How To Wash Dreads – A Complete Guide

Can you wash dreads, or should they be treated differently from loose hair? When you begin your loc journey, it’s not always clear if dreads can be shampooed as normal. In this guide, we provide detailed answers to commonly asked questions about washing dreadlocks.

How To Wash Dreads

You can wash your dreads whether they are new or matured. Typically, you can begin washing starter locks after two weeks. From there, it’s best to shampoo dreadlocks weekly to prevent oil and dirt from building up. This ensures your dreads knot better, faster and promotes beautiful, healthy growth.

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Shampoos For Dreads – Our Top Picks

Can I Wash My Dreadlocks?

Dreadlock owners often get a bad rep for not washing their hair often enough.

This may or may not be true, but what’s more certain is that caring for dreads is surrounded by many misconceptions and myths.

So, can you wash dreads? The answer is not only can you wash dreadlocks, but you should wash them. 

Dreadlocks need regular washes because oily and dirty hair doesn’t knot properly. If your hair is left unwashed, natural oil build-up makes your strands slippery, preventing them from “sticking” to each other.

In addition, clean hair — whether locked or unlocked — and a clean scalp are key to healthy and beautiful growth.

The consequences of not washing your dreads include an itchy scalp, mold growth (dread rot), and an unpleasant smell.

What Should I Wash My Dreadlocks With?

What Should I Wash My Dreadlocks With

When washing your dreads, it’s essential to use a light shampoo instead of a creamy shampoo. Light shampoos tend to be clear or transparent since they are residue-free.

Light shampoos clarify and moisturize, while creamy shampoos create build-up that lubricates your hair, preventing it from locking tighter.

The residue will eventually turn into gunk, making your locks look greasy and terrible. Build-up can also irritate your scalp and cause itching.

This is exacerbated by the fact that dreads hang onto residue much more easily than loose hair.

With loose hair, you can brush off some of the residue, but if your hair is tucked away and locked in, it’s harder to loosen the residue. 

How Often Should I Wash My Dreads?

Washing dreadlocks regularly is the secret to flourishing dreadlocks that smell good and look healthy.

Generally, the rule of thumb is that you wash your locks once a week.

However, how often you wash your dreadlocks depends on several factors, such as the age of your dreads and your activity level. 

To begin with, it’s best to wait for up to two weeks before washing freshly installed dreads.

Washing your hair too soon when you have new dreads can result in a lot of loose hair, and your locks may end up losing their shape. 

The good news is, as your hairstyle matures, you can wash your hair more frequently when n LLecessary. For instance, some people with solidified dreads wash their hair every three or four days.

This is common if the person exercises a lot or spends more time outdoors. In that case, washing dreads more often prevents them from becoming a sweaty mess and keeps them fresh.

One other thing to note is that your dreadlocks will need a deep cleanse at least twice a year on top of regular washes.

A baking soda soak and apple cider vinegar rinse are usually used to deep clean and remove residue more effectively for cleaner and lighter locks.

Best Type Of Shampoo For Dreadlocks

Dreadlock shampoos are typically residue-free and scent-free. Here are our top five picks for the best type of shampoo for dreadlocks:

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo

This anti-residue clarifying shampoo isn’t made specifically for dreadlocks, but it ticks all the boxes. It’s designed for weekly washes to gently remove heavy residue and thoroughly clean your locks.

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MAJESTIC PURE Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

MAJESTIC PURE Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoo is always the best option when washing your dreads, and this particular option is suitable for all hair types. Ingredients like apple cider vinegar also help to remove build-up and cleanse the scalp.

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Love Beauty And Planet Clarifying Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Love Beauty And Planet Clarifying Sulfate-Free Shampoo

This clarifying sulfate-free, vegan shampoo is designed to remove excess dirt and oil, which is precisely what your dreadlocks need. It’s also free of other residues like silicone, dye, and parabens.

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Knatty Dread Dreadlocks Shampoo

Knatty Dread Dreadlocks Shampoo

You can use this residue-free and unscented dreadlocks shampoo for all hair types to achieve clean locks that tighten and grow better.

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Dollylocks Dreadlock Shampoo

Dollylocks Dreadlock Shampoo

Once your dreads are mature, consider using this lightweight and residue-free shampoo that gently cleanses and contains essential oils for great-smelling hair.

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Why Are Some Shampoos Bad For Dreadlocks?

As stated, creamy shampoos are bad for your hair because they contain ingredients, such as oils, butters, softening agents, and conditioning agents that leave residue on dreads. 

Most regular shampoos also contain fragrances, thickeners, and synthetic additives that grease your hair, preventing it from matting and resulting in looser knots.

Also, dreadlocks tend to absorb more residue than loose hair, leading to problems like clogged pores, itchy scalp, unpleasant odor, and mold growth. 

Should You Use Conditioner On Your Dreadlocks?

When used on loose hair, conditioner helps to soften strands and prevent dryness and brittleness.

However, the problem with using a traditional conditioner on dreads is that the softening agents lubricate your hair, causing build-up that prevents proper knotting.

That’s why it’s generally recommended to condition your dreads only when they are mature.

For the best results, use only small amounts of a liquid-based conditioner (instead of a creamy-based conditioner) and rinse the conditioner thoroughly from your hair to remove residue.

You can also use apple cider vinegar, which has natural conditioning properties and opt for hot oil treatments to keep your dreads soft and moisturized.

How To Wash Dreads – Easy Guide

can you wash dreads

Here’s a simple step-by-step process for washing dreadlocks:

Step 1: Cleanse With Shampoo and Rinse Thoroughly

Get your scalp and locks wet before applying residue-free shampoo to your scalp. Use your fingertips to scrub your scalp until it feels squeaky clean.

If you’re using natural and organic shampoo, you may not generate a lot of lather, but you should be able to feel the ingredients working their magic. 

Allow the shampoo to run down and permeate your dreads to get them clean without manipulating them too much. Then, rinse with plenty of water and repeat if need be.

Step 2: Moisturize With Conditioner and Rinse Thoroughly

After shampooing, it’s time to moisturize with a suitable conditioner.

Massage the conditioner onto your scalp and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Use conditioner sparingly, and don’t let it sit for too long to avoid loosening your knots.

Step 3: Allow to Air Dry

Gently squeeze water out of your dreadlocks and wrap them with a microfiber towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

You can leave your dreadlocks to air dry or use a blow dryer on the lowest setting to speed up the process. 

Make sure your dreadlocks are dry all the way through before going to bed to prevent mold growth and a musty smell.

Related Questions

Can I Wash Newly Formed Dreads?

It’s best to wait at least a week or two before washing newly formed dreads.

But if you find it too uncomfortable to go with unwashed hair for that long, you can always gently scrub your head with shampoo while wearing a nylon stocking or washing cap over your dreads. 

This prevents your baby locks from loosening too much as you wash them. Be sure to palm-roll the dreads afterward to tuck back any loose hair.

How To Wash Dreadlocks When Your Scalp Is Itchy

An itchy scalp is a sign that your dreadlocks have buildup. To wash dreadlocks when you have an itchy scalp, massage shampoo into your scalp and scrub until clean, then rinse well.

After cleansing, you can also massage apple cider vinegar onto your scalp to condition it. Apple cider vinegar helps restore your scalp’s pH balance and has anti-inflammatory properties that combat itching.

Can You Wash Dreads If They Are Smelling?

Yes, you should wash your dreads if they are smelly. The smell usually results from dirt buildup or dreads that were not completely dried after a wash, causing a mildew smell.

Washing removes the odor, but your locks must dry thoroughly to prevent future unpleasant smells.

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