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How to Clean Hairbrushes After Lice: A Comprehensive Guide

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If you’ve had a run-in with lice, you know how pesky these little creatures can be. Not only do they make your scalp itch, but they can also find their way into your hairbrush, making it a potential hotspot for a reinfestation.

We’ll take you through everything you need to know about cleaning your hairbrushes after a lice infestation.

What Are Lice?

Lice are tiny, wingless insects that love to make their home in human hair. There are three types of lice: head lice (on the scalp), body lice (on clothing), and pubic lice (in the genital area).

The one we’re concerned about here is head lice. These creatures feed on blood from the scalp, and their bites can cause itching and discomfort.

How Lice Spread

Lice are highly contagious. They can easily spread from person to person through close contact, sharing personal items, such as combs, brushes, hats, and even headphones. If someone in your household has lice, there’s a good chance you might get them too.

Importance of Cleaning Hairbrushes After Lice

Why Clean Your Hairbrush?

When you’ve been dealing with lice, it’s not just your hair that needs attention. Lice and their eggs, called nits, can lurk in your hairbrush. Cleaning it is essential for several reasons:

  • Preventing Reinfestation: Even if you’ve successfully treated your hair, any remaining lice or nits on your brush can reinfect your hair.
  • Maintaining Personal Hygiene: A clean hairbrush is a healthy hairbrush. Regular cleaning helps keep your hairbrush free of dirt, oils, and any unwanted hitchhikers.
  • Avoiding Spreading Lice: If you share your brush with others, a dirty brush can potentially pass lice to someone else.

Gather Necessary Supplies

What You Need:

Before you dive into the cleaning process, make sure you have the following supplies ready:

  • A Fine-Toothed Comb: This will come in handy for removing lice and nits.
  • Hot Water: Not boiling hot, but comfortably hot. You’ll need this for soaking your brush.
  • Shampoo: Any mild shampoo will do.
  • A Magnifying Glass (Optional): While not necessary, a magnifying glass can help you spot those tiny nits more easily.
  • Disposable Gloves: To keep things hygienic.

The Logic Behind the Supplies:

  • Fine-Toothed Comb: The fine teeth are perfect for catching lice and nits.
  • Hot Water: It helps in loosening lice and nits from the brush.
  • Shampoo: Shampoo is not only for your hair but also for cleaning your brush. It helps in breaking down and removing any residue.
  • Magnifying Glass: It can be especially useful if you want to inspect your brush thoroughly.
  • Disposable Gloves: They’re not just for keeping your hands clean but also for preventing lice from jumping onto your skin.

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s move on to the step-by-step process of cleaning your hairbrush after lice infestation.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Cleaning your hairbrush is a straightforward process. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what to do:

a. Remove Loose Hair and Debris

Before you start the cleaning process, take a few moments to remove any loose hair and debris from your hairbrush. You can do this with your fingers or a comb. This will make the subsequent steps more effective.

b. Soak the Brush in Hot Water

Now it’s time for a nice, relaxing soak – for your hairbrush, that is. Fill a container with hot water, but make sure it’s not boiling hot. You don’t want to melt any plastic parts or damage the bristles. Submerge your brush in the hot water and let it soak for about 10 minutes.

This hot water bath serves a vital purpose – it loosens lice and their eggs (nits), making them easier to remove.

c. Use a Fine-Toothed Comb

After the soak, grab your fine-toothed comb. This is where you get up close and personal with your brush. Carefully run the comb through the bristles, focusing on one section at a time.

The fine teeth of the comb are perfect for catching any lice or nits that might still be clinging to the bristles.

d. Clean the Bristles with Shampoo

Now, it’s time for a little spa treatment for your brush. Apply a bit of shampoo directly to the bristles. Use a brush cleaning tool or an old toothbrush to gently scrub the bristles.

This will help break down any remaining debris, including lice and nits. Make sure to cover the entire brush thoroughly.

e. Rinse and Dry the Brush

After the shampoo treatment, it’s time to rinse off all that lather. Rinse the brush thoroughly with warm water to remove the shampoo and any remaining lice or nits. Shake off the excess water, and then allow your brush to air dry completely.

As lice can’t survive without a host, they will die off during the drying process. Make sure the brush is completely dry before you use it again.

Preventive Measures

Regular Head Checks

One of the most effective ways to prevent lice infestations is by conducting regular head checks. This simple practice can help you catch lice early and prevent them from spreading. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a Well-Lit Area: Ensure you’re in a well-lit room so you can see clearly.
  • Part the Hair: Start by parting the hair in various sections to get a good look at the scalp.
  • Inspect Thoroughly: Look for adult lice, nymphs (young lice), and nits (eggs) attached to the hair shafts. Nits are usually tiny and oval-shaped, often found close to the scalp.
  • Check Behind the Ears and Neck: Lice tend to lay their eggs in these areas, so pay close attention here.

Avoid Sharing Hair Accessories

Lice can easily spread from one person to another through the sharing of personal items like hairbrushes, combs, hats, scarves, and headphones. To prevent this, follow these guidelines:

  • Have Your Own Hair Accessories: Encourage everyone in your household to have their hairbrushes, combs, and other personal items.
  • Educate Your Kids: Teach your children not to share their hair accessories with friends at school.
  • Regularly Clean Shared Items: If sharing is unavoidable, make sure to clean and sanitize these items regularly.

Disposal of Infested Hair

If you’ve had to trim or cut your hair due to lice infestation, it’s essential to dispose of the infested hair correctly. Here’s what to do:

  • Seal in a Plastic Bag: Collect all the trimmed or cut hair and seal it in a plastic bag. This prevents lice or nits from escaping.
  • Throw It Away: Place the sealed bag in your household trash. Be sure to tie the bag tightly before discarding it.

Sanitizing Hair Accessories

It’s not just your hairbrush that can harbor lice. Hair accessories like ties, clips, headbands, and hats can also become infested. Follow these steps to sanitize these items:

  • Soak in Hot Water: Fill a container with comfortably hot water and immerse the accessories in it.
  • Add Shampoo: Add a bit of shampoo to the water to help break down any lice or nits.
  • Scrub and Rinse: Use a soft brush or cloth to scrub the accessories gently. Pay extra attention to any seams or crevices where lice or nits might hide.
  • Rinse Thoroughly: After scrubbing, rinse the accessories with warm water to remove any shampoo residue.
  • Dry Completely: Allow the accessories to air dry completely before using them again. This will ensure that any remaining lice or nits are killed off.

By following these preventive measures, proper disposal of infested hair, and the sanitization of other accessories, you can significantly reduce the risk of lice infestations and ensure that you maintain a lice-free environment.

We’ve come a long way in our comprehensive guide on cleaning hairbrushes after a lice infestation.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Use a Magnifying Glass

While a magnifying glass is optional, it can be a valuable tool for spotting those tiny nits that might be hard to see with the naked eye.

If you have one, consider using it during the fine-toothed combing step to ensure no nits are left behind.

Repeat the Cleaning Process

It’s a good idea to repeat the cleaning process after a few days to ensure that any lice or nits that may have survived the first cleaning are completely eradicated. Lice can be resilient, so a second round of cleaning can provide extra assurance.

Caring for Lice-Infested Hair

If your hair was infested, you need to go beyond cleaning your brush. You’ll need to treat and care for your hair. Here are some steps to consider:

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Many over-the-counter lice treatments are available. These usually come in the form of shampoos, creams, or lotions. Follow the instructions on the product carefully.

These treatments are designed to kill lice and nits, but it’s essential to repeat the treatment as directed to ensure all lice are eliminated.

Professional Help

If over-the-counter treatments don’t seem to work, or if you prefer a more hands-off approach, consider consulting a professional lice removal service. These experts are experienced in dealing with lice and can provide a more comprehensive solution.

Combing and Checking

Regardless of the treatment method you choose, it’s essential to comb your hair regularly with a fine-toothed comb to remove any dead lice and nits. This also helps in preventing reinfestation.

Wash Bedding and Clothing

To prevent lice from returning, it’s crucial to wash all bedding, clothing, and personal items that may have come into contact with an infested person. Use hot water and high heat in the dryer to kill any remaining lice or nits.


Cleaning your hairbrush after a lice infestation is not just about hygiene; it’s about keeping lice at bay. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can effectively clean your hairbrush and reduce the risk of reinfestation.

Remember, prevention is key, so conduct regular head checks and avoid sharing personal items, and you’ll be on the right path to lice-free hair.

References and Further Resources

For additional information on lice and lice prevention, consider visiting the CDC’s page on Head Lice and KidsHealth. These resources provide valuable insights and tips to help you maintain a lice-free environment and keep your hairbrush clean and free from those pesky critters.


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