How to Rag Roll Your Hair {natural looking curls that don’t damage!}

Rag Rolling: How to get natural looking curls without special equipment or damaging your hair at

It’s been a while since I did a Crunchy Beauty Tips post. This one is for all of those of us who love to get their girly girl look on from time to time! Looking for more Crunchy Beauty Tips? Check out this post.

I think I can probably get a silent head nod or an amen from many women when I say that -as a kid- I wanted hair that was the opposite of the hair with which I was born; stick straight, reddish brown hair. What did I want? I wanted blond curls or an afro. Yes, those are extremes, but it’s what I wanted. After learning the lesson that straying SUPER far from your natural hair colour in either direction (an attempt at dying my hair black separated by eight years from an attempt at blonde, both with results equally abysmal) I opted to embrace the fact that I was born to have brown hair. Every so often, I augmented it with henna or a semi-permanent colour wash, but I stayed in that brown hair family. I was okay with it…

And over the years, I came to appreciate the ease of care for my straight hair, but from time to time I still wanted curls.

I had tried perms, curlers, little bendy rods, hot rollers, and just about every other method mentioned. Perms failed miserably… I semi-perpetually looked like a wet poodle. Curlers and bendy rods hurt my head while I ‘slept’ on them and weren’t worth the loss of sleep, plus they inevitably became tangled in my hair when I removed them leaving me in tears from yanking on my hair. Hot rollers were a giant pain in the tuckus. Sure they worked, but OY what a lot of work! I love to look girly and pretty, but I’m awfully lazy about it. Hot rollers were out.

Then I remembered reading about girls tying their hair up in rags to curl it. At this point, I don’t recall which book it was (maybe Little Women?) but I figured it was worth a try. I grabbed my fabric box, cut some strips that were about 2-inches by 8-or-10-inches. I washed my hair, let it air dry a bit, rolled it up one section at a time, then went to bed. I had nothing to do the next day, so if it looked awful, I planned to rinse my hair and wash out the experiment.

Sleeping on it was the first test. I’m a total Princess and the Pea when it comes to bed. Everything has to be just so -bed neatly made with no wrinkles or lumps- or I wouldn’t sleep. I conked right out and stayed out, so that was one hurdle out of the way. The second potential hiccup was the removal of the rags from my hair. I untied them and they slipped right out of my hair as easy as pie. The real clincher was going to be how my hair looked though.

I didn’t allow myself to look until I had all the rags out of my hair. When I checked it out, I looked a little silly. I had about 10 curls all over my head because that’s how many rags I had used. I separated them a bit with my fingers and VOILA! I loved it. I had a head of “naturally curly hair” like the little red-headed girl in Charlie Brown. I was so happy.

…And I looked so good, I insisted we come up with something to do that day. I gathered the kids together and hauled them to the playground with a picnic lunch. I tossed my curls, I picnicked, I looked fabulous, my kids were thrilled. So there ya have it, fellow straight-haired gals… Pretty, tossable curls are within our grasp and they couldn’t possibly be easier to achieve!

Rag Rolling: How to get natural looking curls without special equipment or damaging your hair on

How to Rag Roll Your Hair:

  • Cut between 10 and 20 strips of fabric that are about 2-inches by 8 to 10-inches. Keep extra fabric and scissors handy in case you run out.
  • Wash hair and let it air dry, or dampen it. Do not start with dripping wet hair. If you use product (and I didn’t), this is the time to add it.
  • Don’t brush your hair, but use your fingers to comb through it slightly.
  • Separate a section of hair. The smaller the section, the tighter the curls will be. The larger the section, the looser the curls will be.
  • Position a rag about 1 inch from the bottom of that section of hair. Gently wind the tail of the hair around the rag and use your fingers to hold the tail in place as you roll the rag up toward your head, until the hair winding around it holds it in place. Roll it all the way up to your head and tie a square not in it. Don’t tie it so tightly that you’ll have trouble untying it in the morning, but be sure it’s secure.
  • Go to sleep! Dream of bouncin’ and behavin’ curly hair.
  • Wake up, have a cup of tea (strictly optional), and untie then unroll and remove each rag.
  • Separate curls gently with your fingers. If you brush them, the curls will become wavy hair rather than curly hair; it’s your call, but I prefer the pronounced curls.
  • If you use hairspray, and I didn’t, this is the time to spritz it on to hold the curls. Unbelievably, my straight hair held the curls without hairspray for TWO WHOLE DAYS! The third day they started looking a little whopperjawed, so I pulled my hair up into a curly updo and it still looked fab!



  1. Licia Bajus says

    Wow! It does look great! I am that someone who does… well… nothing to try and enhance my looks. Either I’m vain and think I’m amazingly good looking (about 1 day out of the month) or I’m lazy (the rest of the days). I think I will have to have a girly night with my almost 9 year-old not-so-little-girl; thanks for the idea!!!

    • says

      I have my occasional vain days, too, Licia! 😀

      I’m so lazy when it comes to beautifying that it has to be wicked easy and low-maintenance to make it into my regular rotation. This is definitely in that category. I’d love to see a picture of your results!

  2. jana says

    I do this on Maggie’s hair (4 yrs old), but I use my clean socks. They give a nice amount of stretch and are nice and soft.

  3. jeri says

    My Grandma used to do this to us when we were little. All our Easter and Christmas pics were totally adorable. I never thought to do it as an adult, but guess what, it totally works. I’ll be digging into the old clothes basket this weekend for sure.

  4. Tracibub says

    I do rag curls in my oldest’s hair frequently! I don’t remember them in Little Women, but we just read the rag curl part in Little House in the Big Woods! :) Happy curling!!!

  5. says

    About a week ago I was watching the Emma Thompson version of “Sense & Sensibility” and I noticed in one bedtime scene her hair was rolled up in cute cloth bows. I wondered how to do it briefly and then what should pop into my email but your post!!! A coincidence…I think not! I’m going to try it on my stick-straight co-washed hair.

  6. Laurie says

    I love doing my hair in rags, I have hair that is straight and doesn’t hold a curl well and have had lots of luck with rags, my mother use to do my hair up in rags nightly.
    I have been doing my hair as of late in a sock bun on the top of my head and it has been an even easier way to have lovely curls.
    I put a link to a few different ways to curl your hair without heat, I hope you try them.
    I believe tonight I am going to try the headband one and see how that works.
    Have a great day!

  7. Erika says

    I have naturally wavy hair, but it does not look good without a lot of help! I might have to give this a try – your hair looks fabulous!

  8. Marie Shanahan says

    I like this idea. I have thin, temperamental hair and I do have a curling iron, I just hate to use it. This may work on my texture hair! Going to try it and will let you know what happens!! Happy New Year. :)

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