How To Clean Pillows after Lice?

As a child, perhaps you were unfortunate enough to contract head lice and now just the phrase “head lice” is enough to make you want to scratch your head. 

Lice can sometimes be a real pain to get rid of and can take a heavy toll on your pocketbook. Even after cleaning your head from lice, they still may be found in your home and your belongings and you might wonder how to clean your mattress and bedding, including pillows. Although it might seem like an impossible task, getting your lice out of your bed just takes diligence.

cleaning pillows after lice

History of Head Lice

There is the evidence that head lice existed as early as 8,000 B.C. In 2000, archaeologists found a nit on the hair of a 10,000-year-old mummy in South America. And Herodotus’ writings from 430 B.C. show that many Egyptian priests shaved their heads and eyebrows to eliminate head lice and keep them away from their heads.

In 1909, it has been discovered that the typhus, which used to be a fatal disease back then that often spread in close quarters such as refugee camps and prisons, could be easily transmitted through the excrement of body lice.

What they also learned then was that sterilizing the clothing of the infected person could help stop the spread of the disease and this method of prevention was used during World War I as well. However, millions of people still continued to die as a result of typhus after both World Wars.

Although we now may consider a head lice infestation a harmless thing, before the discovery of antibiotics, it used to be fatal in some cases.

Later, from the 1950s to 1970s, head lice infestations were successfully limited with the extensive use of DDT. After 1977, head lice infestations appeared again and this time they were treated with a new chemical known as Permethrin. But, the lice became resistant to this chemical by 1990s and several countries, including the U.S. reported this.

Even today, people all around the world continue to use commercial chemical treatments which don’t always give great results. In the last 10 years, special salons specialized in removing head lice have appeared as well.

closeup of lice

Can Lice Survive in Your Bed?

After you successfully get rid of lice either with the help of some special shampoo or experts from one of those salons, you should thoroughly clean your home, especially your bed and pillows to remove any remaining lice or lice eggs.

Unlike fleas, head lice can’t go far away and where they go is limited to crawling. Although it may seem to you that lice are difficult to get rid of and although you might have heard different stories of people living with the infestation for months on end, in reality head lice can’t survive long off the human head.

According to the Center for Disease Control, lice can survive at most for 48 hours once they fall off of the scalp regardless of where they fall off.  

lice in your hair

How To Remove Lice from Your Bed?

As we mentioned, lice can only live up to 48 hours off of the host, so if you use the right methods, getting lice out of your bed is possible.

And what is important, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive cleaners, just follow these few simple steps and gather a few simple supplies like plastic bags and you’ll be ready to go.

The first thing you will need to do to get lice out of your bed is to remove all your bedding which includes sheets, pillows, blankets, duvets, skirts and wash anything that can be washed. Anything that can’t be washed you can stuff into the garbage bags and leave them there for at least 7-10 days to ensure that all the lice and nits are dead. Put sealed bedding in an area of the house that is not so frequently used like a basement.  

Then you should vacuum your mattress thoroughly. You should pay special attention to all the creases in the mattress as these are places where lice can easily gather and hide.  

You can also repeat these steps if there are any re-infestations.

lice in your bed

But How To Make Sure That Your Pillows Are 100% Clean?

Pillows are expensive these days, so you don’t have to throw them away after head lice infestation and buy the new ones especially because you can never know when these infestations can repeat. So, let’s save some money by treating your pillows after a lice infestation rather than throwing them away.

Start by identifying which pillows need to be treated. Once you determine which pillows you have been using while you had lice, you have several options that will make them safe for use again.

Then you should take off the pillow cases and wash them in hot water and then dry them for some 20-30 minutes on high. Head louse and nits are small and this should do the thing and kill them.  

You should try to wash your pillows as well if they are washable and put them in the dryer for no more than 45 minutes. Check the labels of your pillows to see what is allowed and what is not.

Any pillows that you do not or cannot wash or dry, you can put into a larger plastic bag, seal the bag and leave them there for some 7-10 days to ensure all the lice and nits are dead and your pillows will be ready for reuse after that.

If you don’t believe that this will help you get rid of all the lice from your pillows, then you can try some of the homemade sprays or those from the store. These are also great as a preventative measure. Most of the sprays that you can buy in stores contain insecticide that can be found in shampoos, therefore, the right spray might be helpful too.

If you still consider that getting the brand new pillows is the best idea then you can check out our pillow reviews and hopefully they could help you choose perfect pillows for your specific needs and sleep preferences. 

The Ultimate Solution: Replace your Pillows and/or Mattress to Ensure you don’t have Lice!

If your pillows are already old or if you are not sure whether you cleaned them properly you might want to throw them away and get new pillows.  This is often what is necessary because lice can be so persistent and you don’t want them up near your head either. 

Finding the right pillows that can suit all your specific needs and sleep preferences is not so easy with such a wide range of choices available on the market these days, but here at Memory Foam Talk we have reviewed some popular ones on the online market today.

Click here to read our pillow reviews and chose those pillows that will work perfectly for you, or go with our personal favorite, and the top one on our Best Pillows list is the Kapok memory foam pillow from Layla.

This pillow is super soft, and has adjustable fill inside that allows you to add or remove the materials so that you can customize the amount of material in it to suit your sleeping style. $99 is a small price to pay for making sure you get rid of any bugs near your head!!  (Layla often runs specials as well like buy one, get one half off)

This also applies to your mattress as well, which in addition to your pillow you may also want to replace your mattress as well, if you have really bad infestation that you can’t get rid of. 

We have over 100 reviews of beds on our site, but the Top 10 Best Mattress guide is a good place to start.  Layla also has an excellent mattress that matches their pillow and is one of our favorites as well – you can read our Layla Mattress Review here. 




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