Are your dreads starting to develop an odor? Or do they get super oily only a few days after washing? Or maybe they seem unusually heavy. These are all signs that your dreads have build-up within that need to be cleaned out. Throughout this article, you will learn the signs, causes, and methods of removing dread build-up to ensure the health and cleanliness of your dreads.
A common way to tell that your dreads have build-up is if they smell a bit foul, even after washing. This is because products get trapped in your locs and start to “rot” your dreads from the inside out. Your dreadlocks aren’t actually rotting, but the term “dread rot” is used when your dreads grow mold and mildew, causing the odor you’re experiencing.
Your locs also might have a bit of a gray-ish appearance or an overcast caused by an accumulation of product on your locs. Build-up may cause your hair to appear dull or have a lack of shine, also. Pay attention to see if your hair is experiencing breakage; this can happen often due to the build-up hardening and causing thinning.
Stiff and heavy dreads are also signs of dread build-up. If you feel as though your hair gets oily after you just washed it, that’s another sign of build-up. Since build-up adds another layer on top of your hair, it’s hard for moisture and oils to penetrate through.
Heavy products! Waxes, butters, and creams are all contributing factors to the build-up within your dreads. Some specific products to avoid include flaking gels, organic coconut oil, pure aloe vera, waxes, shea butter, powders, and any heavy moisturizing creams.
You want to avoid thick or chunky products because they’re difficult to fully absorb into your hair. They often end up sitting inside your locs, growing bacteria and causing build-up. Waxes don’t absorb at all, so never use waxes with locs because the build-up is guaranteed to happen.
However, you can still experience dread build-up even if you never use any products. Not regularly washing your locs can cause a build-up of dirt, lint, or natural substances produced by your scalp. Also, sleeping or laying down without protecting your locs can cause a build-up of lint and other fabric debris, especially when you lay down on wet locs.
Once dreadlock build-up has started, it’s a difficult process to remove it. Oftentimes, unless caught early, just washing your hair won’t get rid of the build-up within your locs. You’ll most likely have to do a dread detox to get your dreadlocks completely build-up free, but here are a few methods to remove different kinds of build-up in your locs.
This method is best to use when you have a build-up of lightweight products or a small amount of build-up in general. For this process, you’ll need lemon juice, a bowl of hot water large enough to soak all of your dreads, and a dread soap (or shampoo). This is a bit of a tedious process, but the results are highly effective.
First, you’ll want to add about a cup of lemon juice to your hot water bowl. Add lemon juice until the water steam becomes fragrant but no more than a cup. Adding too much lemon juice can damage the integrity of your hair due to lemon juice’s acidic properties that need to be diluted by water. After adding the lemon juice, you’ll want to soak the entirety of your locs in the solution for about 10-15 minutes.
Soaking your locs gives the lemon juice a chance to break down and dissolve some of the build-up, making it easier to wash out. Once you’ve soaked your dreads for about 15 minutes, you’ll want to take them out of the solution and work your dread soap/shampoo into each dreadlock individually. This might take a while, but it ensures the thorough cleansing of all your dreads.
When applying the soap, gently massage the loc between your fingers and press the soap into the base of your loc. Once thoroughly applied, give the soap a chance to penetrate through your locs and rinse out after about 5 minutes. Keep rinsing with warm/hot water until soap suds aren’t being squeezed out.
Depending on the kind of build-up, you may have to do this process more than once. However, there are other methods more effective at removing heavier build-ups.
For this method, you might want a friend or family member to assist you as it can be extremely dangerous and damaging to attempt on your own. You’ll need an iron, an ironing board, and paper bags.
Drape your locs over the ironing board, take a small section of locs, wrap them in a paper bag, and gently rub over the paper bag with the iron. This process melts heavier products such as waxes, thick oils, and butter and transfers them onto the paper bag. Repeat this process on the rest of your locs.
Afterward, I recommend thoroughly washing as normal to remove any excess product that didn’t absorb into the bags. This process not only melts build-up but also gives your locs a silky, smooth texture. I don’t recommend this method for shorter dreads as it can lead to severe burns. Also, this method shouldn’t be done consistently or often because it can cause heat damage.
The final method to removing dread build-up is the most stripping. Apple cider vinegar is often used in many dread detoxes which makes it perfect for removing build-up. All you’ll need for this process is apple cider vinegar, baking soda, a bowl of hot water large enough to completely submerge all of your locs, and shampoo.
To start, add about half a cup of baking soda to the water and make sure that the baking soda has completely dissolved before soaking your dreadlocks. Not allowing the baking soda to fully dissolve can lead to baking soda chunks getting trapped inside your locs leading to more build-up. Soak your dreads for about 10 minutes, then rinse out the mixture immediately after removing your locs to prevent the baking soda from reverting.
Wash out the baking soda using a shampoo of your choice, and rise the shampoo using apple cider vinegar. One thing to note is to never mix apple cider vinegar and baking soda in one solution for your hair because their pH properties cancel each other out, making them ineffective. After each rinse, the water should run clear with no shampoo, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda.
Avoiding using heavy styling products plays a huge role in preventing dread build-up. Regular detoxes also help prevent build-up. Doing a monthly apple cider vinegar rinse removes small amounts of build-up, purifies your scalp, and keeps your locs looking and feeling in good shape.
Protecting your locs when you lay down can also prevent the collection of dirt, fuzz, and lint within your dreads. Just keep your dreads clean and build-up shouldn’t be a serious problem.
Organic coconut oil is the most common type of oil leading to build-up due to its chunky consistency. Aloe vera, although not an oil, can also cause loc build-up due to its different textures and consistencies that make it hard for it to absorb into your hair. Also, thick oils such as black castor oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil can lead to build-up.
It’s still okay to use all of those oils, I just recommend using them in moderation. However; all oils have the potential to cause build-up if used too often. An excess amount of oil on your scalp can clog your hair follicles leading to products and oils not being absorbed, rather sitting on top of your scalp accumulating build-up.
Are you ready to tackle your dreadlock build-up? You now have all the information necessary to successfully remove dread build-up and keep your locs in good, healthy condition. You’re one step closer to learning your locs and how to take care of them. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I wish you the best of luck on your loc journey!