logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Pipe cleaners hair for curling hair
overnight in bygone times

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Pipe cleaners, as sold by tobacconists, and used as hair curlers in the mid-1900s

Pipe cleaners

Pipe cleaners are well-known these days for craft work. The real pipe cleaners, though, the ones that were sold by tobacconists for cleaning pipes, were of a non-descript pale colour and were longer. They were designed to poke through a pipe, brushing out the stale tobacco and tar and to be flexible to reach round the bends in the pipe.

These pipe cleaners worked well as hair curlers because the outer surface was soft and fleecy, whereas the wire inside was flexible yet stayed put however it was bent.

To make a curl, hair was wound round a pipe cleaner which was then wound back on itself to hold the curler in place. The resulting curler was smaller than the metal types, but still lumpy to sleep on.

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The temporary nature of a pipe cleaners as curlers

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

My mother changed from using metal curlers to using pipe cleaners sometime in the 1950s.

Pipe cleaners could only be bought at tobacconists, and she was a fairly frequent customer. This suggests that pipe cleaners did not last long when repeatedly twisted and untwisted for use as curlers. So perhaps it was economy that kept my mother using metal curlers for so long.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.