Yes, You Need to Start Cleaning Your Flat Iron Because It Changes Everything

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Getty Images / Design by Camden Dechert

You probably know the basic rules of using a straightener, like always spray a heat protectant before styling your hair, and don’t turn the heat higher than 400°F. And while you probably abide by these rules already, we bet you're likely neglecting one very important yet rather tedious one: Clean your flat iron. Considering the amount of heat protectant and styling products we use, it’s only natural that our flat irons will acquire some buildup. And as most hairstylists will agree, the cleaner the iron, the better the styling, and the better the styling, the more Insta-worthy hair we'll have.

If you're wondering how to clean your hair straightener, it's (thankfully) an easy process. But to make sure we know how to do this properly, we reached out to celebrity hairstylists Daven Mayeda and David Lopez for their tips on how to clean a flat iron.

Meet the Expert

  • Daven Mayeda is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist.
  • David Lopez is a celebrity hairstylist based in New York.

Keep scrolling to learn how to safely clean your flat iron.

how to clean your flat iron

Emily Roberts/Byrdie

Why You Should Clean Your Flat Iron

"Like any other appliance you buy, a flat iron needs to be cleaned and properly maintained to work correctly," notes Lopez. "Build-up from products can cause the iron not to work as well. Especially if you’ve invested in a more luxury flat iron, you’ll want to care for it properly so you have it for a long time." While a dirty flat iron won’t cause damage to the hair itself, Lopez says that if there's product buildup, the iron won’t be as effective and may cause you to continuously run it over your hair to achieve the desired result. "This will result in overexposure to heat, resulting in damage," he says.

What You’ll Need 

  • A soft towel
  • Warm water or rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton rounds

How to Clean Your Flat Iron

  • Heat the Flat Iron: To begin, Mayeda recommends turning your flat iron on the lowest setting and letting it heat up. This is a very important step, as the heat aids in loosening up product buildup on the plates, making it easier to clean.
  • Unplug the Flat Iron: Once it's sufficiently warm, Mayeda says to unplug the iron, and double-check to make sure it is not connected to the outlet.
  • Clean the Plates: While performing this step, it's very important to be mindful of how you're cleaning so as not to burn yourself on the warm plates. Grab your unplugged iron and gently scrub the plates with a soft towel, cotton rounds dipped in water, or cotton rounds dipped in rubbing alcohol for a deeper clean. Make sure not to scrub too hard, as Mayeda says this can damage the plates.

To get into the smaller crevices, Lopez recommends using a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Once the alcohol has dried, use a damp towel to wipe clean.

How Often to Clean Your Flat Iron

The more buildup there is on the flat iron, the less evenly your plates will heat up, and the harder it'll be to style your hair. To prevent this, Mayeda recommends cleaning your iron at least once a month. That being said, if you frequently use a lot of product and are a loyal flat iron user, you should be cleaning it after each use (or at the very least, whenever you can visibly see residue and buildup).

The Final Takeaway

Whether you invest in a high-end flat iron or not, it's important to take care of it as you would any other appliance. The more you use the iron, the more often you should set time aside to eliminate all of that product build-up on the plates. Not only will this help the iron heat evenly, but it will ensure you're not unnecessarily adding more heat to your hair.

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