jar of petroleum jelly

Desperate parents are willing to try almost anything to rid their children of lice. Lice shampoo and nit combs are staples of the school year, but unfortunately in the past decade or so, lice have developed resistance to many of the lice shampoos.

The latest prescription product approved to treat lice is Ulesfia, a benzyl alcohol formulation that smothers the critters. It is pricey, though, at $45 for a bottle that is enough to treat one head of short hair. For long hair, you may need two or three bottles for a single treatment.

It is no wonder that home remedies to smother lice have become popular. In one version, the cleanser Cetaphil is used to drench the hair. Use a blow dryer to create a hard “shell” which is left on overnight. Shampoo it out in the morning.

One last resort remedy to suffocate lice is old-fashioned petroleum jelly. Let us warn you, though, that Vaseline is extremely difficult to get out of the hair. Here are some tactics parents have tried:

“My toddler ‘washed’ her hair with Neosporin. I discovered that using Dawn dishwashing liquid cut through the greasy mess. It worked later to remove Vaseline that was used to remove bubble gum from her hair.”

The most complete advice comes from the mother who initially wrote us about Vaseline back in 1997:

“Treat the head lice by coating the children’s hair with Vaseline overnight (with a shower cap). Remove the Vaseline as follows:

“1. Use baby oil to remove the Vaseline in the hair.

“2. Shampoo the hair as many times as necessary with a cheap dish detergent (no lotions) to cut through the baby oil.

“Dish detergent can sting the eyes so be very careful to make sure your child closes and covers the eyes with a wash cloth.

“The most frustrating thing about my experience was that I contacted the CDC and was told that some strains of lice had developed resistance, but not in this country. I was following all the instructions properly and being treated as if I was not doing anything right. Just a few years later the CDC announced that they were finding head lice resistant to common chemical treatments in the US.”

Another person shared his advice:

“I had an experience with motor oil, which has properties similar to petroleum jelly. Never mind how I managed to get motor oil in my hair but I will give one word of advice: Most motor oil comes in screw-cap bottles these days. USE THE CAP!

“After getting motor oil in my hair, I took a shower immediately and tried to wash the stuff out. It didn’t work very well and there was quite an oily residue remaining. Then I remembered Campsuds, a camping soap manufactured by Sierra Dawn products. I’ve used the stuff for 30 years and found that it works as a shampoo as well as for cooking utensils.

“The claim is that it will cut grease, even in cold water, so I tried it on my oily hair. It worked and worked well! I washed, rinsed, and washed again, using water that was as hot as I could stand. This washing removed all the oil.”

Other products people have suggested for removing Vaseline include the mechanic’s hand cleanser, Goop, and plain old Ivory soap. We conclude that even Vaseline should not be used without first considering the consequences!

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  1. Galeon

    Is this tested for animals like goats?

  2. rn

    Listerine is very effective in ridding hair of lice and benign to use. After a particularly stubborn 6 weeks of freezing and boiling combs and using various store bought shampoos, I went to utube. An Aussie recommended original listerine…as the most effective treatment.
    It works like a charm! Try it! Soak your hair in listerine for an hour in a towel, then shampoo and use conditioner. Make sure all brushes and combs have been subjected to extreme heat and are nit free.

  3. Angie

    My daughter came home with head lice a few years ago. I shampooed her with lice shampoo several times and could never get rid of them. After about a month I read somewhere to use Desonex shampoo. There are two kinds. One has an acid that dissolves the glue that holds the nits onto the hair. The other has a tar base that repels the lice. I bought both and she used them for several weeks even though she was lice free after the first two days. Never had another problem.

  4. clc

    This is a sensitive subject. At this time last year, my granddaughter brought home head lice from her nursery school and their whole family, including my husband and I (who do not live with them) shared the misery. After some panic and frantic head washing of my then 2 year old g.daughter and three month old son, my daughter went onto the internet and contacted a group that promised complete obliteration of the lice.
    A woman came that same night to their home and gave them all the treatment below. I warn you, it was very expensive. You must also wash all bedding- each day- and anything else your head may have touched. Vacuum everything you can’t wash and cover furniture with sheets. put anything else (fuzzy toys, hats, hoods, etc) in plastic garbage bags for several weeks, outside or in an unheated garage if the weather is cold. We all followed the practices and true to their word, it did work as promised. I hope never to go through that again! The laundry alone was a killer.
    For about a month, we slathered and saturated our heads with olive oil every night, covered them with a tight fitting shower-cap and went to bed, combing through in the morning with a fine (for lice, metal is best) comb. it’s best if someone does this for you, with a strong light and a magnifying glass, as you can’t see the back and top. Lice eggs are nearly transparent when wet or oily, so be sure and rinse the comb with hot water and wipe on a paper towel after each combing.
    The lice themselves look like tiny reddish-brown grains of rice. When you have gone through your head, and I mean one inch sections at a time, shampoo in the shower several times to remove the oil. I had no trouble getting rid of it and it does not hurt the hair like harsher oils.
    Repeat this for two weeks, every night and do not miss a night. Check your kids daily for a few weeks as well. By the second week you should find no eggs or lice. it’s a nightmare but the method does work! Oh, and pets can not carry lice we were told. Good Luck!

  5. Clara H.

    Hello Everybody. The most effective solution to lice is hot vinegar (any kind, I use the cheaper one). You might warm as much as possible the vinegar and wash your head, scalp and hair with it, without get burned. Then you wash your hair with your daily shampoo, do not use conditioner; brush your hair with a comb to rid of the dead lice and nits; then use your favorite conditioner. I’ve experienced this remedy. It is the only one that has worked for me.
    One more thing, wash your hair brush, pillows blankets with hot water, because lice like to hide in your bed and personal stuff.

  6. Catherine G.

    Swimming year ’round solved the lice problem for us. I don’t know if it’s the water, the chlorine, or combination.

  7. Wes

    You may need to use TWO or THREE applications of baby oil. It needs to be worked well into the hair and Vaseline. Baby oil a safe solvent for the Vaseline. Use cloth or paper towels to absorb the diluted Vaseline / Baby oil mixture. Apply the second/third application of baby oil and remove BEFORE shampooing. Then shampoo with baby shampoo. Good luck.
    If you want to spend more money find a theatrical or clown makeup and buy stage makeup/greasepaint remover. It is basically a thin baby oil. Kryolan, Ben Nye, Mehron, and Pro Face are brand names.

  8. B.W.

    My hairdresser recommended using unscented KY Gel in the hair; cover hair with a shower cap, plastic wrap or plastic bag; leave in over night and wash out- don’t forget to put on some gloves and slip the remaining nits off of the hair shaft. KY Gel washes out easily and has no fragrance so kids don’t go to school smelling like mayo or any other product.
    It also doesn’t irritate the scalp, so itching doesn’t cause more problems. Leaves the hair soft and not dried out- and is a lot less expensive than lice shampoo. The gel also loosens the nits on the hairshaft so they can be removed easily. My hairdresser used this remedy on her daughter’s hair- so I trust the information and, as a school principal, let my nurse know and she has successfully recommended it to parents for years.

  9. Daniel P.

    If you have a Whole Foods or other naturally focused store nearby, grab some Charlie’s Soap liquid or all-purpose cleaner. It will remove mayo, vaseline, motor oil, stage/clown make-up, silicone lubricants, almost anything. It was created to remove oil and gunk from textile machines and textiles – right here in NC.
    We use it to get motor oil, bearing grease, silicone, and all kinds of stuff you’d never believe out of cats, kids and other nosy farm animals (ala goats).
    Retail locations available on their website.
    – DP

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