Dawn Dish Soap To Kill Lice Tutorial

featured image for dawn

Discover the truth about Dawn dish soap as a lice treatment and whether Dawn can kill lice and nits.

If you have head lice, you want to get rid of it and fast! 

You may have already tried several rounds of over the counter treatments that have failed. Or, you’re just looking for an easier and less expensive way to treat lice. 

Head lice today have grown immune to all of the old treatments that worked in the past, so millions of parents around the world are turning to other alternatives and home remedies. 

You’ve heard that Dawn might kill lice. Is it true?

This article answers the following questions (feel free to hyperlink to any topic):

Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Lice?

Does Dawn Kill Lice Eggs?

Dawn for Lice Review

Dawn Dish Soap For Lice Tutorial

Super Lice

A super lice bug at high magnification.

First, you should know that if you are struggling with head lice, it is not your fault. The current strain of head lice is immune to pesticides found in over the counter treatments and prescriptions. So most treatments won’t kill lice, no matter how long you leave them on.

Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them immune to most treatments. They are VERY difficult to kill.

Multiple studies have proven that lice are immune to treatments that worked in the past. Yet, many parents unaware of the research, buy big named products 5 or 6 times before finally giving up and trying something else. Why do they even sell things in stores that they’ve proven don’t work?

Are you better off using a home remedy like Dawn dish soap?

Does Dawn Kill Lice? The Experiment

A lice quickly crawling through a woman's blond hair.

Since being a “lice expert” and giving people the best information about head lice is my full-time job, I have tested every home remedy out there on head lice, including Dawn dish soap.

I’ve tested everything, including vinegar, Listerine, Lysol, etc. on real lice.

The experiments are all pretty similar; this week, I tested Dawn dish soap on head lice.

lice near the jar

Several hairs with live lice were collected from one of my severely lice-infested clients and placed in a glass jar.

Dawn dish soap was poured directly onto the lice-infested hair and left for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I washed the hair, and lice were placed in an empty jar on a white paper towel and examined for signs of life.

jar of lice

Dawn dish soap kills lice! All lice were dead following 30 minutes of being saturated with Dawn and rinsed. All the lice tested remained dead until I finally threw them in the trash 24 hours later.

I know I was skeptical about Dawn killing lice too. But, now I have seen it with my own eyes.

How to Get Rid of Lice with Dawn Dish Soap

how to get rid with dawn

Before I show you how to get rid of lice with Dawn dish soap, I should preface that using Dawn for head lice is not my preferred method for killing lice. Dawn kills lice but compared to other home remedies (which I will talk about in this article), it’s not the best. 

Here’s a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of using Dawn for lice that I will talk about in my Review of Dawn for Lice section below.

Advantages of using Dawn for Lice

  1. It will kill more lice than over the counter pesticide treatments
  2. It’s cheap

Disadvantages of using Dawn for Lice

  1. There are better treatments and home remedies than Dawn dish soap
  2. Dawn does not kill lice eggs
  3. Dawn can make removing lice eggs more difficult
  4. Dawn is difficult to wash out
  5. Dawn is likely to get into your child’s eyes
  6. Some children have reactions to Dawn

If you want to skip all of this review part and get straight to the Dawn Dish Soap For Lice Tutorial, click here.

Dawn for Lice Full Review

washing hair with dawn

Dawn dish soap is going to kill more lice and get rid of lice faster than an over the counter pesticide treatment. Dawn isn’t going to kill 100% of lice, but it’ll perform better than most lice treatments at the store.

In one study an over the counter pesticide treatment only “cured” head lice for about 25% of people! Twenty-five percent? What about the other 75% of the people with lice? 

This is not the only study that has shown that lice are immune to over the counter treatments. Study after study has proven that these pesticides don’t work.

Dawn dish soap can be a more effective option. It’s also very inexpensive.

With all of that said, Dawn is not one of the best treatments out there because there are several downsides.

#1-There are Better Treatments and Home Remedies than Dawn

You’ve probably already tried several rounds of over the counter and prescription treatments for lice without success. Multiple studies have shown that lice are immune to those treatments, and yet they still sell them at the store.

But, some lice treatments kill lice, like dimethicone and other home remedies.

Dimethicone

cover hair (1)

Dimethicone is not a home remedy.

It’s not a prescription

You can’t find dimethicone at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is an entirely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! It outperforms everything else in killing lice. In studies, dimethicone killed 100% of lice bugs with one treatment for most of the people tested.

Dimethicone does not kill lice eggs, so you’ll still need a good lice comb like the Nit Free Terminator.

For years, the only places you could get dimethicone were at a professional lice center, but a few lice centers have started selling their products online, and you can purchase them through Amazon. Here are the two best on the market:

 (A quick disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases; however, I base all of my reviews on the quality of the products)

These are my top picks for something better than dish soap as a lice treatment.

Best Over All Kit

The Ladibugs Lice Elimination Kit comes with a serum that kills both lice and super lice. It also comes with an enzyme mousse that helps loosen lice eggs, making them much easier to remove. Ladibugs is a one-and-done kit, which means you have everything you need for one person in one kit. The enzyme mousse can be used multiple times over several days to remove lice eggs.

Easiest to Use Lice Killer

Lice Clinics Lice Remover Kit comes with an easy dispenser and is probably the easiest treatment to use. It kills all lice within 20 minutes. You’ll need to retreat in about 10 days.

Home Remedies That Are Better Than Dawn

Dimethicone treatments kill head lice, which is why I recommend dimethicone treatments over home remedies. But, if you want to do a home remedy instead then here are the best ones:

Coconut Oil

coconut featured

If you’re dead set on using a home remedy, then Coconut Oil is your best choice, especially if you add tea tree oil to it. 

In studies, coconut oil alone killed 80% of head lice, but combined with essential oils, its success rate increased. Essential oils that may increase coconut oil success are tea tree oil, anise, and Ylang Ylang. 

Unfortunately, coconut oil has little to no effect on lice eggs. It neither kills lice eggs nor prevents them from hatching. 

Complete removal of lice eggs from the head or several repeated treatments are necessary for coconut oil to get rid of head lice effectively. Read the full article and tutorial at the article Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.

Tea Tree Oil

essential oils coconut

Tea tree shampoo at your local salon will not kill head lice. Tea tree must be used in high concentrations to kill lice, and the concentrations in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.

But, in one study of highly concentrated tea tree and lavender essential oils were compared to traditional pesticide treatments. Tea tree oil killed most lice, whereas the pesticide treatments only killed about 25% of lice. 

Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp can cause severe reactions. So, you should dilute tea tree with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. I recommend coconut oil because coconut oil kills lice, whereas olive oil does not (read the article here). 

The major disadvantage of tea tree oil is that it has little to no effect on lice eggs. Lice eggs WILL hatch after a tea tree treatment unless you remove them from the head.

I outline exactly how to kill lice with tea tree oil in my article Tea Tree Oil For Lice: How to Kill and Prevent Lice Using Tea Tree Oil.

Dawn with Tea Tree Oil for Lice

One option is to add tea tree oil to Dawn dish soap. I would recommend Coconut oil over Dawn if this is your plan, but I outline how much tea tree oil to add to Dawn in the tutorial section below. 

#2- Dawn Dish Soap Does Not Kill Nits

Egg of the head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) on a hair. The picture was taken after an anti-lice treatment  (Oxyphthirine - a substance based on Triglycerid producing a kind of film at the surface of the eggs and lice that induce asphyxia).  This egg is therefore dead and its aspect can be slightly different from an alive egg. It seems to be slightly deshydrated.  Scale : egg length= 0.57 mm  Technical settings :  - focus stack of 42 images - microscope objective (Nikon achromatic 10x 160/0.25) on bellow (160 mm extension)

If you’re new to head lice: Lice eggs and nits are the same things. I use the words interchangeably.

Does Dawn Kill Nits or Lice Eggs?
Nits have a strong impenetrable shell on them. This shell protects them from any chemicals, solutions, or toxins. So, Dawn has zero effect on lice eggs. Dawn does not kill them or prevent them from hatching.

So, even if the Dawn kills any adult lice on the head, you must remove the eggs. Otherwise soon, lice eggs will hatch, and you will go around and around in the cycle of never-ending head lice.

This is the cycle I see most commonly when someone doesn’t remove lice eggs.

Lice Eggs Cycle

The Best Thing for Nits

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs is with a professional-level head lice comb.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs, and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a lousy comb. There are only a few good lice combs on the market today, and you can’t find any of them at the drugstore. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your child’s hair.

Dawn and Vinegar For Nits- BAD IDEA

If you’re looking to get lice eggs out of your hair, don’t use vinegar to try to “loosen” them!!!! Vinegar doesn’t work, and it can make head lice worse! I tested soaking lice eggs in vinegar for 12 hours, and the nits were no easier to remove than before. You can read the vinegar experiment here.

Additionally, studies show that lice eggs immersed in vinegar are more likely to hatch than your average lice eggs, which means more lice, not less. 

#3- Dawn Can Make Removing Lice Eggs More Difficult

It is very likely that following a Dawn dish soap lice treatment, your child will have terrible dandruff because you will not be able to rinse all the soap out of the hair.

Dandruff and lice eggs are confused all the time. If your child has loads of dandruff after this treatment, it is going to be very hard to find and remove all of the lice eggs.

If you want to learn the 7 differences between lice eggs and dandruff check out my article Lice vs. Dandruff.

#4- Dawn is Difficult to Wash Out

To effectively get rid of lice with Dawn, it is going to require an entire head saturated in the soap. It will take you a VERY LONG time to rinse all of that dish soap out of the hair.

#5- Dawn is Likely to Get Into Your Child’s Eyes

red eye

Getting dish soap in your eyes is horrible, and it is very likely to get into your child’s eyes in this scenario. Ouch! If you use Dawn, be careful, and provide your child with a towel for her eyes.

#6- Children Have Allergic Reactions to Dawn

contact dermatitis

Several children around the world are developing an allergy to an ingredient found in Dawn dish soap, methylisothiazolinone. 

Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative found in many products, including baby wipes and dish soaps. But a recent study shows that about 11% have a methylisothiazolinone sensitivity, which is a significant increase from only 3.5% just two years prior.

Children can develop this sensitivity over time. The sensitivity/allergy usually manifests itself as a contact dermatitis itchy skin rash. 

Dawn Dish Soap For Lice Tutorial

Okay, now that you’ve read some of the down-sides of Dawn as a treatment and you know some better alternatives, here is how you can effectively use Dawn dish soap as a lice treatment. 

#1- Kill Head Lice with Dawn

I’ve been pretty clear that Dawn is not the most effective way to kill head lice, but it works pretty well. I’d recommend dimethicone lice treatments or coconut oil with tea tree above Dawn dish soap, but that’s up to you.

Step 1- Prep Your Child

towel shoulders (1)
  • Begin with completely DRY hair. Dry hair is essential because if you expose lice to water, they will close their “breathing holes,” which makes them less susceptible to being killed by Dawn.
  • Place a towel around your child’s shoulders; this will be a messy process.

Step 2 - Mix Dawn with Essential Oils if Desired

  • I recommend applying Dawn dish soap directly from the bottle onto the scalp and hair. Dish soap comes in a bottle ideal for squirting directly onto the scalp, whereas putting it in your hand and then putting it on the scalp will be messier and less effective.
  • OPTIONAL: Add essential oils to Dawn dish soap if desired. Mix 10 drops of tea tree oil for every 1 ounce of Dawn dish soap.

The typical amount of Dawn needed to cover the head is:

¼ cup for crew cut

½ cup for short hair 

1 cup for long hair. 

Use more or less Dawn depending on hair length and thickness.

  • Add 10 drops of tea tree oil per ounce of Dawn and mix together.

¼ cup (2 oz) = 20 drops tea tree oil

½ cup (4 oz) = 40 drops tea tree oil

1 cup (8 oz) = 80 drops tea tree oil

Step 3 - Focus on the Scalp

Focus on the scalp

Apply Dawn dish soap directly from the bottle onto the scalp! Section your child’s hair and squirt Dawn directly to your child’s scalp. Focus most of your attention on the scalp and roots of the hair, because this is where lice usually reside.

Step 4 - Comb Dawn through the Hair

After you apply Dawn to the scalp, comb the Dawn through the rest of the hair. Saturate the rest of the hair with Dawn, covering the entire head in soap.

Step 5 - Wait

Dawn is going to be more effective at killing head lice the longer you leave it on. I recommend leaving Dawn in the hair for 30 minutes, before rinsing.

Step 6 - Rinse

This step is going to take you a very long time. Be sure that you have your child set up in a way that she is not likely to get the dish soap in her eyes and provide her with a towel for her face. If dish soap gets in her eyes, it’s going to hurt. (This is one of the major disadvantages of Dawn I talk about in the review section).

#2- Remove Lice Eggs vs. Repeat Treatments

combing hair

Dawn DOES NOT kill lice eggs!!

One of the biggest mistakes people make with any lice treatment, including Dawn, is not removing all of the lice eggs from their child’s hair. Nits left in the hair WILL hatch and reinfest your child.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs permanently is with a Nit Free Terminator Comb.

Option #2 (Not Recommended)- Repeat Treatments 

Instead of removing lice eggs from the hair, some people would instead just apply Dawn to their child’s head every few days for the next few weeks with the assumption that over time all lice will be killed, including those that hatch from the eggs over the following weeks.

That might work, or it might not. 

If you choose the “repeat treatments” method, your child will have lice for several weeks, because every day new baby lice will hatch from the eggs left in the hair.

To me, that’s not an acceptable option.

But, if you want to do the repeat treatment option, then you will need to repeat applying Dawn dish soap in this manner every 3 days for the next 3 weeks.

To sum it up…

Leaving Lice Eggs/Repeat Treatments = Lice for Weeks

Removing Lice Eggs = No More Lice!!

To me, it’s a no-brainer. 

Get a Nit Free Terminator Comb; it’s the smartest “lice” decision you will ever make.

#3- Clean Your House

dryer

Don’t go insane with the house cleaning; this is the easiest step. 

Clean your house using the following principles as a guide (or check out the article Lice Cleaning Checklist to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home):

Think 48 Hours

Focus your attention on cleaning items that have been in contact with the lice-infested individual within the last 48 hours. Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours on household items.

Do Not Use Lice Sprays, Vacuum Instead.

Lice sprays do not work on lice at all, and they are hazardous. Vacuuming surfaces such as couches and mattresses are more effective at killing lice than sprays.

Clean Your Brushes

Soak hairbrushes, combs, and hair accessories (such as hairbands, clips, and headbands) used by the person with lice in hot water (135° F or greater) for at least ten minutes. (I do not recommend boiling brushes and combs, however, because they will melt.)

Items in the Dryer

Put items in the dryer for 40 minutes on high heat.

Bag Items for 2 Days

Lice can’t live without blood for very long, so anything that could have lice on it will be safe to use again after 48 hours. If an item is something that you cannot run through the dryer, like a favorite stuffed toy or delicate clothing, you can seal it away in a bag for a couple of days. 

Don’t Forget Carseats

Vacuum the car seats of the infested individuals.

#4- Check Back

Checking with comb

Whether you’ve chosen to remove lice eggs or you’ve decided that you want to do the repeat treatment thing, I recommend continuing to comb through the hair every few days for a full two weeks to make sure you’re not finding any lice in the hair. After 2 weeks of finding no lice, you’re in the clear.

Summing it Up…

Dawn dish soap kills lice if applied to dry hair in a precise way for 30 minutes. Dawn does not kill lice eggs; you must manually remove them to prevent them from hatching. 

Using Dawn as a lice treatment will kill significantly more lice than over the counter lice treatments at your local drug store.

Using Dawn as a lice treatment is not the best treatment or home remedy out there. It is likely to produce a lot of dandruff, making it challenging to find lice eggs. It is also very difficult to wash out of the hair and without it getting in your child’s eyes. Ouch! Many children are also developing an allergy to a common ingredient in Dawn that causes contact dermatitis.

No matter what treatment you use, be sure to purchase a good metal lice comb like the Nit Free Terminator to remove lice eggs. Better lice treatments than Dawn dish soap include dimethicone treatments. Home remedies that are better include coconut oil combined with tea tree oil. You can find those at my Coconut Oil Tutorial

Here are some other articles that I think you may be interested in...