Are you trying to figure out the best way to detox your dreadlocks without damaging them? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Dreadlocks can be detoxed in several ways, but the most common way is using apple cider vinegar. Some may think apple cider vinegar can only be used in cooking, but this is not the case.
Apple cider vinegar is a powerful, natural cleanser that can permeate deep into your locs, removing any dirt, odors, oil, or product buildup living in your dreads.
Cleaning dreadlocks with apple cider vinegar can improve the health of your locs, but you have to be careful to avoid damaging your hair in the process. To prevent damage, you must avoid leaving the apple cider vinegar mixture on your hair for too long; you also want to make sure not to detox your dreads more than four times a year.
The ingredients in the detox can be harsh on the hair and scalp, so sticking to the guidelines below can help prevent damage during the detox process.
Detoxification is the process of removing toxic or unhealthy substances and materials. You may have heard of detoxes in references to weight loss or even rehabilitation centers, but detoxification is also used for hair, particularly dreadlocks.
A dreadlock detox refers to the process of cleaning any residue or build up from your locs. This can also prevent dread rot, which is when mold and mildew grow inside the locs. This doesn’t usually happen, but if you don’t detox your dreads at least once a year, dread rot is a possibility.
Those with dread rot typically know their dreads have mold because they will smell like mildew and they may also be discolored. In severe cases, mold can be visible in and on the locs. However, getting dread rot doesn’t mean you have to cut your dreads off—most of the time, a detox will improve dread rot or conquer it altogether.
What Does Detoxing Dreads Do?
Because of dreadlocks’ style and structure, it can be difficult to thoroughly clean them. Detoxing is a great option because it provides a deep clean that can get rid of months of buildup, leaving your dreads fresh and healthy.
It’s essentially a hair reset; you can feel confident knowing your locs are healthy and clean. As an added bonus, dread detoxes can easily be done at home with items you probably already own, which saves you time and money.
What Are the Benefits?
Even shampoos and other hair products that claim to be ‘purifying’ or ‘deep cleaning’ are sometimes unable to really permeate dreadlocks to the degree they need to be cleaned.
Buildup typically occurs because shampoos leave residues on and in the dreadlocks. Sebum, an oil produced by the scalp, can also cause build up. When you detox your locs, you get rid of all the buildup in your hair, and detoxing can also lead to other benefits. These benefits include:
- Softer locs
- Tamed frizz
- Reduced split ends
- Increased hair growth
Apple cider vinegar, the main ingredient in most dreadlock detoxes, contains acetic acid, vitamins B and C, and other nutrients that are great for your hair. It’s also antimicrobial, meaning it prevents bacterial and fungal growth.
Just rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar can be great for dreads that need a quick refresh; combining it with baking soda can result in super clean locs.
How Often Should You Detox?
Detoxing your dreads can be hard on your scalp, especially if you use harsh ingredients like baking soda. To avoid irritation or even hair loss, it’s best to limit dreadlock detoxing to three or four times a year. With this number of detoxes, you can ensure regular cleanings without overdoing it to the point of damaging your hair.
To prevent debris from accumulating in your dreads—and, in turn, causing you to have to do more detoxes—it’s important to maintain the cleanliness of your dreads as much as possible.
This means drying your dreads thoroughly after you shower so no moisture gets trapped. If you’re not sure if your dreads are completely dry, use a hair dryer. Don’t sleep on wet dreads, and don’t put them up in a bun after showering, as these things can lead to mold growth.
It’s also good to stick to a regular shampooing schedule and use shampoos made specifically for dreads, which will leave less residue.
Do Start Locs Need to Be Detoxed?
Not everyone needs to detox their locs, especially if you have new or “teenage” locs. Starter locs don’t need to be detoxed for at least six months, but once you see your dreads starting to form stronger knots, it may be a good idea to detox.
Additionally, if you started your locs with a harmful product (such as beeswax), a detox is a good way to get product out of your hair.
If you detox your dreads while the knots are still loose, you run the risk of further loosening your dreadlocks, depending on the ingredients used in your detox.
Loc Detox Recipe: Make an Apple Cider Vinegar Detox
If you want to make your own loc detox recipe, you first need to decide if you want to use a detox with just apple cider vinegar, or if you want to detox with apple cider vinegar and baking soda.
If you choose to use baking soda, you will likely get a deeper clean, but you also need to be more careful to avoid damaging your hair.
To detox your hair, you will need:
- A wash basin (in order to soak your dreads)
- ¼ to ½ cup of baking soda
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- Spray bottle or water bottle to put mixture in
How to Detox
Add your apple cider vinegar to a bottle and set aside. Set up your wash basin, filling it with hot water to the appropriate level needed to fully submerge your hair. Add your baking soda to your basin, mixing it with your hand.
Make sure not to use too much baking soda—a half cup is as much as you need, and any more than that will strip your hair and make it dry and brittle.
Now you’re ready to soak! Situate yourself in a comfortable position over your wash basin or sink, with your hair submerged in the water, and set a timer for fifteen minutes. You can set your timer for slightly more or less time, depending on what you think you need, but be sure not to soak for more than twenty minutes.
Once the time is up, you’ll want to squeeze your dreads over the basin, wringing out all the dirt and water. Your basin will likely be full of brown water, which may seem gross, but it just shows how effective your detox was at removing the dirt and buildup.
Here is where the apple cider vinegar comes in. Once you’ve made sure all the baking soda water is out of your hair, pour or spray your apple cider vinegar over your head, letting it drip down from your scalp and into your locs.
Try to squeeze it into your locks, saturating them as much as you can. Let this sit for five minutes, then rinse it out. You will then be left with fresh, clean locs!
What Are the Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dreads?
Apple cider vinegar is cheap, natural, and great for your hair. It’s a versatile product that you can continue to use regularly in between detoxes to keep your locs fresh.
Apple cider vinegar also has a low ph; healthy hair also tends to have a low ph. This means dull, dry hair—which likely has a high ph—can be softened by bringing the ph down with apple cider vinegar.
Since apple cider vinegar is a strong substance and can make the hair’s ph level too low, it may be best to dilute it with water if you choose to use it regularly.
How long should you leave it in your hair?
Remember that the substances you’re using on your dreads are powerful and have the potential to throw off the ph balance of your hair and scalp, leading to damage—especially if you leave your detox mixture in your hair for too long.
Soaking your dreads in baking soda should be done for a maximum of twenty minutes—definitely not overnight. Leaving diluted apple cider vinegar in your hair overnight may be an option, but it depends on the condition of your hair.
How Can You Detox Locs Without Apple Cider Vinegar?
There are some alternatives to apple cider vinegar dreadlock detoxes. For people who don’t want to use apple cider vinegar, there are dreadlock detox kits available online and in haircare stores that use ingredients like tea tree oil and coconut oil to cleanse dreads.
The kit that I recommend is made by Locsanity and it very reasonably priced on Amazon (Click here). If you decide to go this route, I also recommend picking up an inflatable hair washing basin. These are very inexpensive and make the process much easier. I’ve used this particular model (Amazon link)and it has worked great.
There are also various home recipes to try on dreadlocks that don’t require apple cider vinegar, some of them using lime, lemon, lavender, and more. White vinegar can also be substituted for apple cider vinegar, but it is slightly more acidic and requires more diluting.
People interested a less DIY detox can always book an appointment at a hair salon that specializes in dreadlocks. The detoxes offered there may be similar to at-home detoxes, but hairstylists can better monitor the health of your hair throughout the detox process and use specific products to get your hair as healthy as possible.