How to Check for Lice like a Pro

boy being treated for head lice

Catch them quickly and you could save hundreds of dollars on treatment.

There are two ways to check for head lice: the dry check and the wet check.

I recommend you start with a dry check because it's quick and easy and if you find something you're done. If you don't find anything, follow up with a more accurate wet-check. 1,2

Identifying Head Lice and Nits

When lice are going around it's easy to mistake a speck of dust or debris for a nit, so here's a short guide on what lice and nits look like.

Nits are:

  • all the same size and shape
  • shaped like a tiny tear drop
  • about the size of a grain of salt
  • a light to dark shade of brown
  • securely glued to the hair shaft

If it’s easily flicked or blown away from the hair, it’s not a nit.

Lice are:

  • six legged
  • transclucent or brown to reddish brown
  • about the size of a sesame seed when fully grown

You'll know them when you see them because they will try to run away from you.

For more information and pictures of lice and nits see: How to Identify Lice and Nits.

How to Perform a Dry Check

In a well-lit space, take a rattail comb or pencil and create long parts in the hair.

Look through the scalp, with a magnifying glass if possible, and focus your search on the nape of the neck and around the ears. These are the most likely places to find lice and nits.

If you don't find anything, continue on to our wet check instructions.

If you do find evidence of lice, it's time to take action before they spread.

For free advice on what works and what doesn't, give us a ring at (503) 505-6695.

How to Perform a Wet Check


Paper towels
Water, a spray bottle works well
Conditioner to lubricate the hair
Wide-tooth comb or brush for detangling
Metal-toothed lice comb.

Optional Supplies

Magnifying glass
Small flashlight
Hair clips


  1. In a well-lit area, wet the hair and detangle using conditioner and a wide tooth comb.
  2. Add conditioner to the hair until the lice comb can glide through from front to back and from roots to ends.
  3. (Optional) Use clips to create sections (top, sides, bottom) by clipping them up and out of the way of where you will comb. Start with the bottom section and work your way to the top.
  4. Hold the lice comb at a 15-degree angle to the scalp and apply light pressure, keeping the teeth of the comb snug to the scalp. Comb through from roots to ends in one smooth motion.
  5. After each swipe, wipe the comb on a paper towel to check for any lice or nits. A magnifying glass and flashlight may be helpful.
  6. Continue combing over the entire scalp in every direction.

You Found Lice, Nits, or... Something Else?

Check out our guide to Identifying Lice and Nits.

If you found evidence of lice, don't panic.

You will need to determine if anyone else has it and how you want to treat it.

You can continue checking the rest of the family on your own, but make sure you clean the lice comb before working on the next person. Running water over the comb while gently spreading the teeth with a butter knife or finger nail works well.

For advice on checking for head lice, treatment options, or any other issues contact us at (503) 505-6695. We're here to help.


1. Bryant, Michael. "Head Lice." InnovAiT, 2016.
2. Meister and Ochsendorf. “Head Lice: Epidemiology, Biology, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2016.