Untangle Impossible Knots from Cosplay Wigs!

how to detangle a wig

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.

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Method 1: Thoroughly detangle a wig

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.

Method 2: The quick way to detangle a wig

If it’s the day before the convention and you’re just realizing your wig needs some work, you can still make a lot of progress on the wig without completely washing it. This method won’t necessarily get your wig looking shiny and new, but it can get your wig to an acceptable level for wearing to a convention. This is also ideal for wigs that are only slightly knotted but don’t have severely matted areas.

The first step is the same as in the first method. You want to go through the wig piece by piece, starting at the bottom layer. The goal will be to gently comb out any major tangles with a wide-toothed comb. Clip out any knots that are too stubborn to avoid pulling on the wig fibers.

Next, you will skip the washing and instead go straight to the detangling spray (don’t forget, you can make your own by combining conditioner with water in a spray bottle). Liberally spray the wig and brush through it with a wig brush or wide-toothed comb. This will give you a basic detangling of the wig without needing to go through the process of washing the wig. 

using a hair straightener on frayed wig ends
If some areas of your wig are frayed and damaged, use a hair straightener on low settings to repair the fibers.

De-frizzing a cosplay wig

Because cosplay wigs are made out of plastic, pulling and rubbing the strands can end up damaging the fibers much more easily than normal hair. This means, when you have to comb out large tangles, you’re often left with areas of weirdly-textured wig that can’t be repaired with shampoo or hair styling products.

The only way to really repair a frizzy wig is to use heat. Because the strands are made of plastic, you can essentially melt them back into place using a hair straightener. Of course, you need to be very careful doing this so you don’t damage the strands instead of fixing them, but the actual process is pretty simple.

First, if there are any damaged, frizzy areas that you can cut off without ruining the wig (such as the tips of hair strands), then get your hair shears and snip it. Any damaged areas that are left will need a hair straightener.

Make the hair straightener as hot as you can make it for the wig (usually a low/medium setting). Test it on an inconspicuous section of the wig first to be sure the temperature isn’t too hot. Then go over the damaged sections, straightening the wig fibers.

You will have to straighten curly and wavy wigs as well if you want to repair damaged fibers. After you’ve gone over it with a hair straightener, you can restyle it using a curling iron or foam curlers.

For non-heat-resistant wigs

A hair straightener will only work to fix frizz on heat-resistant wigs. Those that are not heat-resistant would only end up melting with this method. However, this doesn’t mean your wig is completely done for. There are still a few things you can try for repairing your wig:

  • Trim the frizzy ends and strands. The easiest solution is to carefully trim the damaged fibers from the wig. This will work best if it’s just small amounts of the wig that are damaged.
  • Let the straightener cool a bit. Some non-heat-resistant wigs can still put up with a little bit of heat. Heat up the hair straightener and then let it cool for several minutes. Test it on the wig to make sure it won’t cause any damage first. If it’s good, then use the straightener to fix the damaged areas.
  • Use hot water. Boil water in a large pot and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Then dip the wig in. Test it first on the tips to make sure the hot water isn’t completely melting the wig. If it’s good then dip the wig in again so the damaged area gets wet, then comb the wig. Make sure to be careful during this process, since hot water can easily cause burns.
wig in a hairnet
Don’t forget to store you wig properly in a hairnet to keep it from tangling again.

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 learned a lot of new skills that have helped me become better and making cosplay and looking good for the camera.

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