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
• Peanut butter (although some say it works only for gum)
• Rubbing alcohol
• Hair conditioner
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?
Photo courtesy of Kessiye (via Flickr).