How to Clean a Flat Iron

Hair products and oil will eventually build up on the heat plates of flat irons. Besides looking unsightly, this buildup can cause uneven heating and incomplete straightening. Severe buildup can even damage hair and cause split ends. Cleaning flat irons can be a bit of a challenge owing to the V-shape of the flat iron, but it is possible. If your flat iron needs cleaning, follow these steps.


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    Heat the flat iron a little, or heat it and leave it to cool. It should be warm, but not too hot to touch.
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    Unplug the flat iron before you begin cleaning.
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    Dampen a small terrycloth towel with warm water. Don't use water that is either very hot or very cold - it must be lukewarm only. Using one finger, gently rub one plate at a time where the grime is. Avoid harsh scrubbing on the ceramic plates, to avoid scratching them.
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    Wipe down the plates until there is no more buildup on them. Check to make sure you've reached down to the bottom (closer to on/off switch and settings) and removed any gunk from there, too. You can use a cotton swab if it's too hard to get the towel into corners.
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    Clean off any residue around the sides or edges. Use a fresh surface of the towel as necessary.
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    Let the flat iron dry thoroughly before using it. Avoid using the flat iron when it is still wet. Although it won't spontaneously combust if it's still wet, it can fry your hair, similar to the reason why you shouldn't straighten wet hair because it will sizzle and burn your hair. You can gently wipe the plates dry with a small, dry terrycloth towel if you need it dry faster.
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    Clean the flat iron regularly for best results. In between more thorough cleans, simply wipe a cloth or paper towel dampened with either water or rubbing alcohol over the cooled prongs to remove the styling products. Done repeatedly, this can help prevent buildup.
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  • If the buildup is so bad that it won't come off, take the flat iron to your hairdresser; usually, the hairdresser will have a spray product that can remove the buildup quickly, saving you the cost of having to buy the whole cleaning product.
  • It's a good idea to use a heat-resistant mat to rest the flat iron on as you clean.
  • Use a bit of rubbing alcohol with the warm water for persistent buildup.
  • Wipe all around your flat iron if you use it to curl your hair or if you see buildup on surfaces other than the plates.


  • Be sure your flat iron is off and unplugged before cleaning.
  • Don't use household cleaners. They may scratch the surface of your straightening plates, and they're generally not necessary.
  • Do this away from children. Keep the heated flat iron well out of reach as you are cleaning it.
  • Keep the plug away from liquids and never immerse a flat iron in water.

Things You'll Need

  • Small terrycloth towel
  • Warm water
  • Flat iron
  • Cotton swab (optional)
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)

Sources and Citations

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