CAUTION! Hot water is still hot so be careful Also some synthetic wig hair will form tiny frizzy crinkles. This is wonderful for natural looking hair of certain periods (1880s for instance) but often not for modern aesthetics! These methods are best for trying to make cheap pieces look good.
Straightening wigs with hot water:
You can use hot water to dip entire hair pieces in and let gravity pull the curls out:
To start with I took three ponytails and decurled them using a well known technique of using boiling water. When used to set curls on wigs/fashion dolls this is called a “boil perm”. I set the pot to simmer then dunk each ponytail individually in the water. It literally takes seconds to soften the fibres enough to stretch them. Perhaps 5-10 seconds per hair piece. The weight of the water in the hair goes a long way to this stretch.
I would recommend trying to get dead straight hair in two steps for safety. Trying to manipulate the hairpiece while it contains very hot water is not a good idea.
Note the element is red this really was hot water. I know many are worried about hair melting, this should not happen if you set the water to simmer (not boil) and you keep the hair moving. The perspective is skewed though, the pot is in fact big and the element is the standard large size.
Once dry the hair can be combed to detangle and then dipped again. With a wide toothed comb it may be possible to lay the ponytail on the bench top and comb it a little more to get even more straightened.
Tidying a hairline of a wig:
When hiding the elastic or net or bound edge of a non-lace front wig you often sew wefts to the underside as well as on top. However these wefts need to be coaxed into lying flat. Once again boiling water will help, though I have done this with a hairdryer as well (was worried about my polystyrene melting).
So I pin the hair back and into the direction it would lie when worn and poured hot water from a just boiled kettle over the new hairline. While the hair is still hot I comb and smooth the hairline and make sure the elastic still lies flat.
Leave to cool before brushing smooth.
It is also possible to curl with the same method. I tend to use boiling water from a kettle for this and a wig head and form outside or on a post that can keep my hands away from the boiling water.
I like to use perm rods for curl as it thus mimics what is done to human hair.
Smoothing frizzy curls into ringlets:
For these pieces I wanted to utilise the curl but make them a bit closer to the fashion of the 1870s. to this end I started by simply washing the pieces in warm water with shampoo to remove whatever treatment had been put on them prior to purchase. This is that horrible crunchy feeling that probably puts most people off buying them. It does wash out and you can keep the curl! Just be gentle with washing and pat dry with a towel.
One piece I left as it was with open separated curls (on the left of the image to the left) the other two I combed as free of tangles as possible (middle of the image to the left) to create two sets of ringleted hairpieces (right of the image to the left.)
The curls were of some help but in fact made much of the preparation more difficult as it was very prone to tangling and drying out too quickly.
I sectioned the hairpieces by using two rows of weft then diving that into two or three sections.
Each section was combed further and straightened as much as possible. While it was held tightly I sprayed it with hairspray then quickly worked from the weft to wrap the section around a tapered stick to set the ringlet. This required a bit of care to smooth with the curl, something you can really only do by feel. If you remember the days of home phones that had spiral cords to the handset you will be familiar with the concept of trying to make the curls all go in one direction as you try to untangle the cord!
My “stick” was in fact a pen made from some sort of industrial bobbin. It was very handy for this process however.
One hairpiece was made to have fewer looser ringlets and the tighter ringlets.