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Can you comb out lice in the shower?

Getting rid of head lice can be a frustrating process. Many parents wonder if combing out lice in the shower can help remove these pesky parasites. Using a lice comb while shampooing is a common recommendation, but is it effective?

In this article, we’ll discuss whether combing in the shower helps remove head lice. We’ll cover the pros and cons of this method and provide tips for proper technique. Read on to learn if shower combing is worthwhile or if other removal methods are better.

Can Shower Combing Remove Lice?

The short answer is yes, combing in the shower can help remove some head lice. Lice combs are designed to catch and extract live lice and eggs as you pull the comb through the hair. Doing this while shampooing makes combing easier because the soap helps detangle hair. The water also washes away any loose nits or lice from the comb.

However, combing alone is not enough to fully remove an established lice infestation. Here are some key points on the effectiveness of shower combing:

  • It only removes the live, adult lice crawling on the scalp. It does not kill eggs (nits) glued to the hair shaft.
  • Lice can move quickly from strand to strand, making it easy to miss some during combing.
  • The comb must have very fine teeth to catch lice and nits. Wide-toothed combs are ineffective.
  • Combing works best on straight, smooth hair. It’s more difficult on thick, curly, or coiled hair.
  • You must comb meticulously through every section of hair to remove all lice. This takes patience.

So while shower combing can remove some active lice, studies show it only catches about 30% of the total lice present. It does not reliably remove all nits either. For this reason, experts recommend combining lice combing with other treatments.

Pros of Shower Combing

There are some advantages to using a lice comb during or after shampooing:

  • Loosens nits: The shampoo helps loosen the glue holding nits to the hair. This makes them easier to extract with the comb.
  • Detangles hair: Conditioner or slippery shampoo allows the comb to glide through smooth, untangled hair.
  • Washes lice away: Running water flushes lice and nits off the comb so you can keep combing new areas.
  • Thorough coverage: The shower ensures you comb through all sections of the hair, not just the top and sides.
  • Immobilizes lice: The water prevents lice from crawling away and evading the comb.

So while shower combing alone won’t eliminate a lice infestation, it can help remove some of the live lice and make other treatments more effective.

Cons of Shower Combing

There are also some downsides to relying solely on shower combing:

  • Does not kill lice or nits, so reinfestation can occur
  • Easy to miss lice due to their speed and small size
  • Not effective on textured, coiled, or thick hair
  • Takes a long time and requires repeat combing sessions
  • Does not remove all nits glued to hair strands
  • Not helpful for heavy lice populations – the combing takes too long

The bottom line is that shower combing alone is tedious, time-consuming, and leaves eggs behind. While it can remove some live lice, it does not treat the core infestation. For severe cases, oral medication or special shampoo is needed to kill lice and eggs.

How to Comb for Lice in the Shower

If you do want to use a lice comb in the shower, be sure to follow these steps:

  1. Use a comb specifically designed for lice removal, with very fine, tightly spaced metal teeth.
  2. Apply a generous amount of slippery conditioner or shampoo to coat the hair.
  3. Slowly pull the comb from the roots to the tips of hair sections.
  4. Frequently check the comb for lice – rinse under running water.
  5. Work in small sections, using clips to separate hair as you go.
  6. Pay close attention around the nape of the neck and behind the ears.
  7. Use a magnifying glass and bright light to inspect the comb and scalp.
  8. Repeat combing for several days until no live lice are found for 48 hours.

Proper technique is important with lice combing. Go slowly and patiently to ensure no areas are missed.

Other Lice Removal Methods

While shower combing can help, it should not be your only lice treatment method. Other proven techniques include:

  • Medicated shampoos: Products like Rid, Nix, or prescription shampoos contain chemicals that kill active lice and some eggs.
  • Wet combing: Repeated combing for 2 weeks with a lice comb, whether wet or dry. This is tedious but helps remove nits and lice.
  • Oral medication: Ivermectin and other oral lice medications kill lice and eggs by disrupting their nervous system.
  • Suffocation: Products like Cetaphil or mayonnaise coat and suffocate lice. However, nits can survive.
  • Heat tools: Heated air devices help dehydrate and kill lice and eggs.
  • Natural oils: Some essential oils like tea tree have insecticidal properties to repel lice.

A combination approach is ideal for complete lice eradication. For example, using a lice shampoo followed by combing both wet and dry. Consult a doctor for guidance on effective and safe lice removal methods for your situation.

How to Prevent Reinfestation

After treating lice, be diligent about prevention to avoid repeat infestations. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid direct head-to-head contact with anyone potentially infested.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, hats, helmets, hair ties, etc.
  • Check the heads of household members weekly for 2-3 weeks.
  • Wash bedding, coats, towels on hot cycle – or dry clean.
  • Thoroughly clean furniture, rugs, car seats used by infested person.
  • Bag stuffed animals or unused clothing/hats for 2 weeks.

Being proactive and avoiding shared personal items can help prevent recurring head lice problems. Act quickly if lice are spotted again to avoid larger infestations.


Can you comb out lice in the shower? Yes, wet combing can help remove some live, adult head lice. However, combing alone often fails to eliminate all nits and does not kill the remaining lice. Relying solely on shower combing is tedious, time-consuming, and may not fully resolve an existing case.

For best results, combine shower combing with other proven lice treatment methods. Using medicated shampoos, oral meds, or suffocation techniques ensures you both kill and remove lice and eggs. With a thorough approach, you can successfully eliminate a lice infestation and avoid repeat issues in the future.