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Can You Wash a Wig With Regular Shampoo or Laundry Detergent?

Cute African American female wearing a synthetic wig gently styled and combed with a wig brush.

Most people know that using the right products on a wig is crucial to its longevity. Yet, some people use regular shampoo on their wigs and hope for the best.

Can you wash a wig with regular shampoo? What about dish soap or detergent? In this article, we’ll not only reveal the answer to these questions, but we’ll tell you exactly how to wash your wig for the best results.

Can You Wash a Wig With Regular Shampoo?

You should not use regular shampoo for wigs. One of the biggest myths about human hair wigs is that they require the same products you’d use on your natural hair. This is simply not the case.

While you may be able to use one of your usual hair products on both your natural hair and your wig, this is an exception rather than the rule. The issue with regular shampoos is that they often contain chemicals that are appropriate for your natural hair and detrimental to your wig.

For instance, regular shampoos contain surfactants (sulfates and sulfate alternatives) that are meant to remove oils from your natural hair.

While these surfactants are great oil removers, your wig won’t like them. Regular shampoo can leave your wig dry and dull and increase its shedding rate – this goes for both human hair and synthetic wigs. 

And even if your shampoo doesn’t contain the harshest surfactants out there (sulfates), it could still ruin your wig over time.

Natural shampoos that contain heavy oils and intense moisturizers can also leave your wig looking unnaturally shiny, increase frizz, or even encourage matting. In addition, they can cause buildup that leads to styling difficulties and damage to the wig hair. 

African American lady wearing black eyeshadow, red lipstick, and a synthetic hair wig over a wig cap.

Your Natural Hair is Very Different from Your Wig

Once you realize that your natural hair and your wigs are not the same, it’ll be easy to understand why regular shampoo and wigs don’t mix. Here are a couple of important differences between wigs and the hair growing from your scalp:

  • Human hair wigs are often dyed or treated with chemicals before being sold. This process allows wig companies to offer a consistent color palette, various texture options, and style variety. Unfortunately, it also weakens the hair fibers.
  • Synthetic hair wigs are made of plastic. Plastic requires a very different cleansing procedure than natural hair.
  • Wig hair is not attached to a human scalp, so it is not naturally replenished with nutrients.

Because wigs generally have fragile hair with no natural ability to heal, they need specific products to preserve their structural integrity.

A light-skinned female with a big smile with red lipstick that has washed her wig with synthetic wig shampoo.

What Makes a Good Wig Shampoo?

All wigs require specially formulated shampoos that contain gentle, effective cleansers that can remove makeup, glue, gel, oil, and more from your unit. The formula should be lightweight, buildup free, and non-drying.

The shampoo should also contain specialized smoothers and emollients that keep the wig looking shiny and healthy without giving off an overly greasy sheen. 

This sounds like a tall order, right? Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be hard to find a good wig shampoo. Keep reading for some of our top picks.

Black women wearing red lipstick and black eyeshadow wearing hair extensions.

Best Shampoos for Wigs

Here are some of the top-rated shampoos for wigs. You can’t go wrong with either of these options:

  • AGA Product Just Soak Human Hair Wig Shampoo – This is a professional-grade shampoo for human hair wigs. It’s formulated with coconut oil, a gentle cleanser, and anti-static agents to keep your wig clean, lustrous, and buildup-free. The shampoo is meant to clean all on its own via soaking – simply combine the shampoo with some water according to the instructions, soak your wig, rinse, and then condition and style. Use it weekly or biweekly for the best results. 
  • DeMert Wig & Weave System Shampoo – This is a multi-use shampoo for synthetic or human hair wigs. It’s known to cleanse even the dirtiest wigs within just a few minutes. This shampoo is formulated with sulfate and non-sulfate cleansers for some serious cleaning power. 
  • Brandywine Shampoo and Conditioner Set – Brandywine wig products have been around for quite a while and have garnered a huge following among wig-wearers. This is a shampoo and conditioner set formulated for synthetic and human hair wigs. The shampoo not only cleanses your wig and leaves it shiny, but its anti-static properties combat frizz and flyaways for a great hair day every day! 

The best way to determine whether your shampoo can be used on a wig is to look for phrases like “wig shampoo” or “for wigs” on the packaging. These terms ensure that the shampoo was formulated for use on wigs. 

African women wearing a brand new synthetic wig that's been styled with a wig comb.

Alternative Wig Shampooing Options

Many wig wearers emphatically state that you can use other products like baby shampoo or laundry detergent to wash your wig. Let’s get into whether products like these are appropriate. 

Baby Shampoo

If you’re in a pinch and only have baby shampoo available, you can use it once. However, just like other non-wig shampoos, baby shampoos are meant to strip away oils.

If you use them on your wig, it may feel a bit stiff and dry when you’re done. Though baby shampoo is often gentler than shampoos for kids and adults, it’s still unsuitable for your wigs. 

A lady running her fingers through the wig fibers of her freshly washed synthetic wig.

Laundry Detergent

We do not recommend washing a human hair wig with laundry detergent, as it can be extremely harsh on its strands and provide no benefits to the unit. But in the case of synthetic wigs, laundry detergent is useful. 

Some laundry detergents, like Woolite, have been known to effectively cleanse synthetic wigs. The formula seems to mesh well with the plastic hair fibers.

But it’s important to be aware that after washing a synthetic wig with laundry detergent, you will have to follow that up with a fabric softener, as the wig will feel like straw.

But all in all, it’s better to use products specifically made for synthetic wigs – they’ll give your wig all it needs to look great and behave like a dream.  

African lady wearing a synthetic wig with long curly hair that is tangled because wasn't stored on a wig stand.

How to Wash Your Wig

Now that you know what to use to wash your wig and what not to use, here are some quick instructions to follow for effective wig washing. It’s very straightforward, and the more you do it, the easier it will get! 

Cute black girl wearing a delicate hair wig with synthetic fibers with red eyeshadow and lipstick.

Step-by-Step Washing Guide

  1. Use a comb to gently remove all of the tangles from the wig. If you have a curly hair wig, use a wide-tooth comb. 
  2. Flip your wig inside out. 
  3. Place the wig in a bowl or sink full of cold water and add about one tablespoon of wig shampoo to the water. Check the instructions on the shampoo packaging to ensure that you’re using enough of the shampoo – instructions may differ by shampoo brand. If you add too much shampoo to the water, you’ll have a hard time getting all the soap out later. 
  4. Swirl the wig around in the water/shampoo mixture, and then allow it to soak for 5 minutes. 
  5. Remove your wig from the water, empty your bowl/sink, and then thoroughly rinse your wig under fresh water.
  6. Follow up with a wig conditioner and then dry and style as desired. 
Beautiful black female wearing red lipstick and a synthetic wig under a wig cap covering her own hair.

Related Articles

There you have it! Your wig is an investment that requires special care. This includes using products that are appropriate for wigs.

Using the correct products, your wig will look and feel amazing and last for months or even years (depending on the wig type).

We hope this article has helped answer your wig shampoo questions and provide you with some helpful tips to ensure that your wig wash days go off without a hitch.