woman scratching scalp

Q. I teach elementary school and lice are an ongoing frustrating problem. Many low-income families struggle with the high cost of treatments, which often are not effective.
I have two suggestions that are natural and quite effective (given to me by my students’ families).

1) Coat the affected head entirely with mayonnaise and cover with a shower cap. Leave on head for at least one hour. (Watch a movie or read a story.) Rinse and shampoo as usual. I am told this drowns the lice.
2) When the affected head is dry, put the child in the bathtub and pour salt on the scalp, taking care to keep it out of the eyes. Rub in with fingers for several minutes. This is supposed to loosen the nits. Rinse and then wash hair as usual.
When my own daughter got head lice at age 6, I was appalled at how her tender scalp turned red and irritated at the commercial treatments. We used these two inexpensive, natural suggestions a few times over a two-week period and were lice free. I suggest them to anyone I know who has to deal with head lice.

A. Desperate parents have used mayonnaise to coat the hair and suffocate lice. Others have used olive oil. One review of home remedies found that only petroleum jelly was effective at killing lice (Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Dec. 2004). Readers have testified that getting Vaseline out of hair is a major problem, though!
One other approach we have heard is to soak the hair with Cetaphil (a non-soap cleanser), use a blow-dryer to harden it and leave it on overnight (Pediatrics, Sept. 2004). Shampoo the hair in the morning.

Join Over 120,000 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. JPM

    Rinse hair in Coloidal Silver – kills Lice instantly.

  2. MPT

    I used the solid type hair conditioner in a jar. I would coat the hair and scalp and leave overnight then repeat 1 x week for a total of 3 times to be sure to get any that might hatch. It is easy to wash out and leaves the hair and scalp healthy.

  3. CTB

    I got lice when babysitting a neighbor’s child. My hairdresser discovered it and sent me home. She told me to use my usual drugstore hair coloring (Clairol ash blonde) to get rid of them.
    Worked like a charm. Don’t know if it has to be a blonde shade. It was convenient, but not all-natural, like some of the suggestions above.

  4. CM

    question for bj, one teaspoon of tea tree oil in what size spray bottle? you said small but how many ozs? or is it liters? I’ve been fighting these things for over two months. the over the counter stuff doesn’t work and I don’t know what else to do.

  5. bj

    I fought lice with my children in school for what seemed forever. The thing that finally got rid of them and kept them gone was tea tree oil. After drowning or smothering them or which ever method you use, (I used Listerine ) simply put one teaspoon of tea tree oil in a small spray bottle and fill with water, spray the hair and the lice will stay gone.

  6. CJ

    The best lice preventative is putting neem oil in your shampoo. For every 10 ounces of shampoo, put in 1 ounce of neem oil This keeps lice away. It is good for the scalp also. The neem oil makes the shampoo more runny, but it still cleans fine. The smell is not the greatest, but the shampoo fragrance covers it pretty well. It is great to use when you will be exposed to lice, like visiting orphanages overseas, or going to schools, or daycares.
    To get rid of lice you can use a neem oil treatment. I buy neem oil at the India stores. It is also available at health food stores, but it is much more expensive. Five percent neem oil mixed in coconut oil keeps mosquitoes away, and it is good for the skin. Burning a small percent of neem oil in your oil lamp keeps mosquitoes away from your porch.

  7. BS

    Sunday October 4, 2009 the palm beach post lice article to get Vaseline out of hair or body use Dawn Liquid Soap — it worked on the oil spill of the wildlife and it worked on me when I had lazer burns on my face.

  8. elke

    To remove mayo, oil,etc. from hair, PUT LOTS OF SHAMPOO ON FIRST and spread well all over hair, then rinse and shampoo again. Adding water first creates a sticky mess and Dawn is way too alkaline for skin and scalp. Tons of inexpensive shampoo has worked for me for50++ years even after hot olive oil treatments. Mayo was recommended to me over 20 yrs ago by hairdresser for split ends once or twice a week for a month. Always add shampoo to greasy gooey hair first and spread well, it works.

  9. KC

    FYI – Mayo, Vaseline and other non-water soluble type things do work by smothering to kill the lice. However it is difficult to get non-water soluble products out of the hair. Using a soap like dawn dish soap that “cuts grease” without water at first might make this job easier. Of course being careful not to get in the eyes.

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.