Wigs Part 4: Washing Wigs

These instructions only apply to synthetic wigs!

When to Wash Your Wig

Even if you use a professional to style your wig, you must do some maintenance yourself. If you wear a lace-front wig, you must clean the lace after each use. If you don't wear a lace-front, skip to the next section.

If you don't clean your lace each time, the lace will be much more visible the next time you wear it and harder to attach. Fortunately, cleaning the lace is not difficult. As always, it's easier to see it done, and I found another video from Donna that does a fine job of illustrating how to do it:

Make sure you give her a like and some love. Very nice lady!

I would suggest a few changes: I use a microfiber cloth instead of a paper towel, and I find a natural bristle brush to be the most effective in cleaning lace. But her methods are fine and, as always, do what works best for you!

Spot Cleaning a Wig

Everyone gets makeup on their wig. It's usually possible to spot clean the wig and avoid doing a complete wash. You will need 99% alcohol and a microfiber towel. Put the wig on the wig block, pinning it lightly if necessary. Moisten the towel liberally with alcohol. Place the towel underneath the stained hair. Press the hair into the towel with your fingers, using a patting motion. You can wiggle the hair slightly, but do not "rub" - that will only spread the makeup along the hair. Continue until the makeup is gone. You may need to reposition the hair on the towel so you are always working with clean sections of the towel.

Wig Odors

Wigs are hot, and you will sweat while you wear them. That can cause the wig to develop an off-odor. It's easy to neutralize this with a bit of isopropyl alcohol and a spray bottle. Just spray a bit inside the wig, and the odor should disappear. If you like, you can buy scented alcohol.

Washing Wigs

Eventually, you will need to wash your wig. Brush your wig before you wash it so it doesn't enter the water tangled. You can use hot or cold water:

If you have a wig with very long hair, tie it every few inches with an elastic to keep it from tangling. Here's what you need to wash your wigs:

I like to use a tub instead of the sink or bathtub because I don't want any gunk to get in my wigs. The baking soda is great for getting rid of setting gel and hairspray, and the Oxyclean takes care of the makeup. The Tresemme gets rid of everything else. I don't have set proportions. I use a lot of baking soda, Oxyclean, and 2-3 squirts of Tresemme. If there is a lot of makeup in the hair, I will usually soak it for a while in just the Oxyclean, then do a second wash with the baking soda and the Tresemme.

Washing your wig

Get some water in the tub, and then add the ingredients, stirring them around to dissolve. Add more water, take your wig, and put it under a faucet to get it wet. Don't pour water on it from the top. The force of the water can push the hair inside the wig or even cause it to unknot! So always wet or rinse the wig from the inside of the cap. Never hold a lace front wig by the lace, always by the foundation.

Now that the wig is wet, put it into the bath and agitate it gently with your hands. You might want to repeat this step if the water gets filthy. Soaking a synthetic wig won't damage the fibers. I often soak wigs overnight.

Take the wig out of the bath, remembering not to hold it by the lace, and gently rinse it. Remember to rinse only from the underside of the cap so you don't damage the wig. When the water runs clean, with no bubbles or suds, hold the wig from the top and squeeze it gently along its length to eliminate some water.

OPTIONAL: Use Fabric Softener

This is a controversial step, and I was skeptical about it. But I have found that fabric softener can improve the texture of a wig. The action of a fabric softener is chemically similar to a hair conditioner, so perhaps it's not surprising that it could help. If you want to try it, add some fabric softener to water in your basin (rinse it first), then let the wig soak in it for up to an hour. Then rinse as before.

An even more controversial technique is to use fabric softener as described, but leave it in the wig: Don't rinse the wig out. I have experimented with this. The results are not precise: Sometimes, the wig feels unpleasantly oily. Other times, the wig is better. Probably this is a function of the amount of softener and time. I don't have a firm recommendation about this.

Drying your Wig

Now take a towel and squeeze the wig with the towel in sections, from top to bottom, as you continue to hold the wig vertically.

Then place the towel flat on a table or the floor, and lay the wig lengthwise along one edge. Carefully roll the wig in the towel, keeping the wig in a straight, untangled line. Now twist both ends of the towel in opposite directions to squeeze out the water. If you have a lace front, don't go overboard here. If this is a hard front wig, you can squeeze it as hard as possible.

Air Dry and Comb

There is a rule that says you should not comb out a synthetic wig when it is wet. I frequently break this rule. It's OK if the wig is not tangled. Synthetic fiber stretches when wet, so if it is tangled, you risk stretching and thinning the hairs. If you comb it wet, you don't need to block the wig completely. You only need to pin the wig on the top with pearl head pins. (see this for details).

If you do any heavy styling, you should block the wig as fully as you need to. And if the wig is tangled, let it dry first, then block it fully to deal with that.

To dry the wig, place it anywhere air can get to all parts of the wig. My favorite place to dry wigs is wire shelving. I have some ELFA shelves in my work room, and I just clear a spot and lay the wigs out flat. They dry beautifully.

That's it! I hope you found this helpful. Thanks for reading, and if you have something nice to say or a good idea or suggestion, feel free to write me! I always love to hear from you!