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How Long Lice Live on Stuffed Animals and 5 Proven Ways to Treat Them

Discover how long lice can live on stuffed animals, if there is any risk of getting lice back from stuffed animals, and 5 proven ways to treat stuffed animals for lice.

Before getting started on cleaning, let’s address the bigger question that I get asked all the time. 

Why Is It So Hard to Get Rid of Lice? 

Lice have become immune to everything that used to work in the past. Perhaps you remember your mom using a lice treatment and that doing the trick. Those treatments no longer kill the new strain of head lice, that’s why lice today are termed by people, “super lice.” 

They are called SUPER LICE, because they can’t be eliminated with treatments that used to work. Lice treatments only kill the weakest lice and these SUPER LICE keep getting stronger and stronger. 

Also, lice treatments don’t kill lice eggs, so if you miss just a few lice eggs on the head then they hatch, and lice start all over again.

That’s why, as a lice expert, I DO NOT use lice treatments to cure lice. With my technique, you can be completely CURED of head lice in ONE DAY. No lice treatments or re-treatments required. You can learn more about the method I use here.

Most people with lice are stuck in what I term the “never-ending lice cycle” that looks like this…

You discover lice; you spend hours treating, nit-picking, house cleaning etc.

You think it’s gone for a few weeks…

But then it’s back again!

Many people think that they’re in this cycle because they’ve missed something in their cleaning. Let me assure you it’s not because you missed something in your cleaning. It’s because you never really got rid of lice. Lice are immune to lice treatments.

If you want to be confident that you’ve eliminated lice from your life permanently then check out the page How to Get Rid of Lice in One Day.

Head lice are called head lice for a reason. Generally speaking, head lice stick to the hair and scalp of humans. Lice are built to hold on to hair as if their life depended on it (because it does).

But, what if lice does come off your child's head and onto their favorite stuffed animal, then what? 

How long can lice live on stuffed animals?

Think 48 hours or 2 days. Most lice die within 24 hours of being off the head away from a human. However, under exact temperatures, the longest lice can live is 2 days without a human head. So, when you think about how long to "quarantine" things, the 2-day rule ensures all lice will be dead.

How likely is it that lice will be on stuffed animals?

It is unlikely to have lice lingering on stuffed animals, but it is possible. The risk for lice being on stuffed animals lies somewhere between 0-4%. One study examined the classroom floors of children with head lice after a full day of school and did not find any lice on the floors in the school. Another study examined the pillowcases of 48 people with head lice after a night's rest and found 2 live lice on the pillowcases (4%). 

If your child has a particularly loved and snuggled stuffed animal, then the risk of their being head lice on it is probably closer to 4%, but if you're talking about stuffed animals in the closet or on the floor, then the risk is closer to 0%.

How do you treat stuffed animals for lice?

#1- Dryer (for the favorites)

If your child has a million stuffed animals, then you're not going to want to put them all in the dryer, but for the favorite stuffed animals putting them through the dryer for 40 minutes on high heat is the ideal treatment. They'll have their stuffies back in no time.

Lice die in temperatures higher than 130° F. The average dryer gets to 135° F on the high cycle, but it does take some time for the dryer to get to that temperature and to stay at that temperature. In a study, all lice were dead after 40 minutes on high heat in the dryer, so that's the timeframe I recommend.

One word of caution before you put things in the dryer. If you have a newer energy-efficient dryer, be sure to turn off the "eco sensor." The "eco sensor" on dryers is designed to help save energy by automatically turning off the dryer once the clothes are dry enough. In a lice situation, most people care much more about killing lice than about saving money on their energy bills. So, make sure your "eco-sensor" is off, and the stuffed animals go the full 40 minutes on high heat in the dryer.

#2- Sticky Tape Lint Roller

Another alternative for your child's favorite toy is to use a Scotch Brite Lint Roller to clean it. The adhesive on most lint rollers is strong enough to pick up any lice that may be on stuffed animals. Just be sure to replace the sheets of the lint roller as they pick up debris and become less sticky.

#3- Bag Them

For the one million other stuffed animals that are hanging out in your child's closet or floor, the likelihood of them having any lice on them is close to 0%. For those that want to be very cautious, you can put those stuffed animals and toys in a large bag and keep them away from your child's head for 2 days. After 2 days, they are safe to return to your child.

#4- Sanitize

If stuffed animals could use a "bath" anyway, then you can put them in the washing machine. But, be aware that most cycles in the washing machine are not adequate to kill lice. Many people assume that lice will drown or wash out in the water, neither of which is true. Lice can not drown, and lice do not "wash off" of items. The only cycle on the washing machine that will kill lice is the sanitize cycle because it reaches temperatures high enough to kill lice. 

#5- Lice Repellent Spray

Can I use a lice spray that comes in a lice kit on stuffed animals?

DO NOT use a pesticide lice spray to spray on stuffed animals! Lice are resistant to these sprays, so if there are any lice on them, it will not kill them. And, these pesticide sprays are very toxic to children and pets. 

While pesticide sprays are not a good idea, I do recommend lice repellent sprays. 

There are certain essential oil scents that lice hate. When you spray one of these fragrances on items, lice will leave the area. These sprays do not KILL lice, but they are useful as a boost to keep lice away. 

Summary

Lice can only live off the head for up to 48 hours. The chance of getting lice back from stuffed animals is relatively low. But placing things in the dryer, lint rolling them, bagging them, and sanitizing them will bring that risk down to zero. For added protection, use a lice repellent spray on your child's favorite toy.

The most important thing about getting rid of lice isn’t cleaning inanimate objects--it’s making sure you’ve gotten rid of lice! If you want to get rid of lice fast, then check out the technique I use on the How to Get Rid of Lice in One Day article.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)