How to Kill Head Lice on Soft Surfaces

Head lice are parasites that infest the head and neck. They feed on human blood and lay eggs at the bottom of hair shafts. Head lice are most commonly spread through head-to-head contact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it is also possible to get lice from shared personal items and soft surfaces. If someone in your home is being treated for head lice, take simple cleaning measures to help protect uninfested people.

Things You'll Need

  • Washing machine
  • Large plastic bags
  • Vacuum
  • Carpet shampoo machine


  1. Instructions

    • 1

      Wash bed sheets, recently worn clothes and soft hats in water that is at least 130 degrees F, and dry them on high heat, according to the CDC.

    • 2

      Place items that cannot be machine-washed, such as stuffed animals, in a plastic bag in a freezer for at least 12 hours. You can also place soft items in a sealed bag for two weeks to kill head lice.

    • 3

      Soak hair brushes that the infested person has used in hot water (at least 130 degrees F) for five to 10 minutes to kill head lice.

    • 4

      Vacuum soft surfaces in your home, and pay special attention to areas where the person with head lice frequently spends time.

    • 5

      Shampoo rugs, and consider removing them from living areas for at least 10 days to make sure all lice is killed, according to Michigan State University Extension.

Tips & Warnings

  • Head lice do not live long away from a human host, and eggs cannot hatch at temperatures much lower than the human scalp. The CDC does not recommend spending a lot of time or money trying to completely eradicate lice from your home.
  • Do not use pesticides or fumigants in your home to kill lice. The CDC warns that these products can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
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