Q. I am a kindergarten teacher and on occasion pick up lice from my students. The best home remedy I’ve ever used to kill lice and easily remove nits is coconut oil.

I completely saturate my hair with the oil and cover my head with a shower cap. I leave it on overnight and wash it out with regular shampoo the next morning. This leaves my hair silky, without lice. If the infestation is bad, I do this again a second night. It really works!

A. There used to be a product called HairClean 1-2-3 that contained coconut oil along with anise oil and ylang ylang oil. Although people told us they found it effective, it is no longer on the market. Thanks for suggesting this substitute.

We have also heard from people who rinse their hair with original formula Listerine. The alcohol and herbal oils seem to help kill lice.

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  1. Cassie
    Reply

    I usually don’t post on these kind of forums but had to come back after our success with coconut oil in treating head lice. Many people seem discouraged here or have battled lice for a long time, so I want to say that there is hope! And no need to put nasty chemicals on your head to get rid of them. I had nits in my hair after working at a summer camp for a week, and here was our treatment plan:
    1. Poured 1 bottle of apple cider vinegar on hair, then blow dried it (helps nits to come our easily when you comb later, and heat treatment can help kill adults).
    2. Poured an entire jar of coconut oil (with a few drops of tea tree oil) on hair.
    3. Tied oily hair up and covered it with a SWIM CAP (the swim cap is very snug on the head and worked great. Recommend the silicone kind). Cover swim cap in a scarf to catch inevitable oil leaks.
    4. Kept this on overnight, for 8-10 hours.
    5. Applied A LOT of shampoo to head (I used tea tree shampoo) and let it sit 30 minutes.
    6. Rinsed out shampoo, and combed through hair with a nit comb. My husband went through hair very strategically looking for nits. The first day we did this, I had about 25 nits, but no lice to be seen. I am assuming they DIED with the oil treatment and washed out in the shower.
    7. Repeat coconut oil treatment every 3-4 days for 2 weeks. Have someone else search head for nits DAILY. Though we found a few nits on the first few days after the treatment, since then there have been NONE. That was 2 weeks ago.
    8. Don’t forget to wash all sheets, towels, pillows, clothing, and quarantine anything that is suspect for at least 2 weeks.
    **Also, for those of you who have had head lice for months or years, make sure you know what a nit looks like! I “thought” I had head lice in high school for months, only to discover that the dandruff and hair follicles I thought were nits were not. Nits are grayish/brown, perfectly tear drop shaped, stuck to the hair follicle, and very shiny in the sun. ***
    Good luck! Hope this easy, natural, and relatively inexpensive treatment plan works for you and that you are soon lice free!
    With coconut oil, HEAD LICE = DEAD LICE.

    • skye
      Australia
      Reply

      I think just leaving in your normal conditioner kills them too, doesn’t kill the eggs obviously, but it kills the lice.

  2. LW
    Reply

    Mix baking soda and oil together. Saturate hair with it and leave in for at least three hours. This kills lice and dissolves the glue that holds the nits to the hair. Very effective. Make sure that the baking soda is fresh.

  3. miss mame
    Reply

    I feel for anyone who goes through this I and my family has suffered with this for four years…… I’m so stressed out… Nothing works I mean nothing, I’ve tried it all…. Too embarrassed to tell anyone due to the way, people will react… I wish there was an easier way…. Praying my baby doesn’t catch it…. Worst feeling ever.

  4. Virginia Fergusson
    Reply

    I guess any product based on oil kills lice. They probably cannot survive that.

  5. Jackie
    Reply

    I teach yoga, don’t have children and have somehow gotten lice. I think it’s from one of the mats that I use at one of the gyms I teach at (yep, that’s what I get for being lazy and not bringing my own).
    Anyway, I had tried olive oil and that didn’t seem to help, so I tried coconut oil, and almost immediately, I felt things sliding down the back of my neck (which I wiped up with tissue because the ones I missed were biting up a storm). Less itching but still do feel crawling on top left of head and the occasional sensation at the back of my ear.
    I’m sticking with this. It works.

  6. AB
    Reply

    I have a tricky situation. I live alone in a very small town in a developing country, without access to a washer/dryer. My scalp has been itching like crazy and I have seen small white flecks in my hair, however, they seem to move easily (i.e. don’t really seem glued onto the hair shaft) and I have suffered from dandruff in the past, which I always treated at home in the US with tea tree oil. I assumed it was dandruff again, but it has not gotten better over a three week period, despite using head an shoulders shampoo (which oddly enough is available in the local “shops”) for two weeks.
    So far I have not seen any actual live lice, but I’m wondering if that’s what it is. The itching is most intense on the top of my scalp and at the hairline on my forehead, not in the back and around my ears, but still. The thing is, I don’t have anyone to comb through my hair for me looking for nits, I don’t have any way to buy a lice comb, and I have to wash everything by hand in cold water (no hot water available), and hang out to dry on the line.
    As you can imagine, this is a lot of work and there is no way that I can wash and dry all of my bedding and clothes each day- it is simply not actually possible to do. Apple cider vinegar, neem oil, tea tree oil, lice shampoos, Suave coconut shampoo/conditioner, lavender oil, shower caps, mayonnaise, hair dryers, straight irons, none of these things are possibilities for me.
    Here is what I do have: regular table vinegar (white vinegar), coconut oil, Colgate mouthwash (does have alcohol and menthol), dried rosemary, plastic bags. So last night, just to see if it would help, I soaked my hair with the mouthwash, wrapped my head in a plastic grocery bag, wrapped that in a towel, and slept for five hours. On waking up, I doused my hair in the vinegar, rubbed it into my scalp, wrapped a new bag around my head, and sat for two hours. Then I rinsed my hair, drenched it in conditioner, and did my best to comb through it with just a regular drugstore fine-toothed comb (only thing available).
    I really scrubbed my scalp too in case there were nits and they were loosened by the vinegar. I changed my bedding, putting the old bedding in soapy water with a few tablespoons of vinegar, then hung out to dry on the line. I plan to iron them before I use them again. My pillows and blanket that can’t be ironed, I put in plastic bags that I will leave closed for at least a week (I’ve read lice can’t survive more than a few days without feeding). I plan to rub coconut oil in my hair before bed tonight, and also put the dried rosemary under my pillow (have heard lice don’t like the smell). Have also been burning a lavender candle I found next to my bed, but probably won’t be effective.
    Thing is, my head still itches after the treatment last night. Can anyone tell me how long it took for itching to go away after treatment? I will repeat a vinegar rinse every other day to loosen any nits that are there, and will repeat the mouthwash/vinegar/washing bedding at the end of the week. Can anyone suggest anything else I might not have thought of? Anyone else dealt with lice in this type of low-resource setting? Is there anything else that could be causing this type of itching? (Haven’t changed hair products recently, haven’t changed diet).

  7. CR
    Reply

    My daughter and I have been fighting lice for about a month now. I have treated with OTC shampoos and like everyone else, it doesn’t work. I have laundered bedding, vacuumed beds, floors, furniture, and they keep coming back. I have sit down and combed thru my daughters hair for over an hour picking the nits out and any live lice I find, I have brushed my hair and brushed my hair. This morning I rinsed our hair with Apple Cider Vinegar, let it dry some and now we are sitting here with coconut oil on our heads hoping and praying that this gets rid of the nasty nightmare that we have been in for the past several weeks. I have considered shaving my head seriously!! I pray this works.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Here are a few more remedies:
    http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2013/03/04/insecticides-vs-home-remedies-for-lice/

  8. aj
    Reply

    Months and years of lice?! What?! We’ve (thankfully) never had to deal with lice before, but just today I found nits and lice in my oldest daughter’s hair, and a few nits in my oldest son’s. Going to try coconut and/or baby oil, saturate the hair for as many days and nights as possible (for all of us). Then I’m switching to the baking soda and vinegar hair washing, instead of regular shampoos, with a deep conditioning treatment of coconut oil 1-2x/week.
    Hope this and cleaning like a freak will help. Youngest daughter has super curly hair, no visible signs on her yet, but still, what a nightmare. Youngest son is in the NICU, so have to be rid of it 100% before we can see him again, or have him come home. Worst timing EVER.

  9. dd
    Reply

    my daughter has had lice for a few years as she loves to get close with her friends and cousins I’ve tried supermarket solutions, straightening hair, blench put lovely colors in her hair almost feel like shaving her hair but that’s not fair. I’m going to try a different method mix coconut oil & apple cider vinegar available from supermarkets chap too will keep u all informed.

  10. ng
    Reply

    My daughter and my little sister have been getting lice for months now and my daughter has short thick hair and my sister has medium semi thick hair and we have spent over 100$ buying the lice treatment and they always seem to come back! I’ve been using coconut oil for my daughters hair but every time I seem to comb it out I see new smaller bugs and they’re alive. I hear that coconut oil keeps the bugs away? Please let me know whats safe and will not harm the scalp on a 4 year old and what is the best way of keeping them gone for good and protected while at school. I’ve bought lice sheilds and still nothing please let me know, thanks.

  11. adriana
    Reply

    When I was first introduced to coconut oil I read all the things it can do. So when my friend told me her daughter had lice, used rid and still had lice I suggested coconut oil with drops of tea tree. It worked!. Two weeks later my daughter has them. I soaked her hair over night in coconut oil. I didn’t have tea tree oil but I do have rose Marie oil so I used that. Day three I have found anything. But I am going to retreat her again.

  12. Christie
    Reply

    I have had lice for three months now. There are five of us – my husband, me and our three children. All three kids came home shortly after school started with it. We bought the OTC store brand and combed daily. I thought it was gone, but still repeated the treatment 9 days later. The following weekend I spotted it again in one of my son’s heads. We shaved his head. We shaved my other son’s head too. The next day they were still there. My daughter was clear of it, but then I was infected.
    That was two and a half months ago. I’ve done it all and this is now dominating our lives. Everyday I spend 9-10 hours either combing, cleaning, folding laundry, flat ironing, or researching and talking to people about it. It takes me an hour an a half to go through one head and it is very short hair. I make everyone in our house wear a shower cap. I’ve used vinegar, rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, RID, Nix, malathion, ClearLice. I boil water when I comb and dip it in the water and wipe the the comb clean. I comb until I have not seen anything for about 10 minutes – and this is everyday. For the past three weeks, I have shaved one of my son’s head every five days. This morning I found four so I am shaving him again today. I wash sheets, vacuum and iron mattresses and in their rooms everyday. I wipe down our couches and any chairs anyone sits in.
    I’ve spoken to my doctor, the health department, school nurses, manufacturers of the products, my hair dresser, pest control companies… looking for any help and all I hear is good luck. My daughter’s school had a head lice check last week on Tuesday and she was clear, by Friday I found it in her hair. I just went and bought a vat of coconut oil since it is one thing I have not tried yet and we are hopeful this works. Even if it doesn’t, maybe it will bring some life back to our hair.

  13. wh
    Reply

    I had those bugs for 5 months nothing worked. I had my hair bleached and colored. Combed my hair every morning for 4 hours with a lice comb. Got rid of them.

  14. rw
    Reply

    You don’t need all that. All you need is a bottle of coconut shampoo and some common household white vinegar. Put some vinegar in a spray bottle. Wash your hair just like normal. The lice will FALL OUT DEAD on contact. The coconut oil in the shampoo acts like battery acid on their exoskeletons. There’s no way they can survive it or ever become resistant to it. After you have washed your hair like normal, spray vinegar through the hair & start combing with a fine tooth comb. The vinegar loosens the nits from the hair shaft to prevent a re-infestation. Use this procedure several times over the next few weeks, then, if you want a preventative, just use the coconut shampoo regularly.
    You won’t hear much about this remedy because it’s too inexpensive and the doctors and pharmacies won’t make any money if they let this secret out, but trust me, IT WORKS!

  15. Sue
    Reply

    my four kids have had them for a year. its driving us all crazy. I mixed coconut oil, vinegar and garlic together and covered their head overnight. hopefully this works. I have heard dog shampoo also works.

  16. wh
    Reply

    I’m trying the Cetaphil gentle skin cleanser treatment after trying everything people have suggested on this site. I have had head lice for 5 months. I hope it works if not I’m going to shave my head and get a wig.

  17. nc
    Reply

    I’ve had it over a year… so aggravating I’ve tried everything nothing works so I’m trying Mayo. Again

  18. wanda
    Reply

    My 5 year old granddaughter gave me head lice mother’s day. I have used all the products on the pharmacy shelf. I got a script from my doctor and I still have the lice. Can some one help me?

  19. Kellyann
    Reply

    Coconut oil is really good for your hair. Makes it soft and silky, removes lice! WOOHOO!

  20. Simon
    Reply

    I never fail to be impressed buy the healing qualities of coconut oil and it’s by-products. I started to cook with it years ago, against the advice of many who said it was massively saturated and is as bad as animal fat. From that point on I noticed my digestion and bowel improved in many ways.
    I have a friend who suffers from Ulcerative Colitis and he has had a marked improvement in his symptoms since I recommended cooking and taking pure coconut oil regularly.
    I spent a lot of the last 5 years in Thailand and was blessed with fresh coconut juice straight from the nut itself. It’s a great drink for replacing lost fluids and apparently is almost identical to the composition of our blood. I really am a healthier person after introducing coconut oil into my life.

  21. DW
    Reply

    First I picked out all live bugs that I could find and sealed them in a ziplock bag, then I put 15 drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle (a small one) and saturated my daughters thick hair, then I sprayed pure listerine on top of tea tree mixture, then I put some vinegar on top of that and put a shower cap on for the night. The next night I applied pure coconut oil and another shower cap and the next morning she washed it all out, I still see a few eggs attached but I am pretty sure nothing will hatch, for one I hot iron her hair every morning and I am also applying these ingredients again after 7-10 days for at least three weeks. I strip her sheets and pillowcases daily and wash in hot water and dry for an hour, I boil all combs and brushes daily and I tie up all her towels and clothing until I can get them washed, which is pretty much daily. I also know vinegar loosens up the eggs glue if you leave it on a couple hours. Hope this helps

  22. ashley
    Reply

    i tried it all, mayonaise, listerine, tea tree oil and it all helped but didn’t totally get rid of the nasty little things. so i used neem oil mixed with tea tree oil and olive oil. i saturated her head in it and combed it through a few times. it sat on her head for 1 hour with a shower cap or plastic baggy tied tight.
    then she shampooed with coconut shampoo and conditioner. the neem oil is so foul smelling but it worked! now i have us all wash our heads in coconut shampoo/conditoner and also put lavender oil behind the ears and neck of everyone in the house and wash all linens daily and clothes and backpacks. they hate the smell of lavender so i put it on a few times a day and also washed everything in lavender wash and used lavender dryer sheets.
    i put lavender sachets in the beds and vacuumed daily and the couch as well. doing all that and oh the biggest thing is the nit picking seriously, it has taken about 3 weeks to be completely rid and knock on wood no one else has gotten them! i pray it stays that way. good luck!

  23. rick machado
    Reply

    When our kids were small, we would go to Smart and Final and buy big boxes of cheap mayonnaise, and cover the kids hair with it. It worked very well, and it was cheap, but was pretty messy

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