Tips & Tricks Synthetic wig care question

Discussion in 'Costuming and Props' started by JediRacer8, Nov 13, 2005.

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  1. JediRacer8 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2004
    star 2
    I use a synthetic wig for my Mara Jade costume. It is cut in layers, the longest of which comes down to approximately 5-6 inches below my shoulders.

    I have worn it enough times now that it definitely needs to be washed. I have worn it for two outdoor events in the past few weeks where it was excessively rained on, and it has a slight bonfire scent from a recent party. I sprayed some Febreze on it and that took most of the fire scent out, but when the strands fall into my face I can still slightly smell it. The wig is also starting to get that dull look that normal human hair gets when dirty. The ends are starting to get matted and easily tangled as well.

    I did some research online to find out how to properly wash it and got some conflicting information. All of the sites said to use a sink of lukewarm to cold water. As for shampoo, I saw several different opinions including a light human hair shampoo/conditioner, special wig shampoo, and Woolite. Most sites recommended using a leave-in conditioner as well, but again, some sites said to use special wig conditioner and some said a human hair spray-in conditioner would work well.

    Does anyone have first-hand experience with this? I have an event on Saturday that I need my wig for and hope to have it washed by then.
  2. Sister_Sola Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2002
    star 4
    Depending on the quality of the wig, you can probably just wash it with regular shampoo and conditioner. If it's a good quality kanekalon, it will be just fine. If it's a cheaper wig then looking at it the wrong way might make it fall apart, so I'd go with a wig shampoo on one like that.

    I've washed decent quality wigs with my own shampoo and they're happy hairs. :)
  3. QueenAmidalaEP1 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 15, 2005
    star 2
    I use a wig shampoo, but you can use some regular shampoos. Do not use regular hairspray on a wig unless your trying to create a "frozen" style like a big teased beehive. I use a wig condition spray that I picked up at Serge's Show Girl Wigs http://www.showgirlwigs.com/ in Las Vegas. It's good for keeping the frizzes down and keeps the wig shiny.

    A good wig shop should have all this stuff. I look in 3 types of wig shops locally: the Drag Queen shops, the Afro-American wig shops and the Hasidic wig shops.

    I use the same cleaning and conditioning method on my $10 wigs as I do on my wigs that were samples and originally $300 or more retail.
  4. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
    One other option in lieu of regular conditioner if the wig retains tangles after washing & conditining is hand lotion. Use it sparingly, only working in a tiny amount at a time, and combing as you go until you get the sheen and manageability level you desire. This is a trick my hairdresser and dear friend taught me, and it works like a charm.


  5. kay_dee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2002
    star 4
    I was told by someone who works with synthetic wigs and hair for the stage that the key is to stay away from products with alcohol. I personally play it safe and use the shampoos and conditioners made for synthetic hair. However, sometimes I do use a spray in shine product sold for human hair to help get out tangles (I use it very sparingly). I just made sure it was alcohol free.

    All the other tips given here are consistent with what the wig stores and the stage wig expert told me.

    - Kay Dee
  6. SWCostumer Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2005
    star 2
    I also responded to your question on the Milwaukee board (but I just remembered something else).

    While working at Six Flags, we used Woolite to wash all of the wigs for the main show. Every wig got washed at least once a week on a rotating schedule and we never had to replace a wig.

    To start, either run a sink of water or get a small tub and put in a cap of Woolite and fill with cool water. Place the wig in and gently "swish" it in the soapy water. Remove from the soap bath and rinse in coolish water until the soap is out. Take a big towel and lay the wig in the towel, roll it up and press out the water. Unroll the towel and put the wig on a wig head to dry. At this point you can also gently comb out the wig if it is the type that can be combed. I do not suggest blow drying as the intense heat could be too much for the wig.

    Have fun.
  7. ThePariah Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2003
    star 4
    Ok, this probably sounds a bit crazy, but is there anything you can do to kill some of the extreme glossiness of a synthetic wig? It screams fake when it comes out blindingly shiny in flash photos or strong sunlight. [face_frustrated]
  8. kay_dee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2002
    star 4
    Humm - I know I've gotten my shiny synthetic hair to be a little less shiny by spraying it with synthetic wig hairspray. Anything to kind of dirty it up. If you want to risk it, I *think* sprinkling a little powder into the wig will dull it may work. Bumble and Bumble makes this 'dry shampoo' hair powder in different colors. I'd imagine if you go overboard you could make your wig too dirty though!

    - Kay Dee
  9. JediRacer8 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 2004
    star 2
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I have some PertPlus w/light conditioning that I think I will try in a sink of water. I also found a sample of a leave-in conditioner for human hair than you are supposed to work through like a balm, and I think I may try that. The length makes it tangle easily so I'm hoping that will make combing it out easier. The hand lotion sounds like a nice trick - I'll keep that one in mind.
  10. a-tastic Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 7, 2005
    star 1
    i wear wigs for costumes, but also on a daily basis for my alopecia...and i've found that the best thing to wash wigs (be they synthetic or human hair fiber) with is a mild, low ph clarifying shampoo...most of the time, i use baby shampoo because it's so gentle. fill a sink with ice cold water (never warm or hot, it will melt the synthetic fiber and make it frizz), "swish" it, make sure it gets good coverage, drain the sink, and rinse really, really well with cold water. i blot mine then with old towels until it's medium dry, then hang it up.

    synthetic fibers are plastic, so you theoretically shouldn't use human hair products on them but, to get tangles out i use (same as with my human hair wigs) a detangler spray (i like the herbal essences or vo5 leave-in spray-in conditioner).

    if you don't have a wig head, you may want to invest in one. pin the wig on, spray the tangled part down with the detangler, and then gently, using your fingers, untangle. then, let it dry. you should be able to brush the tangles out pretty easily then. if it's badly tangled, you may want to use a wide toothed comb before it dries, but be careful. sometimes the fibers can stretch and fray.

    however...a note on drying the wig. you don't want to leave the wig on the solid head for the whole time as it' won't really dry sufficiently. in fact, some wigs run the risk of molding in certain climates in that condition. i use a hanger and gently pin the inner edges to the hanger and put it up to drip dry in my shower. lots of people have drying heads that are sort of like wire frames of heads..
    don't fret too much about the style falling out. the beauty of synthetic is that it literally "snaps" back except for ringlet curls.
    if you brush those out, you'll have to work very carefully to get them back into place.

    as for getting the uber-shine out of a wig, i had wondered that myself for a long time...and i found that sometimes it helps just to wash it repeatedly in a mild shampoo, and use the detangler stuff. if it's still too shiny, you can use hairspray specifically meant for synthetic wigs, but that stuff smells horrible...not to mention the massive flammability factor, so you may want to just wash it lots.

    good luck! :)
  11. kay_dee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2002
    star 4
    Gosh, I thought the alcohol free spray that comes in a pump bottle (rather than aerosol) wasn't known as being highly flammable? That's really the only stuff that should be used on a synthetic wig from what I've been told (Other types of hairspray may not wash out of the wig due to the way those products react with the synthetic fibers).

    As for the smell, I'd imagine different brands smell different. The stuff I've been using isn't really offensive. :)

    - Kay Dee

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