Does Alcohol Kill Lice?

rubbing alcohol

Is alcohol a good alternative to lice treatment? Does rubbing alcohol kill lice?

Anyone struggling with lice today knows that it is extremely difficult. Most lice are resistant to over the counter treatments, so many people are turning to home remedies for relief.

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 can’t be eliminated with treatments that used to work. 

Many people with lice are stuck in a “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. Perhaps that’s why you’re researching if alcohol kills lice.

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

This article answers the following:

Does Alcohol Kill Lice?

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Lice?

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Lice?

Does Beer, Wine, or Vodka Kill Lice?

Does Alcohol in Mouthwash Kill Lice?

Does Alcohol Kill Lice Eggs?

stop sign and watch (1)

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW SO YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL

THERE ARE 5 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW IF YOU WANT TO GET RID OF LICE WITH A HOME REMEDY!

Before reading this article you should WATCH THE VIDEO above so that you can learn these 5 things and be successful.

Here are a few of the key points covered in the video:

  1. Some home remedies help with lice and some make lice way WORSE (find out which ones in the video).
  2. Lice can play dead (learn what I mean in the video)
  3. What's DANGEROUS?
  4.  Lice eggs/nits and home remedies
  5. Home remedy treatment plan

 

Here are the links to the two articles I talk about in the video...

37 Home Remedies- The Good, the Bad, The Dangerous

How to Get Rid of Lice Like A Pro! (ONE DAY, NO RE-TREATMENTS)

Super Lice

A super lice bug at high magnification.

First, you should know that if you have struggled with head lice, you are not alone, and it is not your fault. The current strain of head lice is immune to pesticides found in over the counter treatments and most prescriptions.

An over-the-counter pesticide treatment won’t kill lice, no matter how long you leave it on.

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

A recent study shows that about 98% of lice today have the super lice mutation.

Before talking about whether or not Alcohol 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, when dealing with lice be sure that you address both problems: lice bugs and lice eggs!

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.

Does Alcohol Kill Lice?

First, you should know that there are hundreds of different types of alcohol. The 3 most common are:

Benzyl Alcohol

Isopropyl Alcohol

Ethanol Alcohol

These types of alcohol are entirely different from each other.

Second, you know how I talked about DANGEROUS home remedies in the video above? Using alcohol is one of those dangerous home remedies it can result in seriously harm your child.

on fire

“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,” Clint Eller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.”

“Ray is now in the burn intensive care unit at Grady Memorial Hospital.”

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.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Lice?

rubbing alcohol (1)

Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol. It’s commonly used for cleaning out scrapes and other wounds.

Isopropyl alcohol is in aftershave, lotions, and cosmetics.

Scientists studied the effectiveness of Isopropyl alcohol against head lice. In the study, participants saturated their hair with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) for a full 8 hours. After 8 hours of being soaked in alcohol, they examined the lice.

Rubbing alcohol only kills 10% of head lice, actually performing as one of the very worst home remedies.

Do Beer, Wine, or Vodka Kill Lice?

alcohol beverages

The only ingestible alcohol is ethanol alcohol. All alcoholic beverages contain ethanol in them in varying degrees.

Scientists tested ethanol’s effectiveness against lice. Using a 100% ethanol solution can kill lice, but anything less than that is not promising. The study testing 70% ethanol alcohol showed 

“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 after 22 hours.

Beer is 4.5% ethanol, and wine is 11% ethanol, and Vodka is 40% ethanol, none of which has shown to be effective at killing head lice.

Can Lice Get Drunk?

What alcohol can do is make lice immobile and go into a “coma-type” state for a while. 

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

lice face

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

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

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

The studies show that lice usually remain in this hibernation state after removed from the liquid.

But lice “resurrect” back to life within a few hours of being rinsed. 

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

Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Lice?

hand sanitizer

Ethanol alcohol is a common ingredient in hand sanitizer (the same as liquor). Most hand sanitizer is about 65% ethanol alcohol, much higher than an alcoholic beverage.  

Hand sanitizer is more likely to kill head lice than rubbing alcohol or liquor, but even in the study of lice immersed in 70% ethanol, alcohol lice recovered after a few hours.

Does the Alcohol in Mouthwash Kill Lice?

mouthwash

Most mouthwashes contain menthol (mint) or methyl salicylate (wintergreen), and alcohol.

Mint and wintergreen deter lice but don’t kill lice, so the only thing left to kill lice in mouthwash is alcohol.

Most mouthwashes have somewhere between 15-25% alcohol in them. Listerine contains about 26.9% ethanol alcohol

So, the same studies cited for alcoholic beverages apply to Listerine…

study of 100% ethanol showed that ethanol alcohol could penetrate lice in about 30 minutes.

But, in another study immersing lice in 70% ethanol alcohol, they did not see the same 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 after 22 hours.”

So, some lice may be “affected” by Listerine going into their “hibernation-mode” and appearing dead, but they will recover in a few hours.

Only Type Of Alcohol That Kills Lice

benzyl alcohol (2)

Perhaps the reason why people believe that alcohol kills head lice is that there is one type of alcohol that does!

Benzyl alcohol is the only type of alcohol proven to kill head lice if used in a precise way.

You can find benzyl alcohol in some deodorants, cosmetics and shaving creams, but not in doses high enough to kill head lice.

In a study of the effects of benzyl alcohol on head lice, there was a series of three tests. The third test had a precise amount of benzyl alcohol and was the most successful at killing head lice.

The only benzyl alcohol lice treatment in the US is a prescription treatment Ulesfia™. You can only get this through your doctor.

The prescription Benzyl alcohol Ulesfia™ kills lice because it freezes their “breathing holes” open and drowns them.

One bottle of Ulesfia™ can cost upwards of $500 Ulesfia is does kill lice, bugs but the question is...does it kill lice eggs as well?

Does Alcohol Kill Lice Eggs and Nits?

Severe head lice infestation commons, no rights reserved

Alcohol in all of it’s forms has little to no effect on killing lice eggs or preventing them from hatching. In the study of rubbing alcohol, lice eggs were exposed to isopropyl alcohol for 10 days straight.

ALCOHOL HAD ALMOST NO EFFECT ON LICE EGGS!!

Even the prescription form of benzyl alcohol lotion (Ulesfia™ ), which kills head lice, does not kill lice eggs or prevent them from hatching. That’s why Ulesfia™ requires multiple treatments to get rid of head lice effectively.

The Trouble With Lice Eggs

An up close image of a hatched lice egg (nit) attached to the side of a blond hairstrand. The lice egg (nit) appears to be white/transparent in color.

Lice eggs have a thick, waxy coating that protects them from just about everything. It is next to impossible to kill them with any chemical.

Does Combing with Rubbing Alcohol Kill Lice?

Checking with comb

Those with limited lice knowledge may advise you to dip your lice comb in rubbing alcohol and comb through the hair.

This DOES NOT KILL LICE!

Combing through the hair with a good lice comb and rinsing lice down the drain will kill lice. But that has NOTHING to do with rubbing alcohol.

Lice that are removed from the head and rinsed down the sink will die within 48 hours from starvation, regardless of if you dip your comb in rubbing alcohol or not.

If you want to get rid of lice using a lice comb, then instead of dipping it into alcohol between each sweep, just clean out the comb in running water.

The Whole Head Must Be Covered

cover hair (1)

The other significant error with the “combing with rubbing alcohol” theory is that even if you used benzyl alcohol to comb with, it would not be effective at killing lice.

In the study testing, benzyl alcohol as a lice treatment, the only way lice died was covering the ENTIRE head in benzyl alcohol. Benzyl alcohol that only partially covered the hair was not effective at killing head lice.

Risks of Alcohol as a Lice Treatment

If you go ahead and decide to put mouthwash, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, or whatever type of alcohol on your child’s head, you should know there are some serious risks. 

Eye Injuries/Blindness

red eye

Putting a liquid form of alcohol on your child 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 ethanol’s effects if it gets in the eyes reports it, 

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

Considering ethanol doesn’t even kill lice, I am not going to take the risk of blindness for my child!

Alcohol Poisoning

ambulance

Isopropyl alcohol is toxic to humans and is very absorbent through the skin. The body can usually fight off and excrete small doses of rubbing 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 isopropyl 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.

Chemical Burn

skin burn

Rubbing alcohol has been reported to cause severe chemical burns on the very young. 

study reporting burns on a baby related to isopropyl alcohol states, 

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

Catching on Fire!

Isopropyl alcohol and ethanol alcohol are extremely flammable. If your child has alcohol on their body and 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.

on fire

“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,” Clint Eller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.”

“Ray is now in the burn intensive care unit at Grady Memorial Hospital.”

Summing it Up…

Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, and alcoholic beverages will not kill head lice. They can do a lot more harm than good. The only type of alcohol that kills head lice is benzyl alcohol at a precise dosage. 

If you plan to use a home remedy for lice then I DO NOT recommend you use Alcohol. 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 and 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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