How To Clean Dreadlocks

An Online Guide To Cleaning & Maintaining Dreadlocks



how to clean dreadlocks

How To Clean Dreadlocks


I want to address not only how to clean your dreadlocks, but also how frequently you should wash, and I want to address the stereotype that dreads are dirty or gross. Firstly, the biggest questions people usually have is ‘how often should I wash my dreads’? There are several factors to consider in this question. On the DreadHeadHQ website they say to wash your dreads every 2-3 days. Honestly, I think this is way too frequent, ESPECIALLY for new dreads!



The wonderfully helpful people at DHHQ correctly explain that clean, dry hair locks and matures faster than dirty hair. However, washing also loosens loose hairs and can cause a lot of frizz. The theory here is that the oils from your scalp will loosen dreads and prevent them from locking. However, it is entirely relative. If you washed and brushed your hair (and stimulated your scalp) every day before dreads at first things might get a bit greasy. This is because your scalp is used to getting a certain amount of stimulation and when it doesn’t it begins to produce more oil. Even with ‘regular’ hair they say that you only need to wash your hair however often as you do, because your scalp will adjust its oil production accordingly. If you regularly wash daily than after two days you will have greasy hair. If you only washed every 2-3 days, after 3 days you’ll be oily, and so on and so forth. Having dreadlocks is no different. Hair is hair!


The biggest complaint I get about washing less frequently is that the itch is unbearable! This, too, is a result of less scalp stimulation. Without dreadlocks, you are brushing or combing your hair and stimulating it every day (or at least I assume you did!). Once the dreads go in that comes to a screeching halt and the scalp needs time to adjust. The itch is your scalp craving stimulation and there are two major ways to get it: wash your hair, or scratch it and DON’T wash your hair! I can’t say enough for the DreadHeadHQ Head Honcho! This was an invaluable tool for me for the first few weeks of dread-hood while I was still in my itchy period.


Another option if you haven’t ordered your Head Honcho yet is to clock-wise rub… not only does it stimulate the scalp and quell the itch, but it helps to encourage knotting and locking at your roots! If you continue to wash your hair every 2-3 days you will never be able to space out your shampooing, and at the beginning of your dread journey especially frequent washing can be a real downer as far as fuzz, loose hair, and frizz!


After your dreads are established you CAN wash more frequently if you want to, but at that point why bother! LOL. When my dreads were first put in by my wonderful dready friends, they told me right off the bat DO NOT WASH YOUR DREADS FOR A WEEK! Occasionally, someone will send me a message asking me what I do to maintain my dreads for them to look as decent as they do considering their young age and I firmly believe my washing frequency and technique has a big part to play in that. Although things get itchy and sometimes oily, it gives the body of the dreads more opportunity to lock in between shampoos. I have never shampooed more frequently than once a week since getting my dreads in. In fact, many dread heads only wash every TWO weeks, which I am building myself up to slowly.



Although some of us like to be dirty hippies, just because you only shampoo every week or so doesn’t mean you can’t shower in between! Invest in a good shower cap to wear to prevent dreads from getting wet on non-washing days. And, another important thing to note, I didn’t wash the dreads themselves until just last week (8 weeks old). When your dreadies are just starting out and aren’t established yet all you really have to do is wash your scalp/roots. Realistically, that’s where all the crud, oil, and grime is, anyway and it feels fantastic!



How to Clean & Maintain Dreads

An Online Guide To Cleaning & Maintaining Dreadlocks


As far as scalp itch goes there are some other things you can do to minimize it. If you are using any products (Read: Lock Accelerator) that specifies NOT to get it on the scalp, follow the directions and DON’T do it! Any products that use sea salt, in particular, can make scalp itch worse and cause dandruff. Also, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, make sure you’re using a shampoo that is residue free! The DreadHeadHQ Dread Soap is top-notch and comes highly recommended by this dready mama! Residue is also a big cause of scalp itch in even non-dreaded hair.



So it took some finagling, but I manage to get a video of myself shampooing my own dreads to give you an idea of how you can go about it yourselves. Below the video is some text directions on how to wash, too!



  1. Naturally, if your going to wash those dreads you gotta get ‘em wet first! So step in the shower and soak those dreads before you get started. (Okay… read the whole instruction list first…. THEN hop in the shower!)
  2. Squeeze some of that DreadHeadHQ Dread Soap into your hand… I usually start with a full palm-full about the size of a half dollar or more.
  3. Start lathering it up on the top of your head, using your fingers on the scalp to massage it in between all your dreads.
  4. Squeeze more Dread Soap into your hand (about the same amount) and rub your hands together and lather up the sides of your head the same way as the top of your head.
  5. Finally, squeeze just a bit more soap into your hands and lather up the back of your head and give the whole scalp a good, stimulating massage.
  6. Next, which I only recommend if your dreads are AT LEAST a month old, preferably closer to 6-8 weeks old, you can begin rolling sections of your dreads in between your hands like palm rolling. Roll down the entire section of dreads to get ‘em good and clean.
  7. Repeat the above step until you have gotten every dread.
  8. Rinse! Make sure you rinse them out REALLY good. You do NOT want a soap left behind inside the dreads themselves OR on your scalp.
  9. Squeeze your dreads to get the excess water out. You will probably have to do this a couple of times to get all the water out.


Drying your dreads is beyond the scope of this article, although DreadHeadHQ has a great section on their website about how to dry your dreads. At this point, once I step out of the shower, I will wrap my dreads up in a towel to get some of the excess water out, spray with Lock Accelerator, and put the towel back on my head until I’m finished getting dressed for the morning (about 5 - 10 minutes… since usually my shirt won’t fit over the towel). Then I take the towel off and let ‘em air dry! I didn’t mention this in my blog about dread beads but if you have them, make sure you shift them around throughout the day to make sure that the dreads underneath them dry really well, too!


Now, another thing I want to address before I sign off for the night is the cleanliness issue. There are some people who claim that people with dreads have dirty hair because we shampoo less frequently. That is simply NOT the case! Like I talked about earlier, the less often you wash your hair the less oil your scalp will produce. So, if you have dreadlocks and only wash your hair every 1-2 weeks your scalp is producing a negligible amount of oil. That, in addition to the fact that dread heads religiously use (or should use) residue-free soap, means that in all actuality, people with dreadlocks actually can have CLEANER hair than our non-dreaded brothers and sisters who use shampoos and conditioners with all kinds of fragrances and moisturizers. I repeat: DREADS ARE NOT DIRTY! DREADS ARE PROBABLY CLEANER THAN REGULAR HAIR! I am not aware of any official studies on this issue, but I think logically, you’ll agree that it’s the case!


The only thing that can stop misconceptions and ignorance about dreadlocks and cleanliness is EDUCATION! I love answering questions about dreads and encourage all my dreaded friends be prepared to field questions from all kinds of people who are fascinated by your awesome dreadlocks! I hope this article has helped you all out and I look forward to your comments! Happy Washing!


A few quick questions and answers about synthetic dreads for those interested:

Q: What are synthetic dreads made out of?

A: Synthetic dreads, or most synthetic dreads, are made out of kankelon fiber (plastic, basically) that is backcombed and then 'sealed' to enable them to hold their shape.

Q: Why would someone want synthetic dreads rather than regular dreadlocks?

A: Synthetic dreads, unlike regular dreadlocks, are designed to be temporary. Whether you want to wear them for a weekend or a couple of months, after you are done with them you simply take them out. The cool part is that you can save the dreads and have them put it again (or do it yourself) later.

Q: How long do synthetic dreads last?

A: They can last as long as 3 months or so, but how long they last often depends on how fast your hair grows, as the dread will tend to slip down the length of the dread and give them an odd appearance at the root.

Q: Are synthetic dreads easy to remove?

A: They are pretty much just braided in. It might be a little difficult, especially if you've had them in for a couple months, as the hair may have started to knot with the kankelon fibers, but with a little patience they should come out quite easily.

Q: Can you wash synthetic dreads?

A: Absolutely, but the dreads themselves don't really need washing. What you need to focus on is your scalp and the hair that is braided at the top of the synthetic dread(s). Just like regular dreadlocks, you should NEVER use conditioner as this can make the hair braided into the synthetic dread slippery and make the dread slip out giving the appearance of grown-out roots prematurely.



Thank you for reading this article on How To Clean & Maintain Dreadlocks.


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Article By Amy Schile (KnottyMama)

Also Mentioned: Dreadlocks- Dread Head HQ.
Instructions & Products For Growing And Maintaining Dreadlocks





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