Easy Rag Curls for Short Hair

Heatless curls have been all the rage recently. What’s not to love about them? 

Sure, they take a bit longer to do than curls from heat tools, and yes, they can take a bit more practice. 

But if you’re looking for a way to reduce heat damage in your hair, then you’d be into this trend. 

Heatless curls are usually done with items you can find around the house, and this one isn’t an exception.

This technique is a true rags to riches story. Literally! 

Can you believe that you can use rags to make all kinds of curls without even the slightest bit of heat? 

Rag curls for short hair sound like some kind of bizarre internet trend, but it’s been around for hundreds of years. That should mean there must be something about this technique that keeps us coming back to it through the years. 


What are rag curls?

Rag curls are as simple as it sounds. 

They’ve been around since the Victorian Era and were the cheaper alternative to hot curling back in the day.

Victorian Teen with Sausage Curls Closeup

All you need are a few strips of cloth and a bit of time. 

Rag curls are made by taking damp hair and curling them around the rag. After letting them stay that way overnight, you should wake up in the morning with curls just as good as those made with a curling iron

READ: A Guide on How To Curl Short Hair


How to make rag curls? 

Rag curls are going to need some practice at first. 

But once you’ve got the technique down, you’ll have a foolproof heatless way to get the curls you want. 

  • Grab some rags! An old t-shirt or pillowcase will do. Anything made of cotton that you won’t mind shredding up will be essential for this technique. Cut them up into 2-inch strips that are twice the length of your hair. The thicker your hair, the more strips you’ll need. 
  • Dampen or wash your hair, then make sure your hair has dried almost all the way through (about 90% dry) before you start. You can also apply any conditioning product or mousse you like in this step. 
  • Section your hair into manageable parts, clamping or pinning away the sections you aren’t working with yet. 
  • Then, working by section, lay a strip of cloth flat on the crown of your head, letting it fall parallel to your hair. You can use a clip or clamp to hold the rag in place while you work. 
  • Take the section you’re working with and start wrapping it down the length of the rag in a spiral. Make sure your hair lies flat against the rag as you do this to ensure even curls. 
  • Once you’ve wrapped the entire length of your hair around the rag, take the loose end and carefully wrap it around the spiral of hair you’ve just created. 
  • After the section is fully wrapped in cloth, unclamp the part of the rag clipped to your head. Use this to tie the loose end into a secure knot. 
  • Repeat this until you’ve finished all sections and you have securely tied up all your rag curls.

Then, all you have to do is sleep on your curls and undo them in the morning. 

CHECK OUT: How To Quickly Curl Short Hair Without Heat

The longer you hold them in the rags, the stronger the hold will be. Generally, they will end up in tighter ringlets. 

So, if you prefer a more relaxed style, just brush out the curls or tousle them with your fingers once they’ve come free. 

Once you’ve styled it to your liking, simply set your curls in place with your preferred product, and voila! No one will ever suspect you used rags for your perfect curls.

You can change up your look and make tight rag curls and loose rag curls as well.

To make them tighter, just section your hair into smaller parts and work with a thinner strip of cloth. You can even make the ringlets start all the way up from the crown of your head. Just make sure you have enough cloth to tie into a knot at the end.

The more sections you work with, the smaller the spiral. This means, if you work with more sections, you’ll get smaller, tighter rag curls. 

Loose rag curls just work in the opposite way!

Work with bigger pieces of cloth and bigger sections. Wrap your hair a slightly looser around the strip of cloth, and you’ll end up with much more relaxed ringlets.

READ: How To Use Bendy Rollers on Short Hair


Rag curls vs pin curls

While both are historically beloved ways to get curls, the technique and resulting look from pin curls and rag curls are very different. 

When doing pin curls, you wrap your hair around your fingers and lay the loop you’ve just made flat against your head. 

Then, while carefully sliding your fingers out of the center of the loop, you pin it in place with bobby pins or small clamps. The result is a much more relaxed curl. 

If you want a better chance at ringlets, then the technique used in rag curls is a better option. 


How to make rag curls for short hair

Now, you may be wondering, does this work on short hair? 

Can you do a rag curls pixie cut? A rag curls bob?

The answer is yes! Rag curls are great for shorter hair. 

You don’t have to wrestle around with your iron and risk burning your fingers to get heated curls for shorter hair. 

CHECK OUT: How to curl short layered hair

Rag curls are easily customizable. It’s as easy as cutting your rags to the length that works for you. 

While it’s advised to make the rag at least twice the length of your hair, go a little extra if you have short hair. This will ensure you have enough cloth to wrap around your lock and tie it in place.

You don’t even have to do any other extra steps aside from that! Just place the rag on your head and wrap your hair around it as tightly as you’d like. Then, wrap the cloth back up your hair and knot it in place.


So whether you’re looking for a heatless curling technique with decades of proof that it works, or maybe you just want to try and curl your hair Victorian style for a day, rag curls are worth a shot.

Give your old shirts a new purpose while you get to wake up with bouncy defined curls in the morning.

Last Updated: June 16, 2021

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