Yes, Cleaning Your Flat Iron is Important—Here’s How to Do It

Yes, Cleaning Your Flat Iron is Important—Here’s How to Do It

Written by Ashley Mishler

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For many of us, a flat iron is a best friend. They’re always there, ready to smooth strands, combat flyaways, and create styles that make us feel confident. But are you treating your hair straightener with the tender love and care it deserves? It’s one thing to remember to wrap the cord correctly and stow away carefully, but when was the last time you cleaned it? And did you know you should be cleaning it? Because yes, you should.

Don’t believe us? We challenge you to stand up and look at the sides and plates of your most trusty hair tool. Before you gasp in horror over the grime caked on it from various hair products, don’t freak! We’re breaking down the right way to clean your hair straightener below.

Mane by Mane Addicts The Three Way Multi-Use Flat Iron on a pink background | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Mane)

The Importance of Cleaning Your Straightener

Cleaning your hair straightener may not seem like the most pressing issue, but keeping your hot tools bristol is essential to creating flawless hairstyles and prolonging the life of your flat iron. This is especially huge for those who invest a good chunk of change for a top-quality tool.

Hair straighteners are prone to buildup caused by oils, heat protectants, hair sprays, and loads of other styling products. As the plates heat up and glide over your mane, the product also heats and leaves a residue behind. Over time, this residue builds up and can leave visible layers to line the sides and plates of your flat iron. Keeping your hair straightener clean will help you avoid the effects of a dirty iron. But what are those effects?

Believe it or not, ironing your hair with a dirty flat iron can actually do more damage to your tresses. Not only can the old product residue transfer back onto your hair, causing buildup on your own mane, but it can also lower the efficacy of the tool’s heat, meaning multiple passes may be required to achieve the style you're looking for. More passes with the flat iron? More heat damage to your lengths and breakage throughout.

Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Straightener

So the question remains, “How do I know it’s time to clean my hair straightener?” Thankfully, there are a few easy signs to recognize. The first is an obvious sticky buildup (usually brown) along the sides of your flat iron or along the plates. This is a sign that it has been a long time since you’ve cleaned your hot tools, and you need to get that gunk off.

Generally, it’s best to avoid letting your flat iron get to this point, but if you‘re just discovering the importance of hot tool cleaning, you're not alone. We’ve all done it before. If the buildup isn’t as visually obvious, but you notice your hair sticking as you flat iron, then it’s time for a cleaning. Sometimes product buildup may not be as stark, but you’ll be able to feel it as you style your hair.

If you’re someone who likes to use their flat iron on a daily basis, then you should be cleaning your iron weekly. But if you’re feeling extra proactive, wiping down your iron with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth after each use will keep your hair straightener in tip-top shape for many, many years.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Straightener

Cleaning your hair straightener may sound a bit daunting, but we promise you it’s not. In fact, you likely have everything you need scattered around the house already.

Step 1: Heat Up Your Iron

While this may feel wrong, you actually want to begin the cleaning process with a warm hair straightener. Of course, you do want to unplug the tool before cleaning, but the ceramic plates should be warm enough that you won’t burn yourself. Warming the plates will help loosen any built-up residue and make it easier to clean.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need a few cleaning supplies which you can grab while your iron cools to a manageable temperature. Rubbing alcohol, cotton rounds (not cotton balls), cotton swabs, and a soft cloth will be your best friends for this process.

Step 3: Clean the Plates

Holding the unplugged iron in your hand, carefully wipe down the plates with a warm, damp cotton round or a cotton round with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is key for providing a deeper clean, but warm water will suffice in lighter cleaning sessions. Avoid scrubbing super hard as this can damage the flat iron plates, but gentle pressure and glide should help clean up any residue along the plates and sides of the iron.

Step 4: Get Detailed

There is often buildup in smaller, harder-to-reach places that a cotton round may not be able to accomplish. Rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton swabs (or even a toothbrush) are perfect for this task. Simply dip the end of a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and use that to scrub and sweep out smaller crevices around the sides of the plates.

Step 5: Wipe and Let Dry

Once the gunk has been scrubbed away, wipe down the entire iron with a damp towel (not soaking) and let it dry. This will help pick up any final residue that remains left behind.

And voila! Your iron is clean. Keeping up a good cadence of wiping down your hair straightener regularly will help you avoid lengthy deep cleaning sessions or having to purchase a new iron. Remember, beauty investments like hair styling tools require routine and maintenance so treat them with the respect they deserve so they can give you your best hair for years and years.

Is your hair straightener too far gone? Here are the 10 best flat irons to use in 2023!