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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.

Removing lice from objects such as combs, clothing, and furniture is not a necessary part of treatment for head lice, but some people choose to do this as a way to help prevent lice from spreading to other household members.

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Lice don't live longer than 2 days when they are not on a human. So you would only need to remove lice from items that the person with lice has used or worn in the 2 days just before he or she used lice-killing medicine.

If you choose to remove lice from household items, here are some tips:

  • To rid hair brushes, combs, barrettes, and other hair ornaments of lice, soak them in hot water [at least 130°F (54°C)] for 5 to 10 minutes, soak them in isopropyl alcohol, or wash them with a shampoo that is used to treat head lice.
  • Machine-wash towels, hats, scarves, clothes, bedding, and cloth toys in hot water [at least 130°F (54°C)] or place them in a dryer on the high heat setting for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Dry-cleaning or storing clothing in a plastic bag for 2 weeks will also destroy lice. These methods are the main treatment for a person who has body lice.
  • Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and mattresses to remove hairs that might have live eggs attached.
  • 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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