Will a Clarifying Shampoo Remove Toner From Your Hair?

By Tina Moretti
Published 28 Jul 2022

Will a Clarifying Shampoo Remove Toner From Your Hair?

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The whole toning hair thing is not always as straightforward as it sounds.

Shit happens. Over toning, over ashing, not using the right toner …

There are so many nuances to achieving that “elusive” perfectly toned hair.

I mean, people spend hours in the salon bleaching their locks. And I was no different. I spent a fortune on my hair color and then another small fortune on toners to uphold my fresh-out-of-the-salon look.

But then something happened. My hair color started to take the wrong turn. It wasn’t the color I wanted anymore, and I didn’t know whether to add more toner or to cut back.

Booking another salon appointment wasn’t an option as it’d be costly. Plus, knowing my luck, I might find myself in the same situation again.

I had to find a way to salvage my botched job. A cheaper way.

And common sense would tell me it’s better to strip it all off and start again. Otherwise, I’ll probably end up looking like one of those purple minions!

unwanted color when toner doesn't work well

So, I did some research and discovered that a deep-cleansing clarifying shampoo could actually wash toner out of hair to speed up the fading process.

At that time, I thought, yeah, it made complete sense. Clarifying shampoos are designed to strip away product and dirt buildup, and toner is just another kind of buildup – a “topcoat for the hair” designed to add pigment or counteract unwanted colors.

So I decided to try it, and a few weeks in here’s what happened …

It Worked. But it wasn’t Overnight

My clarifying shampoo eventually removed the toner from my hair, but it didn’t happen overnight.

What tempted me to take the plunge was this piece I read from Instyle Magazine, where hair colorists Kaylee Benetua and Lionel Atzas of David Mallett Salon (New York City) both endorsed a clarifying shampoo to remove hair dye.

Now, I know hair dye and toner are not exactly the same. A hair dye penetrates deeper into the hair than a toner (unless you’re using a developer), so a toner should be easier to remove, right?

In theory, yes. A clarifying should make your toner fade faster.

And that’s exactly what happened. After a few washes with a clarifying shampoo, my toner was completely gone, and my hair was back to its true color. Oh! And looking clean, vibrant, and shiny and all.

Sure, my hair was a little dry and brittle from all the clarifying, but a good deep conditioning mask took care of that.

So, there you have it!

If you find yourself in a toner emergency as I did, give clarifying shampoo a try.

How Long Does it Take for Clarifying shampoo to Remove Toner?

It takes at least 3 washes with a clarifying shampoo to completely remove toner from your hair.

Typically a toner will only last for about 12 washes if you’re using a color-safe shampoo. A clarifying shampoo is not considered color-safe, so it does accelerate the time that the toner will last due to its slightly alkaline formulation that strips anything that coats the hair.

“Toner typically lasts two to four weeks or 12 shampoos, as long as you’re using shampoo designed for colour-treated hair.” Heather Lee
Colourist at New York City's Salon SCK - PopSugar

What If Your Hair Was Bleached?

hair salon bleaching treatment

I was toning my hair with a purple shampoo because I bleached it a few weeks ago, and I was trying to balance out the warm tones that made my blonde hair look brassy.

Most hairstylists won’t recommend using a strong clarifying shampoo after bleaching to avoid drying your hair. But if you’ve got to correct some color oops, you’ve got to do it.

Finding the right clarifying shampoo that can strip your toner without nuking your hair and scalp’s natural oils is key. You’ve got to add the moisture back straight away.

So using a deep conditioning treatment right after is non-negotiable.

When to Use a Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Toner

The best time to use a clarifying shampoo to wash toner out is straight after you notice you’ve over-toned your locks. The longer the toner sits on your hair, the more washes it may require to fade out.

Most toners are not permanent; eventually, after several washes, the ‘cool’ tones will fade. If you want that toner gone quicker, 1-2 washes with a clarifying shampoo will start to remove the blue, grey, or purple stains. By the 3rd wash, the toner will completely disappear.

Which Clarifying shampoo is Best to Remove Toner

After searching high and low for recommendations, I found the Nioxin Clarifying Cleanser as the one most hair colorists recommend.

The Nioxin clarifying shampoo is generally not recommended for color-treated hair because of its ability to strip color. That’s why I used it to strip toner from my hair and start with a clean slate again.

How to Use a Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Toner

Here’s my simple routine for using a clarifying shampoo to remove toner:

  • Wet your hair with lukewarm water
  • Apply the clarifying shampoo
  • Let the shampoo sit in your hair for about 10 minutes
  • Cover your hair with a plastic bag
  • After 10 minutes, gently rinse your hair
  • Apply a hydrating conditioner or hair mask
  • Repeat the same process for toned hair up to 3 times

Note: Always perform a patch test before using any new product.

The toner will gradually lighten and fade until you achieve the desired result.

Hold off doing any bleaching or coloring jobs for a few weeks until your hair has settled, and nurse it back to health with a proper deep conditioning or hot oil treatment.

Alternative Ways to Remove Toner from Hair

Shampoo and Baking Soda Mix

baking-soda-toner-remover

Baking soda is a versatile household ingredient used for many purposes, including removing hair dye and toners. To remove hair toner with baking soda, mix a small amount of baking soda (10 ml) with your regular shampoo (containing sulfate). Let it sit in the hair for a while, and then naturally wash your hair with lukewarm water.

Although this method is effective, it’s important to note that baking soda is slightly alkaline (pH 8.3) [1]. This means it will raise the hair’s pH, lifting the cuticles and potentially causing frizz, dryness, and brittleness.

You may find other baking soda-formulated hair products that are safer to use. Or even a baking soda face cleanser. That way, you know the product is properly formulated without adverse side effects.

Related: This baking soda acne cleanser immediately fixed my platinum-blonde dye job

Adding baking soda to your regular shampoo may take a few attempts, but it works.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Wear disposable gloves
  • Avoid contact with eyes and skin.
  • Wear goggles and wash your hair in the shower bowl, sink, or bathtub.
  • Make sure to cover your hair with plastic wrap.
  • Try not to inhale the baking soda.
  • Baking soda can leave your hair and scalp dry.
  • Apply a deep conditioner afterward.
  • It is not recommended for dry and brittle hair types or sensitive scalp.

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

anti-dandruff-shampoos - use a dandruff shampoo to slowly strip hair dye and toners

Dandruff shampoo is a great way to remove toner from hair. The reason it works so well is that dandruff shampoo contains surfactants. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of water, allowing water molecules to penetrate hair follicles and rinse away unwanted products easily.

When using a dandruff shampoo to remove toner from the hair, the surfactants break down the bonds between the toner and the hair, making it much easier to rinse away. Dandruff shampoo is designed to be gentle on the scalp so that it won’t cause any irritation. So, give it a try the next time you need to remove toner from your hair and have a dandruff shampoo already sitting in your bathroom!

Lemon Juice and Dish Soap

how to wash toner with pre packaged lemon juice

Lemon juice is acidic (pH 2.2) [2] and contains 5% of citric acid. Citric acid, like bleach, is an oxidizing agent (but much weaker) [3] that can break down hair color molecules.

Dish soap is alkaline (pH 8-10) [4]. An alkaline agent swells and lifts the hair cuticles to allow deep cleansing between them. Combine lemon juice and dish soap, and you get a formula that:

  1. Opens up the cuticles
  2. Oxidize the color pigments

Together these 2 facilitate the removal of toner pigments from the hair.

Here’s how to use this recipe at home:

  1. Wash hair with dish soap first to open the cuticles
  2. Rinse the dish soap out
  3. Apply the lemon juice to your hair
  4. Let it sit on the hair for a few minutes before rinsing it

It will remove all the excess toner from your hair. However, it may also make your hair dry.

Follow up with coconut oil or a deep conditioning product to prevent dryness.

Lemon Juice and Conditioner

lemon juice and conditioner recipe for removing toner from hair overnight

Lemon juice also works well with a conditioner. This method is ideal for people with long hair or medium-length hair as it’s easier to spread the conditioner mixture.

Use a 3:1 conditioner lemon juice ratio for best results.

Thoroughly apply the mixture onto your hair, ensuring no section is left. You can also apply a second coat. Let the mixture sit for at least 3 hours. Tie your hair in a shower cap, ensuring all your hair strands are soaked in the mixture.

If you want to target specific areas of the hair, you can also use a spray bottle for easier reach.

Hydrogen Peroxide

using hydrogen peroxide for washing toner out

Warning:

I don’t recommend this method as it may cause damage to your hair.

I am sure there’s no shortage of YouTube and TikTok videos showing how to use Hydrogen Peroxide to remove hair toner or hair dye.

Hydrogen Peroxide is a bleaching agent. Avoid using DIY solutions to fix your hair unless you are a hairstylist/colorist and knows how to handle using such products. It may cause more damage.

Yes, Hydrogen Peroxide may work faster, but you’ll have to get help from a professional to do it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Clarifying Shampoo Help Over Toned hair?

Using a clarifying shampoo is the safest and fastest way to correct over-toned and unwanted shades from the hair without causing any damage or harm. DIY methods usually risk not being properly balanced and can make the hair more alkaline, causing breakage, damage, and discoloration.

Will Clarifying Shampoo Remove Ash Toner?

Yes, a clarifying shampoo is effective at removing ash toner, even from bleached blonde hair. However, due to its strong cleansing formula, you will need to use a deep conditioner to moisturize your hair immediately.

Does Clarifying Strip Color?

Clarifying shampoos are formulated at higher pH (7.0 – 9.0) compared to regular shampoos (5.4 – 5.8). Since they open the cuticles to remove dirt and buildup, they can also remove color deposits. In fact, a clarifying shampoo is the first product you’ll use when attempting to correct an over deposit of hair color. If your hair is highly porous, a clarifying shampoo will strip out color faster.

How Long Does it Take for Toner to Wash Out?

A hair toner can last for up to 12 shampoos (depending on the brand and your hair condition), assuming that you’re using a color-protecting shampoo.

How Long Does it Take for Toner to Wash Out?

A hair toner can last for up to 12 shampoos (depending on the brand and your hair condition), assuming that you’re using a color-protecting shampoo.

Will a Clarifying Shampoo Remove Toner From Hair?

Yes. A clarifying shampoo is the fastest and safest way to remove toner from your hair without causing further damage, even if your hair is bleach-processed.

Compared to DIY methods like baking soda, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide, which can be too alkaline and cause negative side effects like damage or discoloration. Although clarifying shampoos are slightly more alkaline than normal shampoos (7.0 to 9.0 depending on the brand) [5], they are still formulated to be safe when used correctly.

The only thing to remember is to ensure you follow up with a good conditioner. You should also space out your washes if you have bleached hair.

If you’re still struggling to remove the toner, consult your colorist.

References & Citations

  1. Baking Soda pH level
    National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 516892, Sodium bicarbonate” PubChem, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sodium-bicarbonate. Accessed 28 July, 2022.
    https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sodium-bicarbonate
  2. pH of lemon juice and Citric Acid
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon
  3. Lemon juice contains 5% citric acid – Joe J. Cincotta, PhD from Federici Brands
    https://www.self.com/story/how-to-lighten-hair-with-lemon-juice
  4. The pH of dish soap
    https://rusticwise.com/ph-of-dish-soap/
  5. Will a clarifying shampoo lighten colored hair?
    https://www.quora.com/Will-a-clarifying-shampoo-lighten-colored-hair