Does Vinegar Kill Lice?

One single louse can lay up to 150 eggs in just a breeding season.

When they grow up, all the adult lice feed continuously on blood every few hours. So, it’s no wonder why anyone dealing with a lice infestation wants out by all means.

Luckily today, there are several chemicals, homemade and natural means to get rid of bugs like lice, mites, and fleas. Among the most effective natural and homemade products advertised for killing lice is vinegar.

However, some factions agree that such homemade vinegar can indeed kill lice. While to others, that assertion would be a lie. But who is right?

Well… in this article, we’ll explore that golden question: does vinegar indeed kill lice? If yes, how?

does vinegar kill lice

READ MORE: Does Dawn Soap Kill Fleas?

Why Are Lice Hard to Kill?

In case you don’t know; lice can’t fly.

As such, they spend their entire life cycle anywhere they form their primordial colonies.

Oftentimes, such colonies are found on human hair, horses, dogs, goats, and other host animals.

Once a lice colony or lice infestation has been caught, many people reach out to the usual over-the-counter lice treatments. In most cases, these products contain pyrethroids, permethrin, and malathion.

According to a clinical trial documented in the National Library of Medicine, both permethrin and malathion have failed at treating the “super lice” we have today.

In fact, permethrin’s failure rate is about 87%. For that of malathion, 60% would be an understatement.

Yet, most of the common lice medications out there are filled with permethrin. As such, using them would only kill weak lice at best; if at all.

Then again, at maturity, female lice lay dozens of eggs on human hair, for example.

Structurally, these eggs are very hard and tiny ( about 0.8 mm max). So, it’s very difficult to detect them.

Worst still, the body of the female lice secrete some kind of fluid. This fluid helps to glue the eggs to their hair. So, to knock them off, you would need thorough combing using a special brush.

So, even if you manage to kill off the adult lice, their eggs which have been glued down on the host will remain.

Within 10 days, these lice eggs, aka nits, would hatch and later transform into adults. When the adults arise, a new lice infestation begins.

Does Vinegar Kill Lice?

Like permethrin and malathion, vinegar would only kill a very low fraction of lice. Let’s say about 2% in 8 hours. Yet, after the lice treatment, your pet, furniture, or hair would reek of vinegar for days.

That, of course, means failure since our dear old multi-purpose vinegar is known to kill about 80% of other germs like bacteria. Worst still, this lice-killing failure of vinegar was confirmed in many tests worldwide.

One good example of such tests took place in 2004. Back then, several home recipes for killing lice were compared and rated per their lice-killing ability.

Aside from vinegar, the other ones compared are Isopropyl alcohol, olive oil, mayonnaise, melted butter, and petroleum jelly.

Of the six products, only petroleum jelly killed the highest number of lice. When applied to lice eggs, only 6% hatched. Compared to petroleum jelly, vinegar can boost lice eggs hatching up to about 94%.

As such, vinegar was considered to be one of the least effective but hyped products for killing lice.

The only thing vinegar can do to help out your battle against lice is to make the lice eggs less firmly attached to your hair and pet’s fur. That happens because vinegar contains acetic acid.

This weak acid helps to break the bond between your body and the glue-like materials produced by the body of a female louse.

Once the bond is broken, the lice eggs become loose. Then, you can easily comb them off your hair and off the fur of your pets.

Even at unbinding the nits from the hosts, vinegar is a failure compared to other products out there. We didn’t say that though. That statement was drafted from a release from the Penn State Department of Entomology itself.  

READ MORE: Does Bleach Repel Mice?

What Kills Lice Instantly?

So far, we’ve tried to highlight the super-lice mutation – a condition where most modern lice are now resistant to certain treatments. Because of it, there are very limited products that can effectively kill lice.

However, some new prescription and over-the-counter lice treatments, aka pediculicides, are available. So, let’s look at some of the reportedly effective ones:

  1. Dimethicone – is a silicone-based material and an over-the-counter Pediculicide. It kills lice by blocking their access to water. This dimethicone is considered to be a non-pesticide.
  2.  Benzyl alcohol – aka Ulesfia. This is a baby-safe lotion for head lice. However, Ulesfia cannot kill off lice eggs; nits.
  3. Ivermectin – aka Sklice. This is another lotion. But unlike Ulesfia, it can kill baby lice, adult lice, and even eggs. In fact, you need not brush off the eggs before it acts.
  4. Spinosad – aka Natroba. This is another child-safe lotion. But it’s most suitable for use around kids age 4 and above.

It should be noted that products like Ovide and pesticide-based pediculicides contain both malathion and permethrin. So, their effect may be reduced.

Then again, Lidane Shampoo can also kill lice, says the FDA. However, many pediatricians out there conclude that it is unsafe for kids. This is because Lidane shampoo is known to cause some damage to the nervous system in kids. As alternatives, Nix and Rid Shampoos can help.

With that said, let’s remind you once again that lice are stubborn and communicable. As such, when you notice any sign of lice infestation, you should note these three golden rules:

  1. At any slight sign of lice infestation, begin treatment immediately.
  2. Treat not only the infected. Also, remember to check and treat yourself and any other person close to the infected.
  3. Likewise, treat all beddings and clothes of the infected and that of anyone close as well.

Is There Any Natural and Home-made Recipe to Kill and Remove Lice?

Even though it’s very difficult to remove lice with natural methods, a few effective home recipes exist.

However, no matter the technique you chose below, you should combine it with wet combing.

Traditionally, wet combing requires that you wet your hair with a spraying conditioner and an essential oil like olive oil

According to many experts, lice are very sneaky and fast. So, applying the olive oil would help you to slow them down.

Afterward, you can then brush the wet hair with a fine comb. To make it more effective, you can use a magnifying glass. This helps you to see the tiny lice and handpick them as you see fit.

  • Anise Oil.

While lemon oil would only help to slow down lice, anise oil can kill a reasonable number of lice.

And it does this by coating the respiratory organs of the lice.

In the end, the lice would die of suffocation. Other essential oils that work like anise oil include cinnamon leaf oil, coconut oil, and tea tree oil.

  • Petroleum jelly.

does vinegar kill lice instantly.

Like Anise oil, petroleum jelly kills lice by coating and suffocating the adult lice.

But add to that, petroleum jelly can also kill lice eggs, aka nits. Then again, it prevents about 94% of lice eggs from hatching.

However, one problem comes with using petroleum jelly because of its greasy nature.

As such, removing the petroleum jelly after usage takes several rounds of washing. But all in all, petroleum jelly is an effective home recipe for killing lice.

  • Saltwater.

A mixture of salt and water can help to eliminate lice.

However, its effectiveness depends on the nature of the chosen salt.

Table salt, for instance, shouldn’t be considered as lice or nit killer at all.

Some experts agree that both Kosher and Sea salt give promising results.

For that reason, some people believe that taking a nice swim in the ocean can help to destroy body and head lice.

But among all types of salt, Epsom salt is the most effective lice and nit killer. This is because it kills the nit by drying them up. However, compared to other products out there, saltwater is less effective.

Aside from that, saltwater is not all that safe to use. This is because if it comes in direct contact with the eye, it tends to cause a stinging and burning irritation.

READ MORE:  Does Lysol Kill Fleas? All the Information You Need.

FAQs About The Ability of Vinegar to Kill Lice.

  • Does Vinegar Make Lice Eggs More Likely to Hatch?

Although some people believe that lice tend to grow more in a mild vinegar condition. However, there is no scientific evidence that backs this.

  • How long does vinegar take to kill lice? 

Normally, vinegar can only kill about 2% of lice or none at all. Before you can even notice any effect of vinegar on lice, you need to wait patiently for about 8 hours.

  • Are Nits and Lice Eggs Different? 

No. The word, Nit, is a colloquial term used to specifically refer to lice eggs. It is these nits that grow into adult lice when growth conditions are met.

  • Does Vinegar Kill Lice Eggs, aka Nits?

Vinegar has no effect on lice eggs whatsoever. There’s even a chance that it increases the growth rate of lice eggs.

  • Does Vinegar Kill Lice on Dogs?

Like human lice, vinegar is not an effective way to kill dog lice. In fact, your dogs may not appreciate the smell. So, consider your visiting your vet before adopting any treatment for lice.

Final Words

Let’s reiterate this: Vinegar, no matter the amount used, has no effect on head lice, dog lice, horse lice, and goat lice. In fact, vinegar is the least effective house product used as a lice killer.

Other better homemade alternatives include petroleum jelly, saltwater, anise oil, cinnamon oil, and tea tree oil. If you prefer to use chemical products instead, make sure you choose non-permethrin and non-malathion-based ones.

This is because modern lice are resistant to these products. With that said, let’s drop the curtains for this article.

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