Lice Spies: spring clean because you want to, not because of lice


Your family had lice.  You all got treated – professionally, hopefully!  So what about your house – how do you clean after having lice?  Do you bomb the house?  Spray it down with the strongest pesticides there are?  Bag every last stuffed animal and pillow, and put them in the garage for a month or two?  How about washing everything in sight, steam cleaning carpets & upholstery, and dry cleaning your whole closet full of clothes?

The quick answer is, no!  Luckily we know a lot more about head lice than we did when we were growing up.  With some good lice facts, you will understand why cleaning your home, classroom, etc., does not have to be overwhelming.

Lice Facts

  • Lice are not like bed bugs: they do not burrow (like in mattresses, pillows, etc.) or live long off the head.
  • Most lice die after about 24 hours off a human head. They feed on our blood.  After about 12-15 hours off our head, lice dehydrate to the point where they cannot secrete saliva in order to feed.  If a louse was able to get back onto a head after the 12-15 hour mark, then that louse can no longer do any harm, like lay eggs.
  • Lice have claws at the ends of the 6 legs. They cannot jump or fly, they crawl.  So over 98% of the time, people get head lice from head to head contact.  This means that less than 2% of head lice transmissions come from the environment like: hats, coats, carpets, couches, theatre seats, airplane seats, helmets, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, etc.
  • It is a fatal error for a louse to leave our head, unless it is going to another head that it senses is a better food source. We are their food and their heat source.  They really don’t want to leave our heads.

Cleaning Your Environment

Here are ONLY 5 things that you need to do to ensure your environment is not part of the less than 2%.

  1. Sleep in clean pajamas and on clean sheets (including pillow cases). Note: you do not need to clean pillows, mattress covers or mattresses.  Remember, they do not burrow like bed bugs.  There are options to sleep in clean sheets:
    • Sleep in another room that you haven’t slept in for 24 hours prior. Grab a sleeping bag and your pillow with a clean pillow case, and have a sleepover with popcorn and a movie in the family room for a night.  Or, pitch a tent in the backyard and have a camp out for a night.  Make lemonade out of lemons, and enjoy a fun, family bonding time; or
    • If you have a spare set of clean sheets for your bed, change out the sheets and put the old sheets in the laundry pile. Do laundry on laundry day as anything that would have been alive, will be dead by laundry day; or
    • Wash and dry existing sheets on high heat settings.
  2. Remove comforters or bedspreads for 24 hours, or put them in the dryer on high heat for 30-45 minutes.
  3. Lightly vacuum or lint roller couches, carpets and car seats, or throw a clean blanket or sheet over them for 24 hours.
  4. Usher all the stuffed animals into the coolest parties of all parties, to be held in the nearest closet for 24 hours. No humans allowed as the stuffies need their private stuffie party time.  If there are one or two favorite stuffie friends that absolutely need to sleep with your kiddo for the night, throw them in the party dryer on high heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Clean hair from combs, brushes and hair ties and:
    • Set aside for 24 hours; or
    • Put in a bag, in the freezer for 2 hours; or
    • Place in boiling water for 10-15 minutes (be careful of melting plastic though); or
    • Wash on high heat in the dishwasher.

Bug Bombs, Foggers & Sprays

Whatever you do, please do NOT bomb, fog or spray anything with pesticides or other chemicals in your environment for the purpose of head lice.  They are absolutely not needed and the risk of use is not worth the harmful exposure.

Lice have become almost 100% resistant to certain pesticides that just 20 years ago, were effective.  Read our blog article, “6 Month Head Lice Battle With OTC & Prescription Pesticides” for more information about why these chemicals no longer work in treatments – the same applies for when you release these toxins into the environment.

More importantly, these substances are very toxic.  Research has shown links to early puberty in boys, abnormal neurobehavioural development in children, certain cancers, etc.  Check out some articles posted on our “News” section of our website for further details.

Next Steps

Follow our 5 steps for cleaning your environment above.  It’s that simple!

Lice Spies are professionally trained and certified through the Shepherd Institute.   We provide safe, non-toxic, natural head lice checks, treatment services, DIY & preventive products at our Edmonds’ clinic. Located on the corner of Edmonds Way/SR 104 and 236th St SW in Edmonds, WA, appointments can be booked online, anytime of day or night at  Follow us on Facebook.