How To Clean Pillows After Lice (A Detailed Guide)

Lice are a sleeper’s worst nightmare that can disturb peaceful nights of good sleep. These pesky little critters will make your head incredibly itchy and impossible to sleep. What is worse is that they are small and difficult to clean totally. But one interesting fact about lice is that once it falls off the head, they will only survive 48 hours without food from human blood.

  1. If the pillow is washable, wash it in a washing machine with detergent and hot water to kill the lice.
  2. Then put it into a dryer in high heat setting.
  3. Seal the pillow in a plastic bag for a week to ensure all lice are gone.
  4. It is recommended to also clean the bedsheets and blankets using the same detergent-wash-heat-seal treatment.

That is the gist of it, but just how exactly should we clean? How do ensure that these annoying critters are gone for good? What preventive measures are there? Read on to find out!






All right, let us now start with a section on how to identify, clean, and remove the lice.



Lice – Source: Wikimedia

Lice are incredibly small and difficult to spot with the human eye. So the best way to check for lice is to remove the pillowcase, turn off the room lights, and use a black light or bright flashlight. Areas that glow and move around are probably infested with lice – There are 3 different forms that you need to watch out for.

  • Nits (or lice eggs) – Nits are very tiny and are generally hard to see unless you spot them glowing using a black light or flashlight. They are either yellow or white in color and can be easily confused with dandruff or flakes. These eggs usually hatch between 8-9 days.
  • Nymph – This is the baby lice that hatch from the nits. When it comes into contact with light, it will tend to move away quickly, making them easy to spot. When they land inside the hair, they will feed on the blood of the scalp. It takes about 9-12 days for nymphs to grow into adult lice.
  • Adult lice – These are the easiest to spot and are about 2 to 3 millimeters long, similar to the size of a sesame seed. They have 6 legs with claws at the end and they are either tan or grayish-white in color. Adult lice usually live up to 30 days when “properly nourished”, but die off within 48 hours without any food.




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Cleaning up lice actually involves more than just pillows – Pretty much the entire bed needs to be cleaned as well.

  1. Remove all the bedding – Pillowcases, blankets, sheets, duvets, etc…
  2. For beddings that need dry washing and special care, you may want to separate and send them to specialized washing services instead.
  3. Put the rest that can be washed into the washing machine, and use hot water to flush out the lice. It is recommended to run 2 cycles – One with detergent, and another with just hot water to flush out any remaining detergent and bed bugs.
  4. Once washed, place them in the dryer on high heat setting for about 20-30 minutes to kill off any lucky survivors.
  5. Seal the pillow and bedding into a big plastic bag and leave them for about 7-10 days. Lice cannot survive long once out of human hair and will be dead eventually.
  6. Lastly, remember to use a vacuum cleaner to sweep through the mattress, pillows, and even the bed frame thoroughly. Pay attention to the creases where lice and nits hide the most.




Cleaning is only one step of the process. Ongoing prevention measures are just as important.



Cleaning the pillow once is not good enough. Fighting off lice can be quite a pain and it will take continuous effort to fend them off. To prevent “lice relapse”, the best preventive measure is to keep the bed clean:

  • “Quarantine” the infected person’s bed. Don’t share pillows, blankets, mattresses, clothing, etc…
  • Use lice-prevention spray.
  • Change and wash the pillowcase plus bed sheet every 2 days. Vacuum the pillow and mattress.
  • If you want to play safe, you can try rotating between 2 sets of pillows – Wash and put one set in a plastic bag for a week, while using another set. After a week, switch it around.
  • If you want to go to the extreme, put a waterproof protective sheet on the mattress and pillow.




Spraying pesticides, fumigant sprays or fog actually don’t work in killing lice. The reason for this is that they are very resistant to most pesticides. According to a study in the Journal of Medical Entomology, 42 of the 48 states in the United States has lice that contain high levels of gene mutations that are resistant to pesticides.

Most pesticides also carry harmful chemicals when sprayed on pillows, which can badly affect human health when inhaled. This can include abnormal neurobehavioural development in children, causing cancers, etc…

Pesticides are the worst treatment and are ineffective for lice. As an alternative, you can fill a spray bottle with rubbing (clinical) alcohol and spray it over your pillows and mattress. Lice are not resistant to alcohol and will kill them off pretty easily. However, rubbing alcohol does cost quite a bit of money… So it makes sense to just wash and vacuum your pillows instead.




When it comes to lice, it is considered to be a “parasite infection”. Getting rid of it ultimately boils down to personal hygiene, getting proper treatment is the first step to recovery. Cleaning comes next.

  • Even if the pillows and beds are free of lice, it is best to also clean the entire home. Lice can latch on to pretty much any kind of fabric – Carpets, sofas, chairs, curtains, soft toys, etc…
  • Clean the combs, brushes, and hair accessories regularly. Use the same trick – Put them into a plastic bag for a few days.
  • Wash hair thoroughly and dry it fully before sleeping on the pillow.
  • Always sleep in clean clothes and on clean pillowcases and bedsheets.
  • Throw the pillows and buy new ones – Only if they are old and due for a replacement… Buying new pillows doesn’t actually help much in getting rid of lice.

It may be a hassle with cleaning, but keep up with maintaining personal hygiene, and they will be gone within a week or so. Good luck with the battle!




Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. It is definitely impossible to cure a lice infestation overnight. Keep up with the treatments and cleanliness, you will win eventually. We hope this guide has been useful to you – Stay healthy and have good nights of sleep!