How to Get Homemade Silly Putty Out of a Child's Hair

It's been a long day, folks. The upside is that you, dear readers, get to benefit from what I learned today. Knowing that is what got me through the hour-long process I'm about to describe.

All righty then. On the one side you've got your three-year-old wild child. On the other side you've got approximately two cups of homemade silly putty - the kind made with glue and liquid starch. Mint green (not that it matters). In a contest between the child's hair and the putty, the putty will win. It only takes moderate pressure, we discovered early this morning in my preschool classroom, to attach a very large glob of putty to one's head. Right to the roots of her thin, baby-fine hair. Super.

So faced with this situation, here is what I did. First, I detached as much of the goop as I could without pulling out the poor kid's hair. Then, I stripped her down to her underwear and pinned a bath towel around her. I did this because of the next step - vinegar. That's right, plain old white vinegar, and also some cider vinegar we had in the school kitchen. I poured the stuff liberally onto paper towels and wrapped them around the matted hair.

Vinegar is an amazing substance, don't you think? In this case, it reverses the chemical reaction between starch and glue, instantly returning them to their original states. You can also use cream of tartar or alum (both are powders found in the herb section of the grocery store). Just sprinkle them onto the putty and it instantly becomes sticky, runny and gluelike. It makes a good science experiment. (Alum is often used as a preservative in craft recipes, but that obviously won't work with silly putty.) I actually used all three and found that they worked equally well.

So I kept wrapping and wiping down the hair in vinegary paper towels until almost all of the goop came out. I also used a comb to prevent knotting. It's important not to allow the hair to dry, because then you'll have hard glue in the hair and that's just bad. Once I got most of it out, I shampooed her hair, took her outside, and poured a pitcher of warm water on her head to rinse it out. After that her hair dried very quickly and looked great... probably because vinegar is a good hair rinse.

Incidentally, the vinegar also works well for removing homemade silly putty from carpets and clothing. For rugs, pour some on and rub with a paper towel. For clothes, soak the affected area in vinegar for a minute or so and then rinse well with water.

Now, for the sake of completion, I'll list other products that are claimed to get glue or silly putty out of hair. I haven't tried these, but I'd love to hear from anyone who has. Also, note that some of these were tested on commercial Silly Putty, not the homemade stuff, so your mileage may vary.

• Hand sanitizer
• Avon Skin-So-Soft
• Eye makeup remover
• Baby oil or vegetable oil (any cooking oil, really)
• Cooking spray (Pam, Crisco, etc.)
• Cod liver oil
• WD40
• Peanut butter (although some say it works only for gum)
• Rubbing alcohol
• Hair conditioner
• Vaseline

No matter what you use to dissolve or soften the putty or glue, patience will still be required. Put some on and let it sit for a while to soak in. Comb gently and slowly. Try not to panic. I promise, no matter how bad it looks, you will not have to cut the child's hair. Although... that would certainly teach them a lesson, wouldn't it?

Good luck.

Photo courtesy of Kessiye (via Flickr).

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I tried the rubbng alcohol method on clothing.. Easy as pie. Pour alcohol on opposit side of silly puttied fabric and wait about a minute. With a butter knife scrape off residue and scrub to clean. Worked wonderfully.

Anonymous said...

I just used shampoo when I had a child throw it up in the air and it came down on his head. I got out as much as I could and then we had to go to lunch so it did dry some in his hair. He just lay down on the counter at day care with his head over the sink and we washed and combed with the soap still in his hair till it came out. This was easy. For clothes I just soak them over night in the hottest water possible with regular laundry detergent and it comes loose enough to scrape. I have never tried to get it out of carpet.

Anonymous said...

I sprayed PAM in the spot and rubbed it in and let it sit for a few minutes. It worked great but was still painstaking task and at times painful for my son too... but it's out and the only time I had to use the scissor was to remove the pillow which was stuck to the silly putty stuck to his head!

Anonymous said...

I had an undisclosed substance in my 4 year olds hair this morning. Assuming that is was gum, we tried using peanut butter. I all came out rather easily with a little patience. After a quick shampoo to remove the peanut butter, all is well without a large chunck of hair missing. The truth came out later when our 6 year old found the partially empty silly putty container.

Anonymous said...

OMG! I don't know what possessed you to try vinegar, but I owe you a lot of money and countless hours of my time! My daughter recently got some gluey goopy substance stuck in her pretty, long hair. I didn't realize how bad it was and didn't try to get it out right away because I was in the middle of something. Last night by the time I got to it it was hard and totally stuck to her head and scalp. It was late and I didn't know what to do, so she went to bed and I sent her to school this morning with a bow covering the area, thinking I'd have to take her to a salon today to get this taken care of. However, after googling for solutions and finding your post I decided to try vinegar before giving up. I can't believe how easily (and painlessly) it came out. I just kept saturating the hair with vinegar using a microfiber cloth and working it down the hair as I went along. It took me less than an hour, which is no where near how long I thought I would be working on this today. THANK YOU so much for this post:) I wouldn't even bother with the other suggestions -- just go right to the vinegar...you won't be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!! The vinegar worked wonders. I was afraid I'd have to give my little girl a boy cut.

Anonymous said...

Had "Glux" in my daughter's hair. Vinegar did not work on that nasty stuff, but baby oil did the trick.

MrsNessaBerry said...

Olive oil also does the job quite well.

Liz welsh said...

I've been working on a 3 inch, round, and hard as a rock knot (Since super ball Sunday).
My 7y/o daughter has tight curly down to her bottom hair(except now one side is up to her ear. We normally braid her before bed (but not this night? ). . I will try vinegat tonight.!

Anonymous said...

This saved us the way! Truly the internet is amazing. Who would think there is a page for the green science silly putty addressing when it gets in your hair? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just used vaseline it worked fast and got all the silly putty out

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I'm a Nana visiting her Grand. The homemade silly putty was a big hit until Grand tried pressing it on to her patterned cotton dress to see iff it would pick up the pattern. Googled and found this site and off to the Kroger for white vinegar. Put dress in a glass bowl with vinegar and the spotty dissolved almost instantly. Little rubbing and it's all out. Whew! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar worked perfect. Started with mayonnaise it started to break it up and apple cider vinegar did the rest. Thanks!