Failures in Parenting: A Tutorial In Removing Vaseline From Hair

This has been a trying week. Our septic went out. Juliette mutilated my glasses. Then she used her nap time to smear vaseline all over her hair. Later that night, I spilled a tiny bit of water on my i-phone and the speakers stopped working. The next day, Juliette used her nap time to scale her bookshelf and, at the same time, our pool lost prime indicating a problem there. It took all that I had not to move out of my house and run off on an adult-only vacation involving the sipping of multiple frozen cocktails.

Fortunately, I now have quite a few new tricks up my sleeve and I can share them with you.

How To Remove Vaseline From Hair


Vaseline aka petroleum jelly is hydrophobic (repels water) and insoluble in water. It also has a melting point of 99 degrees so water cooler than that will only worsen your troubles. Wish I was thinking rationally about this before I put my screaming daughter in the bathtub. Doh! If you did this also, don’t worry. Just skip down a few steps. It will all work out eventually.

Step 2: Use a comb and paper towel to remove as much petroleum jelly from the hair as is possible. This may be a two-person job if you toddler is kicking and screaming as they sometimes do.

Step 3: Soak up as much of the remaining vaseline with a dry powder. I used corn starch but dry shampoo and talcum powder have also been suggested by some.

You should take a picture at this point. Here is J at her Albert Einstein best:


Step 4: This is the part where you get to wet the hair with your chosen medium for petroleum removal. I tried nearly all of these solutions at least once. For each of these, it is helpful if the medium is already warm and once you soap it up, rinse with the hottest water your child can stand. Lukewarm or cold water turns the vaseline into a white goop. Not helpful.

Dishwashing liquid containing grapefruit: We have the Kirkland environmentally friendly brand so I tried this following my first cornstarch application to wet (oops) hair. Her hair was not much cleaner after several applications, but then again it was a whole jar of vaseline. Child will likely be screaming at this point due to the combination of dishwashing liquid in eyes and hot water. J kept saying “I do not like this Mommy.” Mommy did not like it either. I tried several methods to keep the soap out of the eyes, but it was nearly impossible.

Dawn dishwashing liquid: I strip my diapers with Dawn for its degreasing power, so I should have thought of this without the internet prompting me. On day 2, we followed a dry cornstarch application with 2-3 washes with Dawn. My results were just slightly better than on day 1.

Baby shampoo mixed with 1 tsp of baking soda: Let mixture fizz and then apply to hair. The good news is that baby shampoo does not burn the eyes, so you have only the hot water to upset baby. Hair was slightly better at this point, but greasy enough that I still felt the need to cover it with a headband and hat when we out lest someone think I do not bathe my child regularly.

Clarifying shampoo: I bought Neutrogena’s anti-residue shampoo, which is something I myself used to use once per week to remove product build-up and gunk from my hair. We had the most success with this method. Several washes on day 2 and one wash on day 2 and 3 and hair was noticeably better. This picture is from day 2.


Olive Oil or baby oil: Apparently clowns wear make-up that is waterproof and they use baby oil to remove it or olive oil, if there is no baby oil available. From what I read, you saturate the hair with the oil, squeeze as much out as possible and then follow by washing with dishwashing liquid, clarifying shampoo or baby’s regular shampoo.

Step 5: Condition, condition, condition. Many of the above methods will strip your child’s hair of its natural oils in addition to the vaseline. Of course, you will not care at the time but I have noticed my J’s hair is still greasy in some areas and dry in others. A good conditioner should replenish some of that moisture and your child’s hair will recover in time. At the very least, the whole ordeal should cure them of ever smearing vaseline in their hair ever again. I cannot rule out other substances for certain.


One thought on “Failures in Parenting: A Tutorial In Removing Vaseline From Hair

  1. Pingback: Mrs. Fix It | While Everyone Else Is Sleeping

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