Natural Remedies for Lice

| Modified on May 11, 2024

Just the very word “lice” causes some people to have an itchy scalp! While lice are exasperating, embarrassing, and downright time consuming, natural remedies for lice are very effective, inexpensive and safe. Unlike over the counter treatments, many of the natural treatments are actually good for your hair and scalp!

Are Over the Counter Remedies Effective for Lice?

Over the counter (and some prescription) lice shampoos and treatments usually contain toxic chemicals. These chemicals are neurotoxins, designed to kill the lice. Unfortunately, you are using these neurotoxins directly on the scalp where they can be absorbed into the brain and bloodstream. Additionally, lice have become resistant to many of the chemicals used in over the counter products. With many effective home remedies, you do not need to subject your child or yourself to these chemicals.

Safe Remedies to Get Rid of Lice

Nit Combs

Your first priority in effectively eliminating lice is a nit comb. “Nits” are the eggs from lice. The lice attach them to the hair shaft near the scalp. A nit comb is easier to use if you apply hair conditioner to the hair first, or use the nit comb after using one of the remedies below for killing lice and loosening the “glue.”

A basic nit comb from the pharmacy should suffice, but the “Terminator “ lice comb seems to be especially effective.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Likely you already have apple cider vinegar in your kitchen and can begin treatment right away. Apple cider vinegar can be poured directly onto the head and massaged into the scalp. The vinegar helps to dissolve the “glue” the lice use to attach eggs to the hair. You will need to follow up with a nit comb.


Mayonnaise suffocates the lice and makes the nits easier to remove. Beginning at the scalp, coat the hair and scalp with mayonnaise. Work from the scalp to the end of the hair shaft. Cover the mayonnaise covered head with plastic wrap and a towel. Wash hair after two hours. You may need to shampoo the hair twice to get out all of the mayonnaise. Use a nit comb to remove dead lice and eggs. Mayonnaise is an old fashioned hair conditioner. After this treatment your hair may be softer than ever.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is not only an excellent hair conditioner, it will kill lice. Spread coconut oil onto the hair from the scalp to the end of the hair shafts. Cover the hair with a towel and let the coconut oil stay in the hair for 2 hours. Shampoo your hair once or twice and use a nit comb to remove dead lice and their eggs.

Essential Oils for Lice

Essential oils can be added to the above treatments for lice. Add one or more of the following to mayonnaise or coconut oil. Add ½ teaspoon of essential oil for each ¼ cup of oil or mayonnaise.

  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Cedarwood oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Eucalyptus oil

Fastidious Hygiene

While even the cleanest person can end up with a case of lice, a lice infestation requires diligent cleaning to prevent a re-infestation.

Clothes need to be washed daily. Bedding needs to be washed and dried on the highest dryer setting daily. Children’s stuffed animals need to go in the dryer for 20 minutes per day.

Carpets and furniture should be vacuumed.

You can fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray furniture and car upholstery and car seats.

While the above remedies may completely eliminate the lice after one application, ideally the treatment is repeated one week later.

Lice Prevention

Do not share combs, brushes, hats or hair ties with others. Avoid activities that will require you to wear a helmet that others have worn. (i.e. at a go cart track or video arcade.)

Add 1 teaspoon of tea tree essential oil to each 16 ounce bottle of shampoo or conditioner that you use. This is especially helpful for people in high risk situations for contracting lice. (i.e. children in day care, preschool or elementary school, high school students on a wrestling team, adults who work with young children, etc.)

Apple cider vinegar rinse. Apple cider vinegar can be used as an alternate to hair conditioners and is also great for preventing lice. Keep a bottle of diluted (1l2 with water) apple cider vinegar in your shower and pour some over your hair after each shampoo. Allow it to dry. Initially you will smell like a salad, but that will pass as your hair dries.


Do not use plastic wrap as part of a lice treatment on a child overnight because of the risk of suffocation. You can place a large bath towel on the child’s pillow if you are using a treatment that you wish to leave on overnight and want to protect the bedding.

Do not use essential oils undiluted on the head. Essential oils are very strong and can burn or irritate the skin. Essential oils are very concentrated. Excessive use can even cause hormone difficulties. Use essential oils with respect and restraint.

Do you have a natural remedy for lice? We would love to hear your story!

Apple Cider Vinegar

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Robert Henry (Ten Mile, Tn.) on 08/05/2016

HI U GOOD FOLKS DOIN,,,,,,,,,,, net surfing and found this,

I am from New Mexico and my daughter had lice in the 5th grade. I tried the over counter medicine but it didn't work. She has really long thick hair so we didn't notice until they were bad... it's like they popped up overnight... the Dr suggested mayonnaise but I chose to use Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. I put the vinegar in big spray bottle without diluting it and made her cover her face and the I soaked her hair with it.. the smell yes is strong but it does the job quick. I left it in her hair for about an hour or more had her shower and she said she could see them falling off.. She had no nits to comb out her hair was super soft too. I didn't have to do another treatment.


Apple Cider Vinegar and Mayonnaise

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Madison (Independence, Kansas) on 03/24/2008

MAYO and APPLE VINEGAR: all you have to do is smoother mayo in you're hair then let it set for 2 hours wash with no conditioner or shampoo the put apple viniger in it and set for 30 minutes rince and it cures

Baby Oil

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Jooey2 (Cedar Lake, Indiana) on 04/03/2012

My daughter got lice and she has long curly hair, I used baby oil. It killed them washed everything and dried on high heat. It worked! I would get a bottle of the oil and some plastic hair wraps to keep the oil off other things. Drench hair and comb out bugs and nits. Wash out then I put more on head and left it on for a day. I was crawly and did me too. LOL

Borax and Peppermint Shampoo

Posted by Teena (Aus) on 07/14/2017 233 posts

My boys also had recurring lice problem. Since I made my own borax shampoo and added several drops of peppermint oil to the liquid, I have been pleased to note my kids no longer have lice and my sometimes itchy scalp (I suspect hereditary psoriasis but have been in denial) had also cleared. We use the shampoo everyday. Oh and from top to toe also.

I used an old shampoo bottle with the pump and put in about a cm of borax, filled with hot water to dissolve, didn't dissolve well but doesn't matter. Added few drops peppermint oil for scent. Now this doesn't foam, and is very watery, maybe you can thicken with Aloe vera? So when using I shake, pump out some and apply to all areas of my scalp, it easily runs down hair to coat. Can use on entire body. To rinse out you make a mix of 1/4 tsp citric acid to about a liter water and as required.

To specifically address lice I would add tto, maybe clove eo, and not use the rinse for about a week (this is what I did as I was waiting for empty conditioner bottle). Might also consider making a thicker paste of borax to apply and leave in. I just used the shampoo as is and my children are now happily lice free.

Hope this helps.

Cedarwood Oil

2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Chargir (Cleveland, Ohio) on 01/21/2012

I used cedarwood oil for lice. It is a essential oil that can be bought from most soap making supply companies, I got mine from a local soap and candle supply company. Keep in mind. It must be The real essential oil to work well. The cedarwood oil kills the lice, and dissolves the nit glue easily and also kills the eggs. It is totally non-toxic. I coated my granddaughter's head, left it on for 30 min. (Test a nit egg to make sure it releases easily) Worked like a charm, after fighting for a month with over the counter treatments. This put an end to the cycle.

Cedarwood Oil
Posted by Kelly Elmore (Kingston, Ok) on 08/26/2010

Cedar oil it awesome for lice, bed bugs, fleas and on and on. It's completely natural, smells good and absolutely no side effects, of course unless you're allergic to Cedar oil. It's amazing. I use on the yard, the outside of house, the inside of my house, for fire ants, flies, gnats, mosquitos, in my dogs ears, on my dogs and cats. It's GREAT!!!! No ill effects on anyone or any animal in our home.

Replied by Elle

How do you use cedar oil? do you use w/ a carrier oil? how many drops? and then do we rub on the scalp? and leave it on for how long? and then shampoo it?

Replied by Mama To Many

Dear Elle,

Yes, a carrier oil. Olive or coconut or castor oil are good. 20 drops cedar oil to 1 Tablespoon carrier. Massage into scalp. Carefully as this can really tangle longer hair. Leave it in for an hour or so.

Yes, wash it out. It may take two shampooings.

Rinsing with apple cider vinegar (diluted 1/2 with water) can help, too.

~Mama to Many~


3 User Reviews
5 star (3) 

Posted by Alice (San Juan, Tx) on 07/17/2013

So, the kids went to the arcade and brought home a dose of head lice. We tried the cetaphil face lotion--apply liberally, put on shower cap, sleep. When you get up in the morning, rinse it out. All dead. NIts came out really easy. I think we're done, except for a week or so of checking just in case. Good to know just before school starts and it makes the rounds.

Posted by Racer (Hampton, Tn) on 11/15/2010

Cetaphil rubbed into hair and blow dried until hair is dry, kills lice. Put it on hair, then a shower cap and leave on all night. Wash out and comb through. 15 drops tea tree oil in any bottle of shampoo or conditioner used twice a week should keep the lice away as long as the lice comb is used all the time to get bugs out of the hair.

Posted by Rebecca (Gilbert, MN) on 11/30/2007

When I called my pediatrician to get a prescription because RID was not killing the lice he told me that instead of using harsh chemicals to use Cetaphil. It is a face wash, there is also a lotion by the same company, but you have to use the face wash. You saturate the hair and scalp with the wash, comb out the excess and blow dry until hard. Then leave on overnight and wash in the morning. I would not say it has 100% taken care of the problem but we are so far improved in one application that we decided to continue to use this for a few more nights instead of using the prescription. I also bought a Robi Comb. The combs that I bought the first time and that came with the lice shampoo were junk and went right over the eggs, even the metal combs which are supposed to be made for egg removal. The Robi Comb was $30, but it is like a bug zapper, when it detects a louse it omits an electric charge killing the nervous system of the bug. After one use I could not find a live bug on my kids. Between the two methods I think we have this thing licked. Of course we are also doing massive amounts of laundry and we all sleep with plastic mattress and pillow covers now just to ensure we don't reinfest ourselves.

Coconut Oil

5 User Reviews
5 star (5) 

Posted by Mom Of 2 (Chicago Il) on 10/15/2015

I used coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil and lavendar oil but it on my child's hair for one hour, shampooed out and used a nit comb. Excellent. One time was all it took-earth clinic is wonderful.

Coconut Oil
Posted by Angela (Escondido, Ca) on 08/08/2012

Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in liquid form - the best! At first I used an OTC topical and spent all night combing my hair and both of my girl's hair. It didn't work well and I could immediately tell I'd have to repeat. We all wore hair shower caps to bed. The poision dried out our hair and I got sick from the chemicals.

I went online to look for a natural cure, found coconut oil, had some on hand, and used it. After applying a somewhat generous amount, concentrating on the scalp, to our hair, the shower caps went back on for two hours. I then recombed their hair, scalp down, it was clearly evident it worked!!! I rinsed our hair with vinegar and used shampoo - no conditioner. Recombed our hair and we were clean! I'm going to repeat one or two more times every week. Our hair, still a bit oily, is so soft now and no more itchiness! Organic coconut oil - AMAZING!

Coconut Oil
Posted by Maskeen (Dubai, Uae) on 01/01/2011

When I was young and had immigrated to the US, I had lice in my hair. My mom put virgin coconut oil in my hair and made me go play out in the yard. Coconut oil hardens below 76 degrees F. The oil hardened in my hair and the lice died. She did this for two weeks to make certain the the newly hatched nits also died. Within two weeks I was lice free.

Coconut Oil
Posted by Angela (Kingsland, GA) on 09/14/2007

My son came home from school the other day, and I was told he had lice. We went out and bought those chemicals, but decided to read about them before using them, and I am so glad we didn't use them. That's when I was told about using Coconut Oil by my mother in law. We bought a jar of the oil, it comes in a solid format, and turns liquid as applying it. We treated my son, my husband and myself just to be safe. We put the oil in his hair, then covered his head with a plastic shower cap and had him sit and watch TV for about an hour. Then we took the cap off and combed his hair out. Getting all the nits was painful to him, but it was VERY SUCCESSFUL. I would definitly recommend this method to anyone. Of coourse there is the little matter of getting the oil out of his hair, it took a couple of washings, but his hair is very soft now!

Replied by Angel
(Peoria, Il)

Hi, when my daughter was one year old she applied about a whole bottle of Vaseline in her hair. I did many, many shampooing to get it out and nothing would touch it , so I searched here on internet, and found vinegar. Rinse with vinegar it will cut the grease right out instantly.. Hope this helps..

Replied by Heavensent
(Regina, Sask)

I used dish soap to get the oil out, it worked great!!

Replied by All Natural All The Time
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

To remove the oils (coconut or other) from hair, I use a 20% dilution of grain alcohol (like vodka, Alcool brand, Clear Spring brand). The 90% alcohols listed here are sold to make fruit preserves. Something like almost 1:5 with distilled water makes the 20% solution.

The solution will not rinse out the oil (unless you use gallons of it). Instead, soak the alcohol solution into the oily hair. Massage to mix with the oil. Oil mixes with alcohol. Alcohol mixes with water. Water mixes with soap. Add your soap or shampoo to the wet, oily hair. Massage to lather.

Once you get a lather going, the entire goop rinses out. I find that it takes me about three times with the alcohol mix and shampoo to remove all the oil. I used about 8 ounces of the alcohol mix on a head of short hair. A thick head of long hair may take more of the mix to remove it.

Coconut Oil
Posted by Dianna (Sapulpa, OK)

My daughter came home with lice, and a friend told me to use some coconut oil overnight to suffocate the lice and the nits. I had no trouble getting the nits out, and there didn't seem to be any bugs when I combed through her hair. The only problem I had was getting the coconut oil out of her hair. I used the coconut oil conditioner, which I think is different than liquid coconut oil, but it worked so well I had to share the tip.

Replied by Lon
(Stanhope, Nj)

I add vinegar to shampoo to remove oils from my hair.

Coconut Oil, Tea Tree Oil

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Cyndy (Fayetteville, Arkansas) on 01/09/2009

After staying at a friend's home, while I was out of town, my daughter was infested with head lice. By the time I got home, the infestation was huge. She had scratched/clawed her head until it was bleeding and there was blood and skin matted into her hair. I got home at night and the only products I had on hand to treat were coconut and tea tree oil. I poured the entire contents of the tea tree oil onto her head and worked it through her hair until saturated. Then I got my coconut oil and did the same with it. I wrapped her head in a towel and put her to bed. She slept for several hours. When she awoke I went through her hair with a comb and my fingers pulling out bugs. I pulled out more than 60 head lice before I gave up. Most of them were completely dead and the rest were almost dead. We washed her hair with a strong dish soap and applied a good conditioner. After only that one treatment she was completely bug free. I went through her hair with a comb to remove any nits and they combed out very easily. next time your child is infested, try this first, before the harmful chemicals sold on store shelves.