Essential Oils For Family and Home

Treating Lice Naturally with Essential Oils

Not long ago we had two foster children arrive in our home with lice. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover their uninvited guests until they’d been in our home for a week and by that time five members of our family had traces of lice.

reading with foster kids

Mark reading to our two foster kids

The bad news is that it takes a long, LONG time to check 15 people for lice  (8-10 hours with 2-3 of us checking at a time).

The good news is that we quickly eradicated the lice from our home and family using essential oils and a good quality nit comb.

There are several facts about lice that are helpful to know as you work to get rid of them and to prevent them from spreading.

  1. Adult lice can live for only 24-48 hours off a human body. 
  2. Adult lice do not jump or fly so they can only be spread by direct contact, usually direct head to head contact, but it is possible (although unlikely) for them to spread via hats, hair brushes or pillow cases.
  3. Nits (egg phase) can live off a human head for 10 days, but must feed within 45 minutes of hatching or they will die.
  4. Lice live for about a month.
  5. Nits (eggs) take 10-12 days to hatch.
  6. Nymphs (young lice) take 10 days to mature. Before they mature they can not move from head to head and they can not lay eggs.

lice treat with oils

What you need to treat lice naturally.


  • High quality nit comb – Seriously, this is important. It’s the only thing that will completely get rid of lice AND the nits.
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree oil) – Not only will this repel lice, it can also KILL them.
  • Coconut oil or conditioner

Nice, but optional:

  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Geranium

Since the stakes were high and I felt the risk of spreading this among the 15 members of our household, we took some extra precautions.

How to Eliminate Lice from your home and family:

1. Each day wet comb the hair of every member of the household. (full details on how to wet comb below) If someone has hair shorter than 1/2 inch, a thorough visual check will suffice.

Wet comb everyone, trust me. Those little critters can and will move and in the nymph stage they can be as small as a pin head. If you miss one and there are children involved, you run the risk of them spreading. The oil (or conditioner) that you use to wet comb will stun the lice so that they won’t be able to move and avoid being combed out of the hair.

As an extra precaution we checked each person for at least 3 day after they showed no signs of lice activity (no lice, no nymphs, no nits). This isn’t necessary, you may just check until a person is completely clear for one day.

After a person is ‘clear’, wait 7 days then wet comb again (if they aren’t clear, wet comb each day until they are clear). Then, wait 7 more days and wet comb again. Based on the life cycle of lice, you will need to wet check over a series of 3 weeks.

2. Discontinue using brushes and hair bows for 3 days

Lice should die within 24-48 hours and there shouldn’t be any nits on these items. If you wish to be extra cautious, you can boil items that will withstand it OR wait 10 days before using them again.

Then only ‘clear’ people should use these items. Designate a couple of combs for those who are not ‘clear’ and boil or check them regularly.

3. When you first discover lice, run bedding through the washer and dryer on the hot setting.

Use your discretion depending upon how wide spread the problem is. We knew that the two children were WELL into the full life cycle of lice (they had scores of adults, nits and nymphs), so we washed everything, even clothing.

4. Put 5-20 drops of tea tree essential oil into all bottles of shampoo used by your household.

Tea Tree is an effective lice repellent, so this step will prevent the spread of lice.

5. Each day run all bedding from those with evidence of lice through the hottest setting on your dryer. (This isn’t strictly necessary, but it made me feel better.)

Other helpful tips:

  1. If you have boys and they don’t mind, cut their hair with the 1/4 guard on the clippers.
  2. Keep long hair french braided to discourage the lice spreading.
  3. Put tea tree oil directly onto the hair near the scalp. We used a small spray bottle. (Be careful about getting undiluted tee tree oil directly onto the scalp as it can be a ‘hot’ oil and cause irritation).

All together and finally lice free.


Method for wet combing with the lice comb:

We had lots of practice at this and got really good at combing hair with the lice comb. You may use the essential oil lice treatment recipe that I posted below or you may purchase large quantities of conditioner.

The conditioner will stun the lice so that they don’t crawl around the head and therefore avoid your combing efforts. The essential oil recipe should also stun the lice, but it will also kill them and the coconut oil should loosen the ‘glue’ that lice use to hold their eggs in place on the hair shaft.

  1. Divide hair into 1-2 inch square segments. We found that dividing hair on a portion of the head, combing it and then moving on to another portion of the head was most efficient. Use larger segments for thinner hair and smaller for thicker hair.
  2. Taking one segment at a time apply essential oil mix or conditioner to scalp and hair close to the scalp.
  3. Thoroughly comb through that segment. Be sure you run the nit comb along the curve of the scalp. Lice will be close to the scalp and nits will be on the hair shaft about 1/4 inch from the scalp. Comb once or twice starting with the nit comb at the top of the segment, then comb once or twice starting with the nit comb on the right side of the segment, then once or twice starting at the bottom of the segment and finish with once or twice starting at the left side of the segment. The point is for that nit comb to touch every part of that scalp and run through every bit of hair, especially hair close to the scalp.

Essential Oil Lice Treatment Recipe

4 drops Meleleuca Alternifolia
4 drops Thyme
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Geranium

Mix these essential oils together and then combine with 1 cup (or so) of coconut oil. The coconut oil works to smother and stun the lice and helps to dissolve the ‘glue’ that lice use to attach the to the hair shaft about 1/4 inch from the scalp.

For information on purchasing these and other therapeutic grade essential oils, click the button below.

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19 Responses to Treating Lice Naturally with Essential Oils

  1. Sharon says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    Wow! You’ve had an exhausting week!

    I have 9 kids and have been through the lice nightmare a lot of times now (maybe 10).
    I would cry at the thought each time it happened. I no longer cry! We borrowed a nit comb that electrocutes the lice. Just comb through dry ( well brushed) hair. It makes a noise when it detects one. It saves so much work! I can’t remember the name but I know only one of the two brands I tried actually worked. We are in Australia so I’d recommend finding someone to recommend a brand near you. If you can’t locate one, let me know and I’ll chase up some info for you.

    I love essential oils but adding them to the head isn’t really necessary nor do I wash anything anymore! ( I used to but found it didn’t make any difference. The nits do not survive off the head for long.) Before I discovered this wonderful battery operated comb, I used the conditioner method which I would do still if I had a big infestation at first to kill all live ones. Then I would just follow up with the electric comb.

    See online for conditioner method instructions. But basically just use heaps of cheap conditioner to drown them for 20 mins. Then comb through with a plastic nit comb. ( metal ones rip out girls hair) wipe each time on tissues ( need boxes) check each wipe on tissue thoroughly for nits and lice. I have found this very successful in catching 99 % of the nits and lice. The nightmare of this method for large families is that it must be repeated every 2 days for 2 weeks but it is thorough and works better than anything else I’ve tried including store bought useless stuff. If I didn’t find any nits or lice on a child’s head I didn’t bother with follow up.

    I know this doesn’t change all the work and stress you’ve been through but I hope I can save you some work next time. ( if there is one~ hopefully not)

    God bless,

    • Hannah says:

      Sharon… what type of comb was this. There are many and I want to make sure I get a good one.

    • Dali says:

      Instead of using the box of tissues, not due to lack of them but because they can miss the lice and nits. I use a sealable bowl or cup of water, preferably hot, and a pin needle. I thoroughly check the comb and push/slide any out into the bowl with the needle and continue the process. At the end, I prefer to seal and through away but you could rinse it in the drain of your choice. That’s how I grew up dealing with lice, besides the cutting of the hair. Phew, that was fun.

      Good luck.

  2. Sharon says:

    I found this on Facebook today. Sounds interesting:

    Here is what to do

    Getting lice in the family is truly horrifying & if you don’t get rid of them ASAP, they will get into everything & literally take over. Not fun. The really important thing is to find an effective treatment that doesn”t require putting harsh chemicals onto your head, which then get absorbed into your body. Yuck. So, here is a tried & tested effective remedy to wipe out those critters in one foul swoop!
    You will need: A jar of coconut oil & a bottle of apple cider vinegar.

    First, rinse your hair with the vinegar, don’t wash it out, leave it in until it dries. The vinegar dissolves the ‘glue’ which sticks the eggs to your hair follicles. When the vinegar has dried, pour coconut oil into your hair, making sure you get complete coverage. Cover your hair with a shower cap or hair wrap & leave it in for the whole day, as it will take a few hours for the coconut oil to smother & kill the lice. Comb your hair to get as many of the eggs & lice out as possible and then shampoo as normal. You only have to do this once, it really works & no chemicals! Oh, & the coconut oil makes your hair beautiful & shiny, so your getting a lush hair treatment at the same time!

  3. sami says:

    why are the kids faces blocked out?

    • Kimberly says:

      To protect their identity since they are foster kids.

      • Rachel says:

        So nice to discover your blog Kimberly! We too are a large family with 3 foster children. It’s nice to find someone else with a large family who are also fostering.

        Just found lice in the youngest…seems like straight (vs curly) hair gets it the worst 🙂

        • Rachel says:

          BTW- I don’t know if you foster regularly, but a friend of mine who does emergency foster care (we do long-term) always checks the kids as soon as they arrive.

          Nearly all foster kids have them. My youngest foster child had all of her hair chopped off (not by me – by the nursery school staff who were embarrassed that they let it go so long) because of it.

          She looked awful, but thank goodness it’s all grown back now.

  4. Alicia says:

    Lice! My daughter caught them 6 times in about 7 weeks at her daycare when she was 5. Hasn’t had’me since….till now! I have used the combination of essential oils with great results. Tea tree, lavender,rosemary and neem in either coconut or vegetable oil to prevent scalp irritation. Thoroughly rub the oils through the hair, scalp to tip. Cover hair with a plastic cap and allow oils to soak in for at least one hour, preferably three. Do the comb through, or “nit picking” (hahahah!) then wash thoroughly. Check again, carefully, after washing. Check again the next day and if any nits or critters are seen, redo the oil treatment. I also quarantine stuffed animals in plastic bags for 7 days and wash all bedding and dry on hot. Additionally I dry all pillows on hot. Paranoid maybe but I don’t like these critters!

  5. Heather says:

    Lice nightmare has struct my family again because of certain people, who shall remain nameless, did not keep up with the “stomping out” process as their child is a brat and will not “allow” anyone to even touch her head. She is Infested and keeps giving it back to my kids. Ughh!!! I am going to try this recipe and the instructions and just pray that it works. Cross your fingers for me, please. Thank you for the tips 🙂

  6. Shaman Mama says:

    Wonderful tips. 11 CHILDREN?! Wow. Blessings to you, mama!

  7. Lisa says:

    Would you wash the hair first?

  8. Cara says:

    How would you dilute the tea tree oil that you spray on the scalp?

  9. Heather says:

    Do you use both conditioner and eo treatment together or is an either or option?

  10. Veronica says:

    I was searching the interwebs for solutions for lice. All the gals in my family are struggling with it, solution worked for my littlest, but haven’t tried it on my eldest. Thank you for the tips!

  11. monica says:

    Hi, Im dealing with something similar to lice, but it is flies & gnats in my haiir. I’ve beent two dermatalogist experts but neither has been able to diagnose. whatever this is it acts the same way lice does. I been battling this for years. Im lost. I have read about this condition in others on the internet & there are others going through this but doctors think its lice without testing further. Lice dont fly. However, im writing for any suggestions you may have. Thanks

  12. Kimberly Humphrey says:

    I also have three foster children, Hispanic, and I use peppermint oil mixed with water on their hair everyday when I comb it. So far so good!!! Peppermint oil also repels mosquitoes.

  13. Dawn says:

    I need some specifics, please. For the wet comb method, when you list the oils, are they supposed to be mixed with the coconut oil and is then applied to the hair? If I use conditioner, do I add anything to it. Once I use the oils or conditioner, how long do I have to wait before it can be washed out? You say to spray the scalp with tea tree, but then you say not to use it straight on the scalp because it is a “hot” oil. What should I dilute it with?

    Thank you!

  14. Lisa Talbott says:

    Over the summer we had a problem with two children having lice on the property. Since our kids played with them, we other moms took care of the lice issue immediately when we found out, but the parents of the original two let theirs go on so long that the rest of us refused to allow our children to play with theirs. The second time we had a lice issue was with the young girl I babysit. She got them from cheerleading practice. I found them, used Licefree! immediately on both her and my own child and treated the house. What I found after checking my daughter’s hair (she has waist length hair) was that she did not get them this time. The only thing that I can think of was that we had started using tee trea oil in our shampoo for itchy scalp a few weeks prior. I think it really made a difference as my daughter is still lice free.

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