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.

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  1. Kapahu

    I’ll have to keep that in mind in case my grandchildren gets lice 2 of them are allergic to ragweed.

  2. pam

    I have been using NIX for five days. While I haven’t seen live adults the nits are remain everywhere. At this point I am going to pull each hair individually and remove each hair they are attached to. I am thankful I found this site, I don’t want to use such toxic products on my children and I hope Lysol works. It’s obviously better for their health and cheaper.

  3. Blondie

    Save yourself headache and money. The fairy tales natural treatments and the terminator comb are the best so far!

    The Listerine two hours then vinegar two hours didn’t hurt my hair, but they returned in a few days! I have no one to nit pick. If you can it may work.

    And I think if you do Rid, you need to do olive oil and vinegar and some tea tree oil if you can, on dry hair for two hours after for the nits. Blow dry on low heat as vinegar stings a bit. Or use mayo and apple cider vinegar, and tea tree oil if you can.
    Or sleep in olive oil, never use a plastic cap on a small child all night, suffocation risk. Then either wash and use half water half vinegar on towel dried hair for another two hours and rinse and comb off nits. Or message the vinegar in in the morning, 15 minutes before washing. Or rinse in vinegar for two hours after the Rid. But remove ALL nits!

    I just bought the fairy tales kit with the terminator comb. It’s a God send! It removes nits better than anything! And the non pesticide treatments are wonderful! The best so far. Available at Ulta. And online. The drug store can order the comb.

    • Ann

      I love this forum! Thank you for your input.
      Have any of you tried LiceGuard shampoos? I got their electric zapper and now ordered their other non toxic products. Hope they help with combing and killing nits too.

      Thank you

    • Blondie

      Keep using the Listerine. On towel dried hair sounds better as in the article, thanks. Fairy tales did not work

  4. Gerry

    Has anyone tried a hot-air treatment? It is quicker and more effective than any old-wives remedies or OTC treatments.

  5. Pamela

    I had lice with 3 kids. A mess. We used the chemical process, NIX 3-4 times in a row. I cleaned and dried everything I could get my hands on and the rest went in plastic bags outside for a week. My daughter, a stylist, told me about Listerine after I found live critters a week later. I had my daughters sleep with Listerine soaked hair, a shower cap and a towel and it killed all the live bugs.

    I am sold on this method. Oh, and I make sure to use a blow dryer daily for 2 week on their hair. the lice hate the heat and fall right out.

  6. T.F.

    Take the white thing, and put it on your fingernail. Push down on it with another fingernail. If you hear a popping sound, and feel it actually pop, then it is, indeed, a nit. The lice also make a popping noise when you do that.

  7. AP

    Does anybody know if a flea comb will work as a lice comb? This is the first time my children have had lice so I’m freaking out!!! I’m gonna try the Listerine remedy ya’ll recommended.
    I’ve already tried two boxes of the NiX before I came across this website. The boxes provided a lice comb but I don’t believe the comb is working so well. Any suggestions as to where I need to go get a new comb. I live in a small town and the only large store we have around is a Walmart?? That’s why I’m asking about about a flea comb… Somebody plz help me! I’m new to this and have NO idea what I’m doing!!!!

  8. MK

    I read each and every comment. I have hope. I’ve been dealing with lice with my two children’s since September. It started with my oldest (who got it from her friend) and drifted to my youngest. I have battled for months. Ive used several different kinds of over the counter lice treatment. Thinking each one worked and the problem started all over again. If they were boys I woulda shaved their heads. This how desperate I’ve been.
    I’ve put stuffed animals in bags, washed bedding in hot water 3-4 times a week. I’ve replaced brushes and replaced couches. I’ve vacuumed and resulted into putting wood flooring into our home. I took them to urgent care where they prescribed Lindain after reading the label and the side effects I stayed up all night making sure they woke up in the morning.
    We tried over the counter lice medication again, and with it not working, we paid a visit to our pediatrician and he gave them an oral medication. I thought that was it, we were done, we were combing pieces of lice out of their hair, I was happy it was killing them, there we were summer break and they were back, not to mention I’ve been washing bedding and replaced bedding all these months. They had another out break, ay yi yi…
    I got the flat iron and heated up their hair, I saw eggs and dead bugs falling off, then laid Vaseline in their hair, pasted it on thick, left it on over night, them combed it out, dead bugs, yay! This is it! We’re going on vacation and I didn’t want a problem while out of town. Everything was good, that while week a vacation I checked them and saw nothing! Guess who comes back with lice, ME! These lice should have paid their way to California, jerks, they got a free trip.
    I doused my hair in vinegar, left it on for as long as I could, rinsed and combed out lice and eggs, the I poured on the coconut oil, left that on over night. The next morning, we combed out bugs, I felt like a loser, I have long think hair, not fun. I came across this, desperate, I don’t know what to do any more, I could pay nit nurses $200/ person and let someone else do the dirty work, and them have it happen all over again.
    I doused their hair in gold Listerine, left it on for 2 hours, I wanted those bugs to suffer, dang jerk faces. Anyhoo, after the two hours I rinsed their hair, plugged the tub to see if anything came off, and in saw tons, and this was just with the rinse! I was totally grossed out, remember I thought the Vaseline took care of this a week ago. I combed out their hair, and saw bloated, lice, big and small, I let it dry so I can see the eggs and I saw very little, I combed and got those out.
    The next morning, I did the same to my hair and I’ve found just little ones, so I’m hoping if we do this Listerine every 2 days we can catch them before they decide to mate and lay eggs, that way we can take care if this problem. I will do this and coconut oil for the rest of their lives if I have to. I never question God, but I don’t know why these piece of cacas, were even made, they do no good for our environment. Please pray this works, you all have given me some hope!! Take care! I’ll be updating!!

    • Blondie

      My daughter has done original Listerine in the past with nit picking and that seemed to work for them but they gave them to me, then off and on for three years battling them!

      I always itched after a store brand of rid seemed to kill the bugs but I guess didn’t kill all the eggs. And I had no one to pick mine off. So I would use vegetable oil and vinegar or apple cider vinegar, it’s milder, (olive oil is thicker and runs less), a cup of oil and a cup of vinegar, and 2 tsps tea tree oil, capped for 2 hours, it’s runny you need paper towels on your shoulders and for forehead, and wash 3x, and condition and comb with a metal nit comb. This was to help remove the nits and kill any bugs a couple days after the Rid.

      Sometimes I even did that by itself with tea tree mint shampoo and conditioner. It always seemed to work. But we have a recurring problem too! This time around they were here with me all summer and nothing worked in three months! It all killed but there were babies every day in the water after I would comb there hair and dunk it in a container of hot water!

      So I did the olive oil, vinegar, and tea tree oil on me and mayo and apple cider vinegar and tea tree on them,you can thicken and stings less, so can be repeated more if needed, well now everything seems to have to be repeated often! 2 hrs. It seemed to work but they came back! Now I’m wondering if it’s because I usually did mine close to using a pesticide shampoo? Or are they more resistant?

      We tried rubbing alcohol too, but fumes are bad! They fall off dead in ten minutes but dry out your scalp and dull hair! And still combed some off a couple days, then they came back.. So I added lots of baby oil to the wintergreen rubbing alcohol. It works better and makes hair shiny. You only leave in 15 minutes and shampoo a few times. Creamy baby oil from the dollar store is even better! Has benzyl alcohol and aloe. But they come back! But this kills fast! Removed a lot of eggs too, I thought. Only draw back I get a slight headache but it goes away. However, this could be repeated every few days.

      So I’m wondering since it works fast, if you could add some amber Listerine to it too! Wintergreen rubbing alcohol, some Listerine for the menthol eucalyptus, and lots of creamy baby oil or baby oil with aloe! It’s worth a shot! 15 or 20 minutes compared to two hours! But getting the nits off is crucial! I am afraid of straight Listerine, though it’s mild enough for your mouth! I saw you only have leave in a few minutes. I would do that, or add some tea tree or baby oil, and maybe leave in up to 15 minutes. Just a little oil to moisturize!

      But you can do mayo or olive oil and apple cider vinegar for an hour or two every few days as needed too. Helps remove nits also. Alternatively you can sleep with olive oil or mayo, and rub the vinegar or apple cider vinegar in in the morning for 15 minutes before washing. Apple cider vinegar may sting less than white. Or you can use less white. Mayo has vinegar in it. Straight vinegar is too acidic. Dilute in half with water and leave in after any treatment if you want for nits. Your hair will shine!

      Or use apple cider vinegar on damp hair till dry, then warm coconut oil and put over it and leave in all night. I’m as frustrated as everyone! But daughter resorted to Vaseline! But try the Listerine even dollar store brand works. Add a little tea tree oil or baby oil for moisture.. Or add some Listerine to wintergreen rubbing alcohol to speed it up but add baby oil too to make it milder and moisturize! Will also soften nits I think. I have not tried it yet! But keep from flame! Watch fumes! Alcohol kills fast but is drying and can burn, add baby oil! Remove nits.

      But here’s something easy to try before all that! I pray this works!
      I just read Denorex shampoo with coal tar kills them fast and maybe nits! This is what I’m presently trying. I left it in about 15 minutes. After this I will just shampoo with it every few days. It’s supposed to work wonders! Has alcohol, silicone and menthol. Made my blonde hair slightly darker but it’s ok. PPL say it’s a miracle and kills fast and no more lice! Hope it works. California has a cancer warning though, but probably safe. Ppl use it on kids. Only the one with tar!

      If this fails I read ppl use African hair growth treatment, with petroleum jelly. Smothers in one night! And no more bugs or nits! Not too hard to wash out. Another nurse and lady said garlic tablets by mouth kill immediately! Or they leave! Try these before the Listerine or oil or mayo and vinegar, or alcohol I have not had success yet with those, however! My daughter liked the Listerine before, I have not tried it. I’m trying Denorex and will report back! So far so good. Hair is shiny!

  9. tasha

    My daughters daycare came up with lice and I found some nits in my daughters hair. I sat for at least an hour and a half searching and only found about 10 nits and no live ones in my 5 yrs old hair. I’ve been itching like crazy so I dyed my hair. I found out about the Listerine and am sitting here with a cap over my head. My question is will this kill any eggs in my hair as to I don’t have anyone to go through my hair and is it safe to sleep in? Please help I hate this and I’m freaking out.

  10. GB

    I am currently sitting here with Miss 6&8 with listerine in their hair and glad wrap tightly round their scalp. We have battled these for 3 months now, and have used MOOV (herbal otc) and chemical otc.
    We have used oil and vinegar, I am so hopping that this works. Spent 4 hours today just picking nits and lice off their hair before this application so I am praying this works!!

  11. Jj

    Does this work on nits as well? My daughter came home with lice about 12 days ago and I’ve tried everything. While I find no live lice, I do find a nit or two still daily.

  12. MNCH

    Using Listerine on my dd led to a very raw nod almost sun burnt looking scalp!!! DO NOT use this method if your little one has sensitive skin!!!!!

  13. uamsler

    Use only the original yellow Listerine type. I have read on some other user’s comments when I first found this site that the blue and green varieties can tint blonde hair. Also, the chemical make-up of the minty flavored versions may be different, (in terms of menthol content,) than the yellow type. I have had great success with the Listerine treatment!!!

  14. AB

    Despite not going to preschool or daycare, I found lice on my four year old daughter’s head last week. I used Nix and combed it thoroughly and thought they were gone, but her stepmom found more this weekend, and did the Nix again.
    I haven’t found any on myself despite careful searching, but my head was itchy today, so I’m sitting here with a shower cap on soaking it in Listerine just in case. This forum gave me hope that we won’t have to be battling this for months or shave our heads, I’ll be doing this treatment on her as soon as she comes home, Nix or not! Thanks for all the comments, tips, and success stories.

  15. KH

    I am a school nurse. I have had several parents report that Listerine works great. I would like to use it as a precaution. Does anyone know if the Listerine has ill effects for color treated hair?

  16. em

    Read every comment here. As I am typing at 1am I have Listerine in my hair. Never had lice now almost 40 got it from my 3 year old. She had it about a month ago did the nix 3 times to her if this works tomorrow she will be wearing a Listerine cap as well. Thank you for all your comments it put my mind at ease. I hate these little buggers. I am exhausted from all the cleaning I did once again.

  17. Mary

    I am an elementary school teacher who lives overseas and travels a lot. About 1 month ago I began to itch. Since I am allergic to many things I thought it was the new hair color. Had an experienced teacher friend check my head and she found LICE!
    I bought a product called Kwell Sampuan, made in Turkey, and followed the directions. It is the only thing available where I live. It was dreadful smelling and a strong chemical. Cleaned the house, ironed the mattress after vacuuming it, sealed pillows in plastic bags (no dryer), etc. Waited 3 days to shampoo and still itched.
    Then tried the mayo all night. Great hair conditioner, not a lice killer.
    Tried vinegar soak to no avail.
    Tried olive oil which I infused with rosemary and tea tree oil. Hair was shiny and lice were still healthy.
    A friend who lives in South Africa, because his wife is from there, told me about Listerine. He says he uses it on his kids who are always getting lice from classmates. His kids have very curly, thick hair so lice would be very difficult to treat for them. He said it works great.
    Lucky for me Listerine is available where I live. A very small bottle is $9 so not cheap. Only the green kind is available. I left it on for 30 minutes and sat in a tub of water because it ran everywhere and burned my skin where it touched. I have sensitive skin.
    The next week came and I redid the Kwell shampoo. I was still itchy.
    Just the thought of lice makes me itch but I thought I was still finding some in the lice comb. No option to buy a nice lice comb here, just have to use the crappy plastic one sold with the boxed lice treatment.
    I recolored my hair as some people say the lice don’t like hair color.
    So this is week 3 of the lice invasion. I just did the Listerine again and will see how it goes. I’m not putting any more of those chemicals on my hair because they did not seem to kill the lice.
    When I go back to the States for December break I am buying a good lice comb and one of those lice zappers. I burned my scalp trying to use a flat iron to kill lice. Since my hair is very thin, fine, and straight I have never practiced with a flat iron before. Critical to NOT touch the scalp!
    And to the poster who said they would suck a cherry lifesaver and whistle if it was an effective lice killer, I totally know what you mean! I’m at that point. I have to get rid of these before I go home on vacation because I do not want to have to tell everyone back home to keep a 3 feet distance due to the lice ha ha ha.

  18. bep

    I am finally trying the treatment on my head to see if I am the carrier of the lice… my daughters were sent home for nits, but didn’t see any live ones so I am seeing if I have any and to see if the treatment will work.

  19. SC

    I just tried this on my daughter, and I was amazed at how well it worked. I saturated her hair in listerine and put a shower cap on, left it for 2 hours. Then we rinsed. Lots of lice came out, dead. I rinsed for a long time. Then saturated her hair in white vinegar, put the shower cap back on, and waited 1 hour. Rinsed, even more dead lice came out, more than the first rinse. We rinsed for a long time, until a few minutes went by with no lice. Then I shampooed her hair with Lice Shield. Even MORE dead lice rinsed out when we rinsed. Added a little conditioner and rinsed quickly, leaving some still in her hair.
    Then I started combing through. Used a nit picking comb, a bowl of hot water, some hair clips. Sectioned off the hair in small sections and went over it with the comb, dipped the comb in hot water after every comb through to get all the eggs and lice off. There were thousands. I noticed that most of the eggs that were still attached to her hair were way far down the hair shaft, no longer near the scalp, but I still combed against the scalp in several directions to make sure. Everything I combed out was DEAD. It was mostly eggs and very small babies. The bigger ones came out with the rinsings. I had to change my bowl of hot water 3 times! Took 2 hours to get through her entire head with the comb.
    I am VERY pleased. Though it seems like I got everything, I plan on doing this exact treatment again in 2 days. I’m also adding tea tree, cedar oil, and lavender oil to all the shampoo in this house. Been adding it all in with the laundry today, as well.

  20. DT

    I’m 17 years old and now battling head lice yet again. The last time I had head lice I was in elementary and I had a mushroom cut for all my years until it finally went away. I don’t even know how I got it again but experiencing this is probably one of the worst things ever.
    I have long, thick hair and cutting it is not an option for me… At least I don’t want it to be. Thankfully I came across this website. Looking at everyone’s responses and how well the mouth wash treatment with vinegar works really gives me hope. As I type, I’m sitting here with Listerine in my hair waiting for 3’oclock to wash it out and then apply vinegar and comb it. I tried Nix and that was a waste of money. It did nothing for me! I want this to be over, I’m praying for this nightmare to end.

  21. Ladybug99

    It works. I did it on my 2 year old daughter… GONE!!!

  22. Becky G

    It has been six years since we have had lice. As I was laying in bed for the night, I felt like something had raced across my scalp! I finally got it, and yep., there it was. I found another one after! And knowing how expensive the over the counter treatments (which don’t work) are, I searched for “working remedies”. I hope this works, and can’t wait for 3:30! Thanks for the information.

  23. mommy123 in ct.

    This is my first time dealing with lice. My 8 year old was infested with them (you could see them crawling all over her head) and I used the rid the first night and messy olive oil, still a lot the next day and I found out that I had them! I wanted something I could do every day with as much ease as possible, So I heard of trying listerine.
    I figured you rinse your mouth out with it what harm can it do to your hair, let me try it! I changed it up a little, saturated my hair and hers for 30 minutes using the gold listerine and put on a shower cap, rinsed in shower followed by using a dandruff shampoo (selsun blue) and then a conditioner with keratin oil and not fully rinsing out the conditioner so the hair stays a little oily and easier to comb. Followed by nit picking, been doing this for a 2 days now and there is nothing in our hair!
    I’m really amazed how quick it worked and it doesn’t leave a horrible chemical smell in your hair!

  24. Sanynfl

    Thank you very, very much. I used the Costco brand that seems softer but it’s effective. I read in other post something about what the nurse school response to the use of this product. As a dentist I have to say that if it’s not toxic to be used as mouth wash (the speed of absorption of mouth mucosa is much faster than the scalp) and it’s very good killing bacteria) it shouldn’t be toxic for the scalp although we leave it for more time. I have to add that I use the electric comb (robi combi). A great idea of very bad quality. It’s a very helpful tool but a little expensive for the quality offer. (I bought 3, 1 years ago CVS brand and 2 this year). The problem is that it can sound and not be working. That’s why we were reinfected this last time. I also use the metallic comb (total stainless steel) that you can find at Amazon. I had one that lasted 17 years till I lost it.
    I will try to promote the investigation of this product and how it affects the scalp in the scientific community of my country where we believe that there ‘s no will to finish it as it’s a billions business.
    Again Thank you.

  25. Ashlee

    I just soaked my daughters hair (long thick straight ) in Listerine. Shower capped it for 45 minutes. She got into the tub and I rinsed hair with shower head. DEAD LICE were all in the water. I’m amazed!!! I combed through with lice comb and found about ten more dead lice. Thank you so much for the advice!
    We’ve tried Nix once and Rid three times in the last month. Nothing worked! Listerine is the only thing that has helped us.

  26. ld

    I have no idea how I got lice, but I did and it drove me insane. The first day I got a lice killing shampoo which resulted in only 3 adult lice falling out and never saw another one however, the whole nits issue freaked me out.
    Later that day I sat around in mayo for 6 hours then rinsed and a bunch of little nits came out while combing. Still paranoid, I slept with my head covered in tea tree oil to avoid any more from coming back in case they some how were superlice that were coming through the walls.
    The next day I soaked my hair in vinegar for half an hour then combed, and that night I poured Listerine into a spray bottle and made sure to get all of my hair then shower capped it and slept on it. The next morning I combed with more nits coming out and did another mayo treatment then bought a Quit Nits treatment which is homeopathic, so no toxins. By the next morning there were only a few nits coming out.
    So I can’t really say that the Listerine treatment was the one that did it for me because I have done so many treatments in such a short amount of time. But I do not do bugs and am ready for this whole thing to be over. Between all of these treatments I have washed everything I own, vacuumed everything multiple times, and bagged things that I can’t vacuum.

  27. RL

    The listerine does work once you get it. Use the listerine to kill the adults, the vinegar I found makes the nits swell so they are easier to get out, but the best way to treat it is to not get it. If you add some tea tree oil to your everyday shampoo it will keep them away.
    I’ve got four kids three are girls who share clothes, coats & hats plus have sleepovers so for a while it was really an issue. When I’ve remembered to do this my kids don’t get it. But I forgot so now we are doing listerine and vinegar again and I already added the tea tree oil to the shampoo.

  28. EssBee

    So I left it on for a little over an hour. The FIRST swipe of the comb turned up nearly FULL of bugs! Dead ones….
    I am absolutely floored at how well this worked! They were literally falling off her head. I am going to repeat the listerine in a few days, and then again once a week for awhile. I can’t wait to get her in bed and soak my own head!

  29. EssBee

    As we speak, my daughter is sitting her with a plastic grocery sack on her head, covering the listerine soaking into her hair. Please, God, let this work… I can do my own head.

  30. karen

    If your child is sent home with lice, I recommend not telling the school nurse that you used this treatment or are going to. Simply tell them that you used an over the counter product to get rid of them if they ask. Because why would a non chemical remedy work?! SMH!
    If you receive a note from school that a kid in the class has lice, treat with Listerine regardless of whether you have seen any lice or nits. I just learned this the hard way!
    We had them in the beginning of the school year and got a notice over a week ago and I smugly thought she wouldn’t get them again. Smug never wins. I was GOING to put tea tree oil in our shampoo that night to ward them off but kept forgetting.
    It’s only necessary to repeat this treatment once one week later, maybe one more time after that for good measure. If there are leftover nits that hatch, they will likely hatch within a week, maybe two. Week old lice cannot lay eggs, so that SHOULD take care of things.
    Also, lice cannot live without human blood for 48 hours so quarantine of all stuffed animals, etc. isn’t necessary for long if at all. The only thing we really did was change the linens and then spray tea tree oil or listerine on the new linens after being treated. You can kill them with high heat, so putting a favorite stuffed animal or blanket in the dryer on high heat will take care of anything living.
    Using a curling iron can zap the nits as well but since they’re so close to the scalp it’s tough not to burn your child in the process.
    You DON’T have to cut your hair. I loved how our school nurse blamed my daughters long hair on the infestation and that we needed to cut it. Long hair makes it easier for lice to jump on, but my son who has short regular boy hair caught it from us and he wouldn’t be caught dead putting his head near myself or his sister for that matter.

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