Using Salt to Get Rid of Lice
Is salt a good way to treat head lice? Discover how saltwater or mixing salt with vinegar effects lice and lice eggs.
If you’re struggling to get rid of lice, you are not alone! There are millions of people around the world in the same boat as you are.
Almost all lice today are resistant to over the counter and prescription pesticide treatments. So what should you use instead?
Maybe you’re looking for a home remedy.
You may have heard that salt can kill head lice. Is it true?
This article covers the following (feel free to click on any topic):
Know Your ENEMY...Super Lice!
Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them immune to most treatments and VERY difficult to kill.
Recent studies show that almost all lice today have the super lice mutation! And that over the counter treatments only “cure” a small percentage of people.
If you have lice, assume it is super lice. It doesn’t matter how many times you use over the counter treatments or how long you leave them on; you will not get rid of head lice.
Super lice are hard to get rid of for three reasons:
- Most lice treatments only kill the weakest lice, leaving the strongest lice to survive and breed. (The more times you use an ineffective lice treatment, the stronger the lice become).
- Lice treatments DO NOT kill most lice eggs or prevent them from hatching.
- The only way to kill super lice eggs is to remove them from the head, but the combs that come in lice kits don’t remove most eggs.
Does Salt Water Kill Lice?
Quick Fact: When you submerge lice in saltwater, this is what you’ll see...
Within minutes of lice coming into contact with salt water, they will become immobile and look “dead.”
They’re not dead...the truth is that they’ve closed up their breathing holes and are going into a “survival state.”
This “survival state” actually benefits lice, enabling them to hold their breath for over 24 hours.
Most people will think they’re hurting lice with something like this, but lice are just playing dead.
After you remove them from the saltwater, they resurrect back to life.
When lice resurrect, they are at full strength and capable of breeding just as they did before being immersed in saltwater.
A recent study did just this. It tested multiple salt solutions to see if more or less salt might make a difference in whether or not lice would die.
Researchers submerged lice in saltwater for 20 minutes, and 100% of the lice survived.
Does Leaving Salt Water on Longer Kill Lice?
Quick Fact: Lice submerged in saltwater solutions for 7 hours lived longer than other lice.
Using saltwater to try to kill head lice is not something new. This is a home remedy from way-back-when.
In 1919 researchers tested how well lice could be killed in saltwater if they soaked them for long periods. Would the salt dehydrate and kill lice?
Lice submerged in saltwater for 7 hours still survived. Saltwater is no better at killing lice than tap water.
The study found no advantage to submerging lice in salt, even for long periods. In some cases, those covered in saltwater survived longer than those that not exposed to salt.
Better Treatments and Home Remedies Than Salt
Quick Fact: Dimethicone is the best lice treatment on the market today.
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 when it comes to killing lice. In studies, dimethicone kills all lice for most people.
Dimethicone does not kill lice eggs, so don’t think you can just do a treatment and walk away. You’ll need to get a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator and get all of those lice eggs out of the hair or else they’ll hatch, and you’ll go around and around with head lice.
For years, the only places you could get dimethicone products 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.)
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.
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 ten days.
Home Remedies That Are Better Than Salt
Dimethicone treatments kill head lice, which is why I recommend dimethicone treatments over home remedies. However, if you want a home remedy instead, here are the best ones:
Quick Fact: A combination of coconut oil and tea tree oil is more effective than salt at killing head lice.
If you’re dead-set on using a home remedy, 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. Combined with essential oils, though, it’s success rates increased. Essential oils that may increase coconut oil’s success are tea tree oil, anise, and ylang-ylang.
Just like every treatment out there, coconut oil has little to no effect on lice eggs. It neither kills lice eggs nor prevents them from hatching, so you’ll need to get a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator.
Complete removal of lice eggs from the head or several repeated treatments are necessary for coconut oil to get rid of head lice completely. Read my full article and tutorial at the article, Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.
Tea Tree Oil
In a study, researchers compared highly concentrated tea tree and lavender essential oils to traditional pesticide treatments. Tea tree oil killed most lice, whereas the pesticide treatments only killed about 25% of lice.
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 levels in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.
Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp may cause severe reactions, so dilute tea tree with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. As mentioned above, I recommend coconut oil because coconut oil kills lice.
Lice eggs WILL hatch after a tea tree treatment unless you manually remove them from the head, so be sure to get a good lice comb and remove all of the eggs 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.
Does Salt Water Kill Lice Eggs?
Quick Fact: Saltwater does not prevent lice eggs from hatching.
Some theorize that salt dehydrates lice eggs and prevent them from hatching. In this same study, researchers submerged nits in salt water for long periods to determine whether they would hatch.
Nits submerged in saltwater hatched just as much as those submerged in tap water.
What you need is a good lice comb like the Nit Free Terminator.
There are only a few good lice combs on the market, and you can not buy them at your local drug store. Most lice combs are a complete joke, sometimes even breaking off in hair. What you need is a professional grade lice comb like they use in lice centers.
The Nit Free Terminator lice comb is hands down the VERY BEST lice comb on the market. Forget about getting some expensive comb; this is the lice comb that almost every lice professional on the market use!
This is the comb that I use in my professional lice center every day.
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.
Salt and Vinegar for Head Lice
Quick Fact: Vinegar is one of the worst home remedies out there.
If you’ve read on the internet that mixing salt and vinegar is going to cure your head lice, you will be very disappointed.
In one study, scientists immersed lice in vinegar for a full 8 hours, and only 2% of head lice died. Even tap water kills more lice than vinegar in most studies.
Salt doesn’t kill head lice.
Vinegar doesn’t kill head lice.
So, a combination of salt and vinegar isn’t going to get you any closer to getting rid of head lice.
Vinegar and Lice Eggs
Quick fact: Vinegar applied to lice eggs can make them MORE likely to hatch.
Others on the internet claim that vinegar is a miracle for lice eggs when nothing could be further from the truth.
One study saturated lice eggs in vinegar to see if it would decrease the chances of them hatching.
It found that lice eggs are MORE likely to hatch when you put vinegar on them!
Lice Eggs in Vinegar: 94% hatched
Lice Eggs Normal: 87% hatched.
Does Vinegar Help Lice Eggs Come Off?
Quick Fact: Vinegar does not miraculously make lice eggs “slide off” the hair.
I wrote a whole article on using vinegar for lice. I did an intense experiment of vinegar and lice eggs, and I’ll tell you…. Vinegar is not going to make removing lice eggs from the hair any easier for you.
What you need is a good lice comb like the Nit Free Terminator.
Does Sea Water Kill Lice?
Quick Fact: Lice survive in seawater.
What if all you had to do to get rid of lice was take a dip in the ocean? It’s a beautiful dream, but it is far from reality.
In a study, head lice submerged in “sea water” solutions for a prolonged period survived, not a single bug died.
Salt Lice Treatments
There are a few products on the market today claiming salt as their key ingredient. I have seen these products in “action” and I don’t recommend them. Many of the children I help with head lice have already done round after round of “salt products” and still have lice.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d recommend a salt product over a pesticide treatment any day. Pesticide treatments don’t kill lice, whereas some people are successful with salt products.
If you are set on using a salt product, then look on the back of the box and find something that says “Natrum Muriaticum” in the “active ingredients.” This long, fancy name is just another way of saying salt.
I’m not convinced that the real “lice killing” ingredient in these lice treatments is salt, though. These products contain several other ingredients, including benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, isopropyl myristate, geraniol, and anise. Without these “other ingredients”, you’re not likely to have much luck with salt.
I have seen both of these products fail for hundreds of people. I’m not recommending them, but if you’re set on using salt to kill lice, you’ll have more luck using one of those than trying to do it yourself.
Summing It Up…
Using salt or saltwater on your head is not going to get you any closer to getting rid of head lice. Using something like salt combined with vinegar can make your head lice worse!
My advice... put the salt shaker down, pick up a dimethicone lice treatment and Nit Free Terminator comb and get to work removing all of the lice and eggs from your child’s hair.
Here are some other articles you may be interested in...