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

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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. Lice don't live longer than 2 days when they are not on a human.

Removing lice from personal items, clothing, and furniture is one way to help prevent lice from spreading to other household members. And it may help prevent a person who has been treated for lice from becoming reinfested.

  • To rid hair brushes, combs, barrettes, and other hair ornaments of lice, soak them in hot water [greater than 54.5°C (130°F)] for 10 minutes, soak them in isopropyl alcohol, or wash them with a shampoo that is used to treat head lice.
  • Wash clothes, bedding, and cloth toys in hot water [greater than 54.5°C (130°F)] in an automatic washing machine or place them in a hot dryer for at least 10 minutes. Dry-cleaning or storing clothing in a plastic bag for 2 weeks will also destroy head and pubic lice. (Storage of clothing is recommended for body lice, although storage is needed for up to 30 days because body lice can survive that long.)
  • Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and mattresses.
  • 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


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised January 28, 2011

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