How to Clean the Sticky Brown Gunk Off Ceramic Curling Irons

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Got a sticky ceramic curling iron? Here’s how to clean a curling iron for real!clean curling iron

I don’t often curl my hair, nor am I particularly good at it, in that I don’t really know how to make it do what I want. I wrap a section of hair, wait, uncurl it, and hope for the best. Then I spray it with hair spray so that my precious time spent curling my hair will last longer than 1 hour.

Somewhere along this simple process, my curling iron began building up this sticky, brown residue, from product in my hair or perhaps from burning my hair. I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that my curling iron is sticky, tacky, and brown, and my hair no longer slips and slides as easily as it did over the once smooth ceramic finish of the barrel.

I’d like to be able to blame this brown gunk on my curling iron for why my hair may not turn out amazing after I use it.

I decided to figure out how to clean a curling iron and remove the sticky brown burnt-on mess from it.

Like many of my cleaning tutorials before this one, I decided to test out various cleaning methods to see what is the best way to clean curling irons, so that you don’t have to guess. I know, I’m so sweet. (You can pick up all of my tested cleaning tutorials here).

I did a little research online and decided to test out rubbing alcohol, ammonia, Goo Gone, and baking soda. One worked amazing, and most of the others did not work. Let’s start with what didn’t to clean curling iron | ceramic hot iron | beauty cleaning tip | remove burnt on brown gunk from curling iron | bathroom cleaning tutorial | baking soda cleaning tip | ammonia | rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol | goo gone

How to Clean a Curling Iron

How to Clean a Curling Iron with Rubbing Alcohol

What you’ll need:


For this cleaning method, you put some rubbing alcohol (I used 91% isopropyl alcohol) onto a clean, dry, cotton ball or pad and wipe down your curling iron with it, gently rubbing away the grime.

I understand why it would seem this would work, but I found that it does not work well, at least if the iron is cold. I also think it’s not strong enough to handle the mess I let build up on mine over years and years of inconsistent use, yet consistent neglect in cleaning. I was too chicken to heat up my curling iron to try and clean it with the rubbing alcohol. I really don’t’ want to get burned more than I have to from a curling iron, thank you very much!

I do think quickly wiping down your curling iron before you put it away with some rubbing alcohol would probably work to maintain a clean iron, more than actually clean a really dirty one.

Here’s my before and after results with trying to clean a curling iron with to clean a curling iron with rubbing alcohol

How to Clean a Curling Iron with Ammonia

I have seen ammonia do some amazing things. I figured since its a ceramic curling iron, I could clean it using ammonia. I actually did two different cleaning methods using ammonia too.

Here’s what you’ll need:

 Method 1 Instructions – Active Cleaning

1. Pour a little ammonia into a small bowl.

2. Take your cotton pads and dip them into the ammonia and gently scrub the ceramic curling iron until clean.

3. Use a soft toothbrush dipped in the ammonia to scrub tougher burnt on-mess from curling iron.

This method actually worked pretty well, but it didn’t complete the job all the way. Here is my before and after using this method:

how to clean curling iron with ammonia

Method 2 Instructions – Lazy Cleaning

1. Splash some ammonia into a Ziploc bag and then insert your curling iron into the bag.

2. Seal it closed.

3. Let the bag sit (outside) for several hours.

4. Bring it back inside and gently scrub away the buildup on curling iron with a soft washcloth or cotton pad. Much of it should just sluff right off.
how to clean curling iron with ammonia in a bagSo, this did work, just not 100%. I was slightly impatient though, and didn’t wait super long, so it could have worked better if I left it overnight or at least 3 hours (I think I gave it more like one hour). It could be worth trying, though ammonia really stinks (literally).

Here is my before and after (without much additional scrubbing – the point of this method is to be lazy and have it all easily sluff off):how to clean a curling iron with ammonia before and after pic

How to Clean a Curling Iron with Goo Gone

The curling iron has “goo” on it right? Some sort of sticky burnt-on mess? I thought this might be a cool and easy way to remove all the goo!

This is what you’ll need:


Put some Goo Gone onto the cotton pad and gently wipe down the curling iron, following up with a toothbrush to further remove the brown gunk on the curling iron.

The problem is that it didn’t work. Like, at all. I pulled off a little bit of the brown color, but that was it, and after a lot of scrubbing, soaking, and pleading. I was very surprised it didn’t do better. I was hoping for Goo Gone to be the miracle worker! It was not.

My before and after:how to clean curling iron with goo gone before after

How to Clean a Curling Iron with Baking Soda

Baking soda has that natural grit to it and I’ve used it in dozens of cleaning tutorials on my blog. It’s pretty amazing stuff! I was optimistic about this one.

Here’s what you need:


1. Create a baking soda paste by adding a 3/1 mixture of baking soda and water into a bowl. Mix together with a spoon, adding more baking soda if it is too runny.

2. Gently apply the paste to the curling iron barrel and handle until coated.

3. Use the cotton pads and gently scrub the baking soda paste onto the curling to clean curling iron with baking soda4. Use a toothbrush in a soft gentle motion, so as not to damage the ceramic coating finish (I totally damaged mine a little, FYI, but it was already removed from part of the iron – I just made it a little bigger – so be careful!).how to clean a curling iron before after pic5. Wipe down the residue with a soft, damp washcloth, gently scraping off any remaining (stubborn) spots with the edge of your fingernail. Wipe down the barrel and the handle until clean.

6. Dry with a soft dry washcloth or paper towel.

This totally worked. While it’s not 100% free from burnt marks, it looks so much better! All the sticky parts from the handles are also gone, and it’s looking great. I also took the damp washcloth and ran it down the cord to remove all the stickiness it had too!

Here’s my before and afters from using baking soda to clean a curling iron:how to clean burnt sticky ceramic curling ironYeah! This is pretty awesome right?!

Now that your curling iron is clean and pretty again, keep it that way by wiping it down with a damp rag really fast, or a cotton pad with alcohol, shortly after each use, and hopefully you won’t get a bad build-up again!
how to clean ceramic curling iron

When was the last time you cleaned your curling iron (if ever)? Did you know it was this easy to clean?


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