White Vinegar for Lice Treatment

Fact Checked

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If you're one of those resourceful people who've used white vinegar to clean the kitchen counters, deodorize the garbage disposal and soothe a child's sunburn, it comes as no surprise that you can use vinegar to treat lice too. This economical, environmentally friendly kitchen staple is, in fact, one of your best weapons in the battle to get rid of lice. Learn how to use it, and you'll be well on your way to winning the battle.

The Facts

Lice are parasitic insects that consume human blood to stay alive. Three types of lice can cause infestations, namely body lice, pubic lice and head lice. Head lice live in your hair, close to the scalp. They secure their eggs or nits to hair shafts using a sticky substance. One of the most difficult parts of head lice removal involves detaching these eggs from the hair. Any eggs that you miss could hatch and re-infest your hair. Signs of a head lice infestation include an itchy scalp, red bumps on your scalp or neck and extremely small, dandruff-like white specks -- lice eggs -- near the roots of your hair strands, according to MedlinePlus from Nemours.


According to Joan Sawyer, coauthor of “Head Lice to Dead Lice,” white vinegar doesn't kill head lice, but instead eases the chore of removing nits. It dissolves the cement-like solution that secures the lice eggs to your hair. Once loosened, these lice eggs become easy to remove, especially if you use a nit comb, which has closely spaced teeth that prevent the lice eggs from slipping through and remaining in your hair.


Don’t rely on white vinegar alone as your treatment. In most cases, you should use a proven lice treatment plan that gets rid of the adult lice; options include medicated shampoos, rinses and the tried-and-true solution of manual removal. Talk to your doctor before using any lice treatment, especially if the infestation occurs in an infant or young child.


Coat lice-infested hair with your chosen medicated shampoo or a natural alternative, such as olive oil. If you use a medicated shampoo, follow the package directions for washing and rinsing. Leave olive oil soaking in your hair for approximately two hours before rinsing with white vinegar, recommends Joey Green, author of “Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures.” Follow up by removing the nits; dip a nit comb in white vinegar, combing it through your entire head of hair one small section at a time. As a rule, dilute the white vinegar with an equal amount of water before use.


Sawyer says that white vinegar could irritate your eyes, so exercise caution when applying the vinegar to your hair. In some severe cases, head lice infestations may involve your eyelashes; if this happens, white vinegar isn't an option. Talk with your doctor.