Tutorial: Untangle Impossible Knots from Cosplay Wigs!

how to detangle a wig

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We’ve all done it. We wore a wig to a convention and were just too tired or excited to worry about taking care of it after changing out of the cosplay. Then once we get home, we realize that we’ve got a frizzy and tangled mess of a wig. If we ever want to wear it again, we’ll have to take the time to detangle it.

To detangle a wig, the tried and true method of combing through the hair and picking out knots works. To make the wig look like new, you’ll also need to wash it with fabric softener and use heat to melt away frizzy strands of hair.

Depending on how knotted the wig is and how much time you have, there are a couple different methods for detangling. The plastic wig fibers might also have frayed, causing an ugly frizzy look that will need to be repaired. But don’t worry! Most wigs can be detangled and de-frizzed even if they are not heat resistant.

If you have some time on your hands before you need to wear your wig again, you’ll probably want to use this method. With this, you can get your wig looking like new again. It will be ready to wear or restyle when you are done with this technique.

tangled wig
When combing out a wig separate it into section and go piece by piece until all major knots have been removed.

Step 1: Remove the big knots

The first step to take is combing through the wig with a wide-toothed comb. You’ll want to go through the wig one section at a time and comb out the major knots. Start with sections on the underside of the wig, near the nape of your neck, and make your way through the whole thing.

combing the underside of a wig
To more easily comb the underside of a wig, turn it inside out on a wig head.

Try your best not to tug too heavily on any part of the wig, and instead pick away at the knotted section. Too much pulling will end up stretching and damaging the plastic wig fibers. If there are any knots that simply won’t come out, you can snip them off with a pair of scissors. Obviously, you want to avoid snipping off too much hair, but removing small knots won’t be noticeable.

This is the step that is the most tedious and will take the longest amount of time, but it will ensure that your wig becomes smooth after you wash it.

washing a wig
Gently swish you wig around in the wash basin to soak it through.

Step 2: Wash with fabric softener 

At this point, you should be able to run a wide-toothed comb through the wig without running into any major snags. Now that you’ve carefully picked away the majority of the knots, you’ll be left with a slightly frazzled-looking wig. So, now we will wash it with fabric softener to clean the fibers and make them less able to stick to each other and tangle.

Fill a basin or bucket with clean water and add a small amount of fabric softener. You can also use a hair conditioner or wig shampoo if that is what you have available. Place the wig in the basin and swish it around. Leave it to soak for 10-15 minutes.

Afterward, rinse the wig in clean water to remove any kind of soapy suds. Then you will wring out the wig and hang it on a wig head or wig stand to allow it to dry.

using detangler spray on a wig
Use a detangling spray to smooth out the wig and remove any last knots and tangles.

Step 3: Hair detangler spray

When your wig is a little damp (but not soaking wet), it’s time to finish the detangling process. Do a quick pass-through with a wide-toothed comb or wig brush to get fibers more-or-less straight.

Then you will liberally spray the wig with a detangling spray. I like to use Mane and Hair Detangle spray, but you can also make your own by mixing conditioner and water in a spray bottle. 

After spraying the wig, comb or brush through it section by section again. Start on the bottom layer and make your way through the wig to remove any remaining knots and coat the wig fibers with the detangling spray. After you’ve finished, wait for your wig to dry completely.

If you’ve gotten this far and you still have frizzing issues with your wig from damaged fibers, scroll down this post for the section on repairing a frizzy wig.

curling a wig
If your wig was originally curled or wavy, use curlers while the wig is drying to re-style it.

Step 4: Restyle the wig

At this point, you should have a fairly straight, detangled wig that looks almost like new. You can now restyle just like any other wig. If it’s heat resistant, you can use a straightener and curling iron. Otherwise, use hair spray, gel, and other wig styling products.

If you want a wavy wig, you can put curlers into the hair while it’s still wet. I’ve used foam curlers to get a wavy style back into a wig that needed detangling. After you’ve finished with step 3, simply add the curlers in and let it finish drying that way.

clipping knots from a wig
If your wig has any major knots that won’t comb out, you can simply snip them out with hair shears.

How to prevent wig tangles in the first place

Now that you’ve gone through the whole process of detangling a wig, you want to make some changes to your wig care routine so you never have to do that again. While you will always have to deal with a small number of tangles, there is a lot you can do to prevent a matted mess of a wig.

  • Coat long wigs with hair gel or a layer of hair spray. Long wigs are the most likely to get tangled so before you wear them brush hair gel through the wig to coat the fibers. Use a comb to distribute the gel through the wig. Then use hair spray to keep it in place.
  • Spray with wig detangler. You can also spray any wig with a hair detangler before it gets knotted to help prevent tangles.
  • Braid long wigs. When you are storing a long wig, loosely braid it before putting it into the wig bag. This will prevent the wig strands from moving around and tangling every time the wig is moved.
  • Store in a hair net. It’s also a good idea to store your wigs within a hair net to keep the fibers from knotting.

Recommended products for washing your wig

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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