How to Bleach Dreads & Get The Results You Want

If you want to make your dreadlocks even more unique, a little bleach goes a long way. When you take the leap to brighten up your dreadlocks, you need to do it the right way …

If you want to make your dreadlocks even more unique, a little bleach goes a long way. When you take the leap to brighten up your dreadlocks, you need to do it the right way to prevent permanent damage.

Want to know how to bleach dreadlocks at home? Divide the hair into 4-6 sections and mix the 1-part bleach with 2-parts developer. Take each dread by the hand and coat the outside with a thick layer of bleach. Let the hair process under a shower cap for about 30-45 minutes, then wash the bleach out thoroughly. Follow up with a deep conditioning treatment.

Before you start your dreadlock makeover, read below for detailed instructions and safety precautions. We’ll also address common questions, like if you can lighten dreads naturally, and how you can repair damaged dreadlocks.

Is it safe to bleach dreadlocks?

Bleach is a harsh chemical that strips the hair of all of its color and moisture, and can damage any hair type. If you have the choice between bleaching your hair before or after you lock it, bleach it beforehand.

It is more difficult to rinse the bleach out after locking the hair. Bleach also dries the hair, therefore making it easier to dread, which you can use to your advantage.

Even if you already have dreadlocks, you can still bleach it. The key is washing the locks thoroughly after bleaching. Here are a few more tips to protect your locs while you bleach:

  1. Keep the bleach as far away from the roots as possible
  2. Do not bleach dreadlocks more than twice a year
  3. Wash the hair thoroughly after bleaching, especially the roots
  4. Use a good quality dye

Remember – it’s best to leave bleach in the hands of the professionals. But if you don’t have the money to get your dreads dyed, or you prefer to handle it on your own, follow the detailed directions below.

Should you bleach starter locs?

Colors can add a lot of personality to your dreadlocks, but you should wait until they’re mature. Dreadlocks are weakest when they’re very first locked, but they can grow strong about 3 months after you lock them.

Before you start bleaching, examine your locs to ensure they are strong enough to handle the harsh chemicals. If your locs are chronically thin or dry, avoid bleaching them altogether.

Bleaching Process

Yes, you can dye your own dreadlocks, even from home. Invest in the right products and recruit some help from a friend if possible.

Products Needed

Which products will you need for best results?

  1. Bleach
  2. Developer (some kits contain both bleach and developer)
  3. Latex gloves
  4. Applicator brushes if desired
  5. Aluminum foil if desired
  6. Barrier cream if desired
  7. Plastic or ceramic bowl for mixing the bleach
  8. Hair ties or clips
  9. A plastic shower cap
  10. Clothing and a towel you don’t mind ruining
  11. Toner (optional – to reduce brassiness/yellowness)
  12. Shampoo
  13. Deep conditioner
  14. A good place to bleach your hair (somewhere with a mirror, plenty of counter space, and easy-to-clean surfaces)

Here are some reliable products that you might want to consider for bleaching your dreadlocks:

  • Arctic Fox Bleach, Please
  • Wella Color Charm Powder Lightener
  • Salon Care Developer
  • Wella Color Charm Toner
  • L’Oreal Quick Blue High Performance Powder Lightener

Once you feel confident in your supplies, it’s time to get started!


Here’s how to bleach dreadlocks at home.

  1. Place an old towel down on the counter or table and put all of your supplies on top of it.
  2. Place a towel under your feet to catch any drips.
  3. Be sure you’re wearing clothes you don’t care about, and/or an old towel over your shoulders.
  4. Put on your latex gloves.
  5. Mix the bleach powder and developer (1 part bleach to 2 parts developer).
  6. Separate your hair into 4-6 sections, depending on the length and thickness of the dreads. Section them off with a clip or hair tie.
  7. Apply barrier cream on the skin all around the hairline and on the ears.
  8. Starting with one of the bottom sections of hair, take each dread in your hand and coat it with a thick layer of bleach – don’t worry about getting inside the dreadlocks.
  9. If you’re using foils, wrap a piece around each bleached dread, or wrap a few together.
  10. Move upward, coating each dread in each section, avoiding the face and scalp.
  11. When you’re finished, cover the hair with a shower cap to speed up the process.
  12. After about 20-30 minutes, remove the cap and check your color under the foil.
  13. Most bleach brands recommend waiting 30-40 minutes total before washing. Do not wait any longer than 15 minutes past the recommended time.
  14. Rinse the bleach from your hair for several minutes. Squeeze the locs to ensure water gets inside the dreads.
  15. Shampoo the dreadlocks 2-3 times. All of the bleach must come out.
  16. You can also apply a toner during this process if desired. Follow the instructions on the toner.
  17. Deep condition the dreadlocks to replenish lost moisture. Leave the treatment on for at least 5 minutes.
  18. Allow your dreads to air dry completely – do not use a hair dryer.

How long do you leave the bleach in?

Timing is everything when it comes to bleach. Read the recommended time on the back of your bleach container. In the case of dreadlocks, you might choose to add an extra 10-15 minutes to the recommended time in order to allow the bleach to soak into the locs.

Most boxes recommend 30-45 minutes, but you might leave your hair dye in dreadlocks for 40-60 minutes, MAXIMUM. Check your progress regularly, as over-bleaching is one of the worst mistakes you can make.

Do you shampoo after bleaching?

After bleaching your dreadlocks, first rinse thoroughly with water, then rinse 2-3 times with your regular shampoo. It is essential to deactivate all of the bleach so that it stops damaging the hair.

More importantly than shampooing is using a good deep conditioner afterwards. Your strands will be weak and dry after all the bleach, so conditioning is critical. You might also want to give it an extra boost with:

  • Homemade hot oil treatments
  • Olive, coconut, almond, or argon oils
  • Products infused with Jamaican castor
  • Rosewater
  • Aloe vera

All of these practices will moisturize your hair and scalp and prevent breakage and brittle hair.

What happens if you leave bleach in too long?

Bleach is chemically burning your hair, which means too much bleach can leave the hair brittle, like straw. In the worst cases, hair can even break off, leaving the victim with much less hair than when they started.

This is why the #1 rule of bleaching dreads is not leaving it in too long. Try not to leave the bleach on longer than about 45 minutes.

How do you bleach dreads using peroxide?

If you prefer to bleach dreads using peroxide to avoid bleach-related complications, here’s how to do it:

  1. Wash your dreads, and dry them with a towel.
  2. Pour hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) into a clean spray bottle.
  3. Spray hydrogen peroxide in thick, even coats where you want to lighten the dreads. Avoid spraying the skin or eyes.
  4. Allow the hydrogen peroxide to dry. For even better results, let it dry in the sun.
  5. Wash the hydrogen peroxide out of the hair with lukewarm water to stop the dyeing process (but not until it has dried fully).
  6. Use a mirror or a friend to determine whether you missed any spots, and spray more hydrogen peroxide on any missed areas.  
  7. Wash your hair again.
  8. Repeat this process until the areas have been covered and dried.
  9. Avoid swimming pools after using hydrogen peroxide, as the chlorine can give your hair a greenish tint.

Using bleach on your dreadlocks may mean subjecting your hair to more damage than necessary, so hydrogen peroxide may be a preferable alternative. You might also want to consider other ways you can dye your dreads without bleach.

How can you dye your dreads without using bleach?

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the best ways to lighten your hair without bleach. Here are a few other ways you can change your dread color without exposing your hair to bleach:

Dye itYou can dye your dreads any number of colors without resorting to bleach. If your hair is fairly light, you can even dye it blonde – no bleach necessary.
Apply lemon juiceLemon juice does lighten the hair slowly over time. Mix a little lemon juice with coconut oil and apply to the hair in the morning.
Use sun exposureThose sun-kissed highlights take a long time to develop, but sun exposure alone can lighten up your locs.

While none of these methods will give you that “bleach blonde” look, they can lighten your hair a few shades for a fresh style.

Can you lighten dreads naturally?

While you can’t go platinum blonde without bleach, there are plenty of ways you can lighten up your dreads naturally and cheaply! As we mentioned before, sun exposure and lemon juice are two effective options, although they take patience and consistency.

Here are some other classic pantry products you can apply to your dreads to lighten them:

  • Chamomile tea
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Raw honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Henna powder
  • Saltwater

One or a combination of these ingredients can take your hair to new color heights! Alternatively, you can wash your hair with water and baking soda to strip some color.

To make any of these methods work faster, let the ingredients dry out in the sun. DIY methods may be a better decision than bleach if you prefer a gentle way to achieve lighter locs.

How do you repair bleached locs?

We’ve talked about what you should do prevent loc damage – now what are your options if damage does occur?

If you experience significant damage, you’ll need to see a trusted loctician who can help restore your healthy hair. In some cases, they can even reattach broken locs.

If the damage is manageable, purchase a thick, all-natural conditioner is the key. At least twice per week, lather your locs in the conditioner, place a shower cap over your hair, and wait 5 minutes before rinsing.

You can also apply oils like tea tree oil, olive oil, or store-bought hair oil to your dreads. Let your dreads air dry, and avoid applying heat while it is healing. Rosewater or leave-in conditioners can also help repair your hair.

A weekly hot oil treatment, with jojoba or coconut oil, can be done at home to promote further moisture and strength. Don’t shampoo too often, as shampoo strips away the scalp’s natural moisture and oils. Hydration is the key.

Use silk or cotton pillowcases instead of any synthetic materials, or cover your dreadlocks with a silk scarf or old cotton t-shirt at night to prevent dryness. This practice can also help lock in any moisturizers you’ve applied.

Final thoughts

There are pros and cons to bleaching your dreadlocks. Bleach is the perfect way to add some excitement to your hairstyle. You can go blonde or apply a bold fashion color, like pink or purple.

On the flip side, bleaching does cause lasting damage, so it’s important to follow the practices listed above. Use high-quality products, hydrate heavily, and avoid over-bleaching at all costs!