Can You Wash Dreadlocks? See How to Care For Your Locs

Dreadlocks are a type of hairstyle that date far back as history, beginning with a sect called the Rastafarians. It has become a popular hairstyle with a few misconceptions. For instance, people tend to think of it as a dirty hairstyle. Far from that, you can wash your dreadlocks and keep them neat, tidy, and in style.

Although some people switch to locs as an escape from the maintenance of their hair. That is not to say dreadlocks have a tie with dirt. From the first week of growing locs out, you should make a care routine pattern for them.

Now that you know that you should wash your dreadlocks, there is more. You need to know how and why you should go about that business.   

Two Ways to Wash Dreadlocks

can you wash dreadlocks?-africana fashion

1. How to Wash Dreadlocks With Shampoo

This is the most popular way to wash your dreadlocks. Follow the steps to cleanse your scalp of natural buildup and dirt.

Step 1

Start washing your locs by getting them wet with clean, lukewarm, or warm water. You should not use hot water because it can affect the structure of your cuticles and lead to frizz. And, we know frizz is the afro hair’s dread. Also, you should not saturate your locs with water otherwise getting shampoo through will be quite difficult.

Step 2

After getting your locs wet with water, they are ready for the poo stage. Start with little shampoo at a time because although you want to clean your scalp, you do not want to fill your locs with soap.

Lather the shampoo and massage your scalp gently. Focus on your scalp to remove natural buildup, excess sebum, and dirt. Most importantly, you should wash your dreadlocks with a sulfate-free shampoo and one that wouldn’t leave residues on your hair.

Locs have enough weight already. So, a shampoo that will leave residues is the last thing they need. Besides, it will make your locs feel greasy after a wash and they’ll get smelly eventually.

Step 3

Rinse your locs with sufficient water. Remember that you should use clean, lukewarm water. While you rinse, use your hands to squeeze out the lather. In between, feel the locs to see if they still feel soapy.

Moreover, if you feel the need for more shampooing, go ahead and do so. However, you should not go overboard with it because your afro-textured hair is still prone to frizz and breakage. Most importantly, you are not conditioning your dreadlocks.

Step 4

After you have successfully washed your dreadlocks, you should get them dry. Bear in mind that you’ll need more than twice the effort and patience you used for your hair. You can use your hands to gently wring out excess water before you use a towel.

If you have a microfiber towel, that would be great. If not, use a clean, soft towel that won’t leave lint on your locs. Use the towel to squeeze out any residual water from your dreadlocks.

Step 5

Finally, dry your locs with a hairdryer. You should put the dryer on a low setting because the heat can damage your locs. Additionally, the dryer will make drying quicker and more effective because of the thickness of the locs.

You should note that if you do not leave your locs to dry properly, they will develop mildew. Consequently, you’ll be back to having smelly dreadlocks and ultimately need another wash.

SEE: Best Professional Hair Dryer

2. How to Wash Dreadlocks With Baking Soda

You can alternate shampooing with this method of using baking soda, vinegar, and water to wash your dreadlocks. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1

You should do this in the bathroom or sink area. Take a bowl that is wide enough to take all your locs at a time. Fill it halfway with warm water and dissolve about half a cup of baking soda in it to make a solution. You may add a few drops of essential hair oils like lavender or tea tree oil for fragrance and extra moisture.

Step 2

Invert your head and carefully put all your dreadlocks into the solution. Leave them to soak for 15-20 minutes. During the soak, baking soda will infiltrate your hair and do a deep cleanse. It will remove the natural buildup, oil, and dirt.

Step 3

Time up. Raise your head and take your dreadlocks out of the solution. Use your hands to gently squeeze out the baking soda solution. Then, rinse your hair with clean, cool water to remove any residues. When your scalp and locs are clean, you’ll notice that water becomes clear.

Step 4

Follow up with a mixture of water in vinegar in three parts to one. Pour this solution over your locs, pour enough. What vinegar does is balance the pH of your scalp that may have been altered during the baking soda soak. Also, it will protect your hair from frizz.

In addition, vinegar solution is the only suitable conditioner for locs because it does not loosen them. Also, it is okay to leave it in or rinse it out.

Step 5

Whether you leave in the vinegar solution or rinse it out, you should dry your locs very well. A hairdryer will speed up drying and make it more effective. If you have plenty of free time, you can air dry, but this will take quite a while if you have thick, mature dreadlocks. While you air dry, do not cover your locs.

SEE: How to Dread an Afro in 3 Easy and Natural Methods to Change Your Look

How Often Should I Wash Dreadlocks?

care for natural dreads-africana fashion

How often you wash your dreadlocks depends on how old the locs are. Baby locs are still finding their growth path and are still in the locking process. So, you must be gentle with them. You should wait for one to two weeks before you wash baby dreadlocks.

On the other hand, mature dreadlocks are full-blown locs. So, you should wash once every week. This is because they are prone to having natural buildup, excess oil, and dead cells.

Moreover, washing baby locks will unravel them and alter the formation process. However, if you cannot stand the itch during this period, you can do a gentle cleanse with shampoo.

When you do so, use rubber bands to hold the base and tips of your dreadlocks. Also, make sure you do not rub them excessively and use a low-setting dryer instead of wringing with a towel.

In addition, your lifestyle pattern can determine how often you wash your dreadlocks. If you are given to frequent athletic activities, you should wash your locs twice a week. Your activities make more sweat, oil and buildup accumulate on your hair, so twice a week wash is ideal.  

SEE: How to Style Dreadlocks: Try One of These Trending Styles

Why Should I Wash My Dreadlocks?

The nature of dreadlocks makes them easily accumulate buildup and become smelly. If you wash your dreadlocks, you’ll be salvaging these all together. Besides, shampoo enhances the locking process. When your locs get too oily and slippery, they’ll be forced to loosen.

Washing your locs is a good way to care for them and keep them smelling fresh and in style. Also, afro-textured hair can do with a good deal of hydration and moisture. One way to do this is by washing your locs.

How to Care for Your Dreadlocks

1. Do not overdo the washing

The bulk of dreads can indeed be weighty and cause them to itch and smell. But, you should not fall into the temptation to wash them now and then. Once or twice a week is just enough. Too frequent washing can unravel the locs, deplete them of moisture and expose your hair to frizz and breakage.

2. Dry your locs properly

After every wash, you should dry your dreadlocks properly to avoid mildew and the smell that follows. You either use a hairdryer to speed up the process or leave them loose and uncovered to dry in the air.

3. Moisturize

Maybe you switched to locs to escape something about caring for your hair. I tell you that when it comes to care, locs aren’t anything different. Besides, their weight should inform you that they need moisture to remain in style and admirable.

SEE: Is Castor Oil Good for Hair? How to Improve Your Dreadlocks’ Health With It

Treat your scalp and locs to natural oils. These oils will moisturize and clean your scalp and locs of germs. Dryness leads to breakage which will ruin your dreadlock’s goal. However, make sure you are using lightweight oils and use them sparingly to avoid residue buildup.

4. Treat mature locs to deep conditioning

When your locks are mature enough, deep condition them with organic deep conditioners. This will keep them soft, healthy, and moisturized. However, this should not be too frequent, maybe once in two weeks. Also, you should not leave the conditioner for too long.

5. Protect your locs at night

You should not get too comfortable with the thickness of your dreadlocks and think they are not as fragile as your natural hair. The nature of the locs makes them easily pick up lint. You can replace your cotton bedcovers with silk or satin.

Additionally, you should wear a silk or satin scarf or hair bonnet over your dreadlocks at night. This will protect them from the friction that would naturally occur when you make involuntary turns when you sleep.

6. Finally, know before you try

While you want to explore the range of styling options on your dreadlocks, you should get adequate information. Find out whether it is safe for your locks. For instance, before you retwist your dreadlocks, you should be sure it’s about time.

Before you get trims, consult your stylist. Before you switch to a new product, be sure it will not loosen or ruin your dreadlocks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use regular shampoo to wash my dreadlocks?

Yes, you can. If your regular shampoo is residue, fragrance, sulfate, silicone, and paraben-free; you can use it to wash your dreadlocks.

However, it is advised that you get a shampoo that is ideal for dreadlocks. This is because these types primarily contain ingredients that will suit your locs and enhance growth.

Should I condition my dreadlocks?

No, you should not. Applying conditioner to your locs will cause them to detangle. Consequently, the locs won’t last long.

Instead of a conditioner, you can add apple cider vinegar to wash your dreadlocks. But, you can occasionally deep condition mature dreadlocks.

Can I swim with dreadlocks?

Yes, you can. There is nothing to fear about getting into the pool with your dreadlocks. The chlorine or saltwater do not damage your locs. It helps to tighten your locs.

However, if you don’t feel too good about it, you can wear a swim cap over your dreadlocks before you get into the pool. 


Dreadlocks are comfortable hairstyles that you’ll love to try. If you are a dreadlocks beginner, there are certain things you need to know before you make the switch. And, if you are an old-timer with locs, you should review your practices and see what you probably aren’t doing right.

Locs are more than a hairstyle. Before now, they spoke about personalities to a great extent. Moreover, there is a popular belief that they are dirty hairstyles. So, I believe you’ll like to debunk that notion with the knowledge of how to wash and care for your dreadlocks.

Know how to wash your dreadlocks properly and what exactly they need to remain healthy and in style. However, there is a border when it comes to washing, you should not overdo it or burden your locs with the product.  

Caring for your dreadlocks doesn’t have to be a herculean task if you learn the rules and follow them.

Thanks for reading.

Africana Fashion provides you with helpful beauty articles that guide you to proper hair care.