DIY Lice Prevention & Treatment Spray That REALLY Works!
This year I heard about drug-resistant lice, and (after I finished thinking my head was itching -- scratch, scratch), I started thinking about and searching for lice prevention spray and lice treatment spray on the internet. And I found that it is pretty easy to make it yourself.
Thankfully, I have never had to personally deal with lice, but every once in awhile I hear about outbreaks, and a few times friends of mine have had to "de lice" their homes, and it is a complete nightmare.
Getting rid of lice is not fun.
Just think of having to:
- wash EVERYTHING in your home
- comb painstakingly through your kids' (and your) hair with a fine toothed comb (so you probably are going to lose a lot of hair too in the process)
- wash and/or freeze all bed linens, stuffed animals, helmets, etc., and
- deep clean carpets and furniture (note that some sites say that you should do this while the CDC says it isn't necessary. At least make sure not to sit somewhere someone with active lice has just been.
Some people even recommend using Bleach and Lysol! Ick. I really really don't ever want to use that on my head or on my kids' heads.
In this case, for sure, prevention is key.
Now you could go around and just be nervous about lice all the time, but when you have something as natural as essential oils that can do the job for you, and they smell good too, why not use them?
We homeschool, so the lice threat is not as big of a problem for us, but we are not immune.
You can use this spray as part of your natural lice treatment plan, of course, but using it as a prevention method is for sure the way to go.
Now, there are a lot of DIY lice treatment sprays on the internet, and I didn't want to just slap something together without knowing it would work.
So I dug around and found some great information on why and how well these essential oils really do work against these pesky buggers-- and then made up my recipes from there.
Do Essential Oils Work as Natural Lice Treatment?
Some say these essential oils work to prevent lice because they mask the human scent that lice are attracted to.
Essential oils are also rich in what are called monoterpenes, chemical compounds with various several beneficial characteristics including, in the case of tea tree oil, insecticidal properties. In fact, the two main constituents of tea tree oil, 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol, have demonstrated anticholinesterase activity.
Cholinesterase (ko-li-nes-ter-ace) is one of the many important enzymes needed for the proper functioning of the nervous systems of insects, (as well as humans and other vertebrates), so when you use these small amounts of oils on small insects, they take action on their nervous system and kill them.
And, there is evidence (yes, real scientific evidence) that these oils really do kill the lice.
Studies on Essential Oils Treatment for Lice:
#1: Tea Tree Oil: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480584/
At 1% concentration, tea tree oil killed 100% of head lice after 30 minutes.
#2: Lavender and Tea Tree Oils: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20727129
97.6% of lice were dead using these essential oils, compared to only 25% were dead from using chemical treatments.
#3: Anise and Ylang Ylang Oils: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12389342/
92% success rate against head lice.
Many of the other spray recipes on the internet use oils like:
but I am going to stay with what's proven to work. Of course, you are welcome to mix and match as you prefer.
And I'm only sharing the #1 and #2 options as they were the most effective, plus they have oils that you are more likely to have around the house, and anise oil is a little hard to come by.
The #2 version with lavender will smell better, which I would personally choose. But then again, if we're talking lice, I might just use the tea tree straight and deal with it!!
If you missed my series on how I chose the essential oils company referred to above, you can go here to find out, or skip to the end of the series here. However, there is a lots of great stuff in between that you won't want to miss :).
An extra benefit from this spray is that it won't stink of harmful chemicals like some of the more toxic options.
Essential oils really do smell lovely. Just the other day a friend emailed to ask me what "scent" I wear. It was a therapeutic blend that I have been using and diffusing at night. A remedy that doubles as a perfume (without all the nasty fragrances) - nice!
Tea Tree Oil Safety
For children under 10 years, use only a 1% dilution rate to a 2% dilution rate of tea tree oil and for children 2+ this oil should only be used "as needed".
For adults, do not go above a 5% dilution rate.
- 1 ounce water (preferably filtered - see How to Make Your Water Safe)
- 1.1 ounce vodka
- 12-20 drops tea tree oil
- 1 piece Quality Spray Bottle this kind of plastic spray bottle is likely a good option as well.
- (12 drops is the equivalent of a 1% solution, which was 100% effective in the study cited above)
- 2 ounces water (preferably filtered)
- 2 ounces vodka
- 10 drops tea tree oil
- 6 drops lavender oil (either Hungarian or Bulgarian)
- Blend the above solutions in the spray bottle and spray on hair to coat.
- No need to shampoo out.
Don't feel like DIYing Your Own Lice Prevention Spray?
I know that sometimes time is of the essence.
If you just don't have time to make this spray, or you prefer to shop for some reason, this lice prevention spray is a natural option that has great reviews:
Either way, hope you can keep the little buggers at bay!
Have you had lice?
What did you do to get rid of them?
Photo Credit: Naomi Huzovicova
My daughter all thru grade school had a lice issue. Like they were attracted to her. Vinegar rinses work but she smelled like a walking salad. Then somebody mentioned Tea Tree oil. We put it into our conditioner and she never had another case of it.
Wow great to hear--it's amazing stuff! I'm going to be using it today in a spray to prevent termites and carpenter ants. In fact, I should do a post about tea tree! Well done, mama!
Since the lice spray has water in it, how long of a shelf life does it have
I wouldn't store it for very long at all--maybe 4 days max. Or you could add a preservative to it if you like for longer storage.
What type of perservative can I use to extend the shelf life?
Hi there. I just updated the post so it has vodka, a natural preservative in it now.
Hi again - I just updated the post so that it has vodka in it. Should store a lot better now :).
Hmm, I was under the impression that water does nothing to dilute EOs, so we run the risk of spraying blobs of undiluted oil on our kids' heads. I see so many blogs simply mixing with water. As someone who does research like you do, maybe you already addressed this in an earlier post that I missed.
Hi there. Sorry for the delay. The alcohol will work a bit as an emulsifier. Shake before using. It's not a perfect emulsifier, but it does a pretty good job. Hope that helps!
Great article & I agree - tea tree works. We are dealing with a lice recurrence from school.
My fav DIY spray is 1 oz water, 1 oz rubbing alcohol, add tea tree & eucalytpus radiata, 15 drops of each type. You can spray find a live louse, remove it, spray this spray on it and literally see it die in moments. Effective. I cover my kid's eyes with a washcloth to avoid the spray.
Other stuff I know about lice, having dealt with it before:
pets cannot get it. Only humans.
laundry: either set items aside for several days or wash & dry on hot (at least your sheets and towels). Unlike what someone commented on here, a lice doesn't die within 1 hr of being away from a person. It dies after 24-48 hrs.
finally: retreat everyone after 7 days.
I had no idea about pets. Thanks for the tip. I don't like rubbing alcohol typically b/c of toxicity (though I do have one diy formula on here that uses it) but better than lice!!
Could I make a bigger batch of the spray to spray on furniture and carpets? What ratio of water to tea tree oil/lavender would I need? Or do you think this would be a waste of time?!
I have heard that the lice don't survive there so maybe a waste but seems like some people do it anyway. Hope that helps!
I have not read through all your comments, but just a quick search on the side effects of tea tree oil and lavender oil would inform you that they may disrupt hormone levels in young boys. Check out the webmd website.
Hi there. At least from what I have read, the evidence appears scant if not totally inaccurate. Robert Tisserand is one of the world's foremost experts in essential oils and he states that there is no evidence for this. I was worried but I don't see any concerns. This is his response. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPpgz08pIOc
Hope that helps!
Hi again. Also, I would love to hear what you think after watching his video. I thought it was very well thought out.
Avocado oil in the hair while I spray and clean house with the tree, comb hair and wash twice with tea tree laced shampoo. I have 5 girls aged 16-1, we haven’t had lice in 4 years because of this! Use tea tree for prevention ?
So has this worked well for you?
If I buy the 16oz bottle you have linked, how many drops should I put in for my 4 year old's hair? He's starting daycare this fall and I would like to just put it on his hair in the mornings. Or would you recommend just adding tea tree oil to his shampoo?
Hi there. I don't know -- I don't see instructions on the item. I think that making the spray I recommended is a great idea.
How long is the solution gonna be safe to be used after making it? I mean we use almost 300ml of prevention lotion throughout school season . If I make a 150ml solution is it safe to be used in a 3 or 4 month period?
Hi there. I wouldn't keep it that long since water is the base. Water breeds bacteria. It's up to you how long you want to keep it for but I would err on the safe side or use a broad spectrum preservative.
Not sure where you got your information from but there is no need to clean carpets wash sheets etc. (Of course we all would do a vacuum and wash sheets!) The nits need to blood to survive so they only live off the head for approx 1 hr then they dehydrate and die.
Hi there. I got it from several sites. I did just look around more and updated the post. I do think one has to be really careful with this. Why would you have to vacuum the sheets if they can't live? Just to get rid of them?
My girls seem to get it everytime they go to mother n laws where all the grandkids are it's a never ending vicious cycle and I am at my whitts end!! I am a clean fanatic and gave severe anxiety when it comes to bugs.. please help
How about using this spray? That is odd that they are getting them all the time--is something odd going on in that situation?
Why shouldn't tea tree be used on children under 6? My daughter is 4... lice is going around school I want to prevent her from having to go through it. I made the shampoo and spray... I would like to use it in her hair....
Hi there. I'm looking into this for you - might be OK based on safety regulations that I am reading. Do your own research for now but I will get back to you. Hope you are doing OK!
Hi Airiel - I just updated the post with more safety info that should be of help :).
We've been fighting lice in our household for a few weeks now. The culprit, my husband, says over and over even after I've had to pull teeth just to comb through his hair and have found eggs, "I don't have eggs. It's dandruff." He will not let me do any treatments on his hair not even teatree oil or Listerine. The only thing I can do is wash his clothes, pillow and blanket every day, oh, and wipe down his couch with vinegar and lavender scented cleaner.
What can I put in his shampoo and body wash that will absolutely kill lice and loosen eggs but won't have a noticeable scent for him to notice that I've spiked it?
I tired of fighting lice and eggs and the tantrum of this 36 year old kid.
Sorry you are having that issue. I can only tell you that the oils in this post have been proven to work. I hope it works for you!
there is tee tree oil bodywash. that might work. or just put a few drops of tea tree oil in his styling gel.
Oil of oregano (wild oregano variety, not just any oregano essential oil) is said to kill both lice AND nits.
Spray his head at night when hhe is sleeping!
I'm hoping you are no longer dealing with this...but for others...if the white speck sticks to the hair shaft it's a nit. Dandruff does not do that. Pluck out the hair and show it to the person in denial.
Can I use tea tree oil on my pets? They are being tortured by fleas and nothing (not even the $80 each 8 month flea collars!) are working!!
Hi there. I just read online that it's safe to use .1 - 1.0 percent diluted.
I can't make a claim but that is what I read. I have read that diatomaceous earth works as well.
We went through that issue with our dog! We had to buy the expensive stuff from our Vet office to finally get rid of them! $75 for a pill that lasts 3 months. Then we had a company come spray because diatomaceous earth didn’t work!!
Sarah have you ever tried burlap cedar shake beds??? Works amazingly
Hi there. Diatomacious Earth worked for us! After a long research I ordered a bag and the fleas were gone within couple of days. It scratches their body and they basicly dry up. I found them dead in the couch. Just be careful not to ingest the fine powder.