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.

Black lice comb, spray bottle and a few small amber bottles in the background

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.

No thanks!

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 Oilhttps://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 Oilshttps://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 Oilshttps://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!!

Black lice comb, spray bottle and a few small amber bottles in the background

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.

 

spray bottle and black lice comb

Homemade Lice Prevention Spray

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Ingredients

or

Instructions

  • Blend the above solutions in the spray bottle and spray on hair to coat.
  • No need to shampoo out.

Notes

 
To Prevent Lice: Spray on hair daily in the morning and/or at night.  Work through entire head of hair.
To Remove Lice: Spray on hair at night and comb through dampened hair with a fine toothed comb in the morning.
Notes on Lavender: Hungarian Lavender has a sweet scent, and Bulgarian Lavender has a more herbaceous scent. So choose accordingly.
Alcohol Preservation Notes: Ideally you want a 20% alcohol formula for adequate preservation.  You will need to determine this based on the proof of the vodka that you use. The 1.1 ounce measurement in the recipe card is for 75 proof alcohol.
Tried this recipe?Mention @wholenewmom or tag #wholenewmom!

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:

bottle of lice spray

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

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175 Comments

  1. For the money in impaired , and this is an old way but effective. Coat hair with vasaline or cooking oil. Leave in for a couple of hours. Meantime if you have a dryer , put clothes couch covers or whatever material can fit and dry on hottest settings for and hour. Put pillows or toys in freezer. Find a sprayer and fill it with vinagar and salt and spray everything. You'll have to vacuum everything you sprayed after drying. Long ago my niece brought lice home. Before all these fancy oils we have now. And this is what we did and all three of had lice and it worked. Took all day and was a horrible experience but it worked.

    1. I forgot to put wash hair with Dawn or any dish detergent that takes oil. Then deeply condition your hair. Wait a couple of days like a weekend and then wash and condition hair as normal.

  2. After dealing with treating grandkids with lice & treating my house. It’s opened me up more to the tea tree oil world.
    I did not know there were different %’s of tea tree all. I just thought they were all the same. Seriously thinking of buying me a tea tree book as a quick go to on the benefits of tea tree. Do you recommend one?
    Ok, back to my lice issue. I have some tea tree oil on hand that I used in my warmers in the house. I checked the SMALL bottle & it doesn’t have a % of the purity of the tea tree oil, but I still used it with your recipe of spraying furniture for the treatment of lice.
    What % do you always have on hand?
    Where do I purchase the GOOD tea tree oil so I will always have it on hand?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Lisa. I would just look for a good overall book on essential oils - is there something you are thinking that a dedicated book would do? I don't know if there are any really.

      Anyhow, this post has a great book at the end of it: https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/essential-oils/

      As for percentage, aside from companies that disclose that they are blending their oils with a carrier, no company says that their oil isn't pure.

      So I keep only a trusted oil on hand. The post you read has links to the company that I use and this post has more info on it: https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/pure-essential-oils-testing/

      You can trust that their oils are pure and even get test results w/ the batch # on each bottle. Hope that helps!

      1. Hey, thanks for getting back with me. I stumbled upon you by researching about head lice. I love your articles & will be visiting more often so I’ll probably have more questions along the way.
        Reason for me wanting a book for tea tree or even other oils is because after dealing with this head lice mess, I’ve learned that tea tree & other oils has a lot of benefits other than just making your home smell good.
        Amazed by all the uses of tea tree & want to learn more...
        Have a great day

    1. Hi there. I had a few notes in about using on damp hair but really you could do either. When using morning and night I wouldn't think you would want to wash hair twice a day :).

    1. I'm sorry for the delay in responding. I was using the Lymph Support from Rocky Mountain Oils. There are some others that I love as well but that one is great.

    1. My daughter just got head lice. I have dreadlocks and can not comb anything out. I got checked and no bugs for myself. But, If there are some that were not seen- can I spray tea tree on my head to get rid of them without combing out?

      1. an overnight oil mask is reccomended for dreads in conjunction with a spray to kill them and then repeat after 3 days. But pure tea tree oil is caustic so you should mix it with vinegar about 4 drops per 4 ounces.

    2. Honestly this is my routine!
      1. Wet head
      2. Pour plain Listerine all over
      3. Put treated hair in a plastic bag, clip shut, sit 1-2 hrs.
      4. Rinse under water
      5. Poor White Vinigar on hair re-bag n clip, 1-2 hours.
      6. Rinse under water. Shampoo n condition as normal
      7. Begin nit picking/combing.
      8. After your done saturate with Olive Oil,
      9. Wrap over night, n try n nit pick/comb in the morning.
      10. Repeat process till clean.

      For Furn/carpet
      1.5 cups water in a spray bottle to 1/2-1 tsp tea tree oil.

      For Laundry:
      I use I cap full of Listerine added to the Wash.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  3. Can we not use this recipe on a 3 year old? If it's ok for 6, other than gettin in eyes I don't understand why it's not appropriate in my 3 yr old as well.

  4. What are your thoughts on tea tree and lavender oil as hormone disruptors? There have articles supporting both positive and negative sides of this investigation tho both are inconclusive in absolute terms. Thank you.

    1. Hi. I should write a post on this.

      1. The products the boys used weren't listed, nor the concentrations.
      2. There were only 3 boys involved.
      3. Since we don't know what they used it's possible it was contamination in the oil or something else in the products.
      4. The test tube could have had xenoestrogens in it.

      And more.

      I think it's not an issue based on this and other things that I have read. Thanks for reading!

    2. I was a cosmetologist for 6 years and active in haircare since then. Teatree is a healing oil, and lavender is soothing. I have never heard of any issues, and the amount your mixing here is very low. Just my 2 cents.

  5. I'm wondering how to mix it into mine and my daughters shampoo and conditioner. I have the gurunanda tea tree oil from my local walmart store. We usually use head and shoulders but from everything I've read it has to be a gentle shampoo. I've combed through my hair and haven't seen anything. Treated my daughter with the o.t.c. Walmart lice killing shampoo, had prescription from doc about 2 weeks ago. My ex isn't as diligent as myself but I found two nits last night in her hair. Even went out today to but the robicomb that's supposed to zap em dead. I'm just looking at how to mix it so we can use it everyday in our shampoo. Also was reading that you have to glass water bottles?? All I have is plastic for spraying my funiture. Can I use plastic?

    1. I don't think you need glass unless the concentration of the EOs is high which it shouldn't be in the case of these blends. I would think quality plastic is good enough.

    2. Tea Tree oil absolutely works and it works well! After using RID (which didn't kill any of the lice AT ALL!) I found turned to my tea tree oil. I put a about 3 cups of conditioner (Dove) into a bowl and mixed a bunch of tea oil in it. I didn't use the dropper so I'm not sure how much I used. But if I had to guess I'd say it was about 3 tablespoons of tea tree oil so the smell was nice and strong. I then saturated my daughters dry hair with the solution, put a plastic bag over her head and let it sit there for about an hour. Then I rinsed her hair (didn't wash because I wanted the tea tree oil to continue working in preventing any lice that may have been around our home from getting into her hair again). I then combed her hair out with a good metal lice comb and every single louse I found was dead. But this process should be repeated every 3 or 4 days for about 2 weeks. This also works if you mix it with oils like olive oil. I ran out of conditioner and I didn't want to use the olive oil again so I'm looking around to see if mixing the tea tree oil with water will also kill them or just prevent them. But there is something in the tea tree oil that works as an insecticide so I don't see why it would work mixed with oils or conditioner. I'm going to try it today and hope for the best.

      1. After 3 applications of RID my daughter still had live louse in her hair. I refused to put more chemicals in her hair and stumbled on this recipe years ago. It is now my go to, and in just one application the louse are dead when I comb through with the metal comb.
        1 cup of natural shampoo (the first time I used it I didn't have natural shampoo. It still worked.)
        1/4 cup olive oil
        1 tsp tea tree oil
        Coat scalp and hair. Cover with shower cap for an hour, the rinse/wash. Comb with metal nit comb.

    3. The plastic/glass bottle is only an issue if you are storing oils in them. Some oils-mostly citrus can make the plastic breakdown over time which releases the toxic chemicals IN the plastic into whatever is being stored in the bottle.

    1. I don't know but I think I have heard that the lice get on furniture as well - please check in a hidden area before using it on the whole piece.

    1. I'm not thinking it would be different b/c you are trying to achieve the same purpose but please be careful spraying oils on furniture and make sure it isn't affecting the fabric.

      1. Do I need to spray the furniture and bed daily?
        Oil and water do not mix. Should I add alcohol to the mixture?
        Thanks, B

        1. Hi Barbie. I don't know about the daily spraying - I didn't look into a method for furniture, but spraying like this is fine if it's not on skin -- you don't need an emulsifier.

  6. Newby, I am so excited I found y'all...I am not a kid in fact I'm a G-Ma. I believe I have some of those hardy creatures, but live by myself..so I will be doing these remedies...thank you! So much for being here!

  7. Tea tree oil does the trick... Just mix sels n blue shampoi about a half bottle then use 1/4 bottle coconut conditioner and about 10-14 drops of tea tree oil shake well and coat hair with mixture leave on hair for about 2 hrs rince and comb thru with a lice comb u can get them @ sallys beauty store or even Walmart. .. This is the beat stuff ever thx and hioe this helps goodluck

    1. My grandma thinks spraying viniager is going to help but it stinks like really and I cannot use tea tree oil b/c I am allergic to it. I do not want to by lavender oil and essencial oils. Please reply as soon as possible!
      Please before she comes back.

      1. Vinegar is good for getting the eggs out.. It breaks down the glue that holds the eggs in place making it easier to comb out the eggs.

      2. I found eucalyptus oil was better as it helps dissolve the gum the nits use to attach to the hair

        My recipe was
        Water
        White vinegar
        Eucalyptus oil
        Lavender oil
        Sweet orange oil
        Shake well and spray
        (One person commented on the vinegar being smelly but with this mix it doesn't, especially once the hair is dry
        I've had people comment on how lovely my kids hair smells and also the shine
        (The vinegar balances the ph levels I've been told)

        Hope this helps ?

  8. Hi all, thought i would leave a tip of my own for you all.
    My home has myself my husband my 6 year old and my 3 years old...... My 6 year old brought lice home a little over a month ago and none of the store bought stuff worked, i combed through like a crazy lady and washed everything in my house... Im OCD so i mean everything! weeks later and we were still scratching like dogs... I went to sally beauty as a plan z to bleach our hair and dye back natural and they told me tea tree oil mixed in with all shampoos and conditioners and use daily for 3 weeks, well after 4 days they are gone but i did some stuff on my own.... so in a 5 oz spray bottle i did 4/5 water 1/5 white vinegar and about 1/4 of a small bottle of tea tree oil... mixed in a teaspoon of peppermint extract and whala all the lice and nits are gone after 3 days! So on top of getting rid of all lice on all 4 of us in just 3 days to also have a very soothing cooling sensation on the scale and after scratching like crazy for weeks this is amazing, and it smells great too! Im gonna add it in as a spritz on everyday before styling to prevent another infestation and i can use it as a natural bug repellent for summer as well for things like mosquitoes and bees... ha! bugs i figured you out!!! yay!! so maybe this will help someone else, good luck!

    1. That sounds like a great im going to mix the original msg also....but using your mix as a summer bug spray just sounds delightful!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. I've been battling lice for almost 1 year. Stopped using over the counter because of the toxins. Tried tea tree oil, health food store shampoo, clear lice over the internet, ocean "salt water" blow dryers, mayonnaise, hair gel,Vaseline, you've read it, I've tried it. I'm so frustrated that I'm actually thinking about shaving my head like a man! Help, I'm desperate

    1. Where do you live? We went into a place that took care of it. It was called MN lice lady but they have places all over. Google lice treatment and where you live.

    2. Put coconut oil generously all in your hair wrap it in plastic blow dry it remove plastic use but pic through hair in small sections blow dry more comb more apply another application of coconut oil wrap it and sleep in it or leave it in for a min 2 hours you also need to boil all hair stuff combs brushes clips bobby pins you name it boil it spray entire house with apple cider vinegar salt and menthol vacuum spray again. Cocunut oil is your best option for it all.

    3. Call your Dr office, there is a prescription treatment that is called Natroba. Kills the lice and eggs in one application.

      1. This is true. But not all of us want to put killer chemicals on our children and ourselves that leaves thru the scalp into the body. Also this pesky cootys are getting a lot stronger and resistant to the drugs. One more thing if you won't eat chemicals, why put them on your head? As for my family the next time yes I know it will happen again, we will go natural. That's if the daily spray can't keep cootys from jumping. Lolto each his own tho, I choose NO POISON THO.

    4. We've recently dealt with headlice. Our doctor told us there are several not responding to over the counter shampoos right now. He suggested applying olive oil all over your hair, put a shower cap over it, and sleep in it. Wash it out the next morning. The olive oil is supposed to suffocate them. If that doesn't work, I would call and get the prescription shampoo. Make sure you are cleaning your house thoroughly, but also your car seats and work chair or anywhere that you're hair can shed off to. I would also look into the environments and people around you....we went for a month lice free and then they showed back up, so looking into school, dance, and any othe activities and people the kids have contact with. Hope this helps and you find a remedy!

    5. Are you combing your hair out? You need to comb it twice a day with a lice comb. Where I live there is a company that can do house calls and do it for you. I hope By now you have it under control but I thought and see if this helps.

    6. Coconut oil - mix in these essential oils
      Tea tree oil
      Rosemary oil
      Lavender oil
      Peppermint or spearmint oil

      Whip it together and apply to scalp, work in liberally. Let it stay on at least 30 mins then shampoo out. Comb through hair with lice comb.
      Then mix up this spray and use it everyday. Use lice comb to comb through hair every day until you are nit free for two days.
      You can add a few drops of those oils to your regular shampoo and use the spray every day to try to prevent a reoccurrence

    7. Tea tree oil is best for killing lice. You can google it and find directions in mixing it in with shampoos and conditioners for detering lice. Also, Listerine. IT works! It has alcohol in it to smother them out. My daughter had a ton of lice and nits a few days back. Heres what you do. Go buy the walmart brand brown listerine and apply it to dry hair. I use a spray bottle. Soak the hair maaking sure you get the scalp aswell. Then put the hair in a bun. Place a shower cap over the head. Ive read people leaving in over night and 30 min up to 3 hrs. I'ld leave in atleast an hr. Then wash the hair out. Afterwards, apply lots of conditioner and comb through sections following the contour of the head for dead lice and nits near the scalp.
      I put this in my daughters hair and after 15 minutes saw way too many nits, so i went to shampooing, then conditioned. Most were dead. Any live ones, i placed in listerine and within 5 min....DEAD! It works, but the key is to comb with lots and lots of conditioner to easily get the nits out. Goodluck!

    8. Any oil left on for 20 minutes will kill the lice but will not kill the eggs you need to repeat the treatment every 5 days when the eggs hatch you can kill the lice again it'll take at least three five-day methods to get all the hatched eggs killed

    9. Mayonnaise works! Buy the cheapest brand but do NOT get fat free or low fat mayo. Has to have all fat in it. Or use any cooking oil. I have used mayo on everybody I know and has always worked! Leave it on over night. Do NOT short cut it! It smothers them! Then use enough vinegar to moisten up the mayo. Again cheapest works here too. Then shampoo it out whether with dawn or shampoo. Doesn't matter. Then get a good thick conditioner and coat your hair liberally. Rinse it out. If hair still feels like straw, condition some more but leave conditioner in for a bit longer. Make sure you get all eggs/nits out of your hair tho. That is key! Have the lice furniture spray on hand and spray your furniture, carpets and car down while mayo/oil sitting on your head. Get rid of hair ties, head band, brushes, combs etc and get new ones or place in a zip lock bag zipped and taped shut so no air gets into it and let set for at least a week before using again. Do use tea tree oil in shampoo and conditioner that you use regularly as preventative measures in future. Best of luck on getting rid of them!

        1. Haven't done the tea tree oil myself. Just recommended what has worked for me. I AM going to try the lavender oil on my 20 mon old tho! Just recently found lice in her hair and was hesitant on doing the mayo/vinegar treatment on her. Found E. Europe lavendar so hope it works! At minimal...it Will help her sleep!

        2. I am not against using the tea tree oil at all! Knew it worked as a preventative, didn't know it killed them! SOOO glad that I found this article tho for future reference since I HATE using chemicals for some things! Like chest congestion...I drink 3-5 cups of bigelow's lemon ginger tea a day for 3-5 days, even for bronchitis. It has worked for me and others who have used it. I have recommended it for pneumonia as well. Add a little honey (if can) for sweetener. Cheaper than a Dr bill/antibiotics...

          1. Oh my mistake! I must have been multi tasking too much b/c I read "don't" instead of "do" - yikes! Thanks!

    10. We have a nit terminator comb that removes everything except nits from my two with fine baby hair. I spray hair with water (a little conditioner if desired) to make the lice freeze and comb each section in all four directions. Check fine hair with sunlight or bright flashlight for any nits on the hair shafts. We wash and dry everything- clothes, bedding, pillows. Vacuum all furniture. Anything that won't survive 30
      Minutes in dryer is bagged up. I have diatomaceous earth I sprinkle on couches the first night. Then i comb daily the first week to make sure we got it all. I have done the Nuvo method with the cetaphil cleanser and then do not miss the 7 days re-comb and nitpick deadline. If the lice pop back after day 7 when you've done all this, they are in your car or child's classroom. I have seen girls go to school in braids with massive hairspray or gel. Make sure kids know to not touch their head on anything. Lice can't jump. They crawl very fast.

      1. Tabitha, did you mean to say that the nits aren't removed with the comb? And what is the reason with the massive hairspray or gel?

        Thanks!

        1. On my two youngest girls the nits weren't being removed. Their hair is so fine that it went through the nit terminator comb too easily. I made a batch of your spray today bc I would love to avoid the Nuvo method this time. Yup! My kids picked up lice at co-op in February and somewhere local this week. Augh!

          The massive hair spray or gel is because i've notice the dance kids or kids who's parents do this never seem to get lice. I'm not sure if it's because they have no loose hairs or if the hair is sticky or stinky to lice. Like I said, i'm trying your recipe with tea tree and lavender. It sure smells better. I put coconut oil and tea tree oil in my hair last night, but didn't have it strong enough. Your article was helpful showing me why tea tree wasn't helping much.

          Really appreciate your research. Thanks.

    11. Wow you sure have tried alot. Sounds like you're doing it all. But something's missing in the treatment I'm thinking. Since your doing all this, my question is have you been doing your mattress,,. and ALL furniture including flooring? Don't forget those corners. Lol. What about the car? Lastly any pets can carry the little cootys. People just don't think of that too often. I would do all the above, try the natural, and use it to treat everything including clothes in the closet. Oh one more thing get a new pillow. Any throw pillows throw pillows make sure to throw in the dryer on high for an hour at least once a week till they're gone for good. If all else fails your rite, shaving your head may be the only answer. But your issue will STILL be there in your home. Go buy some pretty scarves, and rock them with pride knowing you just did the healthiest thing for yourself. I wish you very good luck.