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Do-It-Yourself Experiment: Homemade Hair Detangler

Both of my daughters have wavy hair. I love it, but it’s taken some getting used to–especially since I have pretty near straw straight hair. We’ve purchased numerous products over the years: curl spray, frizz spray, gels, and lots of detangling spray.

Because of this, I was quite excited when I saw that you could make your own homemade hair detangler with just conditioner and water. I don’t know why the thought never crossed my mind before, but I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this blog post describing how to make it.

And after reading the simple instructions, I wondered why on earth I’d ever let myself actually pay for hair detangler when I could be making my own for pennies?! It’s kind of like the light-bulb moment I had when I discovered how simple it was to make homemade foaming soap.

At any rate, now that I know how easy it is, I’ll never go back to buying hair detangler again.

Here’s how to make it:

And that’s it, folks. See? I told you it was super simple!

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  1. Lisa says

    My mom used to do this for us when we were little!! It works like a charm. What a great idea, especially with conditioner samples.

  2. Sharon Soares says

    I did this about two weeks ago for my two girls, 11 and 13. They love it. It works for them and one has thin knotted hair and the other thick wavy hair.

    • Emily says

      I second this suggestion. The Curly Girl handbook changed the way I think about my curly hair. I blew dry my curly hair straight for 18 years….now I love my curls.

    • Becky says

      I was about to say this. I haven’t read the book but read lots of articles that promote the methods. A big help has been naturallycurly.com Ever since I adopted the no-poo method I haven’t had to brush my hair. My hair is like your girls but thicker. I scrub my scalp with a cheap conditioner (I buy Suave and V05 at the same time, and alternate so that my hair doesn’t get used to either), rinse, and then condition with Garnier Fructis. I leave it in a little longer then rinse out. I’ll use a comb at that point but I haven’t had to brush my hair in over two years (even before that I’d only brush when wet else it’d pouf up). It makes getting ready incredibly quick. I use herbal essences curl scrunch gel (no silicone) to keep my hair in place, but of course kids don’t need that step.

      • Joanna says

        I’ve never heard of this being done….sounds very intriguing! After you put scrunch gel in your hair, what do you do with it? Air dry?
        If I do absolutely nothing with my hair and let it dry on its own, I have a very puffy hair; if I gel it some while wet and diffuse it, it come out very curly; it just seems to take alot of time to do that every morning (so I don’t!!).

        • says

          First I squeeze out extra water with a micro fiber towel. They are expensive on those hair sites but i got a pack at Walmart in the automotive section. They are also great for wiping fingerprints touch screens.

          ThenI put the scrunch gel and scrunch a bit

          Then I air dry. That’s it, and all I have patience for anyway.

          Second day or later that night (if I’m going somewhere) I’ll put in more scrunch gel, since the bottle says to apply wet or dry.

        • says

          I never use my regular towel on my hair (don’t know about all towels but regular terry adds frizz) and if I shower at night I’ll put in the gel the same as above, but them I’ll wrap it in a t shirt

  3. Misty says

    This also, with a little more conditioner, works well when giving your dog a bath. The watered down conditioner rinses out easily. The conditioner knocks a lot of loose fur out and makes your dog nice and soft.

  4. Susanna says

    I have done this as well and it does work okay. However, my daughter has super curly hair and it will get very tangled. The best product to use is Biolage shine milk. It is not for detangling, but works like a charm. It is pricey, but you don’t need a lot – and it is SO worth it. :)

  5. B says

    I find putting conditioner in my hair (because it’s meant to be rinsed out) gives me acne as it inevitably touches my skin.
    I use pure oil (some like olive oil) like calendula (which I also use on my legs) and rub a tiny bit into my ends for flyaways and detangling.

  6. Susan says

    Crystal, B and Susanna, check out naturallycurly.com website…lots of help on there for curly girls and wavy ones too….Crystal, consider finding a shampoo for your girls that has no sulfates or stop using it completely, you can wash their hair with conditioner only…and toss the brush!


  7. Nichole says

    A friend with beautiful, curly hair gave me this tip years ago, and I’ve used it very successfully on my daughters’ fine, straight, silky hair. We spray it on after a shower as well as when styling dry hair. It’s great for getting sticky stuff out of baby/toddler hair when you’re ready to walk out the door and realize she has dried yogurt (or whatever) in her hair! If you don’t mind not measuring, you can just rinse out an empty conditioner bottle and use that.

    • Sarah T. says

      Ooh… best tip yet! My 2 yr. old always has food in her hair I have to try brushing out on our way out the door. I’m gonna keep a bottle in the powder room for emergency de-gunkings!

  8. Hilary T says

    Great tip! I will be doing this ASAP. And Nichole, great idea to rinse out the conditioner bottle! Love that idea – I like to use every bit!

  9. says

    I saw how to make it a few years ago while I was searching for homemade cleaners. I also could not believe I had been buying something so easy to make. I love making it with free samples for free!

  10. Viki says

    I’ve been using this for a couple of years, and it does work fine. I will often buy the detangler spray from the store, use it up, then use that bottle over and over until it doesn’t work anymore. I’ve found that buying empty bottles from the Dollar Tree or elsewhere, ends up being a big hassle. It seems like they either don’t spray well, or don’t work at all, and if they do work, they don’t work for very long. I get a lot more uses out of a repurposed bottle. Just a thought.

    • Courtney says

      I do this also. I haven’t found a spray bottle that I like as well as the store bought detangler bottle that we were previously buying. I love making my own it’s so easy.

  11. says

    This is something I used to do when my girls were littler. It was great for washing hair at night and then spraying it, combing it in the morning to get rid of bedhead. It always worked for us and the cost was pennies

    • Sue says

      This is also great for making leave-in conditioner for yourself. You can vary the strength to suit your hair, less conditioner if your hair is fine so it doesn’t weigh i down , more if you need it. I always hated trying to get the right balance, not rinse too much conditioner out of my hair, but not leave too much in.

  12. says

    We’ve always used the leave in conditioner from infusion a bottle will last us over a year. I use a water to conditioner ratio of 4:1. Works great and doesn’t leave your hair greasy (although, I don’t think the others will either). I was so grateful when another mom told me about it.

  13. Anonymous says

    That is a great idea. My daughter has wavy hair, and it tangles easily. What works too is to get it wet, rub Aveeno conditioner into the tangle, wait a couple minutes and comb through.

  14. LHAWN says

    I use this formula on my dogs with long hair. Matted hair is hard to comb without breaking the hair and causing the dog discomfort. Just spray, wait a few seconds, then carefully detangle. The dog is more comfortable and more likely to enjoy the grooming process (just like children).

  15. Jen says

    I wonder if lotion would work as well? For winter frizzies, I just grab my ends after I put lotion on my hands and squeeze. Watered down lotion might detangle.

    • Becky says

      I think in the long run that isn’t good for your hair, unless it’s aloe vera. Have you tried olive oil? I’ve heard people SWEAR by coconut oil.

      I love Garnier Fructis triple nutrition conditioner, which has aloe, shae butter, and olive oil in it.

  16. says

    I finally quit using this because I just could NOT get a spray bottle to work long enough. I used re-purposed detangler bottles, empty spray bottles bought for this purpose, and an empty spray gel bottle. They always clogged up after just a few days use.

    I have 4 girsl that use detangler every day. 2 of them have waist length hair, one very straight but thick, one straight and thin. The other 2 have shoulder length very wavy hair. I hate buying the detangler, but I got so frustrated with the bottles!!

  17. says

    I have VERY curly hair and I have never used a detangler for any reason. I don’t use gels, sprays, or anything else either. Switching from hair care products with a lot of alcohol in them, like Garnier and Herbal Essence, to ones with less like Pantene or Aussie, will help a lot in this area. Also, allow the conditioner to sit in your hair for about 5 minutes instead of just washing it out will also help (in fact, most conditioners say to leave it in your hair for a bit before rinsing it out anyway. Always a good idea to follow directions. haha!) But my point is, most hair care products are a waste of time and money if you take care of your hair on a more basic level, shampooing and conditioning. Also you aren’t supposed to wash your hair everyday nor should you use a blow drier or straightener unless absolutely needed. Those are givens though.

    Another tip, I NEVER brush my hair. Brushing will split the ends, break hair, and cause frizz. With it being curly, you would never know. With wavy hair, I would have your girls comb their hair while it is wet in the shower and take care to wrap up their hair instead of quickly drying it through rubbing when they get out. This will prevent most tangles and won’t cause the hair damage and reduce frizz.

    • ERIKA M says

      I agree with wrapping your hair instead of rubbing it dry, but it is a known fact that combing your hair when its wet actually leads to more breakage…your hair is weaker when it is wet.

      • Emily says

        Not true for curly hair. Curly hair should never be combed when dry. It should be combed through when soaking wet with either your bare hands (and lots of conditioner on them) or a wide toothed comb, the main purpose being to evenly distribute the conditioner throughout the hair.

        I also agree with not rubbing the hair dry. Curly hair should never be dried with a regular towel…..they absorb too much moisture. I use an old t-shirt to scrunch the water out of my hair (part of the curly girl method).

      • says

        I agree with Emily below. When your hair is wavy or curly, its best combed while still soaking wet. I comb mine while I’m still washing in the shower right after I have removed the conditioner from my hair. I don’t have frizzy hair or split ends. Breakage is minimal and most of it occurs when I’m not showering or messing with my hair. Haha!

    • Yvette says

      The conditioners that say to leave in for some time before rinsing are “deep conditioners”. They’re supposed to be made in a way that they can soak into your hair better and deeper than regular conditioner. I use one about once a week because I have 4b hair that gets dry, and it’s a great way to restore and maintain moisture. So make sure it says it’s a deep conditioner, if it’s a regular one it may not be soaking in the way you’d like.

      I brush my hair, I have to in order to tame it, lol, but I use a 100% boar bristle brush and only when dry and with leave-in products. It’s very soft and the texture is supposed to help distribute natural oils and whatever products are on your hair when you brush, which is great for people with very curly and hair and coils like mine.

      My daughter’s hair is a different texture than mine (looser curls), but I can dentangle her hair best in the shower with conditioner, since the conditioner adds “slip” so the comb can glide over the hair safely.

      • says

        My Pantene and Aussie bottles of conditioner both say to let the conditioner sit and they are NOT deep conditioners. Most bottles say to leave it in your hair for a little bit before rinsing. If you don’t, there there was really no point to adding the conditioner to your hair because you aren’t getting the full benefit.

  18. says

    I use olive oil on my wet skin after showering and I also rub a little in my wet hair. Not on the scalp but just half way up the hair. Seems to really help with frizzies ends and makes it easy to comb out. When I need more detangler I will have to give this recipe a try.

  19. says

    Another really great solution is Jojoba oil (especially if your child has fragrance sensitivies ), a small bottle is around ten bucks but will last a long long time. My girls have long hair and I just put a few drops in and comb right through (it isn’t greasy/oily at all) the oil keeps the hair nice and healthy too!

    • Yvette says

      I recommend using distilled if your water is hard because it can dry out your hair (and skin). I’m actually going to buy a water filter soon, but some people I know rinse their hair out with distilled water after washing because their water is so hard.

  20. Stephanie says

    I have always used this. Works great. I have very curly hair. My four year old have super curly hair. I also after bath, put conditioner in their hair and don’t wash it out. They have shiny loose ringlets. Pretty.

  21. Heidi says

    Also try rinsing out your conditioner in the shower with cool water instead of hot. It will leave a little more in your hair.

  22. says

    Another thing that I found that works is something I saw on Dr. Oz, of all places the other day. A lady they had on, uses plain sunflower oil in her hair. She rubs some on her finger tips and then applies it to the ends of her hair. My daughter has horrible knotted hair and mine is constantly dry like straw. I bought some sunflower oil tried this trick and it worked great. We both now have shiny, smooth, knot free hair after just one application. And this would be chemical free. I also tried rubbing the sunflower oil into the dry patches on my hands and feet and it also softened them right up.

  23. Rebecca says

    We got The Wet Brush (it was on sale at Amazon for a few bucks and a local salon recommended it for my girls) and it is amazing…no detangler needed! My girls have tangly hair and they can brush through the tangles (wet hair or dry hair) and it doesn’t even hurt their head and their hair looks amazing when they are finished brushing. We also don’t use chemicals in our shampoo/conditioner products…but their hair still gets tangly. The Wet Brush is amazing!

    • Emily says

      My daughter has a wet brush too. While I agree that it works amazingly well on wet hair, it does absolutely nothing for dry hair. The hair must be wet for this brush to work. When using it on my daughter’s dry hair, I have to spray it first to wet it and then it will work. The brush is great, but only for wet hair.

    • Rebecca says

      Really? It works really well on both of my girls’ dry hair without the hair being wet. They brush the top of their hair and then underneath their hair and it’s super smooth.

  24. Melissa M. says

    I use this on my hair and my children’s hair as we all have curly hair and I have found Dove conditioner to work the best for us.

  25. says

    Just wanted to say that since we have curly hair, not just wavy/straight, we also add a small squirt of Argan oil to it for extra nourishing and conditioning.

  26. Tonya says

    Haven’t you done this before or am I crazy?? I made my own last year and I swear it was after reading a blog you wrote about it.

  27. says

    I’ve got 6 children…..and only one girl (though we have another girl on the way!) She has been blessed with beautiful curls and since she’s only 3, she has me to detangle it every morning. We were going through a bottle of detangler every 2 weeks or so…and even with the cheap Target brand, it gets hard trying to stay stocked up!

    I was able to purchase a bunch of Suave shampoo and conditioner at Kroger during one of their buy 10 save $5 deals. So now, we never run out and it hasn’t cost us more than pennies to the bottle! It smells good too :)

  28. Samantha V. says

    My little girl has thin curly hair like myself and we have never had a problem with super bad tangles.. I just comb her hair in her bath when she has the conditioner in her hair and then when she gets out we just squeeze the water out of her hair and its great until her next bath (3 days in the winter and every day in the summer since she is barefoot and half boy lol =]) Seems to work well without buying detangler for us but I guess thin curly hair is easier than thick curly hair.

  29. Rachel says

    My daughter has super curly hair…I hate paying for the detangler stuff (and have never found one that I like the smell of). I love this idea! Right now I just use a spray bottle, some water, and a few drops of whatever essential oil sounds good…right now lavendar is the choice. :)

  30. Coretta Barajas says

    I have been doing this for a couple years now. I also like to add a drop of essential oil to the mix (usually lavender) to make it smell pretty :o)

  31. says

    I started using the no-poo method for my daughter fine, curly hair this summer. Just a few weeks ago, I finally made own detangler. The no-poo and homemade detangler has been great for her hair! I have very fine straight hair, so this curly stuff is new to me! I can’t wait to check out some of the sites listed above to find out new info!!!

    • Lora says

      Have you tried the no-poo method on your very fine straight hair? I’m wondering what results people have had with it for that type of hair.

  32. says

    I just tried this! It was perfect. My daughter had super snarly hair and it took about an hour to go through piece by piece but the detangler helped it so much! so glad you posted about this. Thanks!!

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