Childhood is full of fun memories and also heartbreaks that will help to shape the next generation, but we can all agree lice is on the to be avoided list. While most parents teach their children to share, one thing you may want to avoid sharing is head lice. This annoying pest happens to be one of the most common irritants found in children under the age of 10. As annoying and irritating as they may be, they are not inherently dangerous and they also don’t have the ability to spread disease. That being said, once you get rid of lice on the head, you will also need to kill lice on your pillows. We have put together a few methods that have proven to be effective that you can try at home
There are several ways to kill lice on pillows such as treating the pillows with commercial lice and nit killer or with natural lice control remedies. You can quickly kill lice and nits by exposing them to high heat in a wash and dry cycle as well. Adult lice will die on their own without a host, so if you are unable to treat or wash the pillows, you can avoid using them for 10 days to prevent spreading the infestation.
The last thing you want is for heal lice to transfer from one child to the next, or even from person to person in your home. Ridding the infestation from the scalp is the first step, removing the nits and eggs from the pillows and linens is the next. Keep reading to find out more about lice and how to effectively banish them from your pillows following an outbreak.
What is the Life Cycle of Head Lice and Their Eggs?
According to the CDC, head lice only affect humans and feast on blood directly from the scalp. Head louse or lice as they are commonly called tend to stick as close to the head as possible to retain warmth and gather extra energy emitted through human body heat. The typical life cycle of head lice features three stages, the Nit stage, the nymph stage, and the adult lice stage.
Let’s take a closer look at each to better understand this creepy crawler.
- Lice Eggs– The eggs of head lice are the first stage and are called nits. It is often hard to differentiate lice nits from dandruff or soap residue because they are small. An adult louse will lay nits near the scalp, most often at the base of a hair shaft. They are usually white or off-white in color and have an oval shape. Lice eggs will hatch in about a week after they have been laid.
- Lice Nymphs– Once the nit hatches it is called a nymph. The shell of the nit turns a dull yellow color and stays attached to the shaft of the hair, which makes them easier to spot. At the stage, the nymph looks exactly like an adult louse, except much smaller. Nymphs will feed and molt three times getting larger after each molt. This process takes about a week to complete.
- Adult Louse – A fully ground louse is about the size of a mustard seed. It has six clawed legs and the body color ranges from tan to white. The color of the louse typically depends on the color of the host’s hair. Egg-laying louse, which is female, is larger than male louse and has the ability to lay as many as 8 nits each day. Adult head lice live for 30 days on a person’s before they die naturally. Because lice feed on blood if they are unable to feed they will die within 48 hours.
Can Head Lice Live on Pillows or Sheets?
Head lice are parasitic in nature and need a constant source of blood in order to survive. Lice live on the scalp to maintain its body temperature and generally feed on the blood of the scalp three to four times each day. A louse is able to survive without being attached to a host, specifically a human scalp for as long as two days. In most cases, however, they will die within a day of not being in contact with a host.
What that means for pillows and bedsheets is that head lice are able to live on them, but only for a short period of time. If a person who has a head lice infestation uses a pillow or a bed and someone uses the same bed or pillow or bed within a day, the head lice can jump from the pillows or sheets onto a new host.
This is one of the most common ways head lice is spread in a household.
Is it Possible to Get Lice From Sharing a Pillow with a person who has head lice?
As you can imagine, if someone around you is suffering from a head lice outbreak, you may be wondering if you can catch them by sharing a pillow. Head lice do need a host in order to survive and they can also be transferred from one person to the other by sharing a pillow. The caveat is that head lice will die within a maximum of two days without a host.
If you use the same pillow within that timeframe, there is a high likelihood that you will also end up with a lice infestation.
Do I Need to Wash Pillows After Lice?
It is very important to always ways your bedding during a head lice outbreak. Live adult lice will die off within 48 hours without a host, but nits, their eggs, can survive much longer. In fact, a nit can live for as long as 10 days without a human host. The eggs are “smart” in that they will not hatch in an environment that is 68 degrees or below, which is on average considered room temperature. They are able to sense higher heat which usually means a human body so that they hatch into an environment that will support the growth of the nymph and survival of the adult louse.
You should wash pillows with a lice treatment such as Eco-defense and also dry them in a high heat environment or dryer setting.
What Kills Lice on Bedding?
There are several ways to eliminate lice on your bedding. The best method to use is the high heat method for linens and pillows. Before using sanitized linens and pillows, make sure all lice and nits have been eliminated from both the mattress and the host.
For scalp treatments RID and Licefree – which is chemical-free are highly effective.
For mattress cleaning, you can vacuum, use a lint roller, and also spray lice repelling products (more on that later).
How Kill Lice on Bedding
Killing head lice and nits on bedding is not overly difficult, but it does take a few steps that must be followed specifically. Here is a step-by-step guide that will help you remove head lice and nits from your home and bedding for good.
#1 Strip Your Bed
Start by stripping down the bed. Remove all blankets, sheets, comforters, throws, and even stuffed animals. There should be no fabrics left behind, only the bare mattress. It is a good idea to put everything in a plastic bag as you remove it from the bed to prevent cross-contamination.
#2 Wash Your Linens
Everything that can be washed should be. Use a lice-killing detergent such as (product), or you can also add tea tree oil or anise oil to your wash cycle to suffocate the lice and the nits. Make sure that your washing machine is set on the hottest cycle possible to kill both the lice and their eggs. Tumble dry on very high heat for 50 minutes after the wash cycle has completed.
#3 Tumble Dry & Bag
Anything that can’t be washed in the washing machine should be put into the dryer on high heat. The dryer needs to run for a total of 50 minutes at 135 degrees in order to kill both lice eggs and lice. In the event that you don’t have access to a dryer, the items are too big for a dryer, or the material is to delicate for high heat, the items need to be bagged. Seal them in a black trash bag and set them in a hot, sunny place for a minimum of 12 days. This will suffocate any adult lice and also kill the nits.
#4 Vacuum & Treat
To get rid of lice and nits from the mattress, couches, and other stationery fabrics start by dousing them with a treatment such as , or a spray of diluted aniseed & tee tree oil. These treatments will kill the eggs and the lice through suffocation.
Once the treatments have dried, vacuum the entire surface of the mattress including underneath, along the edges, and between the headboard. You can also use a sticky lint roller to pick up dead nits and lice as well. Allow the mattress to sit in the full sun for at least a day, and then apply a lice prevention product such as Exterminators Choice Lice Spray.
How Long To Put Pillows in Dryer to Kill Lice?
If you are looking to kill both nits and lice on your pillows with the dryer method, it is important to follow a few simple steps. You will need to make sure that your dryer reaches at least 135° F. For newer dryers, this means that the eco feature must be disabled. Allow the dryer to run for 10 minutes to get up to the proper heat, and then start timing the cycle to run for an additional 40 minutes to completely kill nits and lice on your pillows.
How To Treat Mattress for Lice?
There is no way to stuff a mattress in the dryer to get rid of lice, but they do die naturally after 48 hours. As long as the linens have been removed from the mattress and no one has used it for at least 48 hours, nymphs and louse will naturally die off. Nits that can survive on a mattress for 10 days can be killed using a bug and pest spray such as RID. You can also use a lice repellent spray such as Nix Lice and Bed Bug Killing Spray.
Following treatment, vacuum the mattress carefully to remove debris and any lingering nits.
A Final Word on Pesticides
In the past pesticides were the first choice to get rid of lice quickly and effectively. While they did work, and may still be effective, there are a lot of side effects to consider. Pesticides are not safe for animals or humans and should always be avoided whenever possible. Another concern is that pesticides only kill an adult louse, not the nits. Many species of louse have also become resistant to pesticides which makes their use ineffective and harmful to your health at the same time.