RSS Feed
Email this article
Printer friendly page

Ask Rick A Question

Get Rid of Booklice

Summary: This visitor to Ask the Exterminator spells out all the steps she took to get rid of booklice in her home.

Liz writes:

This is what I did to get rid of these little guys. Obviously, this might not work for everyone, depending on size of area, species, etc. 

I think the key to getting rid of book lice for me was attacking them on multiple fronts. First, I removed any possible food sources from my apartment. This meant any paper, books, cardboard or food items that were not properly sealed were either thrown away or wrapped in plastic bags and put in the freezer for at least a month. I know a month seems like a long time, but after a week I took a cookbook out and opened it and there was one of them cruising across the page totally unfazed by the cold. So, I found that a month in the freezer is pretty sufficient to kill both the adults and the eggs.


All my food went into plastic food storage containers after very careful inspection to make sure it was not already infested. I think I spent a small fortune on these containers, so Ziploc bags are a good alternative. Next, any fabrics such as sheets, clothes, rugs, etc., I removed and washed twice in hot water with a lot of soap. This was really gross because the lint trap was full of little bugs, but it did seem to kill them.

My stuff stayed in closed garbage bags until I could get the rest of the problem under control so they didn't re-infest the fabrics. Then, I ended up using about 3 bottles of Windex to go around and do a lot of killing. There were a lot of booklice on my walls which I discovered they like to eat. They were also around electrical fixtures, so I spent a long time just spraying the heck out of the little guys and wiping them up with paper towels, which were also stored in Ziploc bags. They really seemed to like paper towels.

I had one really bad light fixture in the ceiling that they kept coming out of, so I took a Nuvane Pro Strip and covered the fixture in a plastic bag. Then I duct taped the bag closed. Make sure there are no gaps because this stuff is really toxic. I left that on for a week or so and that seemed to do the job.

I ended up breaking down and getting some 565 Plus XLO aerosol insecticide  that I used on the baseboards of the walls.

For the kitchen I used a pyrethrin-based product since it seemed slightly less dangerous to have around food, and then Demand CS, a product that contains the chemical lambda-Cyhalothrin and another producted called Bedlam which includes lice on its label, for the rest of my apartment. This stuff does become inert pretty quick, so I sprayed it on the cracks along the baseboards several times a day for about a week. I really felt uncomfortable about using pesticides in my home, but since I used it in very small, specific areas, I think it minimized any chance for contamination. I put tape down on the floor to remind myself the pesticides were there so I didn't accidentally touch the walls or step in the area.


On top of all of this, I purchased a very expensive dehumidifier and left it running for about a week straight. Booklice really like moisture, so I just got every little bit of moisture I could out of my apartment. I had to empty the dehumidifier several times a day, which just showed me how much water was really in the air.

I saw a dramatic decrease in the bugs after I removed food sources and cleaned everything, and with the pesticides and dehumidifier it seemed to eliminate the last few, hardy stragglers. It did take a couple of weeks to stop seeing them crawling on the walls. You will notice that the booklice start getting bigger and darker. These are the adults. I think it's a good sign because if you were seeing the smaller, lighter nymphs it means they are still breeding somewhere.

I realize this was a lot of stuff to do, but it worked really well for me. They are super annoying, but totally harmless to humans. Really, the most damage they do is by making you go insane. Hope this helps. Good luck!

Ask Rick A Question


22 Mar 2010, 23:01
Thank you for helping us all out. Are you sure ALL booklice are gone??? Because I'm really scared that there's no cure :(
Ava (same one)
22 Mar 2010, 23:10
Oh, and you only had to buy ONE dehumidifier for the whole house? And how much did it cost. My family is spending 300 dollars on Massey services and we don't have money like that (dad lost his job last June,have family members in Haiti that need money and I'm heading out to college). My family doesn't deserve having these bugs around (no one does), and like I said before its making me psycho. I'm already going to throw out my furniture (gonna be furniture-less for a while), we threw out the garage couch, and a bag full of my belongings...I know I've posted alot here but its to the point that I can't be in peace with myself. And I think Massey services is getting annoyed by me. I hope the guy REALLY gave an etomologist the tape full of the bugs, and we have a solution before I leave for college (don't wanna bring the bugs with me...I REALLY hope that this experience is a distant memory for me, I've become a neat freak & I'm constantly nagging @ my brothers to clean up after themselves :(
23 Mar 2010, 13:18
They are all gone. I haven't seen one in months. I live in an apartment so one dehumidifier is enough. I'm not sure about a bigger space. Remember that even after removing all the food sources it will take a couple weeks to stop seeing them...I think the adults can live for quite a while. Again, I know they're really annoying and being a neat freak myself I thought I might go off the deep end, but just remind yourself that they're totally harmless (if they are booklice, that is). Best of luck!
09 Jun 2010, 17:32
I've read that if you just keep the humidity below 43% none of them should be able to survive. But if eggs are in crevices they can keep hatching. So the cycle might take awhile before stopping. You can also use boric acid and diatomaceous earth (both powders) instead of poisons.
04 Aug 2010, 07:41
We had a really bad problem in our previous house and nothing seemed to work. We had the house fumigated and several rentokil treatments. Eventually due to the stress and the fact that I was now on anti depressants because of it we moved house and basically threw away everything we owned and bought new. Unfortunately despite this we have had a slight problem in our new house and even today I have found tiny baby booklice in the fish tank filter lid ( which is now in the freezer) All in all this has gone on for about 6 years, 3 years at this house and 3 at the previous. I'm at my wits end and suffer panic attacks brought about by this.
Ask the Exterminator
04 Aug 2010, 15:40
Although we don't like to have pests in our homes, booklice are harmless to humans. Reduced humidity is the key to control. This requires more than simply turning up your air conditioner. You need a good dehumidifier in your HVAC system. A room dehumidifier will help, but it won't be enough to cure the problem throughout the house.
23 Sep 2010, 21:15
Is there a dehumidifier that you recommend?
How easily do they spread? Should I worry about spreading it w/my vacuum?
Ask the Exterminator
23 Sep 2010, 22:09
Read this article about dehumidifiers: ml.
You don't have to worry about spreading them with your vacuum.
24 Sep 2010, 10:45
Liz do you still see the booklice?, since you know how to get rid of them.

@Ask the Exterminator, so your saying we can NEVER completely get rid of them?
Ask the Exterminator
24 Sep 2010, 11:07

I'm not saying you cannot get rid of them, but it's difficult if you cannot control the humidity.
30 Jul 2011, 23:35
how do u get rid of headlice
14 Aug 2012, 18:27
I have 3 big bags of bird seeds and I think this is the bug that has infested my garage. It has not gotten into my house at all,thank goodness, but it is on just about half of the stuff in my garage. With the built in ventilation of garages how do I get rid of them?
15 Aug 2013, 22:37
Alright, thanks for sharing everybody. When I first found these guys I about had a heart attack from all the comments, but then devised a very thorough plan to get rid of them. By the time I found these little critters earlier this year (March) they were at least 10,000 in my kitchen covering the entire pantry, radiant heaters, table, and window sill. I first bleached the heck out of everything that wouldn't be damaged by bleach, then used boiling water to cover or submerge anything that was water proof, including mopping with bleach infused boiling water (wear a mask!). Most food went into the freezer for 3 weeks after being wiped down with a bleach rag. Then I waited a whole day for the place to air out and washed down the whole kitchen with about 5 bottles of Windex (read it kills em better than bleach). I baked my pots & bans in the oven at 300*F for an hour, and microwaved any paper, cookbooks, or recipe cards. Got rid of the floor lamps they'd infested and a few shelving units... but behind the radiator I couldn't get to. But I checked everyday for weeks and finally figured they were gone.

Then about 6 months later found them on top of the radiator, window sill, and on the pots & pans again. Not as many--probably only 300 or so. Repeated above procedure, except I went straight to Windex and skipped the bleach entirely since it didn't seem to help. Rebaked pans, refroze food nearby, etc. It's been 3 weeks and I've only seen 1 adult (brownish in color), and I've reapplied Windex to the hard-to-reach areas behind the radiator--but I'm not sure if that's enough. If they come back again, I'm going to need more help. The house stays around 50% humidity most of the year, so not sure what to do about that. For those new to it--there is hope. For experts, I'm going to need help behind a non-movable radiant heater (the old 1900's style which use a boiler in the basement). Any suggestions welcome. Thanks.
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my email
The box below is for visitor comments! Questions posted in this box may not be answered by Ask the Exterminator. For quickest response click on the "Ask the Exterminator a Question" link at top of this page.
Security Image:



More Articles Like This