How Long Do Lice Live on a Mattress? (Lice Life Cycle)

The maximum duration for lice to live on a mattress is 24 to 48 hours. Unlike bedbugs, lice do not hide in your bed and come out at night to feed. Lice have to feed continuously to survive. For that reason, lice spend most of their time on the host’s scalp. Therefore, if a family member had a lice infestation, treating and machine washing the mattress and beddings at least within two days of the infestation should ease your worries.

If you or your child has had a lice infestation, you will probably do everything in your power to prevent such an occurrence. One of the things you may be worried about is lice hiding in the mattress. Knowing how long lice live on a bed can help you prevent a similar outcome in the future. As mentioned earlier, lice can only survive for 1 to 2 days on a mattress.

How Long Do Lice Live? (Lice Life Cycle)

When dealing with lice on your mattress, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the lifecycle of this creature that can cause so much discomfort. Lice can live for up to 30 days. The life cycle of lice ends within two days if they are off a host. Here are the stages lice go through.

Stage 1 – Nits

A lice infestation usually starts when a mature female lays eggs on the scalp. These eggs, also known as nits, are tiny and can be yellow or off-white. Lice nits are often coated with some sticky fluid, enabling them to adhere to the hair shaft. Though these eggs are harmless at this stage, they are the most difficult to remove. Most lice treatments won’t destroy these eggs. The best method is to remove them by hand. This may take forever, but it’s the best way to prevent a lice infestation.

Stage 2 – Nymphs

Within a week, the nits should hatch into baby lice referred to as nymphs. Lice in this stage are still not yet fully developed. Therefore they can’t reproduce. Also, lice are quite vulnerable to treatment both over the counter and DIY at this stage, such as food-grade diatomaceous earth.

Stage 3 – Maturity

The final stage of lice is the worst. It’s because they are not only feeding on blood, but they are also spreading from one host to another. In this stage, your scalp becomes itchy due to the allergic reaction triggered when lice saliva contacts your skin. Female lice can lay at least six eggs per day during this stage. If not treated, that can result in a full-blown infestation.

Mature lice can, on rare occasions, crawl through the pillows, mattresses, and beddings in such of another host. What usually guides them is sweat which forms around your body when you sleep. When you wake up, some lice can be left on the mattress. When you hop onto the bed in the evening, the lice will resume feeding and thrive. However, if the bed remains unoccupied for two days, the lice will die since they have no food source.

The failure to remove the eggs laid by mature lice usually makes a lice infestation an endless cycle. Lice eggs must be removed from the hair alongside applying lice treatment to hair and cleaning the mattress and beddings. There are special combs that can make it easy to remove lice eggs on hair.

How Long Can Lice Live on a Bed? Bedsheets? Mattress Covers? And Beddings?

Irrespective of where lice are living, provided it’s not on the host’s scalp, they won’t live for more than 1-2 days. Whether it’s on your bed, mattress cover, or beddings, the lice would die within two days because of a lack of food. Now that you are aware of the lice life cycle, let’s look at how to treat a mattress infested with lice.

How Do You Get Lice Out of Your Bed?

If you have recently learned about a lice infestation in one of your family member’s scalp, you need to take the essential steps to get rid of this parasitic insect from your home. Below is a comprehensive guide on ensuring your bed and beddings are free from lice.

1. Practice Proper Hair Care

Lice are spread to hair through head contact, such as sharing hugs. It can also spread by sharing hair tools and accessories such as brushes and hats. For kids, you need to inspect the condition of their hair frequently. Look for lice eggs and remove them as soon as you spot them. Some of the spots that need thorough scrutiny are behind the ears, the bottom of the hair shaft, and the nape of the neck. These are common areas where lice grow.

Certain essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lavender, and coconut, work as natural lice repellents. You can add these to your hair routine. Frequent washing of hair and brushing ensures that lice growth is prevented. Suppose you or your child is suffering from lice infestation. In that case, you can seek professional treatment where the physician can recommend over-the-counter remedies such as shampoos made using pyrethrin or benzyl alcohol lotion. Please note that some treatments only kill mature lice, not eggs. The eggs will still have to be removed manually to prevent reinfestation.

We started with hair treatment first because it’s where the lice are mostly located. If you treat the mattress and forget about the head, that won’t work.

2. Treat the Mattress

Having dealt with the area lice spend 99% of their time on, it’s time to deal with the mattress. Considering that you spend a lot of time on a bed, lice can easily crawl through the mattress or the beddings. Even though lice would prefer to stay on your scalp 24/7, they wouldn’t mind exploring your bed as you sleep. Therefore, if you have treated your hair and scalp for lice, here are ways you can get rid of any lice that may be on the mattress.

  • Remove the blankets, sheets, covers, and pillows and wash them on high heat. The high heat should immediately kill any lice hiding inside the mattress. Also, if the bed belongs to your toddler who loves sleeping next to stuffed animals. These too need to be machine washed under high heat. When removing the cover of your mattress, you need to be wary about the presence of fiberglass. Some beds these days have a fiberglass fire sock beneath the cover. When removed, it can lead to severe contamination of your home. Confirm if the mattress is fiberglass-free first before opening the cover and putting it in the washer.
  • With all the beddings removed, including the cover, vacuum the mattress. To prevent a future lice infestation, you can spray an essential oil such as peppermint and eucalyptus. These will repel lice and also create a conducive aroma for sleep.

3. Clean Your Home

Understandably, after finding lice on your child’s hair, you may think that every corner of your home is infected. But that is far from the truth. Please note that lice only lay eggs on hair follicles. Don’t expect to find lice on your sofa or clothes.

The only areas of your home you may want to clean thoroughly are those that make direct contact with the hair. Good examples include hair accessories such as hats, scarfs, combs, and hairbrushes. These should be washed under high heat. When cleaning your home, also inspect the heads of other household members. Check for the presence of lice eggs.


Q: Can lice live on your mattress?

A: We wouldn’t call it living because they would die in two days if they don’t find another host. These parasites require to be in close range of the scalp. So, they can’t wander very far.

Q: Can head lice live in pillows?

A: Like mattresses, lice can’t thrive in pillows, bedsheets, and other beddings.

Q: Can you get lice from bedsheets?

A: Head lice are mainly spread through contact. When you hug someone with lice, the insects can crawl into your hair. As mentioned earlier, lice love spending time on their host’s scalp. Therefore, a person will get lice from bed sheets, pillows, beddings, and mattresses on rare occasions. However, if you are experiencing an infestation, the mattress and beddings must be treated for lice.

Q: Should I wash pillows after lice treatment?

A: Absolutely. The pillows and mattress covers need to be cleaned under high heat to ensure that lice have been eradicated in your home.

Final Thoughts

Knowing that lice can only live on your bed for one or two days gives you a better chance of getting rid of this infestation for good. The reason lice can’t survive for very long on your mattress is because they need a food source, which is your blood. Lice rarely leave the scalp’s host. Because if they do, they won’t be able to complete their 30-day lifecycle.

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