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How to get rid of hairspray residue

Leska Longs To Learn: How do you clean hairspray build up off of a curling iron?

The Right Brain replies:

How hairspray works

Hairsprays (like Sebastian Shaper, Tresemme Tres II, Bumble and Bumble Does It All Styling Spray, and Charles Worthington Big Hair to name a few) work by sticking hair shafts together with tiny droplets of chemical glue, or resins. These resins are polymers that form hard films that weld the hairs together. They’re designed to be water resistant so your hairstyle won’t droop when it’s exposed to high humidity. Unfortunately, that water resistance means that hairspray won’t wash off with water alone.

Usually a good shampoo is enough to wash hairspray off your hair. But when you’ve got a LOT of it built up on a styling tool (like your curling iron) or on your bathroom counter, soap and water might not do the trick. When that happens you might have to go for the strong stuff.

How to clean hairspray off hard surfaces

Since resins are primarily soluble in solvents like alcohol or acetone a little rubbing alcohol (aka isopropyl alcohol) will work pretty well. Or, if you can get ethanol, that will work too. You could also try nail polish remover (which contains solvents like acetone or ethyl acetate) but those are a bit more aggressive.

(Which reminds me – before using a solvent on your curling iron, you should check the manufacturers’ directions, because there is a chance the solvent could damage the paint.)

How to not blow yourself up

Of course, make sure the device is unplugged when you clean it AND that you dry it completely before plugging it back in. High temperatures + electricity + flammable liquid = trouble. (Sometime ask the Left Brain to tell you the story about having a quick cigarette while using hairspray. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty!)

Got all that? Good! Now, if you promise not to sue us when your curling iron explodes, we’ll tell you how aerosol hairsprays are made.

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