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How to Clean Your Practice Head

Does your practice head stain?  Welcome to the club!! I made the mistake of assuming that everyone already knew that ALL practice heads stain, and realized this was a mistake when one of my wonderful customers sent me an email, unhappy with her practice head because it became stained.  So, to correct my mistake, I have designed my own informational sheet about practice head care and cleaning, since the manufacturers have neglected to do so!  You can download it for free, right here! AND, I am doing this post to let everyone know how to take care of your head and what works (for me) to get it cleaned up!

But before we get into cleaning stains, here are a couple ways to help prevent staining in the first place…

Coat your head with hairspray.

It doesn’t matter what brand.  People say the cheapest brands work just as well.  The key here, I hear, is to let the hairspray dry thoroughly between coats, and before starting to paint.  I’m guessing that more coats will equal better protection.  But I would also think that the more water you have in your paint, the less effective hairspray will be.  However, any precaution will probably help!

Okay, so you’ve sprayed it with hairspray and practiced your latest Frozen crown idea with some super stainy blues.  Now it’s time to wash it off and paint it again.  (here you can of course see my years-old stains on the eyes/cheeks…hopefully yours won’t look so bad because you’ve coated it with hairspray, but below you’ll see how I got that off)

Lather it with liquid soap after use.

Try not to leave the paint stay on for days on end if you can help it. After you’ve painted on it, but BEFORE you let any water touch your head to clean it, lather it up with liquid hand soap.  Any kind will do.  I am using Softsoap. For whatever reason, water somehow seems to set the paint on the plastic when rinsed first, so do this to lift the paint off first.

Put some soap on the painted areas and rub it around with your fingers until you’ve lifted off all of the paint.  THEN scrub & rinse it with water.

Removing Stubborn Stains…

My practice head has been stained for years, literally since the first time I used it.  I started out by spraying it with a couple coats of hairspray before use, which many people recommend.  This didn’t seem to help at all with mine but then again I may not have let it dry all the way, and I did not follow the soap-before-water rule.  So, here are some before shots of my head…

My stained head
Here you can see the ghost of a mermaid idea I was working on, stained with Wolfe black.

Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of research on this topic, in an effort to give my customers a better answer to their concerns.  You will find this subject discussed all over the internet, on face painting message boards and Facebook groups.  The topic comes up over and over and over again because everyone has this problem! Here are just a few of the things that some artists have said work for their heads:

Eucalyptus oil
Barkeeper’s Friend
Rubbing Alcohol
Magic eraser
olive oil
baby oil
coconut oil
pure acetone nail polish remover
“pears soap”
Winsor and Newton brush cleaner
White face paint left on overnight then washed off
Olive Oil Soap from the Body Shop
White Spirits
Da Vinci Soap

I have tried oh so very many of these (aside from the specific soap brands that weren’t in my area), and ONE worked, really well.  Like, shockingly well, considering how many YEARS the stains have been on my Mehron practice head.  I’m talking stubborn, well-known stainers like Wolfe black, TAG teals and pinks, and Paradise Brilliant blues.

Here’s what worked for me. (disclaimer: I have a Mehron practice head and this worked on my head.  Every brand of head is different, and just like staining on human skin, will come off with different things.)

91% Isopropyl Alchol and a Magic Eraser.

90% alcohol and a Magic Eraser

I don’t know why I didn’t try this sooner…probably because the huge list above of possible solutions was too overwhelming to eventually land on the right one.

Your alcohol has to be 90% or higher.  You can find this at your local drug store. In some states you will have to ask a pharmacist to get it from behind the counter or order it.  In my town, it was right on the shelf in the first aid section at Walgreens.

Mr Clean Magic Erasers can be found just about anywhere in the cleaning supplies.  You can also often find generic store brands that work just as well.

Pour a little of the alcohol on your Magic Eraser to wet it.

Rub and scrub your head.  Use a circular motion, an angular motion, a linear motion…whatever motion floats yer boat!

Wow, this really worked for me, with very little effort!

Look at how this Wolfe black stain (above) just wipes right off!

So how do you get the crud out of those little cracks in the eyes, nose and mouth?

I pressed my wet sponge into the cracks, leaving some alchocol and Magic Eraser magical goodness in the cracks.

Then I took an old toothbrush and scrubbed the magic around. This got most of the gunk out of the cracks. 

Check out this shot where I have used this method on half the head, so you can see the before and after.

Amazing, huh?!  I really didn’t think this was going to work…just like every other method I have tried.  But, it really did!

Just to recap…here is a before and after pic of the head, after I did the whole thing…


Yes, this is the SAME head!!  Can you believe it?!

Remember, the stains on my before picture were there for years.  They are also there after I tried pure acetone nail polish remover, mineral spirits, rubbing alcohol, an overnight soak in coconut oil, olive oil, Barkeepers Friend, and just about every other cleaner and scrubber in my house.

So there you have it, folks!  If you are frustrated with your stained head, give THIS idea a try…it just might be the one that works for you, too!!

(If you have a different brand of head, and have your own method to clean it, please help us all out and share below in the comments!)

Click here to see my post on how to clean your brush tub!

6 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Practice Head

  1. I purchased my ProFace head from SillyFarm and it came with Magic Eraser and instructions to clean with alcohol. Works like a charm on that head too!


  2. Great post, Gretchen! I have to say I tried that method on mine and it didn't work – BUT! I have one of those more rubbery ones that are made for massage practice. What works for me is coconut oil rubbed and lathered in followed by a wipe off with 100% Acetone nail polish remover. I will also say the rubber on mine has now a slightly yellower tint to it – could be what I use to clean it, could be from aging, could be from paint. But it does well AND the coconut oil is also great for moisturizing hands and removing stubborn stains from skin! Glad you found something low-tech and inexpensive!

  3. So glad I found this. I have only just received my Mehron practice head and was about to use it but thought I should look into how to clean it first.

    Thanks so much for posting this help information.

  4. I purchased a make up and false eyelash practice head (it said it was good for face painting as well)and panicked when I tried doing a design and the blue face paint stained it! I didn't have any 90% IPA, but I have TONS of alcohol hand sanitizer gel and a magic eraser knock-off. Took some elbow grease but it worked like a charm! So if you can't find 90% IPA, get some clear alcohol hand sanitizer (not the stuff with the moisturizers or aloe in it) and get ready to scrub!
    I am now coating the head with hair spray to seal it before my next practice session.

  5. I use the Norwex microfiber with a ecos multipurpose cleaner. Good as new.

  6. I use the Norwex microfiber with a ecos multipurpose cleaner. Good as new.

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