fall off with lice still attached or lice can become dislodged while scratching. The goal is to wash them off these items before they can crawl onto a new host.

  9. Posted 4/15/2014 at 9:06:57 AM
    Gravatar of sharon

    I have a problem my grandchildren keep head lice. Every time they come over I have to treat them and me. It has gotten to the point that I check them before they even come in the house. Every time they come over one of them have head lice. I have tried everything. Please help

  10. Posted 4/28/2014 at 11:00:32 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Checking the children regularly is a great way to keep infestations at bay, or to catch them before they become a bigger problem. We would also suggest switching their regular daily shampoo to Licefreee Everyday 2 in 1 conditioning shampoo, to help prevent infestations.

  11. Posted 7/22/2014 at 4:50:40 PM
    Gravatar of Meagan

    What do you do about their beds? We don't have a dryer. So if we keep the clothes in a bag outside for two days would that work? My niece keeps getting them. HELP.

  12. Posted 7/23/2014 at 2:19:16 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Meagan: For beds, it is important to wash all of the linens in warm/hot water, followed by drying on high heat for at least 30 minutes. If you do not have a dryer, you may consider a laundromat. Also, a thorough vacuum cleaning of the mattress will pick up anything that may have fallen off of the head. As for clothing, we recommend the same washing/drying process as we do for bedding. If you are unable to get to a laundromat, it is best to put clothing and/or linens into a plastic bag for 10-14 days. Lice typically perish within 48 hours off of the human head, however, eggs(nits) can live up to 10-14 days off of the human head.

  13. Posted 8/1/2014 at 7:04:47 AM
    Gravatar of Sheryl Gaston

    While on vacation I found that both of my kids had lice. So we went about all the steps you stated above. My question is that a week later we are finally home, I have done all of the above to my home, but my question is, what about the other toys (not soft items) that were laying on the floor when we left. Do I need to bag up items such as notebooks, books, and other hard toys after being away from the house for 7 days? I am not even sure that my kids had it while at home, but I figured better to be safe than sorry.

  14. Posted 8/6/2014 at 8:22:23 PM
    Gravatar of jen

    How is it every second week my daughter has live bugs?? We have ripped out any carpet we have treated her with nix and someone suggested soaking her hair in rubbing alcohol which we have done, but still they keep coming back ....I am exhausted, we live in the country and have month neighbours so its not like they are getting it from somewhere please plese help us .
    Thank you

  15. Posted 8/18/2014 at 10:48:57 AM
    Gravatar of blake

    We have been so frustrated by head lice this summer. They will not go away!! Going to try and find this product and take the advice in the blog....never been so frustrated!!

  16. Posted 8/18/2014 at 10:55:36 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Blake: I am sorry to hear about your struggles with lice this summer! You can find Licefreee Spray! at Wal-mart, Walgreens, and Dollar General. Please let us know if you have any questions, or need more information!

  17. Posted 8/19/2014 at 8:21:39 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Sheryl: It is not necessary to bag hard items such as those you mentioned. A thorough vacuum cleaning of the floors, mattresses, and furniture should pick up anything that may have fallen off.

  18. Posted 8/19/2014 at 8:34:41 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Jen: It sounds as if the eggs have not been killed, and are hatching and starting the infestation over again every couple of weeks. You may consider using Licefreee Spray, our product that kills BOTH lice and nits (eggs). All you have to do is spray (dry hair) to saturate all of the hair and scalp, then let it air dry. Once dried, the treatment in complete. At that time you can wash the hair, or comb out the eggs if desired.

  19. Posted 8/20/2014 at 12:21:42 PM
    Gravatar of Trac

    I have a child that I cannot keep off the floor, as he has special needs and doesn't understand. He tends to touch the carpet or furniture with his head, no matter how hard i have tried. We have been fighting the problem for almost a month. Any suggestions. We have tried borax, salt, and cleaned the carpet ourselves. Should we get the carpet and floors professionally steam cleaned?

  20. Posted 8/26/2014 at 11:38:19 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Hi Trac: I am sorry to hear that you have been having such a difficult time with lice! Treating the carpet with the products/cleaners you listed is actually not necessary; a thorough vacuum cleaning will do the trick to pick up anything that may have fallen off of your son's head. Unfortunately, that may mean vacuuming every day for a couple of weeks until you can be sure the problem has ended. You may also consider visiting our Resources page for more helpful hints and tips regarding lice: http://licefreee.com/en/resources/helpful-hints-and-tips/

  21. Posted 8/26/2014 at 6:21:26 PM
    Gravatar of gina johnson

    A friend called to tell us the five children that we had over for the weekend have head lice. We will not have any other guests in those two bedrooms for the next weeks. Can we just let the critters die and vacuum them up rather than washing five beds!! Thank you

  22. Posted 9/3/2014 at 2:58:19 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Gina: Yes. Although, we would recommend washing and drying the bedding on high heat, and thoroughly vacuuming the carpeting and mattresses in those rooms. Your method will suffice, so long as you leave the doors closed, and the rooms remain unoccupied for 14 days.

  23. Posted 9/20/2014 at 5:43:48 PM
    Gravatar of tinker

    Where do you find the licefreee spray at walmart, as in what department

  24. Posted 9/30/2014 at 5:04:02 AM
    Gravatar of Angela

    Can clothing be washed in cold water and hung to dry? I'm afraid hot water will shrink my clothing. There are too many to send to the dry cleaners.

  25. Posted 10/4/2014 at 7:09:32 PM
    Gravatar of sara

    My husband and I have never had lice, we just found the nits on both our boys. We've went out and bought a kit, washed bedding, quarantined pillows and stuffed animals, tomorrow our house will get a major once over. Will it be okay if the boys go to school on Monday? Should I write the nurse a note? What is the protocol if they have been treated over the weekend?

  26. Posted 10/7/2014 at 9:53:04 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Tinker: Licefreee® Spray! can be found in the "First Aid" department at Wal-mart, and other similar retailers.

  27. Posted 10/7/2014 at 10:20:27 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Angela: Yes, the clothing can be washed in cold water. However, we do recommend drying in medium/high heat for at least 30 minutes to kill any lice or nits that may be on the clothing. If that doesn't work for your clothing, and you have too many to take to the dry-cleaners, the next best thing would be to bag up your clothing in a tightly-sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks.

  28. Posted 10/7/2014 at 10:37:21 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Sara: It sounds like you've done a very thorough cleaning, great work! Once the boys have been treated, they can immediately return to school. However, you may check with the nurse to determine if the school has a "no-nit" policy, first. Also, letting her know is a good idea so she can inform parents to keep a look out for lice on their kiddos; this benefits everyone as it helps to put a stop to an outbreak.

  29. Posted 10/15/2014 at 3:13:21 PM
    Gravatar of Connie

    i work at a nursing home we've had an breakout of head lice.what do we wear to clean a room(gown,gloves,head cover)?I need to know for our safety. Thank you

  30. Posted 11/5/2014 at 12:42:41 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Hi Connie: It isn't necessary to wear a gown, gloves, or head cover when cleaning up after a head lice infestation. Lice are spread through direct head-to-head contact, and it is unlikely that you would become infested during the cleaning process. As a precaution, you could pull your hair back tightly into a braid of bun. Best of luck!

  31. Posted 11/8/2014 at 10:28:21 AM
    Gravatar of Laryn

    Hi, my daughter came home with lice a couple of months ago we did the whole cleaning routine and I did her head and mine and my husband's. She came home from school Thursday with her head itching and I checked and she once again has lice but neither my husband nor I do. We all use the same hairbrush and I was wondering is this normal for one family member to get them and no one else?

  32. Posted 11/12/2014 at 3:50:26 PM
    Gravatar of Blythe

    So my girls and I discovered lice in their hair this morning. At the bus stop of course. Thinking, I was in the clear, I washed all the bedding, linens, etc, jackets and more and put the clean laundry on my bed. And now I have lice. Do I have to redo all that laundry? I know that sounds horrible, but I am trying to figure out if that is overkill or what needs to be done!

  33. Posted 11/24/2014 at 11:38:33 AM
    Gravatar of Lauren

    Can I leave clothes in a closet or drawer for two weeks without touching them? I have put comforters and pillows in large plastic bags but they do not "seal", just tie in a knot on top. is that okay?

  34. Posted 12/21/2014 at 8:16:13 PM
    Gravatar of kim

    Is the licefree spray ok to spray on couches and mattresses??

  35. Posted 12/30/2014 at 2:09:35 PM
    Gravatar of Amy

    hi my 7 year old had lice. I have cleaned my house, vacuumed the beds, couches, and floors. So far the others in my home have not had it, nor myself just her. She went to her dads house and he said she has it. But no one in my home does how is that possible?

  36. Posted 1/19/2015 at 6:12:41 AM
    Gravatar of Lori

    We treated both kids 4 days ago and myself 3 days ago. Every day we have vacuumed floors, recliners, and beds as well as washed bedding and clothes worn each day. No live bugs have been found on our heads during daily head combings. Do I still need to wash bedding and clothes daily and vacuum daily this many days after treatment? I am so stressed out and am OCD about it.

  37. Posted 1/20/2015 at 11:09:59 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Kim: We do not recommend using Licefreee Spray on couches and mattresses, as we have not tested the product for that particular use. A thorough vacuum cleaning of the furniture and mattresses should pick up anything that may have fallen off of the head.

  38. Posted 1/21/2015 at 12:25:48 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Lori: You have done a fantastic job! You've completed everything we would recommend as far as cleaning around the home is concerned. If you have treated, and are no longer finding live lice, there is no need to continue to wash the bedding and towels every day. This can be a very stressful time, but like I said, you've gone above and beyond!

  39. Posted 1/21/2015 at 1:37:50 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Laryn: We're sorry to hear about your troubles with lice, they are such pesky critters! If the 3 of you are sharing a hairbrush, the chances of you and your husband becoming infested are increased. It would be best to have your own hairbrushes/combs to avoid spreading lice when an infestation occurs. Also, to answer your question, yes it is possible that only one family member can have lice and the others do not.

  40. Posted 1/21/2015 at 2:43:57 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Blythe: Lice can be so frustrating! As a rule of thumb, after those who have become infested are treated, and the house is cleaned, it isn't necessary to continue cleaning and washing everything in sight. However, if you find live lice, we would recommend treating again and cleaning the home. To make the cleaning process a bit easier, not everything has to be run through both the washer AND dryer. In fact, most items can be placed directly into the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat. This will do the trick to kill any critters that may be on the items!

  41. Posted 1/21/2015 at 3:23:08 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Lauren: That could work, although we would recommend either placing the items in plastic bags that can be (completely) sealed for two weeks, or into the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat.

  42. Posted 1/24/2015 at 8:22:15 PM
    Gravatar of Hollie

    My kids and i are staying at a family members we have been here since monday today my daughter was scratching her head and i checked to find nits only we have had no one at our home since coming here do i need to clean everything at our home and here or being that we havent had a "host" at our house its ok to not worry about it there i dont want to have to do everything twice if there isnt anything wrong with both homes

  43. Posted 1/29/2015 at 8:24:15 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Hollie: Cleaning both homes wouldn't be a bad idea and here's why- while the bugs themselves typically only live off of a human host for 24-48 hours, the nits(eggs) can survive for much longer (approximately 10-14 days). If you plan to return to your home before 14 days, it wouldn't be a bad idea to wash the bedding and linens as well as complete a thorough vacuum cleaning of the furniture, carpeting, & mattresses. The cleaning process can be daunting, but it's better to be safe than sorry! Also treating the family with Licefreee Spray!® can kill any bugs and nits that may still be alive on the head.

  44. Posted 1/29/2015 at 9:20:41 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Amy: Just because one individual in the home has lice, does not guarantee that other family members will get them. That's a good thing :). Less treating to do. You've done a great job with the cleaning; you've done everything we would recommend. Is it possible that your daughter's father is seeing eggs that were treated, but missed during the comb-out? That is actually quite common. However, if he is seeing live bugs, she should be treated.

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