checking for lice and nits

Q. What a nightmare! I used the Vaseline treatment to get rid of lice. It seems to have worked, but I have tried all of the suggestions to get the petroleum jelly out of my kids’ hair and it is not coming out.
I cannot imagine using baby oil on this greasy goo. I am going to the store for more Dawn. I have used baking soda and cornstarch and they are getting tired of having their hair washed. Help!

A. Coating hair with petroleum jelly overnight is a last-ditch home remedy to kill lice. We first learned about it in 1997 from a desperate mother who had tried all the usual products to eliminate lice first. Her pediatrician passed along this suggestion. That mother reported that applying baby oil liberally helped wash out the Vaseline. Others have found that getting petroleum jelly out of hair is quite a challenging chore.

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  1. Jane M.

    I’ve been meaning to write about this solution to getting rid of vaseline from your hair. My sister was babysitting my daughter who was in early grade school at the time. My daughter did not have head lice. She came down with what the pediatrician claimed was “cradle cap” or childhood dandruff.Not having any baby oil which is the standard treatment for cradle cap, my sister used vaseline. Needless to say, no matter how many time you washed her hair, the greasy residue remained. Thinking about “the chemistry of cooking” where eggs are used in baking to hold the ingredients together, I tried raw eggs. I just cracked a few on her head and massaged in through the hair. Rinsed the egg off and shampooed. Voila! Clean hair.
    As for the cradle cap, I took her to a pediatric dermatologist who diagnosed the problem with her scalp as some sort of disease with an Asian name. She got it from taking two doses of antibiotics for a persistent ear infection.

  2. Karen H.

    I finally got rid of head lice when my children had them by purchasing an over-the-head hair dryer, and heating their heads, as hot as they could stand it, for five minutes every 5-7 days, and then using hair gel on the inch of hair by the scalp for the rest of the school year. I had tried OTC products, prescription products, and tea tree oil, and the lice kept returning. The heat and hair gel did the trick. Don’t forget to vacuum your car upholstery, also.

  3. ebm

    ALWAYS apply warm shampoo to the oily, greasy hair FIRST BEFORE applying water, the water makes a gooey pasty mess. I learned this from an old fashioned barber turned designer hairdresser who treated split ends with mayo applications or olive oil. This shampoo first treatment was his solution and it really works with two shampooings.
    Try it for yourself.

  4. ebm

    Hallie, it’s Dr. Bronner’s soap (cake and liquid). The trick is to NOT NOT NOT wet the
    hair first but to apply shampoo/soap warm onto the greasy hair, rub it in well and then
    rinse as warm as possible. Two applications have always worked for me.

  5. Wes

    I ran a magic and costume shop for five years. I had a lot of actual clowns for customers. Clowns cover their face with grease paint which is primarily petroleum jelly and colorants. They powder it with talcum powder to “set” it so it will not slide off their faces. There are all kinds of makeup removers out there, but most of my customers used baby oil because it was cheap and it works.
    Some told me that they used cooking oil if there was no baby oil available. The thinner the oil the better. You have to have a thin skin friendly oil to act as a solvent for the petroleum jelly/grease paint and you have to work it in and let it sit a bit for it to work.
    Now in the hair the petroleum jelly will be even thicker than on a face so you have to be patient and it may require MORE THAN ONE application of baby oil and a lot of paper towels. A kid with close cropped hair will need fewer applications than a kid with long hair. Clowns use tissues like kleenex on the face, but for the scalp a tougher paper towel would work better.
    Makeup removers may have other solvents so be sure to read the labels before you use it and decide for yourself if you want those other solvents on your kids. Someone suggested hand cleaners, but I would certainly try multiple applications of baby oil first. The head will still be greasy, so it may take an application or two of shampoo to get the last of the baby oil out. Good luck. All these horror tales of lice make me feel fortunate my kids made it through school with no lice.

  6. jt

    Some years ago the Harvard Public health (??) site suggested olive oil. It is quite easy to wash out. I had a very stubborn case of lice that I had picked up from children at school. Three months of applying the usual remedies didn’t clear them. I bought a large bottle of the cheapest olive oil, thoroughly saturated my hair, let it sit (under a shower cap with towel around neck) for 30 minutes, then washed it out with regular shampoo. Three treatments over three weeks and the lice were FINALLY gone.

  7. MAR

    Great cure for lice I understand. Also understand the difficulty getting Vaseline out of hair or for that matter off of anything. Years ago we had show horses. We used various training devices, one of which went around the pasturn – just above the hoof or an our ankle. To avoid rubbing the hair off we used lots and lots of Vaseline.
    DAWN DISH SOAP and cold water from the hose took it off with no trouble.
    Had a neighbor whose cat was the victim of bad kids. They poured used motor oil all over her. The vet did not do a good job of removing all the grease (and for over $200). I asked my neighbor to bring me the cat. Twenty minutes later we had a very mad but oil free cat thanks to DAWN DISH SOAP.
    I don’t use anything else for dishes and grease on cloths.

  8. Clint

    Use Dawn Powerscrubbers dishwashing liquid. Gets the petroleum based hair gunk that I use to style my hair off my hands every morning.

  9. Susan

    Use GoJo a common grease removing soap. It smells of oranges which the kids like and it dissolves the petroleum jelly easily. Works well with any petroleum based product without harming hair or skin.

  10. Ed W

    Rub corn meal in the kid’s hair, blow with a hair dryer until comfortably warm. Towel off. May require more than one session.

  11. figment

    Many petroleum based products, such as Vaseline, can be dissolved with vegetable oil. It is applied and left to sit for several minutes, working it periodically. This works much better than baby oil since it is much easier to wash out the vegetable oil residue with soap. We do use Dawn in warm water to wash petroleum products out of wildlife but that is not as concentrated and thick as petroleum jelly.

  12. Hallie B

    My bet is Dr. Brohner’s Soap (liquid) will wash out the petroleum jelly from hair.
    I use it in my ceramic hand soap pump dispenser exclusively, and this wonderful, animal-free, animal-testing free natural soap melts grease and tough dirt right off. It cleans hair and fingernails like nothing else, and Brohner’s also has that “inner peace” orientation throughout the history of the company.
    It’s available in most grocery and very many other stores. Once you try it, you won’t switch.
    If for some reason Brohner’s doesn’t wash out the petroleum jelly (but I bet it will) the first time, use waterless hand cleaner prior, then Brohner’s. I’ll stake my pet possum’s poker playing powers that would do the trick! :)
    –Hal, a Veteran For Peace

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