Washing Dreadlocks 101 – How to Wash Dreadlocks

If you ever look at dreadlocks you may begin to ask yourself as an observer how it is possible to wash, or do you wash them. It can be an understandable question especially when you …

If you ever look at dreadlocks you may begin to ask yourself as an observer how it is possible to wash, or do you wash them. It can be an understandable question especially when you see the dreadlocks that may be synonymized with a member of the Marley family.

But of course, hair is hair and like any other type or style, it needs to be washed after a certain amount of time.

This normal task can be cause a few more questions for someone with dreads. Is it like braids where they need to be taken apart and washed before being twisted again? Can you wash them while they are still intact?

These are the questions that go through the mind of people who do not have dreads that could baffle them for hours. With this article, we will try and clear up some of the myths.

Below we will answer: can you wash dreads, should you, how often, etc. All in hopes of not only debunking the myths but helping newcomers understand how to go about taking care of their braids.

Because just like everything there is a method and a process to washing dreadlocks and needs to be followed exactly.

Washing Your Dreadlocks Basics

In this section, we will be going over the basics. So many questions are asked in regards to washing hair and this section will hopefully answer all of the questions that some people may have in regard to cleaning dreadlocks.

Are you supposed to wash dreadlocks?

A common question a person looking to have dreadlocks may ask is are you supposed to wash your dreads. And this question can be answered with an empathetic yes. Just like any hair on your body, it needs to be washed so it remains fresh and looks healthy.

How often do you wash them?

Once you figure out that you should wash your dreads, the next question is how often. It often depends on the maturity level of the dreads and your hair type but it is recommended that you wash your dreads at least once a week, but there are some people who wash them every three days but it’s more of a preference than anything.

Can you wash dreadlocks with normal shampoo?

Certain shampoos can be used on dreads. Dreadlocks are prone to hold onto residue within them and most shampoos have thickeners, synthetic additives among other things that can get trapped within dreads.

That residue build-up could lead to clogged pores, and down the road leaves an unflattering scent. So there is a certain type of shampoo that should be used to help avoid these roadblocks.

What shampoo should you use?

When looking for which shampoo is good for dreads, always go for the ones made with natural or organic ingredients or ones specifically designated for dreadlocks. Along with that look for the ones that help in hair growth, and who help stop irritation or dandruff.

These types of shampoos don’t possess a lot of residues so they won’t leave behind unwanted guests and can aid in helping your locs to lock quicker and tighter.

The Process of Washing Your Dreadlocks

When it comes to dreads everything requires a process. Whether it’s with the twisting of the dreads, maintenance of the dreads, there is always a set of rules that need to be followed.

It’s these rules and steps that help promote the best results possible. Not following these steps or choosing to go about them in a different way could lead to a most unflattering result that may not be noticed at first but over time will show its face.

So below we will be discussing the tools and steps to be followed when cleaning and drying dreadlocks.

Products Needed

To get the best result from washing your hair you will need certain things to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

  • Dreadlock shampoo – Our readers really like this one
  • Water
  • Dreadlock shampoo brush (Optional) – We recommend this set
  • Microfiber towel
  • Hairdryer

Step by step process on how to properly wash your dreads

  1. Let the water run over them until they are thoroughly soaked, then put shampoo on the roots and scalp of the dreadlocks
  2. Use your fingers to properly get to your scalp, this helps to remove dead skin cells. If available use a dreadlock shampoo brush instead of your fingers.
  3. Put your head down so the lather can go through the locs, while at the same time you are squeezing and releasing them.
  4. Let warm water run over the locs as you are squeezing them to allow all the shampoo to escape.
  5. Place a microfiber around the locs and continue to squeeze the dreads. Don’t remove the towel for 10-20 minutes

How long do you leave the shampoo in?

After you have finished using your finger or the dreadlock brush on your scalp you should keep the shampoo in place for several minutes.

Do you dry your locs after washing?

After you let the towel sit for 10 to 20 minutes on your dreads, you have the option of letting them air dry or using a hairdryer. The hairdryer could be a better option as it can help dry the locs faster and can help the inside of the locs dry properly.

Shampoo Alternatives

Above we have been talking about shampoo and how a proper shampoo is an essential tool to cleaning dreadlocks, but it is not the only tool that can be used.

Uniquely there are two other tools that can be added to the arsenal when it comes to cleaning dreadlocks, both with the same objective of promoting clean hair, but both products most wouldn’t think would be applicable to cleaning hair.

The shampoo is always the recommended tool but these products can be used as temporary substitutes. We will discuss each of them along with their pros and cons.

Baking soda

This may sound odd to anyone but baking soda can actually be an alternative to using shampoo. Baking soda is used for quite a bit of thing and now cleaning dreadlocks is added to the list.

Baking Soda possesses the necessary characteristics to help prevent residue build-up which we have mentioned can be a problem when dealing with normal shampoo.


  • It helps to absorb oils and residue
  • Promotes a healthy scalp


  • Can not be used as the primary product to clean hair. It should only be done 3-4 times a year
  • Can remove too much necessary oils from the scalp if used too much

Dish detergent

Again it may be hard to rationalize but even dish detergent can be used in replacement of shampoo. Just like baking soda, it possesses the necessary qualities to help with buildup within the dreads. So something that can be used to clean dishes can now be called upon if ever needed to clean your dreadlock.


  • Removes residue buildup from the locs
  • Just like shampoo it helps clean and leave locs looking fresh


  • They remove oils that are essential to hair growth
  • The ingredients of detergent are not natural and as we discussed earlier it is preferable to use products with natural ingredients

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar has been used to wash dreads for a long time. It is a very simple solution made of natural products which do a great job of removing residue buildup in your locs and helps rebalance the ph levels of your hair. You can create your own solution of ACV shampoo if you like, or you can go with a pre-made shampoo and conditioner like this one (Amazon link).


  • ACV will help soften your locs
  • Helps reduce risk of mold and dandruff


  • If you create your own apple cider vinegar shampoo, you’ll have to buy a few ingredients. You can also buy pre-made ACV shampoo like this.


There it is, washing dreadlocks is possible and should be done, but there are rules and steps that need to be followed. Dreadlocks are not like most hairstyles and in reaction to that, they need specialized approaches to be washed. No, they don’t need to be loosened, no there is no over-the-top expensive shampoo that needs to be used.

Just find ones made with natural ingredients or ones specially made for dreadlocks and you will be fine. To see the process being done may be an experience for some people but for those with dreadlocks they know the ups and downs of having dreadlocks so anything that needs to be done to keep them looking strong and well together is always welcome.

The goal of having dreads is to do whatever it takes to keep them around for as long as possible and having a good routine when washing hair is crucial. Using the right shampoo and cleaning them on a weekly basis will help remove oils, promote hair growth, and just give you the appearance of clean and welcoming dreads.

Keeping this routine and these tips in mind will lead to success with dreads that will keep them looking fresh for a long time.