Skip to Content

What kills lice on bedding?

Lice are small parasitic insects that live on the skin and feed on blood. There are three main types of lice that affect humans: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. Head lice and body lice can spread to bedding and other objects in the home, making it important to properly clean and treat bedding and furniture to kill any lingering lice or nits (lice eggs). This article will provide a comprehensive overview on how to effectively kill lice on bedding, clothing, and upholstered furniture.

Why Treat Bedding for Lice?

If someone in your home has a lice infestation, it’s important to treat their bedding, clothes, towels, and other fabric items they’ve been in contact with. Here’s why:

– Lice spread quickly – They crawl and can spread to furniture, bedding, clothes, etc. Treating these items helps stop the spread.

– Lice can live off a host – They can survive 1-2 days off the human body. Treating surroundings kills any lingering lice.

– Nits (lice eggs) may be present – Nits firmly attach to fabric and furniture fibers and can hatch new lice if not removed.

– Provides peace of mind – Knowing bedding and upholstery has been properly treated brings relief if lice has been present.

Treating bedding, furniture, car seats, etc. is an essential part of getting rid of lice from the home environment. It’s recommended by doctors, health organizations, and lice removal professionals.

Treatment Options

There are several effective treatment options for killing lice on bedding, clothing, and other fabric items. The main methods include:

Washing in Hot Water

– Machine wash in hot 130°F (54°C) water. The high heat kills lice and nits.

– Dry on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Sustained heat is lethal to lice.

– This is effective for washable bedding, clothes, towels, etc.

Clothes Dryer Heat

– Run non-washable items like pillows, stuffed animals, etc. in the dryer on hot for 45+ minutes.

– The dry heat kills lice and dries out nits.

– Place items directly in dryer without detergent or wetting.

Sealing in Plastic Bags

– Seal clothes, bedding, or toys in air tight plastic bags for 2 weeks.

– Lice and nits deprived of air for 14 days will die.

– Allows treatment of items that can’t be washed or dried.

Lice Sprays and Powders

– Pesticide sprays and powders formulated to kill lice can be used on furniture and car seats.

– Look for products with pyrethrins, permethrin, or other pediculicides.

– Follow all safety instructions. Air out upholstery before use.

– Often used in combination with other methods.

Professional Lice Treatment Service

– Many professional lice treatment services offer environmental treatments.

– They use industrial equipment and strong pesticides not available to consumers.

– This thorough treatment can provide added peace of mind.


– Use the brush and crevice tools to thoroughly vacuum all furniture, mattresses, rugs, etc.

– This helps remove lice and nits from the environment.

– Immediately dispose of the vacuum bag afterward in a sealed plastic bag.

Treatment Tips By Item

Here are some tips for effectively treating common household items:

Beds and Bedding

  • Mattresses – Vacuum mattresses thoroughly including crevices, then seal with an encasement for 1 year.
  • Sheets and pillowcases – Wash in hot water then run through hot dryer cycle for 20+ minutes.
  • Comforters and blankets – Dry clean non-washable bedding or wash on hot if label permits. Dry on high heat.
  • Pillows – Run washable pillows through hot dryer for 45+ minutes. Discard old pillows in sealed bags.
  • Mattress covers – Remove and wash in hot water. Wipe down mattress frame with rubbing alcohol.

Furniture and Rugs

  • Upholstered furniture – Vacuum well including crevices then treat with lice spray. Steam clean when treatment complete.
  • Carpets and rugs – Thoroughly vacuum then use carpet-safe lice spray if needed. Have professionally cleaned.
  • Vehicles – Vacuum seats and fabric well. Treat with lice spray made for vehicles.
  • Stuffed animals – Dry on high heat for 45+ minutes. Store in sealed bags for 2 weeks if can’t be washed.

Clothing and Other Fabrics

  • Clothes – Machine wash in hot water then run through hot dryer for 20+ minutes.
  • Hats, helmets, etc – If not machine washable, dry on high heat for 45+ minutes.
  • Coats and jackets – Dry clean non-washable outerwear or wash if label permits.
  • Towels and linen – Wash in hot water with bleach then hot dryer cycle.
  • Backpacks, lunch bags, etc – Machine wash then place in hot dryer or seal in plastic bags for 2 weeks.

When to Discard vs Treat Items

Some heavily infested or worn out items may need to be discarded to get rid of lice. Here are guidelines:

Discard If:

  • Mattresses and furniture with severe infestations. The bugs can hide deep inside.
  • Pillows, stuffed animals, or other items that can’t be washed or dried.
  • Clothing, bedding, and toys that won’t come fully clean.
  • Combs, brushes, helmets, and other personal items in direct scalp contact.
  • Anything torn, extremely dirty, or falling apart already.

Treat If:

  • Mattress, furniture, or car seats with only minor infestations.
  • Most sheets, blankets, comforters, and other machine washable items.
  • Pillows, stuffed animals and other items safe to run through hot dryer.
  • Upholstered furniture and carpets able to be sprayed, steamed, or shampooed.
  • Clothing, towels, backpacks and other items that can be thoroughly washed.

Getting rid of infested, worn, or hard to treat items is sometimes the best option to eliminate lice from the home. But most household fabrics and furniture can be treated effectively if proper steps are taken.

Precautions When Treating Lice

Take the following precautions when treating bedding and household items for lice:

– Wear disposable gloves and face mask to avoid self-exposure when handling infested items.

– Follow all label instructions carefully when using lice sprays or powders. Ventilate the area afterward.

– Items saturated with spray should be sealed in plastic bags for several days after treatment.

– Avoid direct skin or eye contact with pediculicides. Keep children and pets away during treatment.

– Wash hands thoroughly after working with contaminated items and removing gloves.

– Dry clean only those fabrics labeled ‘dry clean only’ – high heat can damage them.

– Clean all brushes, combs, shower and linens used by the infested person to prevent re-infestation.

With proper safety measures, the home and belongings can be treated effectively. Be sure to eliminate lice from the scalp as well so re-infestation doesn’t occur.

Steps to Getting Rid of Lice in the Home

Follow these steps to fully eliminate a lice infestation at home:

1. Confirm lice presence – Check head for live crawling lice and nits attached at scalp base.

2. Treat those infected – Use pediculicide shampoo, lice combing, or professional nit-picking service. Continue until lice and nits are gone.

3. Wash and dry bedding – Machine wash linen, clothes, pillows, etc. used by infected on hottest settings. Run through hot dryer.

4. Seal unwashable items – Place stuffed animals, pillows, etc. in air tight plastic bags for 2 weeks to suffocate lice.

5. Vacuum and spray furniture – Thoroughly vacuum then treat upholstery, carpets, mattresses with lice spray for furniture.

6. Continue combing out nits – Comb nits and do repeat head checks for 2-3 weeks until clear.

7. Soak combs, brushes – Soak hair brushes, combs, hair ties, and other personal items in hot water for 10 minutes to kill lice.

Thorough treatment and strict prevention measures must be taken by all family members until lice are fully gone from both the scalp and home environment.

How to Prevent Lice Outbreaks

Once a lice infestation has been cleared, take measures to prevent future outbreaks:

– Check heads frequently – Do routine screening of all family members to catch any new lice before infestation spreads.

– Avoid head-to-head contact – Don’t allow your child to lay heads together with other children. Teach them no sharing hats, helmets, etc.

– Clean bedding weekly – Change sheets and pillowcases at least once a week and wash bedding in hot water.

– Limit shared items – Don’t share hair brushes, scarves, headphones and other items that contact the head.

– Use lice prevention sprays – Lightly spray hair with tea tree, lavender, or other botanical sprays that deter lice from climbing on hair strands.

– Check after exposure – Screen family for lice if exposed to someone infested like schoolmates or playmates. Catch early.

– Clean stuffed animals – Periodically run stuffed animals through hot dryer to kill any potential lice.

Staying vigilant with prevention keeps infestations from recurring and avoids the struggle of eliminating lice from the home all over again.

Professional Lice Treatment Services

For serious lice cases, or if home treatments don’t seem to be working, professional lice removal services can help. Here’s how they can assist:

Lice and Nit Removal

– Manual nit-picking – Trained professionals carefully comb nits from hair strand-by-strand. More thorough than home treatment.

– Chemical removal – Stronger pediculicide products like prescription benzyl alcohol lotions are applied to kill lice.

– Heat treatments – Heated air devices kills lice and aids in nit removal from the hair.

– Guaranteed treatments – Professional services often guarantee lice/nit free results or will perform follow up treatments.

Home Lice Treatment

– Environment spraying – Professionals use specialized equipment and strong pesticides to thoroughly treat the home.

– Heating devices – Industrial dryers, steamers, or heat chambers used to kill lice on furniture, car seats, etc.

– Ozone generators – Kill bugs by raising oxygen levels throughout the home’s atmosphere.

– Bedding containment – Bag and seal clothing, bedding, etc. for 2-4 weeks to ensure bugs are dead.

Lice Prevention

– Head checks for schools and camps – Some clinicians offer lice screening services for groups. Helps identify infested children and stop the spread.

– Ongoing household treatments – Provide periodic sprays, foggers, or ozone treatments as maintenance for high risk households.

Hiring professional assistance can provide more effective, guaranteed lice and nit removal, and give peace of mind that both heads and environment are lice-free.

Chemicals and Home Remedies to Avoid

When attempting do-it-yourself lice treatment, avoid the following:

– Insecticide foggers or bombs – These spread toxic pesticides through the air which can worsen breathing issues like asthma. The chemicals may also cause skin reactions or irritate eyes.

– Gasoline or kerosene – While highly flammable and toxic, these will not reliably kill lice in bedding or furniture. The lingering fumes can cause headaches and nausea.

– Rubbing alcohol – Alcohol does not effectively kill lice eggs and the fumes may create an unsafe indoor environment. It’s better for disinfecting surfaces and tools during treatment.

– Bleach – Household bleach solutions will damage fabrics like bedding and clothing. The skin irritation may also deter thorough nit combing of the scalp.

– Essential oils – Oils like tea tree have anti-lice properties but are not strong enough to fully kill lice, especially eggs. Oils can also irritate sensitive skin.

– Bug zappers – Zappers do not effectively trap or kill lice due to their microscopic size. The light and noise may disturb sleep.

– Diatomaceous earth – This abrasive powder works slowly over several days. Quicker treatment methods are recommended to end infestation sooner.

Stick to lice products tested and labeled specifically for killing lice. Other chemicals and folk remedies are usually ineffective or carry safety risks. Consult a doctor for medication recommendations.


A lice infestation in the home can certainly be frustrating and stressful to eliminate. But by washing and drying bedding on hot settings, using pediculicides on furniture, thoroughly combing out the hair, and taking other preventative steps, the bugs can be fully eradicated. Be diligent in following treatment procedures, avoid any risky chemicals, and consider professional help if needed to get rid of lice on bedding and other household items once and for all. Consistent prevention is key to ensuring those pesky bugs don’t return again!