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A cleaner curling iron = better curls.

By Kristine Gill
Updated March 12, 2020
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Hairspray and curling irons usually go hand in hand—and yet, hot styling tools and hair products don’t mix well. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean a curling iron if you know how to curl hair and do so often.

If you’ve noticed buildup along the barrel of your curling iron or the edges of your flat iron, it’s likely that your hairspray or leave-in conditioner (even your heat protection spray) is leaving a bit of a mess behind. With the heat from your tool, it makes for a stubborn film on your curling iron or hair straightener that can be difficult to scrape off or clean, so it’s in your best interest to learn how to clean a curling iron, stat.

“I always thought there was just nothing I could do to clean it,” says blogger Jillee Nystul of One Good Thing By Jillee. “I figured it was just something I had to live with.”

Fortunately, Nystul discovered a simple hack for cleaning curling irons using a mixture of two ingredients you likely already have in your pantry and medicine cabinet.

“I actually figured this out when I was trying to clean some cookie sheets, which get that brown buildup from baking,” Nystul says.

How to clean a curling iron

First, you’ll want to make sure your heat tool is unplugged and completely cooled off.

Next, make a paste by mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking powder together. Nystul starts by measuring two tablespoons of baking powder into a glass bowl. Then, using a spoon, mix the powder as you slowly add the hydrogen peroxide.

“It might bubble up a little bit, but it dies down and then you have a nice paste,” Nystul says. If you add too much hydrogen peroxide and the mixture becomes runny, you can stiffen it back up with more baking powder.

If you’re having trouble with the ratio, Nystul suggests using a spray bottle to apply your hydrogen peroxide. Spraying the hydrogen peroxide onto the baking powder will give you more control and you’ll be able to tell when it’s the right blend.

“Just about any typical brand of cleaner will have a spray head that fits your hydrogen peroxide bottle,” Nystul says. Nystul has even seen some hydrogen peroxide bottles sold with a spray head if you want to keep it handy for other cleaning jobs. (Hydrogen peroxide needs to be kept in an opaque bottle, so don’t add it to an empty spray bottle if the bottle is clear.)

The finished paste should resemble something similar to the consistency of toothpaste, Nystul says.

Nystul then applies the paste to the sections of her styling tool with the most buildup, being careful to avoid the parts of the styling tool with the cord and buttons and any electrical elements.

“I just use my fingers to put a nice thick layer on,” she says.

Next, let the mixture sit.

“Time is your best friend here,” Nystul says. She usually steps away and lets the cleaner work its magic for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This step is key in ensuring that the cleaner can penetrate the build-up and lift it away.

“If you come back and it’s dried out, you can spray a little more of the hydrogen peroxide if you need to right onto the paste as it’s drying,” Nystul says.

You’ll know it’s time to wipe the barrel clean when the baking soda paste has taken on the color of the buildup in places. Nystul suggests wiping the paste away with your finger then using a damp paper towel to wipe your styling tool clean.

The same mixture, which Nystul calls her Miracle Cleaner, can be used to clean your clothing iron and flat iron, as well.

“We’ve used it on the cookie sheets obviously, on your stove burners,” Nystul says. “I’ve actually used it for getting sticker glue off of things and to clean silverware or other utensils with the white marks left from the washer. It will also get off gunk that collects along the inside of your sink.”