Abstract The ability of various washing agents to extract copper and zinc from human hair is evaluated. Nitric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), and SDS in combination with EDTA were evaluated for their metal-extracting capability as a function of time. It was found that a solution of 0.125% nitric acid removed 95% of the zinc in 30 h. Solutions of a mixture of 5% SDS and 1.25% EDTA exhibited increasing extraction capability with increasing pH. A solution of 5% SDS at pH 6.3 appears to extract very little zinc. An average of 78% of exogenously deposited copper was removed by a 30-min wash with a 5% SDS solution at pH 7.0.