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Lice: Cleaning Lice From Combs, Clothing, and Other Items


Topic Overview

Lice can spread from human to object to human, but it's more common for lice to spread by human to human contact. Lice don't live longer than 2 days when they are not on a human.

Removing lice from personal items, clothing, and furniture is one way to help prevent lice from spreading to other household members. And it may help prevent a person who has been treated for lice from becoming reinfested.

  • To rid hair brushes, combs, barrettes, and other hair ornaments of lice, soak them in hot water [greater than 130 A?F (54.44 A?C)] for 10 minutes, soak them in isopropyl alcohol, or wash them with a shampoo that is used to treat head lice.
  • Wash clothes, bedding, and cloth toys in hot water [greater than 130 A?F (54.44 A?C)] in an automatic washing machine or place them in a hot dryer for at least 10 minutes. Dry-cleaning or storing clothing in a plastic bag for 2 weeks will also destroy head and pubic lice. (Storage of clothing is recommended for body lice, although storage is needed for up to 30 days because body lice can survive that long.)
  • Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and mattresses.
  • You do not need to fumigate the house with insecticide sprays. This will not help treat or control a lice problem and may unnecessarily expose family members to toxic fumes.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Last RevisedNovember 22, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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