Can You Wash Dreads? Here’s What You Need To Know

Dreadlocks are one of the most iconic hairstyles of all time. Probably even the best hairstyle to choose if you want to keep your hair for a long time. With the long-lasting life of dreads, it is only natural to wonder if you can wash your dreads to prevent it from stinking.

The good news is that you can wash your dreads to keep them from becoming an eyesore. One might think dreads don’t require maintenance, which is very wrong. You need to keep your locs clean and free from dirt and buildup by washing and conditioning them. 

Keep reading to find the best ways to wash your dreads, how often to wash them, and the right time to do so. 

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

How Should You Wash Your Dreads?

There are two best ways you can wash your dreadlocks without damaging your hair. You can wash your dreads with shampoo or a DIY remedy that contains apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and water. 

Try out any of the methods below to remove dirt and buildup from your dreads. 

1. Wash With Dread Shampoo

You need to use a shampoo that is formulated for penetrating and washing dreadlocks. Get yourself a suitable dream shampoo for your hair and follow the steps below to wash your dreads.

Step 1 – Dampen your dreads

Wet your dreads by running some water over it in the shower. Allow the water to fully saturate your hair. You can make use of warm water for easy penetration to get optimal results.

Step 2 – Dish out your shampoo

Squeeze out a little amount of down dry shampoo into your palm. Do not use too much. It is best to start applying a little at a time, as this helps you control how much soap gets to your hair. You can also use more later if little is not enough to stop. 

For this, get yourself a dread shampoo that doesn’t leave any residue in your locs. Using ordinary shampoo will do nothing but add to the product buildup in your locs rather than washing it off.

Look for shampoos that contain only natural, organic ingredients. Avoid ones that contain chemicals and other harmful ingredients.

Step 3 – Apply the shampoo to your scalp

Use both of your hands to lather the shampoo and apply it to your scalp. Ensure even distribution of the shampoo into all parts of the scalp. Use your fingers to scrub the root, to release dead skin cells and oil from the scalp. 

It is important to keep the scalp clean and healthy, as that is where the locs are attached. 

Step 4 –  Rinse the shampoo off

After allowing the shampoo to sit for 2 minutes, you can proceed to rinse it off with water. Ensure that the water rubs through your locs as you do so. Squeeze your dreads as you rinse so that the shampoo in them can get off.

Ensure that you rinse the shampoo off completely. You can touch up each loc individually to remove any remaining residue.

Step 5 – Dry your locs

Dry your hair completely as you get out of the shower. Use a towel to squeeze and press the water out of each loc. After that, allow your dreads to air dry. 

You can also use a hairdryer for this purpose. Operate the tool on medium to high heat to speed up the whole drying process. Make sure that your locs Dry up completely, as moisture can cause the locs to loosen up and smell.

SEE: Dread Styles for Men: 25 Stylish Ways to Wear Dreadlocks

2. Use Water, Baking Soda, and Apple Cider Vinegar

You need baking soda and apple cider vinegar for this process. For this process, do not mix the ingredients together as they can neutralize one another. This is because baking soda is a base and apple cider vinegar is an acid. 

Follow the steps below to use this remedy to wash your dreads. 

Step 1 – Dissolve the soda

Dissolve ¾ cup of baking soda in a sink or basin filled with a few inches of warm water. You can add essential oils to the solution if you want. Likewise, you can add a tablespoon of lemon to help banish the odor of your locs. 

Step 2 – Soak your dreads in the solution

Soak your locs in the baking soda solution for about 10 minutes or more. The baking soda will help to remove dirt, oil, and unwanted product buildup in your locs.  This process will help to deep cleanse your hair. 

Another way to do this is to mix the solution in a bowl and apply it directly to your hair for a quick cleanse.

Step 3 – Rinse the baking soda treatment off 

Rinse the baking soda treatment from your hair to begin the second part of the washing process. Ensure that there are no lingering traces or residue of baking soda. Rinse your hair until the water becomes clear. 

Step 4 – Apply the apple cider vinegar

Fill a large bottle with 3 parts water and 1 part apple cider vinegar. Ensure that the water is enough to rinse your scalp and locs. Using apple cider vinegar will help to restore your scalp’s PH balance and reduce frizz.  

You can apply the apple cider vinegar treatment as a leave-in treatment or you can wash it off. 

Step 5 – Dry your locs

You can use a towel to dry your hair now or you can simply air dry your locs. You can also make use of a dryer if you are in a hurry. Don’t cover your dreads until they are completely dry. 

Squeeze out water as much as you can from the locs before leaving them to air dry. Additionally, wrapping your dreads in a towel will help you absorb the water quickly.

Can You Wash Dreads Without Retwisting?

You are free to wash your dreads without retwisting them. It is not necessary to retwist your dreads every time you wash them. Your hair might not be able to withstand retwisting often. 

However, you can retwist your dreads after washing it if you want, as long as your hair can take it.

Can You Wash Dreads With Regular Shampoo?

You can wash your dread with regular shampoo. However, it is important to know that it is not a wise choice as most regular shampoos are not suitable for dreadlocks.  

Ordinary shampoo contains fragrance, conditioner, and other synthetics ingredients that can lubricate the hair. These shampoos can cause the knots of your dreads to loosen. Additionally, regular shampoo can cause residues to build up in the hair underneath the locs. 

Therefore, ensure that you use shampoo designed for dreadlocks. If you can’t get one, you can look for shampoos that contain only natural ingredients. 

Can You Wash Dreads With Just Water?

You can wash your locs with water but water alone won’t do any cleaning to your dreadlocks. 

Simply follow the right procedure to keep your dreads clean by using a dread shampoo to wash your locs. You can also make use of baking soda and apple cider vinegar to remove dirt and grime from your locs effectively.

Do You Wash Dreads Every Day?

Don’t wash your dreads every day. If you think washing your dreads every day will prevent unwanted odor, then you are mistaken. 

Washing your locs every day will cause them to retain moisture which is bad, as it can cause the locs to stink. Excessive washing can also strip your hair of its natural oil, causing it to break and fall out.

SEE: Protect Your Hair’s Natural Oil With Sulfate-Free Shampoo

How Often Should You Wash Your Locs?

You can wash your locs as often as once a week. However, several other factors determine the frequency of your washes. 

For the first month of getting dreads, you can wash it every four days. As time goes on, you can wash your dreads as often as twice weekly. Also, ensure that you don’t leave your locs unwashed for more than a week. 

Can You Wash Dreads With Dish Soap?

Even though no one in their right mind will want to use dish soap to wash their hair, it is effective in removing wax and product buildup from the locs. However, regular use of dish soap can damage your strands. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you wash dreads before retwisting?

Yes, you should. It’s better to retwist your locs after washing them. Washing your locs will help to remove dirt and buildup from your locs. 

Retwisting without washing will only mean that the buildup of dirt in your locs is multiplying.

When can you wash your dreads for the first time?

After 4 to 6 weeks. You can start washing your locs in 6 or more weeks after they are done. You can wait longer than that before you start washing it but ensure that you don’t skip washing your dreads for more than 3 months. 

Can you wash dreads with white vinegar?

Yes, you can. You can use white vinegar to wash your dreads instead of apple cider vinegar. White vinegar works well, both work well and to remove dirt from the hair. 

To use white vinegar, rinse your dreads with the vinegar. Go on to shampoo your hair as well to banish odor and reduce itchiness. 


Dreadlocks require the most maintenance as that is the only way to keep them looking good. Refusing to wash your dreads for a long time can cause a buildup of dirt, sebum, and residue of products on your scalp. It can also cause your locs to stink. 

Therefore, ensure that you wash your locs at least once a week. Don’t overdo it by washing your dreads every day. Doing so will not only cause your hair to be stinky, but it will also strip off all your hair’s natural oil.

Thanks for reading.

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