Does Putting Pillows in the Dryer Kill Lice? Here’s What to Know

Anyone with hair probably remembers having lice at one point in their life. They are pesky insects that live on the scalp of humans, spreading from one person to another, and can be quite hard to get rid of. Even after deep cleaning your head from lice, they still may be found in your home, including your pillows and other bedding items. Although it might seem like an impossible task, getting lice out of your bed just takes a little extra effort. You may be wondering does putting pillows in the dryer kill lice? 

So, if just thinking about lice makes your head itch, we hope to put your fears to rest by addressing whether putting pillows in the dryer really gets the job done.

Can Head Lice Live on Pillows?

Let’s get the gross stuff out the way first. Head lice are parasites that attach themselves to human hair in order to feed on blood from the scalp. They are about two to three millimeters long, have six legs and no wings. Head lice attach near the base of the hair shaft and lay eggs near the scalp.

Just like any bedding item, lice somehow manage to find their way to your pillow. However, not for long. Usually, one to two days is their maximum lifespan, since, without a human scalp as a source of food, lice cannot survive. Also, they thrive when the temperature is high, so there’s a small chance you’ll catch them on your pillows because the environment is too cold for them. In some cases, it’s possible for lice that have come off one’s head to crawl onto another human host if both are using the same pillow. However, the risk of catching head lice this way is very small as they do not like to abandon the host that provides them with food. 

In other words, the risk of contracting head lice from just the bedding is very low.

How to Remove Lice from Your Pillows

does putting pillows in the dryer kill lice

After you successfully get rid of lice from your hair, you should thoroughly clean your home (especially your bed and pillows) to remove any remaining lice or their eggs. Covers and pillows may have a risk of reinfection, but that risk is very low. To avoid that, you can change your pillowcases to minimize any potential risks. 

Here are some of the general methods for removing lice from your pillows. Whichever you choose, the most important part is to act fast. 

Wash Anything That Can Be Washed

If the pillow is washable, use detergent and hot water to kill the lice. It is recommended that you also wash anything else that is labeled washable. That includes blankets, sheets, and other bedding items. These washable things should be soaked, washed and dried in high heat temperatures reaching at least 130°F (55 °C). It is advised to wash the pillows and sheets in the first 72 hours since they can transfer onto someone else’s head real quick.

Try Sprays

If you don’t trust that washing is going to cut it, then you can try homemade sprays.  The use of insecticide sprays or store-bought ones is not recommended since they can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. So, a DIY spray might be the way to go. You can combine the water and some essential oils. Spray the homemade solution on your bedding and mattress. You can even use this mixture on your head. 

Vacuum the Floor and Furniture

That refers to the areas where the infested person sat or lay. However, the risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a rug or carpet or furniture is very small. Save yourself the trouble and don’t spend too much time and energy on house cleaning activities.

Anything That Can’t Be Washed Goes Into the Garbage Bag

If you aren’t sure whether you have been able to clean your bedding thoroughly enough, another option is to simply toss the infected things out and buy new bedding.

Does Putting Pillows in the Dryer Kill Lice?

As we mentioned above, washing your pillowcases and other bedding items at high temperatures is a great solution, but dry cleaning is also an effective approach that will kill head lice and their eggs.  If you’re wondering “Can you put pillows in the dryer to kill lice” the short answer is yes. Heat (like a hot clothes dryer) kills head lice in pillowcases. On the other hand, a cold wash has a very low impact in killing lice.

If the pillow can’t be machine-washed or hand-washed – drying it in the automatic dryer would actually work, too. Lice die when exposed to high temperatures, so drying at a minimum of 140 °F (60 °C) for 30 to 40 minutes will kill many parasites (including lice and their eggs). If you pull your pillow out of the dryer and it’s still damp, put it back in and select the damp-dry mode or set the timer for another 10 minutes. Also, make sure the pillow is completely dry before placing it in a pillowcase.

Have in mind that constant exposure to intense heat will rupture the cellular structure of lice. Also, exposure to direct sunlight for three hours will kill the eggs. In order to kill lice, the temperature needed to kill them must be sustained for at least five minutes, and only items that have been in contact with the head of the infested person 48 hours before treatment should be considered for cleaning. Putting pillows in the dryer to kill lice is also a great way to make your pillows fluffy.

Bottom Line

As a sleeper’s worst nightmare, lice can disturb many peaceful nights of sleep. Combating them is a long process, but with the right measures in place (such as washing your pillows or trying different DIY sprays), you can keep yourself safe from their attack. But if you’re feeling really bugged out, drying your pillows at very high temperatures should be sufficient enough to kill head lice and keep your head itch-free.

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