Why You Really Need to Clean Your Hot Tools

When was the last time you wiped down your flat iron? How about your curling wand? If they haven’t been working as well as they used to, the answer is probably eons ago. The product buildup may not be visible, but it’s doing some serious damage to your tools—and your hair. “The buildup of the polymers in many styling products is essentially melted plastic material that can adhere to your hair,” says Dante Pronio, a hairstylist at Mizu Salon in New York City. That residue not only encourages split ends, but also creates a barrier of gunk that makes it harder for your tools to create polished curls or a smooth, straight finish. Here’s the dirty truth about how to give your wands, straighteners, and dryers a much-needed cleaning.

Clean Up Based on How Often You Plug In

“Frequency depends on how often you use the tool and how much styling product you use,” says Pronio. If you’re using your hot tools every day, clean them once a week. If you’re only plugging in a couple times a week, clean them bimonthly. And if you’re using a styling product with a glossy finish like Soft Lacquer by Oribe, Pronio says you may need to give it a wipe every one or two styling sessions. When you do actually see buildup, as is often the case with a blow dryer, clean it immediately.

Swipe Down Ceramic While It's Warm

Nowadays most curling irons, wands, and flat irons are ceramic, meaning their smooth surfaces are especially easy to clean. According to Pronio, the best method is to plug in your tool and let it warm up, then unplug it and let it cool for a few minutes. Then dampen a washcloth with some rubbing alcohol, and wipe the plates or wand clean while the tool is still warm—the heat will make it easier to clean, so you’re not picking and scraping at buildup that has cooled and hardened.

Clear Out All That Dryer Buildup

Keeping your dryer free of debris will drastically improve your blowout time. “Dryers suck air through the back vent and pick up dust and hair along the way,” Pronio explains. “The grate keeps this debris from entering the mechanics of the dryer.” But when that grate gets clogged with weeks of buildup, it will overheat to compensate, causing burned hair and bristles. Take off the back grate and use a Q-tip or tweezers to remove any lodged lint and hair. Rinse it under hot water, then pat it with a towel and let it completely dry before reattaching.

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