Does vinegar kill lice? Pest experts advise on how best to banish these bothersome bugs

This pantry staple may fall flat when trying to get rid of lingering lice in your home

A spray bottle next to a bottle of vinegar
(Image credit: Getty Images)

White vinegar can be used for almost everything around our homes, but could it help to kill lice? 

You may have heard of getting rid of moths with vinegar, or getting rid of gnats with white vinegar, but this pantry staple may not be the best option for killing lice around your home. In fact, it could make the problem worse, experts warn. 

Pest control pros have explained to us why vinegar is not the best solution for killing lice, and what you can use instead for both your hair and house.

Does vinegar kill lice? 

It is safe to say that any instances of vinegar effectively killing lice are purely anecdotal, begins Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO and bug expert at Lawn Love. He argues that there is little to no evidence suggesting that it has any effect on adult lice, neither killing them nor reducing the production of eggs. 

As a result, using vinegar on lice can only delay actually killing the bugs, thus making the infestation worse, he explains. Instead, you are better off using a product specially formulated for killing lice, such as Licefreee Spray, available at Walmart.

A lice bug close up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That being said, there is some evidence that vinegar can be used to help in the removal of lice larvae, adds Vincent Luca, owner of On Demand Pest Control. Vinegar's acidity makes cleaning with vinegar a popular, eco-friendly option, and as Vincent explains, this acidic property also helps to dissolve the glue that hold eggs to the fibers of our furniture or strands of hair. So spraying vinegar will make it easier to remove the eggs.

‘It is important to note that vinegar alone may not be enough to eradicate lice completely, however, and needs to be combined with either: careful combing using a fine metal comb for hair, steaming a mattress if body lice have set up in your bedding, or vacuuming upholstery. Only then can it be an effective way to control an infestation.’

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Walmart

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Walmart
This specially formulated white vinegar with cleaning strength at 6% acidity is perfect for cleaning around your home, and can be used to help dislodge lice eggs from your hair and furniture.

Vincent Luca
Vincent Luca

On Demand Pest Control is a leading pest control company in South Florida, combining over 20 years of hands-on experience in gardening and pest control to deliver safe and effective results to clients

Dealing with lice in your home

Some lice are more of an issue than others, so it is worth asking yourself if you really need to treat your furniture for lice in the first place before you spray everything down in acrid-smelling vinegar. 

Head lice, for instance, will not survive longer than 24-48 hours off of the head, so will simply need vacuuming up to keep your home clean and prevent reinfestation of your hair. Body lice, on the other hand, may be able to survive in your bedding or on your upholstery, so it is worth identifying which lice you have and deciding on a treatment for your home from there. 

Zahid Adan, pest and garden expert at The Plant Bible, suggests washing bed sheets on a hot laundry cycle to kill off any larvae and lingering insects, and using vinegar and a vacuum, or steam cleaning couches to kill lice in shared areas before they spread between members of your household.

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Electrolux Portable Handheld Garment and Fabric Steamer | Was $74.99, Now $59.95 at Amazon
We have not had the time to test this garment steamer ourselves but it is one of the highest-rated picks from Amazon with over 3,000 five-star reviews. Its handheld size is perfect for quickly freshening up upholstery and is delicate enough to avoid damaging fabrics.   


Does vinegar kill plant lice?

Plant lice, more commonly known as aphids, are common houseplant pests that can be killed effectively with a 50/50 water-vinegar spray, however, this may also damage your plants due to the acidity of the vinegar, so this solution should be used with caution to avoid damaging your plants.

What kills lice instantly?

If you are looking for a chemical solution to kill lice instantly, then permethrin lotion at 1% strength could do the job, particularly for living lice. You can then clean the infested area thoroughly with warm soapy water or put home fabrics in the washing machine before vacuuming to remove any unhatched eggs. 

Do disinfectants help to get rid of lice?

While disinfectants are good at killing germs and bacteria, they are not an effective treatment for lice infestations either in your home or on your body. Instead, you should opt for using specialized products targeted for killing lice, followed by a thorough cleaning of your home, by doing laundry on a cycle, steam cleaning, and vacuuming to prevent re-infestation. 

Lice are one of the less common house pests out there, but it is worth having some lice spray to hand if you have young children, work around children, or have pets that could bring lice into your space.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.