General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Can crabs (or pubic lice) be eliminated using vinegar?

Asked by ibstubro (18789points) October 29th, 2015

I refer to pediculosis pubis.

I just finished a John D. MacDonald book (“A Tan and Sandy Silence”) where he claims that pubic lice and their eggs can be killed by dosing the effected areas with common household vinegar.

I thought it might be a good thing to discuss, as I’ve never heard of using vinegar, but Mr. MacDonald was usually very accurate and thorough in his research.

What about head lice, if there’s truth to the vinegar story?

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18 Answers

cazzie's avatar

I have no idea about crabs but lice need to be smothered or burned out. Vinegar won’t work for head lice.

Buttonstc's avatar

I seriously doubt that vinegar would eliminate either the head or pubes type.

I mean, if it were that simple, why bother going to a doctor or buying lice medication from the drugstore ?

Both types of lice and vinegar have been around for centuries and if vinegar would emininate them, I’m sure that SOMEBODY down through the ages would have discovered that simple fact. What are the odds that absolutely nobody ever thought of it or tried it before?

ibstubro's avatar

Well, somebody thought of it, @Buttonstc! lol
MacDonald is usually pretty scrupulous with his facts, was what made me ask.

jca's avatar

Internet says louse’s grip is loosened by vinegar, making it easier to pick them off.

ibstubro's avatar

I was waiting for a researched answer, @jca.
No deaths?
Pubic only?

I resisted my own impulse and asked the question.

Pandora's avatar

I don’t know about killing lice but I think I remember it being useful in killing flea eggs because it breaks down the outside of the eggs. The same way meat sitting in vinegar will get soft.
I think heavy oils can suffocate lice but I’m not sure.
I know my dog had mites and all the meds in the world didn’t help till I used vinegar and then I notices if I sprayed him before he went out the fleas will jump on him and immediately jump off. He never got fleas or mites after I learned to use vinegar.
I would only use the vinegar in spots where his skin was raw from the mites. Once he got cured he never got it again.

Buttonstc's avatar

Loosening their grip doesn’t kill them.Picking them off one by one is a tedious process.

When I said vinegar doesn’t eliminate them I guess I should have been more precise. Grip loosening isn’t equal to elimination because that’s not killing them.

Prescription meds do. That’s what I would regard as elimination. Killing them :)

jca's avatar

@Buttonstc : I know. I was just telling what I found regarding vinegar.

Buttonstc's avatar


Actually I was referring to @ibstubro‘s choice of phrase in the original question, so I should probably addressed my post directly to him. But I’m on iPhone and have to manually type out every @ and name since the automatic drop-down doesn’t work in mobile.

But he seems to be very invested in his opinion that this author always researches things thoroughly etc. etc.

I did a cursory search before I posted my first answer and was aware of what vinegar could and could not do regarding lice.

But the Q he asked was not can vinegar ameliorate the situation but rather could it actually eliminate the lice (because apparently that’s what this particular author stated).

And the plain fact remains that while vinegar can help somewhat, it just plain can’t ELIMINATE lice. For that you’d have to kill not only the ones already there but all the eggs they’ve laid.

It’s similar to fleas. The problem is not just the ones already there. It’s the future generations of them as well.

So, vinegar may help to knock back the numbers somewhat, but that is totally different from elimination.

And just plain old common sense dictates that if vinegar did eradicate lice completely, someone would have discovered that long long before this particular author. But ibstubro apparently still thinks that this author is the “someone” who discovered the vinegar cure for lice (at least judging by his reply to me). But that’s clearly not the case.

Lice have been problematic for centuries and if simple vinegar alone killed them they wouid have been eradicated by now.

jca's avatar

@Buttonstc: Yes. Pests such as lice have evolved over thousands of years so that they’re really good at surviving even the harshest of conditions.

In my area, there has been recent talk of “super lice.” Drug resistant strains because of all the chemicals people use to eradicate them.

I’m sure it’s not just my area, which is affluent. It’s probably nation-wide. There are professionals that can be hired to come and nit pick. In my daughter’s school, at least once every two weeks there’s a classroom where a child is found to have lice. When I was a kid, it was an occasional issue for the schools but never like this.

keobooks's avatar

I read in an article that mayonnaise works very well. They were suggesting it instead of the shampoo to treat super lice who are resistant to the shampoo.

Embarrassing story: I noticed I got head lice at the end of summertime camp when I was 10. For some reason, I was terrified to tell anyone so on my own, I decided vinegar would kill them off. It worked for about a month, and then they came back. I had to tell my parents. Sad sad sad.

ibstubro's avatar

Here’s a anecdote about pests.
I address it to @Buttonstc and @jca as a courtesy, and because this was a genuine question without a hidden agenda.

When I was a kid, we got fleas in the house. I would lay on the nubby brown sectional couch and the fleas on the hardwood floor looked like course ground pepper. Blow on them, and the would jump. We tried everything to get rid of them, up to and including sprinkling pet flea powder (this was the 70’s, so Gourd knows what chemicals were in that) on the rugs.
One day we were at the country vet and mentioned our plight. He said, “I don’t know, and I don’t warranty it, but I’ve heard that walnut leaves will run fleas out.” We were full of questions, but he had no particulars.
When we got home, I broke the ends off of several walnut branches and put one in every infested room of the house.
The fleas disappeared!
Not chased from room to room. Not slowly knocked back. Gone.
So, given our sexually repressive society, if crabs could be cured with vinegar, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
And that is why I asked the question.

John D.MacDonald may have been having a bit of fun with his readers, as vinegar and blue crabs seem to be a tradition.

jca's avatar

@ibstubro: Fleas are what brought me to Fluther! I researched and found natural “cures” and found out the hard way that they don’t work. What worked for me was paying a pest control guy to come and spray.

Never had lice of any kind but since it’s going around in the school all the moms have researched it, which is how I know what I wrote about above. There are natural treatments (lavender oil, tea tree oil, rosemary oil, turpentine, mayonnaise to name a few) and there are chemicals. The chemicals supposedly are making the lice stronger and more resistant, (thus, superlice as they are sometimes called). Also, combing is necessary to get all the eggs out. Hopefully it’s not an issue we will ever have to deal with. As far as the other lice go, they say the popularity of shaving might make public lice a thing of the past.

ibstubro's avatar

Walnut leaves will make fleas disappear, @jca.
I did it.
Problem is, flea infestations usually come in the fall, when the weather starts to get colder. And the leaves have fallen.

Buttonstc's avatar

Flea infestations may be at their highest numbers in the Fall but that’s because they started in the summer and they just kept breeding and multiplying like crazy during those warmer months. So that’s when the infestation really started.

But many times people don’t really notice them until their numbers have spiraled out of control.

Basically, by the time you notice one flea, that means that there are hundreds or thousands of adult fleas already around with thousands of other eggs and larval stages just waiting to hatch out.

I got a real eye opener when I looked on the Frontline website where they describe each stage of the flea life cycle. No wonder they’re so hard to truly get rid of.

Those in-between larval stages are the ones that are so resistant. It wasn’t until the development of formulas incorporating IGRs (insect growth regulators) that we could truly eradicate fleas in a house. And as long as the cats stayed indoors, remain flea free for life.

I don’t know how people whose animals are indoor/outdoor survive. It would drive me bonkers :)

LuluCanada's avatar

you have to catch them all and destroy them by either burning them or flushing down the toilet

snowberry's avatar

I’ve never heard of using vinegar to kill any kind of external parasite. However I have had excellent results using tea tree oil to kill lice, fleas on my dog, and even an isolated spot of mange.

You don’t have to use it straight, but you can dilute it by putting it in a carrier oil, or even in shampoo or conditioner. I’ve heard that it will be effective at 4%, but I made mine much stronger. Put it on the affected area (and surrounding areas).

For pubic areas, which are obviously more sensitive, try starting out at 2% concentration, and increase the amount until you get results. If you have very sensitive skin, you might want to try it on a small area before you apply it all over.

snowberry's avatar

Vinegar does do a nice job of killing fungus infections however.

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