Listerine bottle

Q. Both of my boys were sent home from school with head lice. The checklist given to me by the school nurse said that in order for them to return to school, I must treat their scalps with an insecticide.

I used a head lice treatment containing permethrin and it was completely ineffective. Both children were refused readmission to school and I was instructed to reapply the insecticide that day (despite the package instructions that treatments should be spaced at least 7 days apart).
I took them home and washed their hair, towel-dried it, then saturated it with Listerine and covered their heads with shower caps. I left the shower caps on for two hours, then we removed them and I combed with a lice comb.

The next day they washed their hair, toweled it dry and I sprayed their hair with Listerine and combed.

The lice are gone even though the infestation was severe. Prior to the Listerine treatment I combed hundreds of lice from their hair. Listerine was MUCH more effective than the insecticide.

A. There are reports that lice have developed resistance to some insecticides used in lice shampoos. We first heard about using Listerine against lice in 1999. A reader reported spraying it on her child’s head before his possible exposure to lice.

A lice expert once told us that she thought the alcohol (26.9 percent) in Listerine was toxic to lice. The herbal oils found in Listerine (thymol, eucalyptol, menthol and methyl salicylate) may also contribute to the effect.

Join Over 80,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Jennifer

    Does this work? I wanted to this Listerine lice home remedy when my daughter got lice a month ago but I was worried it wouldn’t work. We ended up going to one of those lice removal places and it cost so much. Want to try something at home next time (fingers crossed that it won’t happen again any time soon).

    • Jennifer

      I read mayo works too but Listerine seems so much better. Way too messy to use mayo.

      • KC

        LiceMeister Comb – pricey but it’s the best non-electric comb for removing nits. Ask for it at your pharmacy (keep behind counter here so won’t be stolen) or order online – you’ll be glad you did. Plastic combs that come w/products will actually shred the hair shaft. The metal comb included with Lice Free spray product (Wal Mart – safe & works for most lice infestations when used as directed) is next best comb I’ve found to the Lice Meister comb, and as an Early Childhood Specialist I’ve been dealing with head lice for over 30 yrs.

        Remember to empty or remove vacuum cleaner dirt bag when finished so lice won’t climb back out of the vacuum. Can place items in plastic bag and freeze to kill lice and nits on objects you can’t place in dryer – if have larger freezer. Either extreme works – high heat or freezing cold, along with low humidity.

        Removing nits by combing thru hair isn’t easy as it takes persistence and time but it is a must. As I tell my clients, “Where do you think the phrase, ‘It’s a nit-picking job’ came from?”

        Good luck & remember – lice aren’t picky who they get their blood from – any head will do, so prevention is best policy. Rosemary oil’s best we found – add few drops to shampoo, conditioner, perfumes, etc.

    • amy

      Yes it really does work. I too used the insecticide and it did not do any good the lice were still living I tried listerine worked great the first try. Spray your child’s head good and put shower cap on tight and leave on 2-3 hours comb and let dry. I also will spray my child’s head every morning and leave in during lice season.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.