Lice can spread from human to object to human, but it's more common for lice to spread by human-to-human contact.
Removing lice from objects such as combs, clothing, and furniture is not a necessary part of treatment for head lice, but some people choose to do this as a way to help prevent lice from spreading to other household members.
Lice don't live longer than 2 days when they are not on a human. So you would only need to remove lice from items that the person with lice has used or worn in the 2 days just before he or she used lice-killing medicine.
If you choose to remove lice from household items, here are some tips:
To rid hair brushes, combs, barrettes, and other hair ornaments of lice, soak them in hot water [at least 54.5°C (130°F)] for 5 to 10 minutes.
Machine-wash towels, hats, scarves, clothes, bedding, and cloth toys in hot water [at least 54.5°C (130°F)] or place them in a dryer on the high heat setting for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Dry-cleaning or storing clothing in a sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks will also destroy lice. These methods are the main treatment for a person who has body lice.
Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and mattresses to remove hairs that might have live eggs attached.
You do not need to fumigate the house with insecticide sprays. This will not help treat or control a lice problem and may unnecessarily expose family members to toxic fumes.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Parasites: Lice. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/index.html.
Morelli JG (2011). Arthropod bites and infestations. In RM Kleigman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 2317-2322. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics