Lice are parasites that need human blood to survive, so they cannot live long without a human host. On furniture or carpet, they usually die within 1–2 days.

Lice are tiny insects that can live on the human body. There are three main types:

  • Head lice: Experts also call head lice pediculus humanus capitis. Adults are about 2.1–3.3 millimeters (mm) long and tend to live in the hair on the head.
  • Body lice: These are also known as pediculus humanus corporis. Adults are around 2.3–3.6 mm long. They live in clothing and move to the body to feed. However, body lice are rare in the United States.
  • Pubic lice: Also known as crabs, these are called pthirus pubis. Adults are around 1.1–1.8 mm long and tend to live in pubic hair.

Adult lice can live for up to 30 days on a human. Although they mainly spread through direct contact, people can sometimes acquire lice by sharing clothing or other belongings with someone who already has them. However, lice cannot live very long without a human host.

Read on to learn more about how long lice can live on carpets, furniture, and other household items.

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Lice feed on human blood and need human hosts to survive. Once separated from their host, lice usually die within a few days.

Head and pubic lice nits, or eggs, cannot hatch if they are not on a human body. They will typically die within 1 week.

The following sections explain how long lice can live on different household objects.

Furniture and carpets

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chances of getting lice from carpets or furniture are very low. Adult lice usually die on furniture or carpets within a few days.

Regularly vacuuming furniture and carpets will help remove any lice and nits.

Pillows and sheets

Sometimes, people can get lice from sharing pillows and sheets with someone who has lice. As with furniture and carpets, adult lice typically live for around 2 days on pillows and sheets without human contact. Nits will not hatch and will die within a week.

People should machine wash any pillows or sheets someone with lice has used in hot water of more than 130°F (54.4°C).

Clothes

People can get lice from sharing clothes, including:

  • hats
  • scarves
  • coats
  • hair ribbons or clips

To kill any lice or nits on washable clothes, people can put them in a hot wash with water of more than 130°F (54.4°C). If the item is not washable, people can place them in a plastic bag and store them for 2 weeks before using them again. Any lice will die without a human host in this amount of time.

Hairbrushes

The CDC also advises against sharing hairbrushes.

Adult head lice can survive for 2 days and nits for around 1 week on a hairbrush. Soaking combs or hairbrushes in hot water of at least 130°F (54.4°C) for 5–10 minutes will kill any lice and nits.

The most common way people get head lice is through head-to-head or hair-to-hair contact. When there is direct contact, the insects crawl from one head to the other and start laying eggs.

Sometimes, lice can move from person to person via shared clothing or other belongings. However, it is rare to get lice from furniture or carpets.

Body lice tend to transmit:

  • through direct contact with a person with lice
  • by sharing clothing, beds, bedclothes, or towels with someone with lice

Pubic lice transmit from one person to another during sexual contact.

The CDC advises that people can help prevent lice infestations by:

  • avoiding head-to-head contact
  • refraining from sharing hats, scarves, coats, hairbrushes, or hair ribbons
  • refraining from lying on furniture, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with a person who has lice

Learn more about treating and preventing lice.

Lice are parasitic insects that feed on human blood and must live close to the body to maintain their temperature. Without a host, lice will die within a few days.

Lice cannot live long on household items such as carpets and furniture, and people are unlikely to get them from these surfaces.