Does Bleach Kill Lice? The Truth

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Discover if bleach can get rid of lice on your head and in your home with this article and experiment.

If you’re struggling with lice, you know how difficult it is to get rid of it. It seems like lice today are immune to just about everything! 

This article answers the following (feel free to click a hyperlink to go to any section of the article):

Does Clorox Bleach Kill Lice?

Does Bleaching Your Hair Kill Lice?

Super Lice

Up close image of a super lice bug. Lice have six legs attached to their abdomen. The lice appears golden brown/translucent in color. Its dark stomach can be seen through its shell. The lice is attached to a blonde hairstrand.

Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them extremely difficult to kill. 

A recent study shows that almost all lice today have the super lice mutation. So things that may have killed lice in the past no longer kill lice.

If you’ve tried several rounds of over the counter lice treatments and home remedies without success, you are not alone.

Millions of parents around the world are struggling just like you, looking for a more effective way to kill lice.

Does Bleach Kill Lice?

bleach jar

People online say that all sorts of things kill lice that don’t, and I’ve proved it in multiple experiments and videos on this website.

Because I help people with head lice every day, I’m able to test out different products on lice, including bleach.

lysol, bleach, rubbing alcohol

I’ve tested all sorts of things against head lice: Lysol, rubbing alcohol, Listerine, etc.

Most claims online of something killing lice are entirely false. Lysol doesn’t kill lice; hydrogen peroxide doesn’t kill lice; Listerine doesn’t kill lice etc.

lice near the jar

Following the 15 minutes, lice were placed in an empty jar, on top of a dry white paper towel, and observed for any signs of life for the next 24 hours.

100% Clorox Bleach kills head lice.

Clorox bleach is one of the only household cleaners that I have found that can kill head lice (Besides hot water and enzyme sprays).

If you are looking to use bleach for lice cleaning, go to the “housecleaning” section of this article by clicking here.

What About Bleaching Your Hair?

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While 100% of Clorox bleach can kill head lice, it SHOULD NOT be used directly on the head! It is extremely dangerous!

Let me be clear. Using Clorox bleach directly on your child’s head could severely burn her and cause other major health issues. Don’t do it.

Products designed to bleach hair do not use Clorox bleach.

Most “bleaching” products contain hydrogen peroxide and ammonium persulfate. Both hydrogen peroxide and ammonium may kill some of the weakest lice on the head, but they WILL NOT get rid of head lice.

I have helped hundreds of people that have attempted to get rid of head lice by bleaching their hair.

One of these situations is especially drilled into my brain because the little girl had struggled with lice for a year, and her parents had attempted to get rid of it by bleaching her hair multiple times.

white lice

By the time I got involved, this little brunette had ridiculously bright white hair with loads of lice. Most of the lice were this translucent white color. Imagine trying to find these translucent bugs in white hair!

The new super lice today are very strong and resistant to almost all treatments, including bleaching your hair.

If you try to bleach your hair to get rid of lice, this is the cycle you will find yourself in:

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Does Bleach Kill Lice Eggs/Nits?

Not Hatched vs hatched

The next barrier for using bleach or hair bleach (hydrogen peroxide and ammonium persulfate) to get rid of lice is that no form of bleach (including Clorox) has any effect on killing lice eggs.

When one has an infestation of head lice, they have lice of all ages and stages on the head, including lice eggs, baby lice (nymphs), and adult lice.

Let’s say that one used hair bleach and it did kill lice on the head (my experience is that it won’t but let’s say it did), this would not get rid of head lice.

Lice lay 6-10 eggs per day, and the average person with a head lice infestation has hundreds of lice eggs in their hair. Eggs usually hatch in 7-10 days.

severe infestation

Some people get an idea that they can bleach the hair multiple times, and that will get rid of head lice. If that is your plan, then you will be very disappointed.

Some lice eggs will hatch within just hours after the bleach treatment, and others will hatch up to 15 days later. And in all of this time in between and after you will have head lice.

Those that use a bleach-type treatment for head lice usually find themselves in a never-ending lice cycle like this, where the strongest lice live past the bleach treatment, and the lice eggs continue to hatch.

Lice Treatments That Are Better Than Bleach

I know you are investigating bleach because you have tried to use pesticide lice treatments and sprays and they don’t work.

I hear you!

You’re right; they don’t work!! Some studies show that prescriptions and over the counter treatments kill as little as 25% of lice!

Today lice are immune to almost everything.

But, I’d like to point you in the direction of some things that do work! I have studied and tested every treatment, and home remedy on the market, and here are the very best.

(A quick disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases, but I only recommend what I believe in).

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Dimethicone

Dimethicone is not a home remedy or a prescription, but you usually can’t find it at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is an entirely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! In studies, dimethicone has an average kill rate of 98% for lice bugs with one treatment, which is better than anything else out there.

For years, the only place you could get dimethicone was 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 Cetaphil 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.

A Good Lice Comb is Essential

If you want to get rid of lice for good, you need to take the time to remove the lice eggs, and the best way to do that is by getting a professional-level lice comb.

The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

The Terminator is the comb that I use in my professional lice center every day.

This comb has tightly spaced together teeth, 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.

Better Home Remedies Than Bleach

Over the counter, pesticide treatments don’t work. 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 over 3 weeks 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 oil in high concentrations can kill lice (study).

Don’t run to the store and get tea tree shampoo that won’t work; the concentrations in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.

The trickiest part about tea tree oil is that applying it directly to the scalp can cause severe reactions. So, you should dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. I recommend coconut oil because it kills lice, whereas other oils do not. 

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 they are removed from the head (get a Nit Free Terminator Comb).

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.

Household Products That Kill Lice 

lysol, bleach, rubbing alcohol

Head lice are tough to kill; people claim that a wide variety of household products can kill lice, but they don’t. I’ve tested them all in similar experiments. Feel free to read any of my articles below if you want to learn more about them:

Listerine Mouthwash: Does it Kill Lice?
Does Alcohol Kill Lice?

I’ll give you a hint...bleach is the only one on the list that kills lice.

Enzyme Lice Spray! (Non-pesticide)

Most sprays these days do not work to kill lice because lice are immune to them. The best household spray that I have found to kill lice is LiceLogic Clear & Free All Purpose Spray.

There are lots of other household lice sprays out there that profess to kill lice, but they don’t. If you are looking for a lice spray alternative, this is the one I recommend.

Should You Soak Your Brushes in Bleach?

hair brush

You can soak your hairbrushes in bleach; it will kill head lice. But, I don’t recommend it, because it’s likely to ruin your brushes. It also won’t kill lice eggs, which I think is essential when it comes to brushes. Here are some better ways to clean your hairbrushes after head lice:

#1 -Soak in Hot Water-Do Not Boil

hot water

Lice and lice eggs die in temperatures higher than 130° F.

Be careful not to boil brushes, or they will melt and be unusable.

Heat water on the stove until it just begins to boil and then remove it from the heat. Soak your brushes in hot water for 10 minutes. Hot coffee or hot tea temperature is enough to kill lice.

#2 - Dishwasher

dishwasher

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 and lice eggs.

#3 - Freeze Lice

freezer

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

Your freezer needs to be 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.

Should You Use Bleach to Clean Furniture with Lice?

couch

This one seems like a no brainer. Unless your couch is white, using bleach on your furniture will ruin it. Here are some alternatives:

#1 - Vacuum

vacuum furniture

The most effective way to treat your furniture for lice is by vacuuming your furniture with either a handheld vacuum or your vacuum’s hand tool. Most vacuums come with this tool specifically designed to clean things such as furniture. Although lice are very good at gripping cloth surfaces, vacuums provide enough suction power to remove them. Vacuuming lice and throwing them into the garbage outside will ensure that they do not survive.

Be sure to focus your vacuuming on the surfaces of the couch that people put their heads on.

#2-Sticky Lint Roller

sticky lint roller

For those without a vacuum, the next best thing is a sticky lint roller. The lint roller’s adhesive tape is strong enough to pick up lice off surfaces.

Roll each surface of the couch, replacing the roller sheet as the stickiness wears off.

#3 - Enzyme Lice Spray! (Non-pesticide)

Most sprays these days do not work to kill lice because lice are immune to them. The best household spray that I have found to kill lice is LiceLogic Clear & Free All Purpose Spray.

There are lots of other household lice sprays out there that profess to kill lice, but they don’t.

#4 - Pillows

pillows

If you have a lot of pillows on your furniture, it will be extremely time-consuming for you to vacuum each pillow individually. Another alternative to vacuuming pillows is to place them in the dryer on high heat for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes in the dryer, your pillows will be safe and can return to your clean couch.

Another option for your pillows is to bag them up for 2 days and keep them away from the family. Lice dehydrate and die after 2 days off the head.

Can I Use Bleach to Clean My Leather Couch?

leather couch

You don’t need to use bleach on your leather; it will likely ruin it! For those with vinyl-leather furniture, you can wipe down the leather with anything. Use a wet cloth, a leather wipe, or a Lysol wipe. None of these things will kill lice, but it will remove them from your furniture. (Just be sure to vacuum your carpet).

House Cleaning for Lice

This article only covers a few items about house cleaning, but you can find everything you need to know about exactly what to clean and how to clean it at the article The Ultimate Lice House Cleaning Checklist

A pink highligher is checking off boxes in a list. The words "Ultimate lice house cleaning checklist" appear over the image.

Don’t EVER use Clorox Bleach on the head!

ambulance
  • Bleach applied to the scalp can be absorbed through the skin and cause poisoning, especially if there are sores/scabs on the scalp.
  • Bleach can cause chemical burns, nasty chemical burns. 
  • If bleach gets in your child’s eye, it can cause eye injury, eye damage, and blindness.

Summing It Up…

Soaking items in 100% Clorox bleach will kill head lice, however lower concentrations of bleach will not kill lice. There are better ways to clean your items than bleach, such as soaking your brushes in hot water, vacuuming your couches, and putting items in the dryer.

Bleaching hair is not an effective way to kill lice. Lice today are resistant to most chemicals, so it’s more likely that bleaching the hair will kill some of the weakest lice, but the stronger lice will survive and breed, making even stronger lice. Additionally, lice eggs are completely unphased by harsh chemicals and bleach, so you will continue to go around and around in an endless cycle of head lice.

Better alternatives to getting rid of head lice are using a dimethicone treatment, and a good lice comb or using a safe home remedy like coconut oil and tea tree oil.

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