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Can Head Lice Live On Pillows, Sheets, And Mattress?


Head lice, the tiny wingless insects are common, contagious and are hard to get rid of. These tiny monsters live in human hair and feed on the blood from the scalp. They suck the blood out through biting which makes the head itchy and irritated. They spread from one person to another quite easily.

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control, 6 to 12 million people get head lice every year? Most of them are aged between 3 to 11. One of the reasons is that they come in contact with each other while playing. Their presence is annoying and distracting, affecting daily life activities.

How Lice Live?

If head lice are feeding on you, it does not mean that you have parasites in your head. It means that you have a health condition. To get an idea of how to get rid of the head lice, you need to understand how they live. You mostly catch them from someone else since they are extremely contagious. Adult lice have six claws which they use to hold one single hairstreak. They use their claws to crawl down to the scalp when they have to take their feed. However, they cannot fly or swim or even hop.

Now the big question is how do they transfer from one person to another. There can be many ways, for example, your head goes in contact with the infected person, using their personal belongings like a brush or towel and through sheets and pillows. Head lice can also transfer by sharing of clothing items like coats, hat, and scarves.

If you have a pets at home, you don’t have to worry about them catching head lice from you or vice versa. Head lice are specific to humans and don’t spread to animals.

Can Head Lice Live On Pillows

Now the big question is:

Can Head Lice Live On Pillows And Sheets?

Yes, they can. But the good news is that head lice cannot survive without the human head for more than 24 hours. The reason is that their survival without their feed is almost impossible. A study was conducted on head louse and their transmission risk in 2003. It was found that transmission through any bedding item was low since only 4.2% survived the night without their feed. This means that they cannot survive without their host for a longer period.

Treating Pillows and Sheets for Lice

It is always advised to get rid of lice by washing your pillows in hot water. Hot water has the ability to kill the lice whereas cold cannot kill them. You have to wash the pillows and sheets in the first 72 hours since they can transfer into someone else’s head real quick. Changing pillow cases often can also help you get rid of head lice faster.

More so, the egg of the head lice is called nit which is like a yellowish whitish egg. Once the louse egg hatches, the shield of the louse egg remains in the hair. Therefore washing hair to get rid of sebum and leftover nit shields and changing your bedding after every 3 days is very important. Though it is not going to lessen the number of lice in the head, it is good from the hygiene and health point of view.

How long to put pillows in the dryer to kill head lice?

30 minutes. Using your dryer is another way to kill the head lice in your pillows. Turn on the highest heat settings, put the pillows in the dryer and let it run for 30 minutes. This will help you get rid of the lice and nits both. Actually, besides lice treatment, this is also a great way to make your pillows fluffy.

How Long Do Lice Live On A Mattress?

The truth is that they cannot live on mattresses. You might think that they are like bed bugs or fleas which can roam around and come back to their host when they want to feast. Lice cannot survive without their host for more than two days. These two days need some special attention since you do not want the head lice to crawl in your hair.

How to treat mattress for lice?

Here are a few things you can do to treat your mattresses for lice:

  • Strip off all the sheets and wash them at a high temperature. Make sure to dry them at a higher temperature as well.
  • Once you have removed the sheets, it is time to vacuum the mattress. Keep it in mind that you use the mattress for sleeping, therefore use clean brushes when you are vacuuming the mattress.
  • The most important thing is to go after the source of head lice which is THE HEAD! It is important to clean the head with a nit comb, a spray or tonic. Make sure that the head is clean.

Lice Bedding Spray

lice bedding spray treatment

When it comes to lice prevention in your bed, the easiest way to kill lice is by using a lice bedding spray. They have been known to be very effective especially for non-washable items. You can spray them anywhere you think head lice can be. This includes furniture including couches, bed frames as well as stuffed animals, car seats, and carpet. Though vacuuming can be a solution to the problem, spraying is a lot easier.  It will even kill the nits in those non washable areas. There are a number of lice sprays available in the market. However, you can also prepare one at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s get realistic. There are many solutions to the BIG LICE ISSUES but still, there are few questions that need to be answered.

How long to dry pillows to kill lice?

It takes about 30 to 40 minutes. However, you have to set the temperature to the highest setting. Head lice are not able to survive in hot temperatures especially without the contact of their host. Lice can only live for 24 to 48 hours without their feed which they consume through the human head.

Can you see lice on your pillow?

Yes, you can depending on the size of the lice. Female lice are easy to spot since they are bigger. The male lice are smaller. However, male or female, they are not bigger than the sesame seed.  Nits are almost impossible to be seen on the pillowcases. One has to look very close to find them. The color of the pillowcases can also be a problem when spotting a lice. If there is a dark pillowcase with heavy patterns, you are less likely to find the head lice.

Can nits live in pillows?

No, they cannot. Like lice, they have to feed on the human scalp. In case they are separated from their host, they will not be able to hatch since they get their nourishment from human hair. More so, the warmth of the scalp helps the eggs to hatch and grow into adults. These nits die within a week before they hatch in case they fall on pillows. This one week time is quite critical. Therefore, extra attention is required in such cases.

Do I need to wash pillows after lice?

Yes, you do. So far, we know that head lice are not able to survive without their hosts. But still, pillowcases are used quite often. More so, they are among those bedding accessories which come directly in contact with the head. Therefore washing the pillowcase or even pillow can be a good idea. You can also use lice bedding spray to get rid of lice on pillows which will save your time and effort you spend on washing pillows otherwise.

Does bed bug spray kill lice?

Yes, it can since both bed bugs and lice are blood-sucking host creatures. These sprays are even able to get rid of their eggs. One thing which you need to keep in mind is that these sprays have been formulated for the non washable items. More so, it is always good to get your hands on special bedding lice spray. Why? Because the formula for bed bugs can be strong.  On the other hand, the lice formula for bedding will be mild which is suitable for pillows especially since your face might get in contact with the pillow at night.

How to prevent the spread of head lice?

Head lice spreads through direct head/hair contact and indirect contact like sharing of head accessories, getting infested by the louse on your pet’s fur, or sharing personal belongings. To avoid getting in this messy situation and to stop the spread of lice, here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t share your hair/head accessories, scarves, towels, hats, and pillows with others.
  • If you have a furry pet, take care of their hygiene, though the chance of your pet catching lice are pretty thin.
  • Clean your house regularly. While the chances of getting infested by a louse from a carpet or a piece of furniture are low, they aren’t zero!

Final Words

Defeating the head lice is a long and tiring process. Did you know those female lice can lay up to 7-8 eggs daily which hatch in 5 to 6 days? Imagine if you catch 2 lice, you will have almost 16 crawling in your head sucking out your blood. Moreover, these lice give a bad impression of you being filthy and unhygienic. Therefore, it is very important to get rid of them.

According to our research, head lice only survive in a specific environment and are not capable of doing a lot without human scalp. They cannot live more than 48 hours without our blood and their eggs are not able to hatch without the warmth of our scalp. They are not able to fly, jump and hop. All they can do is crawl from one strand to another making your scalp itchy and irritated.

So what is the solution? The only solution is to stay clean and when we say clean, we mean that your environment and your company should be clean. There are small measures and strategies which you can take to keep yourself safe from head lice.

Kristina Vaughn
Kristina is an expert on effective and out-of-the-box cleaning methods that make life easier and less messy. She extensively researches on innovative new cleaning strategies that could save time and energy, especially when you have a tight schedule. Kristina reviews new products in the market and determines whether they are worth the money to make the shopping and cleaning experience completely worth it. Whether it is cleaning non-washable materials, getting rid of bed bugs, and making your bedding insect-proof, Kristina has just the concoction for you.
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