How to Get Play Dough Out of a Child's Hair

Toddler girl (18-21 months) in bath with shampoo in hair
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Every kid loves play dough, but like any children's craft toy or activity, it poses the risk of a major mess. Your child should make a mess (it's actually good for kids to get dirty), but the clean up can be frustrating, especially if whatever they're playing with winds up in their hair. If that's the case, don't panic. Getting play dough out of your toddler's hair is actually super easy and painless.

Unlike gum and other gunk removal, no scissors, oil, ice, peanut butter, or chemical concoctions are necessary. Just follow these simple steps.

What You'll Need

  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower cap (optional)

Getting Play Dough Out of Hair

  1. If the play dough is still moist, use a wide-tooth comb to gently remove as much play dough as possible. If it's dry, gently crack or crumble pieces out of the hair.
  2. Wet your child's hair thoroughly. Apply a liberal amount of shampoo and work into a lather.
  3. Don't rinse out the shampoo just yet. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes. To prevent dripping, cover your child's hair with a shower cap. If you're removing play dough during regular bath time, it's okay to keep the shampoo on longer and let your child play and enjoy the bath.
  4. Thoroughly rinse out the shampoo and apply conditioner, using a comb to evenly distribute it and get out any last bits of play dough.
  5. Rinse hair once more and you should be done. Repeat these steps if necessary, but unless your child mashed an entire batch of play dough into their very long hair, it should all be removed by this point.


A thorough shampoo and conditioning should be all it takes to get play dough out of your child's hair, but if it doesn't produce the results you were hoping for, there are other options:

  • Water and baking soda: This mixture can effectively remove just about any kind of gunk from your toddler's hair. During bath time, wet your child's hair and apply baking soda as needed. It will create a kind of paste. Let it sit on the hair for a few minutes, then wash it out thoroughly.
  • Oil: Olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, baby oil... Any kind of oil is a gunk-removing Holy Grail that can get rid of just about anything. In addition to being an effective play dough remover, oil also gets rid of gum and Silly Putty. Just rub oil onto the bits of play dough and comb it out.

How to Remove Play Dough From Furniture

Your child is probably fascinated by play dough's fossil-like ability, and if they haven't tried making a play dough imprint using your couch cushions, they're likely on their way. Getting play dough out of furniture is more of a process than getting it out of hair, but it can be done.

Don't use hot water or cleaning solutions of any kind when trying to remove play dough from the furniture. Let the play dough dry completely before using a stiff brush to loosen it. Use a vacuum to clean up remaining bits and wash the rest out with soap and cold water. You may need to repeat this process in order to remove it completely.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Scudellari M. News Feature: Cleaning Up the Hygiene Hypothesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2017;114(7):1433-1436. doi:10.1073/pnas.1700688114

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Tips for removing gum without cutting hair.

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.