Fact check: No, Coca-Cola does not get rid of head lice. That’s a myth.

The claim: Washing hair with Coca-Cola will get rid of head lice

While head lice is typically treated with special combs or insecticidal shampoos and topical creams, one social media user claims there’s an easier do-it-yourself remedy. 

A Feb. 25 Facebook post shared in a Homemaking Tips group claims Coca-Cola may “get rid of lice and nits FAST.”

The meme includes a checklist of steps to complete, starting with washing the head with normal shampoo and then saturating the hair from root to tip with a 2-liter bottle of Coke.

“Let hair dry without rinsing. When dry, rinse Coke out. You will be surprised at how many lice and nits fall out,” the post continues. 

The post has over 700 shares and 500 reactions. USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment. 

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Treating lice with Coca-Cola is a myth

The myth that Coca-Cola is an effective solution for getting rid of head lice first began circulating on the internet in 2016, according to Snopes. 

In 2019, SaLeah Snelling, owner of Lice Clinics of America, tested out the remedy by pouring Coca-Cola onto a Petri dish with lice on it and shared the results to YouTube. 

Snelling debunked the myth and found that after 20 minutes the lice were still alive and swimming in the Coca-Cola. 

“I think the biggest takeaway from these types of videos is that when it comes to natural treatment for head lice, you need to take advice you hear about or read about with a grain of salt,” Snelling wrote along with the video. “Most of these treatments don’t work or aren’t safe options.”

Pest Strategies also notes on its website that soda beverages lack the materials needed to eliminate a nit’s strong bond with a hair follicle. While soda includes phosphoric and citric acid, it has never been proven to help in removing lice from hair. 

“There’s also nothing special about the other chemicals in Coca-Cola that would make it toxic to lice, either,” Pest Strategies writes. “Sugar, caffeine, and caramel coloring would have no effect on the pests.”

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Recommended treatments

There are other at-home remedies and medications that have been proven to be effective treatments. 

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Health, told USA TODAY in 2016 that shampoos containing permethrin and pyrethrin and over-the-counter topical treatments are the best course of action. 

Parents should treat lice twice by first killing it with an insecticide shampoo and then use an anti-lice shampoo to kill any bugs that have hatched since the initial wash, according to Quinlisk. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends over-the-counter medications such as pyrethrins combined with piperonyl butoxide or permethrin lotion. 

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Our rating: False

The claim that washing your hair with Coca-Cola will eliminate head lice is FALSE, based on our research. There is no evidence to support this and it has never been proven that Coca-Cola can kill lice in the hair. Experts recommend using lice shampoos, combs and other over-the-counter medications. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • Snopes, Feb. 11, 2016, “Coca-Cola Lice Remedy”
  • YouTube, Feb. 1, 2019, “Removing Head Lice with Coca Cola (Coke)- Watch this BEFORE you try!”
  • Pest Strategies, “Does Coca Cola Kill Head Lice? (The answer might surprise you)”
  • USA TODAY, Aug. 19, 2016, “‘Super lice’ crawl into 48 states; you can stop ’em dead”
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Parasites, Treatment”

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