5 Proven Ways to Clean Your Hair Brushes After Head Lice

A drawer with several hair brushes in it.

After you’ve painstakingly removed lice and eggs, the last thing you want is to get it back from your hairbrushes. Pick any one of these 5 easy, very effective ways to clean and sanitize your hairbrushes and hair accessories after head lice.

Getting head lice is horrible, and the last thing you want is to go through it all over again in a few weeks. This article has five proven options for cleaning your hairbrushes and accessories after lice.

A quick but essential side note, you may be stuck in the endless cycle of lice (discovering lice, then painstakingly trying to kill it, only to see it again a few weeks later). If you find yourself in the endless cycle of lice, then you are using ineffective lice treatments. 98% of lice in the US are resistant to all of the most “popular” lice treatments these days. If this is you, check out my article Best Lice Treatment Shampoos for  Head Lice and Super Lice to find out which of the few lice treatments on the market work to get rid of lice.

And, now, back to brushes...

A hair brush with a wooden handle and black bristles. There is black hair in the brush.

How long can lice live on a brush and other hair accessories?

48 hours or two days. Most lice die within 24 hours of being off the head away from a human blood meal. But, when studied in a laboratory under precise temperatures, lice can live up to 2 days. 

Should I throw my brushes away and buy new ones?

You can, but you don’t have to. If you have cheap hair brushes, then go for it. But if you have hair brushes that you love, there is no need to throw them away.

If you want to keep your hairbrushes and hair accessories, these are the proven and easiest ways to clean them.

#1 - Soak Brushes in Hot Water-Do Not Boil Them

A water faucet with the word HOT on it.

How hot does water need to be to kill lice?

Lice die after 5 minutes in temperatures higher than 130° F. The temperature of hot coffee or hot tea is hot enough. 

Be careful not to boil brushes

If you are going to take the time to clean your brushes, then I assume that you don’t want to ruin them either. Plastic’s melting point is 212° F, the temperature of boiling water. Be sure not to boil your plastic brushes, or they will melt and be unusable.

  • Remove as much hair from brushes as you can and seal it in the trash or flush it down the toilet
  • Set hairbrushes in a large bowl or container
  • Heat water on the stove, just as it begins to boil, remove the water from the heat.
  • Once water is no longer boiling, pour water over brushes.
  • Let brushes soak for 10 minutes.

#2 - Dishwasher

A woman loading a dishwasher.

Lice die after 5 minutes in temperatures greater than 130° F. The Sanitization setting of a dishwasher gets to a minimum of 155° F (also called SaniWash, Sanitize, or Anti-Bacterial cycle). The Heated Dry setting of a dishwasher gets to 180° F. Any of these settings will kill lice.

  • Remove as much hair from brushes as you can and seal it in the trash or flush it down the toilet
  • Set hairbrushes on the upper rack of the dishwasher
  • Set dishwasher to Sanitization or Heated Dry setting

#3 - Freeze Lice

How cold does your freezer need to be to freeze lice?

Your freezer needs to below 0° F; most freezers are -10° F to -20° F, but if your freezer is cold enough to freeze meat, then it is cold enough to freeze lice. The precise amount of time it takes to freeze lice will depend on your freezer, but 12 hours is plenty.

  • Remove as much hair from brushes as you can and seal it in the trash or flush it down the toilet.
  • Place all brushes and hair accessories in a ziplock bag.
  • Place the bag with brushes and accessories in the freezer for 12 hours (overnight)

#4 - Rubbing Alcohol

Lice die if soaked in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes.

  • Remove as much hair from brushes as you can and seal it in the trash or flush it down the toilet
  • Set hair brushes “face down” in a large bowl or container
  • Pour rubbing alcohol over brushes and let sit for 10 minutes
  • If brushes are not entirely submerged, then flip brushes and soak another 10 minutes.

#5 - Don’t Brush for 2 Days

The number 48 in red on top of the word HOURS in white 3d letters.

Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours without a blood meal. If kept away from your head, brushes and hair accessories will be ready to use again after 2 days. 

  • Remove as much hair from brushes as you can and seal it in the trash or flush it down the toilet.
  • Place all brushes and hair accessories in a ziplock bag.
  • Mark the bag “DO NOT USE FOR 48 HOURS” with a sharpie.
  • Place the bag out of reach of everyone for 2 days.

Cleaning your brushes in one of these 5 proven ways will ensure that you do not get head lice back from your brushes. Remember, most people don’t get lice back from their house or hairbrushes; they get it back because they never got rid of it in the first place. Be sure that you are using an effective lice treatment method that lice are not resistant to by checking out my article Best Lice Treatment Shampoos for  Head Lice and Super Lice.

Now that you’ve mastered cleaning your hairbrushes and hair accessories after lice, you are ready to take on the rest of the house. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Lice Cleaning Checklist to know what to clean and how to clean it.