Can You Use Listerine to Kill Lice? Risk and Side Effects

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How to get rid of lice

Listerine is considered the most effective home remedy for head lice because it contains alcohol (26.9%), eucalyptol, thymol, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which are probably toxic to lice.

Lice are small wingless insects that thrive on human blood. They may be brown or grey and generally spread from head-to-head contact. They are not known to spread any diseases or infections in humans. Their presence, however, is often quite bothersome because of the irritation and itching they cause in the scalp. Several home remedies are suggested for lice. They include applying olive oil, mayonnaise, and mouthwashes such as Listerine on the head. There is little or no evidence in support of the effectiveness of these home remedies. Some of them can do more harm than good. One such harmful remedy advocates using Listerine for killing lice. Remember that alcohol-containing products should not be applied on the scalp. They can cause severe irritation and injuries. Listerine should not be used in any form in children aged younger than 12 years. The product contains about 27% alcohol that can cause burning and irritation if any open sores or scratches are present on the scalp. It can also irritate if it comes in contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. The bottom line does not use mouthwash as a lice killer the same way you would never use a lice killer as a mouthwash.

Does the use of Listerine to kill lice is harmful?

Listerine is considered the most effective home remedy for head lice because it contains alcohol (26.9%), eucalyptol, thymol, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which are probably toxic to lice. However, this product was not created for head lice treatment. It’s a mouthwash with an antiseptic in it. It is not recommended to use either alcohol or Listerine for head lice because it can significantly affect the hair and scalp, especially for children. Alcohol can burn a child’s delicate skin and damage their hair follicles. Listerine is also highly flammable. If it gets into the eyes, it can cause some serious damage. Coating your head with Listerine repeatedly can be dangerous and may irritate your scalp. It can also cause bad burning sensations if you have any scratches or scalp damage, which is highly likely if you have been living with head lice for a while.

What is the best way to get rid of lice?

The best and safest way to treat lice is combing them out manually with a metal nit comb. It is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. The head lice comb is specially designed to knock out lice and nits. These combs feature thin, closely spaced teeth that dislodge nits and lice claw that lice use to stick to strands of hair. Because lice are small and durable, the best way to eliminate them is to combine multiple treatments to create an effective line of defense against them.

Below are a few common treatments:

  • Head lice shampoos differ from other lice treatments because they are designed like a regular wash. Most can be applied to wet or dry hair and allowed to sit for several minutes. Shampoos are gentler than chemical treatments and may use more natural ingredients to combat lice. Because these products are not as strong, shampooing needs to be done for several days or a week to achieve maximum effectiveness. Many shampoos are designed for children and can be washed out after soaking. However, a lot of shampoos do not eliminate nits without the aid of a lice comb.
  • The most effective treatments usually contain chemicals designed to kill lice. The most common ingredient in treatments is permethrin, which is safe to use in children aged 2 years or older. This needs to be applied to dry hair and allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes to kill lice. They then need to be washed off.

Many treatments do not kill eggs; hence, treatments may be used several times, over 2-3 weeks, and carefully combing out the dead lice and nits after application.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/31/2020


WebMD. Lice Treatment.

Spokane Regional Health. Guidelines for Controlling Head Lice. September 2010.


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