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How To Wash Dreads (The Right Way) Without Messing Them Up

man taking a shower

Dreads are fascinating in how it gives any individual an authentic look. However, keeping it healthy could be challenging for those who don't know how to wash dreadlocks properly.


If you're one of those who'd love to learn the best way to wash dreads and care for them, then keep reading. In this article, we'll cover as much of the vital things you need to know to maintain those gorgeous locks. 

Knowing More About Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks, also known as "locs," Sanskrit, Jata, or dreads to most people, is a famous, fashionable hairstyle. It features ropes of hair that may come in different forms like braiding, rolling, and backcombing.

While this type of hair fashion is closely associated with cultural background, religion, or lifestyle, more people nowadays are already sporting this chic hairstyle.

On the contrary, you might hear so many misconceptions about dreads around you. Some think that to get one, all you need to do is skip hair care like combing and cutting.

However, some would intentionally neglect hair care and wait for it to form into locks, which takes more time.

But don't let its reputation confuse you; in practical terms, it would take you years and efforts to have your dreadlocks mature uniformly. You would need to encourage your hair's natural tendency to twist and tangle.

Different Kinds Of Dreads

Freestyle Dreads

woman wearing yellow shirt playing around dreads

It's a low-maintenance kind of dread style that you can effortlessly groom at the comfort of home.

Freestyle or freeform is an easygoing method that allows you to form your locks naturally without using any hair products; hence, it is more cost-efficient.

Semi-Freeform Dreads

This method is more suitable for individuals seeking to achieve a cleaner look. You start it with a hair care regime, typically at the roots, then allow your hair to do its thing eventually.

Aside from these two, here are several ways by which you can style your dreads:

  • Wavy dreads
  • Cornrows dreads
  • Long dreads
  • Bohemian locs
  • Twisted dreads
  • Black man ponytail dreads
  • Short dreads
  • Updo dreads
  • Twisted Mohawk
  • Medium-length dreads
  • Intricate dreads

The Common Challenges In Maintaining Dreads Healthily

Keeping The Hair Odor Free

Knowing how to wash dreadlocks is one thing, yet doing so every day can result in dead scalp cell build-up. These dead cells would appear as dandruff flakes and could certainly cause your locs to become smelly by starting to absorb the odor in your environment.

The absence of fresh smell in your dreads can also happen if you miss to dry out your hair evenly.

It can cause mildew, which gives out the stinky smell in your dreadlocks. When this occurs, you may try rubbing a drop of tea tree oil to prevent fungus growth on your scalp.

Keeping The Hair Hydrated

Due to the hair formation when you're sporting a dreadlock, you indirectly expose your hair to some harmful elements. Ensure that you moisturize your locs regularly, use all-natural oil, and deep condition them from time to time.

You may try a leave-on moisturizer or use apple cider vinegar if you fear that ready-to-use hair products such as conditioners can damage your curls. Consistently doing this regimen will keep your dreads vibrant and healthy.

Bald Patches

Most experts recommend that it is healthy to change your hairstyle at least every two weeks. It will prevent stretching your hair in one direction for extended periods and may cause you to have some bald patches.

Wearing your dreads in a bun for a long time may result in a receding hairline. It's also best to avoid twisting your hair frequently, which can also cause thinning of hair and breakage.

Excessive Heat

man using blow dry for dreads

Some people with dreads have this habit of blowdrying their hair.

While no expert will stop you from doing so, you may direct the airflow towards the hair shaft when styling your locs. It will protect your scalp from the damage of direct heat, so you may want to try air drying too.

Too much humidity can also cause your dreads to have excessive moisture. Those who have no idea how to clean dreads will most likely overwash it, but it's never a brilliant idea.

You may try resorting to natural ingredients that won't strip away the natural moisture from your hair.

Highly Effective Tips On How To Wash Dreads

How do you wash dreadlocks? It is an unusual query you would likely hear, considering that it looks very complex to do so.

You could be a beginner in sporting this look, or you think about getting locs and would like to know how to wash new dreads.

Good news, because this is the section you've been waiting for; I'll cover some brilliant ideas that will help you.

I will try to address most common inquiries like how do you keep dreadlocks clean or how often to wash dreads, among the many other topics.

Here is a straightforward haircare guide and some simple methods you can try in keeping your dreads clean:

The Right Choice Of Products

baking soda on a bowl and spoon

The first thing you need to understand on how to clean dreads the right way is choosing the right hair care products. You need to identify your hair type to find the most suitable products to use.

There are no unique products that you would need to care for your locs, as some people wrongly perceive that caring for them would be costly.

However, it would be in your dreads' best interest to stay away from products containing silicone as it causes residue build-up.

Focus on choosing products that will not strip away the hair's natural moisture and hydration. Some inexpensive products you can use for washing your dreads are baking soda and water, castile soap, and vinegar.

Washing Your Dreads

Some of you might ask, can you wash dreads? My answer to this is a resounding yes! Yet, how to wash dreadlocks properly is another topic.

First, you have to wet your hair and scalp evenly by running some warm water over it. Put the right amount of best shampoo for dreads onto your scalp and gently massage it with your fingertips.

When doing this routine, avoid having the lather in between your locks, but if you notice that dreadlock-specific shampoos are not lathery, that is okay.

You may try shampooing your hair one more time and let it sit for a few minutes more before rinsing. Doing so will give all the natural ingredients to penetrate more deeply into the roots of your hair.

Conditioning Your Dreads

There is a massive debate in the dreadlock community on whether or not you should use a hair conditioner.

Some would not recommend it, as using one may cause your hair to detangle. For others, you can opt to boost the hair's natural moisture by following up with a conditioner.

Ensure that when you use a conditioner, don't leave it on your hair for long periods. It would also help to stay away from hair products with ingredients that could harm your dreads with improper usage.

Furthermore, avoid products with perfume, petroleum, wax, cream, balm, butter, ash, glue, honey, raw egg, and more. The same thing goes for ethanolamine compounds, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, Phthalates, parabens, and chemical dyes.

Rinse Very Well

Use a lot of water to ensure that you rinse your locs thoroughly. Incline your head downward, so the water will run through the locks while rinsing and prevent any residue from building up.

Double-check that all soap and lather are gone because you will have a more challenging time dealing with the residues.

Dry Your Dreads Thoroughly

lady facing backwards with long dreads

The stinky odor that some people complain about is an after-effect of not drying your locks properly.

Wring each curl using your towel to squeeze out the water and air dry them instead of using a blowdryer. It will ensure that you dry your dreads all the way through.

Never leave your dreads damp because they will start growing mildew, which will cause them to become smelly. That being the case, you may wonder if there's a way to learn how to clean dreads without washing.

Many dreadlock-care professionals suggest shampooing your hair either once a week, every other week, or monthly. But they never recommend that you do it daily as it would cause your scalp to go dry, which is also unhealthy for your locks.

So if you would love to know how to clean dreads without washing them, another alternative is the baking soda rinse or using apple cider vinegar. It is an easy, homemade solution that you can make as a substitute for washing with soap or shampoo. 

Set A Washing Schedule

How often should you wash your dreads? You could be among those wondering about this query as it was also the same question I once had.

Now here's the thing you need to understand, knowing how to wash dreads is also as important as knowing how often to do it.

There is no black or white when answering this query as it is dependent mainly on several factors.

If you have an active lifestyle and frequently go outside the house, you might need to cleanse your locks more often.

Relatively, you may wash new dreadlocks at least every three to four days. Don't fuss about knowing how to wash dreads without messing them up because, at some point, some of the hair will get loose. When it happens, you can ball them back into the dreads again.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get the dirt out of dreads?

You can take the dirt out of your locks by washing them with clarifying shampoo and lukewarm water. Massage the shampoo onto your scalp and hair roots using the tips of your fingers and rinse well. You may also try soaking them in a vinegar rinse to soften the grime before washing.

Can I wash my dreads with dish soap?

I understand how people think using dish soap to ward off excessive grease in your dreads could be a brilliant idea. However, most experts do not recommend doing so since it can also strip your hair of its natural oil and moisture. Doing the ACV soak would be more appropriate.

Here's the process on how to do ACV rinse:

Can I wash my dreads with just water?

Yes, but washing your dreads using water only is not ideal. Water-washing your hair without shampoo will not remove the dirt and sebum build-up, which is unhealthy for your hair.

How do you make your dreads smell good?

You would need to allow more time to ensure that you properly dry your hair after washing them than you would with an ordinary hairstyle. Your dreads are thick and matted, so the likelihood of retaining water and developing mildew is exceptionally high.

What is best to wash dreadlocks with?

It's best to wash your dreadlocks with warm water and a clarifying shampoo without any of the harmful ingredients I mentioned earlier. The shampoo should also be transparent and free of any softening agents.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to know and understand that dreadlocks don't have to look untidy. Knowing how to clean dreads the easy way can help you keep them neat-looking and fresh smelling.

Remember that your hairstyle is more than just a fashion statement, but it also mirrors your personality.

You may also have to visit your hairstylist once in a while to ensure that you keep your locks healthy and vibrant. I hope that this comprehensive guide will help you care for your locks and allow them to grow beautifully.

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