Lice combs need more than just a quick rinse under warm water to remove lice and their eggs, also called nits, from your hair.

Lice combs can be an effective treatment for head lice infestations. The thin, closely arranged teeth on a lice comb may help scrape off lice and nits that chemicals or other treatments might not kill. But the small spaces between the comb teeth can also trap lice and nits, making it possible to introduce them right back into your hair.

Read on to learn how to clean a lice comb properly and when to consider replacing it.

Cleaning a lice comb is usually the final step after combing lice and nits out of your hair.

Here are some tips for cleaning a lice comb effectively after you use it.

Soak the lice comb in hot water

Soak your lice comb for 5–10 minutes in water that’s 130°F (54°C). This can sanitize the comb and disinfect the surface from any surviving lice or nits.

Use clean water and test the temperature before you put the comb in. If the water’s not hot enough, it won’t kill living lice or nits as effectively.

Soak the lice comb in pediculicide

Soak your lice comb in a pediculicide shampoo or treatment for up to 1 hour.

Pediculicides are strong shampoos or treatments that kill lice and nits. A doctor may typically recommend or prescribe pediculicide treatments for lice infestations.

You can also buy pediculicides at drugstores or pharmacies. Read their labels closely to make sure you’re not allergic or sensitive to the chemicals. Pediculicides often contain powerful substances for killing lice and nits.

Clean your lice comb after every use

Soak your lice comb in hot water or pediculicide whenever you use it. Surviving lice or nits may get back into your hair if you use the same comb again without properly cleaning it.

Lice can remain alive and reproduce for up to 2 days after their removal from your hair. This can also introduce lice into your environment and cause an even bigger infestation.

Use bright lights or a magnifying glass

Seeing tiny lice or nits in the lice comb teeth can be hard. After soaking your comb, use bright lights, a magnifying glass, or both to examine the teeth closely.

Look for small, white, round objects in or around the comb teeth. These may be lice or nits that haven’t fallen off the teeth. They may not still be alive, but if you notice any, it’s worth soaking your comb again to kill them.

Use a wet combing technique to remove lice

One important step for properly cleaning a lice comb is using the wet combing technique to remove lice and nits in the first place.

Wet combing means that you wet your hair first before you run the comb through your to remove lice rather than leaving your hair dry.

Wet combing with shampoo and conditioner is usually more effective at removing lice because it slows lice down, making it easier to slide the comb through hair and pick up lice and nits in the comb’s teeth.

This also helps lice and nits stick to the comb so they don’t crawl or fall off while you move the comb around.

There’s no regular interval for replacing a lice comb. If you clean your lice comb properly after every use and store it in a dry area, you won’t need to replace it often.

Many lice combs have metal teeth that are easy to clean and don’t trap a lot of lice, nits, or bacteria.

Consider replacing it when it breaks, becomes hard to use, or loses teeth. Try replacing less expensive plastic lice combs more frequently because bacteria can grow quickly on plastic.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about cleaning lice comb or hair brushes.

Does rubbing alcohol kill lice on combs?

There’s not a lot of evidence that rubbing alcohol effectively kills lice on combs. A small 2011 research review suggests benzyl alcohol might be effective, but there’s no evidence that it’s any better than a regular insecticide or pediculicide.

How do you disinfect a hairbrush after nits?

You can also disinfect a hairbrush after nits by soaking it in water that’s 130°F (54°C) for 5–10 minutes or in a pediculicide treatment for up to 1 hour.

If your hairbrush comprises materials that hot water or chemicals might damage, consider replacing it so you don’t allow any surviving lice to spread.

Lice can survive and spread from a lice comb even when they no longer live in your hair.

Be sure to soak your lice comb in hot water or pediculicide after every use to kill lice and nits effectively.