Can You Use Clippers On Wet Hair?

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hair clippers with lever

Decided to shave your head, but just got out of the shower?

You’ve done the right thing washing your hair first to protect your clippers from dirt and grease, but now you’re wondering if trying to shave wet hair will damage your blades or cause problems with your haircut – right?

So can you use hair clippers on wet hair? Or is it a terrible idea? Let’s take a look.

Key points to know:

  • Using hair clippers on wet hair is usually a bad idea
  • But not on all hair…
  • dry hair can be just as bad as wet hair if you haven’t prepped properly
  • Wet/Dry hair clippers don’t solve the problem

Can you use clippers on wet hair?

You should avoid using hair clippers on fully wet hair. It stops the clippers from being effective, it makes a terrible mess, and it can damage the clippers long-term too.

Let’s focus on how hair clippers work, because that makes it clear why wet hair’s a bad idea.

As you run a set of clippers through your hair, the guard acts as a separator, guiding the hair strands into the different gaps within the guard.

Then, the blade cuts across the hairs – and the combination of the sharpness of the blade, and the teeth of the guard providing resistance, means that the strands ‘break’ as they are cut.

Then the cut hair either falls away loose, or it rests against the clipper, so that once you move it away from your head you can tip it into the trash/onto the floor to clean later.

The problem with wet hair is that the water messes up each of these steps.

It causes hair to stick together, creating clumps. This is why a lot of people notice their hair looks thin when it’s wet – because the clumps expose the scalp.

These clumps are too big to be guided into the teeth of the clipper guard, so the blade can’t get full contact with the strands.

The water then adds an additional layer of protection, which essentially temporarily blunts the blades. They could still cut, but it wouldn’t be as clean and sharp.

And then, the cut hair will stick to the clippers too, potentially jamming them and making a mess that’s hard to clean.

Overall – you’ll have a bad time if you try to use clippers on wet hair. I really wouldn’t recommend it.

What will happen to my clippers if I use them on wet hair?

Using clippers on wet hair can also be damaging to them. You can cause the blades to jam, which can put additional pressure on the motor, and the moisture from your hair can get into the blades and motor and lead to rust.

rusty clipper blades

If you want to keep your blades in the best condition, don’t use them on wet hair. Once cut, wet hair will still stick together, but in a thicker clump than loose dry strands. If these get into the clipper blades, they could restrict the moment of the cutting blade.

The motor will keep trying through and that could cause part of the mechanism to weaken or potentially even snap, essentially breaking the clipper blade.

The water can also drip down into between the blades and the motor, and small molecules can be hard to remove. That doesn’t mean that they won’t cause rust to appear, though.

And once you get rust on your clipper blades, it can be very tough to remove. You’d need to sharpen the clipper blades until the rust was cleared away, and that’s literally shaving the lifespan of the blades.

Is using wet clippers bad for your hair?

Using wet clippers is bad for your hair in that you won’t get as clean a cut, so hair can be more brittle. It can also pull at the hair more, causing you to pull some out from the root as you’re using the clippers.

It’s not going to cause a lot of damage, but it’s much more likely to be painful as it tugs at hair, and it could leave the ends of strands quite brittle and prone to splitting if you were to then let it grow out.

What about wet/dry clippers?

Wet/dry clippers are those designed to be used in the shower – they’re waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about the water damaging the motor inside or rusting the blades. But you still shouldn’t use them to cut wet hair.

They’ll still struggle to cut hair properly if it’s dripping wet, and they can get damaged if the wet hair gets stuck in the blades.

So what’s the point of them?

It’s to cut thinner hair – beard or body hair. Because that hair isn’t thick enough to clump together, it won’t jam the clippers up.

It can also be advantageous to cut those hairs in the shower too. Smaller beard hairs have the tendency to get everywhere when cut, so being able to wash them off can be cleaner. 

And wiry body hair is often easier to confine to a shower, provided you’re not cutting it when it’s really long and it’s at risk of clogging the drain pipe. Drop a comment if you’ve ever been shouted at by your partner for this – I bet you won’t be alone.

hair clippers with lever

How dry should hair be for using clippers?

Your hair doesn’t need to be bone-dry to use hair clippers. It’s fine to have a shower and then towel-dry the hair so that it’s damp.

Damp hair isn’t ideal – it is unlikely to clump together as much, and it shouldn’t release a lot of water into the clippers, but it can still be messy when you’re cleaning it up.

But you don’t have to go to the trouble of blow-drying your hair if you’re planning on shaving it right after a shower either.

Dry hair is the best option, but damp/clammy hair is usually OK.

Tips for using clippers on dry hair

Here are the top tips for using hair clippers on dry hair:

  • Make sure your hair is as clean as possible
  • Comb your hair to remove knots and mirror your regular style
  • Make sure the clippers are clean and well-maintained

I mentioned right at the start of this guide that dry hair is sometimes not ideal for hair clippers, and that’s true if you haven’t cleaned it.

Dirty hair is often greasy, and that grease can have a similar effect to water on your clippers. It won’t cause rust but it can act as a barrier, blunting the blades. Plus it can cause the hair to clump together and knot more easily.

hair clipper blades

Even worse is if you try to use hair clippers when you have product in your hair. It’s going to jam your clippers, it’s going to pull at your hair and hurt, and it’s going to leave a horrible mess once you’re done.

So, don’t try to clipper dry hair if you’ve not cleaned it. Shampoo and ideally condition your hair beforehand. You don’t have to wash it immediately before clipping it, but if you’re going to use clippers in the morning, make sure you’ve washed it at least the night before.

Next, make sure you’ve combed your hair before you use clippers. This helps remove any tangles and make it easier for the clippers to glide through your hair.

Depending on your hairstyle, it can also be useful for getting the hair to lie in its intended position. This makes it easier for you to use the clippers to get the desired length.

Finally, make sure you’re regularly cleaning your hair clippers, and oiling them too. A clean set of hair clippers that has been well looked after will cut hair much easier.

hair clippers with lever in box


I know that it can be tempting to shave your hair when it’s wet, if you’re looking to save time. But all you’ll do is cause a nightmare to clean up later, and a lot of work to return your clippers to their best.

Save yourself time in the short term by drying your hair and combing it before you use clippers – trust me, it’s much better that way.

Maintenance is important too, so be sure to check out my guides to cleaning your hair clippers and sharpening your clipper blades as well.

And if you’ve got any tips I’ve missed or you’ve some hair clipper horror stories to share, drop a comment below.

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This post was written by Matt:

I've been shaving my head for nearly 20 years. I'm here to share that experience, good and bad, help you embrace your hair loss, and live your best bald life.

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