We have heard from several readers that Listerine can be helpful in preventing lice infestations. We recently received this testimonial from a reader:

“The best way to prevent head lice is old-fashioned Listerine Antiseptic Mouthrinse. We were in the Army 33 years and moved a lot, but my kids never got lice.

“Teachers asked me why my children didn’t get lice when all the others did. I used to put Listerine on their hair and scalp a week before school started and also put a tablespoon of Listerine in the rinse water when I washed the clothes and sheets. You have to be careful to keep the mouthwash out of eyes.”

Another reader writes:

“My quick remedy to prevent this problem is Listerine. I have tried it and am convinced that it works. Put Listerine mouthwash in a spray bottle and spray it all over a child’s head. It will smell strong until it dries and then there is no smell. Do not rinse the hair. My child even slept in the same bed with another youngster who was later discovered to have lice. My child was unaffected. I spray their hair every Sunday night before the school week starts on Monday. I think you will find that it helps.”

Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash contains essential oils including thymol, eucalyptol, menthol and methyl salicylate. It also has 26.9 percent alcohol, which may kill lice. An expert in lice treatment confided to us that alcohol does seem to be toxic to lice, so that may partially explain your success. Breathing in the mist may not be safe, so anyone who tries this technique should be extra cautious to protect a child’s face from the aerosol spray.

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  1. Sandra

    Head lice is a nightmare….my kids one year came home from school with lice from wearing hats a teacher had as extras…..at same time was battling fleas on our dog….I was at wits end…well for the head lice I tried everything..nix ect ect…got reading some stuff on line how listerine kills lice and Dawn dishsoap kills fleas….well out I went and bought both products…soaked all in our house with listerine on our heads…we sat watching a movie with plastic bags on our heads….removed bags couple hrs later went thru heads…all was dead…and did not return…I think the alcohol in listerine killed the lice…combed thru hair and nothing….IT WORKS…BUT ORIGINAL LISTERINE…..As for the Dawn dish soap it worked on our dog…the stuff Dawn is made from took care of them….they say use the BLUE Dawn……so now we have a good amount of both Dawn and Listerine on hand… :)

  2. C.F.

    After treating my daughter with a name brand home remedy treatment for head lice… and the hours of trying to get everything from her hair and spray the aerosol for bedding and such… and dealing with the fact that I myself was getting physically sick due in part that I’m putting flea spray on my daughter’s items and items that cannot throw into the wash. (Seriously look at the active ingredient in that can is the exact same that is found in flea and tick spray.)
    I threw everything into the trash. I searched the internet and saw that Listerine kills Head lice….. I thought to myself if you can put it into your mouth your why not in your hair? So I went out bought the biggest bottle and getting our results that very next hour… it was killing the adults and releasing the glue for the nits.
    So I swear by the original Listerine hands down never will I go back to the name brand or any lice treatment, as a matter of fact, ever again. Besides it also leaves your hair refreshed and minty smelling…

  3. Ed

    My story is a VERY long one, so I won’t lay out all the details. It spans about 13 months, although the word “lice” did not even enter my mind until I was about 8 months into the situation. When it was all over I must have spent about $1,200 dollars on prescription drugs, doctors/dermatologist appointments, and home remedies. During the last 3 weeks with the “problem” I spent about 5 hours per day dealing with the apparent head lice problem. I finally got so fed-up and discouraged that I went to a head-lice-removal salon, even though I had to drive about 90 miles to get there. Much to my surprise the salon did not find ANY head lice on me! When I described to them all that I had been through over a very long period of time, I was told that the symptoms that I had early on could NOT have been caused by head lice.
    A few days after visiting the head-lice-removal salon when I saw my dermatologist for about the 4th time concerning my “head lice problem”, and I told her what happened at the head-lice-removal salon, we both came to the conclusion that I probably NEVER had head lice! It probably all started with a case of scalp eczema. Then somebody, who was trying to be helpful, put it into my mind that I might have lice. After researching lice on the Internet it seemed to me that that is what I had. All the symptoms seemed to fit perfectly. From then on I saw everything and analyzed everything through the lens/belief that I DID have head lice. However, in reality I probably had some scalp eczema at first. That probably healed but then I was scrapping with the nit comb, and later with a dog comb, dandruff onto my shoulders. This was mistaken for head lice.
    The bottom line is, if you have not dealt with head lice before, don’t assume that you have it. Put some samples of what you comb out of your hair in a clear baggie and take that to a dermatologist and insist that those scalp samples be examined by him/her under a microscope or by a lab. In lieu of seeing a dermatologist, if you are fortunate enough to have a head-lice-removal salon nearby, visit one. You could be saving yourself a LOT of time, money, worry, and stress. I wish that I had taken one of these two actions a LLOOOOONG time ago! Thank God that there are people who are willing to work in a head-lice-removal salon!

  4. Michelle

    Low and behold, I have a 10 year old who brought lice home from a friends house and gave it to her 5 brothers and sisters and myself:( We have always used Lindane until we found out it’s no longer made!! The doctor gave them Permethrin which didn’t work. So, we are all sleeping in plastic caps with Listerine soaked heads!!! Hope this works:)))

  5. Lori

    Hi Kelly…our family is living in Cambodia, and interact with lots of village children, who have LOTS of lice. Two of our girls got lice – 8 and 10 years old – and we tried the listerine treatment on them with no adverse side effects other than smelling like listerine for the next several days. But…the lice were dead!
    I just discovered tonight that I have lice too, so here I sit with my head covered in listerine. =( I’m going to wash my hair with vinegar too. Another helpful thing is looking up the life cycle of a louse. It kinda helps you have an idea of when you should be retreating, etc. And don’t forget to pick through their hair! It takes a long time, but it’s important and worth it in the long run. There are helpful videos on Youtube about how to effectively pick the nits out. Best wishes!

  6. kelly

    My 9year old daughter as nits, gave them to me and her younger brothers 3yrs and 1yr. I’ve been reading about listerine and it says avoid on children under 12 as it contains alcohol. I’ve bought some but now I daren’t use it on them. Has anyone used it on their children of these ages? I’ve been using headrin but it’s useless!!

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