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How to Handle Head Lice Infestation Laundry


How to Handle Head Lice Infestation Laundry

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Head lice are common in schools, day cares and play groups. Children share hats, hair brushes and hair accessories spreading the lice through head-to-head contact. Infestation can also happen from bedding, stuffed toys and clothing. Within About.com you can numerous articles about head lice - how to recognize them and how to get rid of them from hair. We are going to focus on linens, clothes and toys.

Basic Recommendation

Every professional is going to tell you to first comb your child's hair to remove both adult lice and the eggs or nits they lay which attach to individual shafts of hair. Head-to-head contact is the most contagious form of transmission. But to prevent transmission or re-infestation, you'll want to wash your child's personal items thoroughly in addition to vacuuming the floor and furniture in those areas of your home where your child usually sits or plays. Head lice laundry is a three-step process.

Gather Exposed Items

Any item that your child used or wore during the two day period leading up to the initial head lice treatment should be cleaned. Adult head lice can only live about two days without being on a host to feed. In addition to bed linens, don't forget:

  • clothing and coats
  • towels
  • fabric hair accessories like headbands and, of course, hats and earmuffs
  • couch and throw pillows
  • stuffed toys and any faux fur items
  • bookbags and totes

    Sort Items

    Sort items by washable, dry clean only and those that can be neither washed nor dry-cleaned.


    For washable items like bed linens and towels, use the hottest water temperature setting on your washer and launder as usual. Heat in the dryer on a high temperature for at least 20 minutes to ensure the insects are dead. For really delicate items, allow them to soak in warm water with plenty of laundry detergent for several hours and then wash as usual to remove the lice.

    Items that are dry clean only should be sealed in a plastic garbage bag until they can be taken to the cleaner. Be sure to tell the cleaner of the infestation.

    For items that cannot be washed or those that you do not want to take to a professional cleaner, there are two ways you can take care of the problem at home. One is the one week quarantine. Place the items in a plastic bag and seal the bag tightly for one week. Vacuum each item to remove dead lice or take them outside for a good shake.

    If the item can't be under quarantine for a week - perhaps a favorite sleeping toy - use freezer time. Adult lice can not live if subjected to extremely cold temperatures. Infested items can be bagged and frozen for four hours.

    Whatever method you use, be diligent. Head lice can be stubborn and you may need to take precautions for several weeks to be sure that you have gotten rid of every single one.

    Specific questions? Just ask here.

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