So what if I soaked my head in kerosene?

OK, many years ago, I heard this exchange concerning lice, and how this chap dealt with the problem when one of his kids came home with lice and shared it with the other family members:

I said, "We’re all going to sleep with towels soaked in kerosene wrapped around our heads.’ Some people told me, ‘That sounds dangerous.’ I said, ‘No, that’s the way we’ve always done it.’

Now I personally thought that sounded like a bad idea, whether or not it was effective. But, from a chemical exposure standpoint, could any harm really come to someone by spending the night with the head in a kerosene-soaked towel?

Material Safety Data Sheet for Kerosene

Having been soaked in it from head to toe in an accident at work, I know even after showering within minutes, my body was tingling for hours afterwards.


I’ve never heard of sleeping with towels soaked in it, which does seem a tad dangerous to me, but kerosene is effective for removing pesky little parasites. When I was a kid it was common to take a “kerosene bath” for that purpose. My father or grandfather would put the infested child in an old-fashioned wash tub with about a gallon of kerosene and sponge it all over the kid’s body (for chiggers) and/or head (for lice). The soaking period was perhaps 15 minutes or so, but it felt like an hour. No long term exposure and no ill effects. A thorough scrubbing in a soap-and-water bath followed this to remove the kerosene.

Oh, and Grandad usually smoked while he did this, but never created a child-torch. YMMV

Grandma used kerosene on my head when I caught lice as a child. She combed it through my hair, and had me sit and let it “soak in” before washing my hair very carefully.

No ill effects, and it worked like a charm.

From what I’ve read, head lice are becomming immune to Nix and the like. For very stubborn cases, kerosene seems to work when nothing else will.

When my grandma and her cousin were college girls, in the early 1920s, one day they discovered to their horror that they both had head lice. They used kerosene on their heads. It worked.

And to speed up the process of combing the nits out of her hair, Grandma bit the bullet and bobbed her hair. But Cousin Norma had beautiful waist-length hair and refused to cut it (in the Roaring Twenties, this would have been a major social/fashion decision, too), so the two girls stayed up most of the night, combing Norma’s hair, with Norma weeping in horror that she, a nice middle-class girl, had “bugs!” in her hair.

But she wouldn’t cut it.

Once saw a dog which was covered with ticks. I mean the poor thing looked like he had a thousand little purple balloons attached to him. A farm hand of my dad’s took some diesel fuel and dumped it on the dog to get rid of the ticks. It worked but the dog lost all its fur and nearly died. I worked around fuels for about 10 years and know the potential damage they hold so I for one wouldn’t put anything like that on my head.

Well, the procedure is that you wash your hair thoroughly after you’ve killed all the lice. You don’t leave the kerosene on there.

The farmhand probably left the diesel oil on the dog, right? Didn’t give it a bath with detergent?

It would need a VERY THOUGHOUGH bath. I can’t imagine the difficulty in getting it out of thick dog hair. Grandma had me wash my hair, rinse with vinegar (to cut any remaining oils) and then wash it again.

If the kerosene was left on the dogs fur, it’s no wonder that he died. Not necessarily from skin contact, but fron licking himself and ingesting it.

I hope you don’t smoke.

[minor nitpick]
it was diesel oil the dog was dunked in, not kerosene.

Effects of oil spills on mammals.

I would imagine that the dog died of something similar.

Another nitpick:

But, like, the dog didn’t die.

When I was a kid, and got head lice, my mom treated me with kerosene, she would put it on my head, covering my eyes and face, and making sure she got the back of my neck where they love. After about 15 min. she would rinse and wash with dish liquid to remove the oil in the kerosene, then would rinse with vinegar, comb out the head lice and nits, they were all dead. Then after that she would rinse and shampoo several times. Their were 10 of us kids back then and she done all of us at the same time, kinda like going to a barber shop, LOL. I know one think we never missed any school from having them. The kerosene worked every time we caught them, we got them from school, even if it were just one of us, we all got treated. Even now at the age of 50, if I got them I would use kerosene to treat them with. Just stay away from any fire or flames, pretty common sense if you ask me. :smack: Just stay away from it, if you don’t know how to use it. I used it on my kids growing up, they would be sent home from school with head lice and could not return until they didn’t have them, needless to say they went back the next day clean as a whistle. I will never use anything else. I might also add this, it works on pubic lice also. I was unfortunate enough to catch them when I was a young man, daddy said to use the kerosene, like we had used for head lice. He forgot to tell me not to get it in certain places, that I won’t go into, but it’s an experience I will never forget. But I can say I had no more “CRABS”. It did work, I just kinda walked funny for a few days=LOL.:smiley: