Listerine Mouthwash: Does it Kill Lice?

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If you’re struggling with lice, you know how difficult it is to get rid of it. Most lice today are immune to the over the counter treatments that worked in the past. Many parents are turning to home remedies for relief.

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!

Sound familiar? This cycle will repeat over and over again until you change what you’re doing.

You may have heard that Listerine mouthwash kills lice, is it true?

This article answers the following:

Does Listerine Kill Lice?
Listerine and Lice: The Experiment
Other Home Remedies vs. Listerine
Vinegar and Listerine

Listerine for Lice Video Tutorial

It's explained best in video!

It's best explained in the video.

Parents around the world are all asking me the same question….

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 typical lice treatment and that doing the trick. The new strain of head lice is no longer killed by those treatments, that’s why lice today are termed by people, “super lice,” because they are immune to those old treatments that worked in the past. That's why...

75% of people that use over the counter treatments STILL HAVE LICE even after multiple treatments.

Super Lice

lice face

Multiple studies have proven that the current strain of head lice are immune to pesticides found in over the counter treatments and most prescriptions. So, it doesn’t matter the strength or how long you leave those treatments on; they won’t kill lice!

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.

Before talking about whether or not Listerine kills lice, you should ask yourself a critical question...

Do you want to kill lice or GET RID OF LICE???

Because there’s a big difference! Killing lice today, does NOT get rid of lice. If you focus all of your energy on killing lice bugs, you will NEVER get rid of lice! 

Here’s why...

When you have lice you have 2 problems, lice bugs, and lice eggs. Often people focus all of their attention on lice bugs, but neglect the much bigger problem- LICE EGGS! Those eggs are full of little lice bugs, just waiting to hatch and start this whole lice cycle all over again! That’s why you keep getting lice back!

So, be sure that you address both problems: Lice bugs and lice eggs (nits).

Does Listerine Mouthwash Kill Lice?

listerine 3

You may have heard that Listerine kills lice, is it true?

Some people claim that the high amount of alcohol in Listerine kills lice.

The first thing to understand is that there are many types of alcohol, and they are very different from one another. Here are the most common types:

Ethanol Alcohol (liquor)
Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
Benzyl Alcohol (used in prescription medicines)

listerine cup

Listerine contains mint, thyme), wintergreen, and eucalyptus, and large amounts of alcohol.

Mint, thyme, wintergreen, and eucalyptus do not kill lice, so the only thing left to kill lice in Listerine is alcohol.

Listerine contains 26.9% ethanol alcohol, the only form of edible alcohol.

Many pesticides use ethanol alcohol as an additive, so this type of alcohol has been studied extensively against head lice, here’s what the studies show...

scratch head

In a study immersing lice in 70% ethanol alcohol, they did not these are the results...

“A low proportion of lice were affected...in the 10-min exposure test but recovered completely after 5 min.

Different proportions of lice were affected between 2 and 7 hours after immersion in ethanol... However, a high proportion of lice recovered.”

What Does This Mean About Listerine?

Alcohol, oil, and other liquids can make lice immobile and go into a “coma-type” state for a while, but not kill lice. 

When you submerge lice in liquid, they automatically close up their “breathing holes” so that nothing can penetrate them.

Lice submerged for long periods go into a “hibernation- state” to conserve energy. One study terms this as “playing dead."

When people use Listerine on the head for prolonged periods, they may see lice in hibernation-mode and assume that lice are dead.

The studies show that lice can remain in this hibernation state for a very long time (up to 22 hrs).

But lice “resurrect” back to life after being rinsed. 

Lice are soon at full strength and capable of breeding just as they did before the treatment.

What's the FASTEST Way To Get Rid of Lice?

The purpose of My Lice Advice is to help parents get rid of lice as fast as possible. And the fastest way to get rid of lice is to get rid of lice in one day, no re-treatments. This is how lice professionals like myself get rid of lice in lice centers. Most people assume that lice professionals use some kind of crazy strong lice product or something. But the truth is that's not how lice professionals get rid of lice so fast....

When I treat lice in my lice center I don't use any toxic chemicals or special treatments. In fact, you can do a professional lice treatment at home without buying any lice products. I teach parents how to do this professional technique on their children at home, on my page Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro!

In Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro! you learn how to get rid of lice in less than a day by doing what the pro's do. And it's gone permanently- there are no re-treatments, and no messing around with lice kits. You do the professional  technique on your child at home, you kill all of the lice and the lice eggs in one session and then you're done with lice. 

That's the FASTEST and MOST EFFECTIVE way to get rid of lice. You can learn how to do it by clicking here.

Listerine and Lice: The Experiment

Listerine vs lice

Because I own my own lice center, I am in a unique position to test something like this out, so I went ahead and did my own experiment before posting this article.

lice near the jar

Several live lice were collected and immersed in Listerine for 15 minutes. Then the lice were removed and placed on a white paper towel in an empty mason jar.

Initially, the lice were immobile and looked dead, but I set a timer and waited...

90 minutes later… all of the lice came back to life. And all but one louse stayed alive until I finally threw them away 24 hours later.

Why Do Some People Claim Listerine Got Rid of Lice?

For every person that claims Listerine as a miracle, there is one thing in common,

“I combed the hair with a lice comb every day…”

Listerine didn’t get rid of lice; their combing got rid of lice!

It’s no big secret that combing with a lice comb for weeks on end can get rid of head lice.

Regardless of if Listerine kills some of the lice or not, alcohol does NOTHING for lice eggs. Lice eggs left in the hair WILL hatch if you don’t remove them from the head. And then you’ll be starting all over again.

Listerine may help immobilize lice while you’re combing, but there are better and more effective treatments and home remedies that can do that (keep reading to find out which ones).

Can Other Types of Alcohol Kill Lice?

rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) has also been tested against lice, and it did very poorly. 

Isopropyl alcohol only killed 10% of head lice.

Of home remedies, alcohol performed as one of the worst.

Dangers of Listerine as a Lice Treatment

If you go ahead and decide to put mouthwash or whatever type of alcohol on your child’s head, you should know there are some serious risks. You know how in the video I talked about dangerous home remedies? Listerine is one of those dangerous home remedies.

red eye

Putting a liquid form of alcohol on your child’s head is very likely to end up in their eyes. Have you ever gotten hand sanitizer in your eye? Ouch!!

In addition to being very painful, getting ethanol in your eye is very dangerous.

study of alcohol’s effects if it gets in the eyes reports alcohol 

“can cause corneal abrasions and scarring... thereby cause loss of vision and increase the risk for ocular [eye] infections.”

Considering Listerine isn’t even an effective treatment, is it worth the risk of blindness to your child?

Alcohol Poisoning

ambulance

Alcohol can be toxic to children and is very absorbent through the skin. The body can usually fight off and excrete small doses of alcohol, but in large doses, it can lead to poisoning.

Your scalp is one of the most absorbent areas of the body. Saturating the scalp with alcohol puts your child at risk of poisoning, which can lead to dizziness, vomiting, liver damage, and coma.

Children are at exceptionally high risk because their scalp is even more absorbent than adults.

Have you read the back of a Listerine bottle?

“Do not use on children under 12 years of age. Keep out of reach of children...get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away”

Chemical Burn

skin burn

Alcohol causes severe chemical burns on the very young. 

study reporting burns on a baby related to alcohol states, 

“toxic for infants and children” should appear on mass consumption products... Moreover, health workers may individually inform parents about possible hazards of poisoning through skin absorption.”

Catching on Fire!

on fire

Alcohol is extremely flammable. If your child has alcohol on their body, any exposure to any spark, they will go up in flames. 

As evidenced in a news story involving an 11-year-old boy and rubbing alcohol, it can be tragic.

“An 11-year-old North Georgia boy is recovering after an accident sent him to the hospital with severe burns on 30 percent of his body…

“No one thinks that the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet could possibly take the life of your child,” 

“Ray is now in the burn intensive care unit...”

Vinegar and Listerine Lice Treatment

apple cider vinegar

For those of you that are still planning on doing a vinegar and Listerine lice treatment, I’d love to save you some time, energy, and sanity.

Vinegar does nothing for lice or lice eggs!

Did you see which home remedy performed worse than Listerine in studies? It was vinegar, killing only 2% of head lice.

Some people claim that the acidity of apple cider vinegar eats away at the glue that holds lice into place on the hair strand, which makes them easier to remove.

It’s just simply not true. I've tested vinegar on lice eggs, and it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t loosen them, kill them, or prevent them from hatching.

As someone who removes lice and lice eggs from people’s hair every day, I have not seen a difference in vinegar, easing the removal of lice eggs. 

I think more likely people are looking for a “cure” against lice eggs, and they want to believe apple cider vinegar makes a difference, but it doesn’t.

Severe head lice infestation commons, no rights reserved

Better Home Remedies

If you are looking for an all-natural way to get rid of lice then the very best and FASTEST way to do that is by learning how to do a professional lice treatment on your child at home. You don't need to buy any lice kits or lice products, and you can be done with lice in less than a day. That's what I teach on my page Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro!

If you're set on doing it on your own and you want to hunt around for a home remedy then you can find a list of much better home remedies in my article 37 Home Remedies for Lice. In that article I evaluate every home remedy for lice and let you know how many lice and lice eggs they kill.

You should know that even the best home remedies only kill 80% of lice bugs and no home remedies kill lice eggs. If you decide to go that route then plan on retreating and nit-picking for about 3 weeks.

You can find the Home Remedies article here.

3 Week Plan To Get Rid of Lice

Obviously this is not the regime I use, because I get rid of lice in one day, but it is possible to get rid of lice without my technique, but  prepare for it taking you a VERY LONG TIME. But, many people struggle with lice for weeks, months, or years, trying one lice treatment and home remedy after another and I don’t want that to be your story, so let me get you on the right track...

If you're going to get rid of lice using a home remedy, then plan on being extremely disciplined and focused on retreating, combing, and nit-picking for at least 3 weeks. 

Even the best home remedies and lice treatments do not kill all lice. They only kill the weakest lice, leaving the strongest lice live on, breed with one another, and create even stronger lice! (Gross I know). Also, although many lice eggs hatch in 1-2 weeks, different studies have shown that lice eggs can hatch anywhere between 4 days and 21 days, depending on the temperature and other factors. So, you'll need to keep retreating every 5 days to ensure that you kill lice bugs as they hatch, before they can start laying eggs of their own.

To give yourself the best chances of getting rid of lice you need to be obsessive for 3 weeks.

Here's what you'd do:

Today: Treat with a home remedy that kills some of the lice like the ones in this article (Listerine is NOT one of them!). Comb with a lice comb or nit-pick, and try to remove as many lice eggs as possible. Do house cleaning that I recommend in the House Cleaning - Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

Day 5: Retreat with a home remedy or treatment that kills most lice and comb with a lice comb or nit-pick and try to remove as many lice eggs as possible. Do house cleaning that I recommend in the House Cleaning - Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

Day 10: Retreat with a home remedy or treatment that kills most lice and comb with a lice comb or nit-pick and try to remove as many lice eggs as possible. Do house cleaning that I recommend in the House Cleaning - Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

Day 15: Retreat with a home remedy or treatment that kills most lice and comb with a lice comb or nit-pick and try to remove as many lice eggs as possible. Do house cleaning that I recommend in the House Cleaning - Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

Day 20: Retreat with a home remedy or treatment that kills most lice and comb with a lice comb or nit-pick and try to remove as many lice eggs as possible. Do house cleaning that I recommend in the House Cleaning - Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

 

These are the biggest reasons why I'm not a fan of doing a treatment that requires re-treatments and why I encourage people to get rid of lice in one day in Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro.

Reason #1- You’ll have lice for AT LEAST 3 weeks. I’m not a fan of any idea of living with lice for weeks on end, and that’s what you’ll be doing. Lice eggs will be hatching on your child’s head every day, which means she will have head lice crawling on her head until you do another treatment.

Reason #2- Eggs hatch at variable times. Eggs will not hatch all at once. Many lice eggs hatch in about 7-10 days after they were laid. But, some lice eggs hatch sooner (around 4 days and others hatch much later. Studies shows lice eggs hatching 15 days later or 21 days later. So, you’ll need to do these treatments for AT LEAST 3 weeks to ensure they’re effective.

Reason #3- Lice eggs are your first sign of lice. Early in an infestation, you don’t usually see lice bugs; you see lice eggs. If you do not remove lice eggs from previous outbreaks you won’t figure out your child has lice until she’s had it for a very long time because you’ll assume the eggs in the hair are “old eggs.”

Reason #4- Having lice for weeks can spread it. The longer your child has lice, the more likely she is to spread it to others in the home. Let’s say a few lice hatch the day after the treatment. What’s to keep lice from spreading to her siblings and friends?

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.

If you want to get rid of lice fast, skip the re-treatments, and move on with your life then learn how to do the professional technique I teach on the Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro page.

Listerine for Lice Prevention

listerine spray

I’ve read some things on the web suggesting spraying Listerine in your child’s hair to help with lice prevention.

Some of the ingredients in Listerine (mint, spearmint, and eucalyptus) have some repelling properties in them, but Listerine will not prevent lice.

Plus, your child will smell like...well, mouthwash! And alcohol! No, thank you!

Putting certain fragrances in the hair can keep lice away, but Listerine is nowhere on the list. If you want to prevent head lice, these are the scents to do it with:

If you want to make your own lice prevention spray, check out my DIY Lice Spray Tutorial.

Tried and True Lice Prevention Sprays

There are some very effective lice prevention sprays already on the market. These sprays are a combination of all of the best prevention essential oils. Instead of making one yourself, you can buy one. I review all lice prevention sprays in this article but below are the best.

Listerine Mouthwash on Furniture

couch

Please don’t put Listerine on your furniture in an attempt to kill head lice. Your house will smell terrible for months! I outline everything you need to do to clean your home in the article House Cleaning Checklist to Get Rid of Lice in Your House.

Summing it Up…

Listerine does not kill head lice. Although lice may “play dead” if submerged in alcohol for long periods, they “resurrect” back to life.

The only form of alcohol that kills lice effectively is a prescription treatment of Benzyl alcohol, Ulesfia™. Benzyl alcohol is not the same alcohol as alcohol in Listerine.

Using Listerine mouthwash as a lice treatment is very dangerous. It can cause eye injury, blindness, skin burns, poisoning, and your child can easily catch on fire. Since Listerine is not a good lice treatment, it’s not worth the risk.

If you plan to use a home remedy for lice then I DO NOT recommend you use Listerine. Instead I’d recommend you use a more effective home remedy like the ones I cover in this article. But, understand that there is no home remedy or treatment out there that kills all lice bugs or lice eggs, so it’s going to take you several weeks to get rid of lice using a method like that.  If you want to get rid of lice quickly, you should check out the How to Get Rid of Lice Like a Pro! Online Course get rid of it in ONE DAY.

All the best,

Theresa, My Lice Advice

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa is a lice expert with years of experience curing children of lice. She currently works with government agencies and non-profit organizations to help children with the most severe head lice infestations in the US.

Originally trained as a Registered Nurse, she changed specialties to study lice. Later, she opened a lice treatment center where she perfected the PRO technique she teaches in the Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro online course. She now works helping those struggling with lice around the world.

She is the creator of MyLiceAdvice.com, one of the top lice informational websites in the world and she teaches parents around the world how to get rid of lice in less than a day in the Get Rid of Lice Like a Pro online course.

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