How To Wash Dreadlocks: Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners

Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle in recent years. They’re stylish and unique, and they can really add some flair to your look. But how do you wash them? Washing dreadlocks is simple, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

How Do You Wash Dreadlocks

If you have dreadlocks, washing them can be one of the most dreaded tasks. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a tangled mess and have to cut them off – but if you do it right, your dreads will look great for years to come.

Washing dreadlocks is a delicate process that requires patience and care. It’s not like washing your hair – it takes time, effort, and practice.

How To Wash Dreads: Step-by-Step Guide

Washing dreadlocks requires a slightly different approach compared to washing regular hair, as you need to take care not to unravel or damage the formed locks. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wash your dreads properly:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Dreadlock-specific shampoo (residue-free)
  • Towel
  • Dreadlock-friendly conditioner (optional)
  • Spray bottle (for diluted shampoo)
  • Shower cap (optional)


  1. Dilute Shampoo: Start by diluting your dreadlock-specific shampoo with water in a spray bottle. This will make it easier to distribute the shampoo throughout your dreads.
  2. Wet Your Dreads: Get your dreadlocks thoroughly wet with warm water. Ensure that all your dreads are soaked, and the water can penetrate through the locks.
  3. Apply Diluted Shampoo: Spray the diluted shampoo onto your dreads, focusing on the scalp area. Gently massage the shampoo into your scalp using your fingertips. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing too vigorously to prevent unraveling.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse your dreads with warm water until the shampoo is completely washed out. Make sure there’s no residue left behind.
  5. Conditioning (Optional): If your dreadlocks are feeling dry, you can use a dreadlock-friendly conditioner. Apply a small amount to the lengths of your dreads, avoiding the scalp area. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  6. Gently Squeeze: Gently squeeze excess water from your dreads, avoiding any twisting or wringing motions.
  7. Towel Dry: Carefully wrap a clean, dry towel around your head to absorb excess water from your dreads. Gently press the towel against your dreads, but do not rub vigorously.
  8. Air Dry: Allow your dreadlocks to air dry naturally. Avoid using a hairdryer, as the heat can weaken the locks and cause them to unravel.
  9. Maintenance During Drying: While your dreads are drying, you can palm roll them gently between your hands to help maintain their shape and encourage them to lock up.
  10. Limit Washing Frequency: Dreadlocks don’t need to be washed as frequently as loose hair. Aim to wash your dreads every 1-2 weeks to prevent over-drying and to maintain the integrity of the locks.
  11. Use a Shower Cap (Optional): If you’re concerned about getting your dreads too wet during showers between washes, you can use a shower cap to protect them from excess moisture.
  12. Regular Maintenance: Along with washing, make sure to perform regular maintenance on your dreads, such as palm rolling and separating any sections that may be trying to merge.
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Remember that maintaining clean and healthy dreadlocks is essential, but it’s equally important to be gentle and patient with your locks to avoid damaging or unraveling them. Using dreadlock-specific products and following a consistent care routine will help you enjoy well-maintained and beautifully formed dreadlocks.

Why Do Dreadlocks Need To Be Washed?

Dreadlocks, despite their unique texture and structure, still require regular washing to maintain a clean and healthy scalp, as well as to prevent odor and potential issues that can arise from dirt and oil buildup. Here are the key reasons why dreadlocks need to be washed:

  1. Scalp Health: Just like with any hairstyle, a clean scalp is essential for overall hair and scalp health. Washing your dreadlocks helps remove sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and excess oil that can accumulate on the scalp. A clean scalp promotes better circulation and reduces the risk of scalp issues like dandruff, itching, and fungal infections.
  2. Odor Prevention: Over time, sweat, oils, and environmental pollutants can become trapped within your dreadlocks. This can lead to an unpleasant odor if not addressed. Regular washing helps remove these impurities, keeping your hair smelling fresh and clean.
  3. Residue Removal: Hair products, sweat, and environmental pollutants can leave residue on your dreadlocks. This residue can lead to build-up, making your dreads feel heavy, sticky, or crunchy. Regular washing helps prevent residue accumulation, maintaining the natural feel and texture of your dreads.
  4. Healthy Hair Growth: A clean and healthy scalp environment is conducive to healthy hair growth. When your scalp is free from excess dirt and oils, hair follicles can function optimally, promoting strong and healthy hair growth.
  5. Maintaining Lock Integrity: While dreadlocks require less frequent washing than loose hair, they still benefit from being cleansed to maintain their structure and form. Proper washing and drying techniques help prevent excess moisture that can weaken or unravel the locks.
  6. Preventing Infections: A dirty and oily scalp can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms can lead to scalp infections, which can be uncomfortable and may affect the health of your hair and scalp.
  7. Appearance: Clean, well-maintained dreadlocks look more appealing and well-kept. Regular washing helps preserve the vibrancy and natural appearance of your locks.
  8. Comfort: Regular washing can help reduce itchiness and discomfort caused by dirt, oils, and sweat accumulating on the scalp. A clean scalp is more comfortable and less prone to irritation.
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When washing dreadlocks, it’s important to use a residue-free shampoo specifically designed for locks. Harsh shampoos with heavy residues can hinder the locking process and cause buildup.

While dreadlocks don’t need to be washed as frequently as loose hair, a regular and consistent washing routine, along with proper drying and maintenance techniques, ensures that your dreads remain clean, healthy, and well-maintained.

Are You Supposed To Wash Your Dreads?

Yes, it’s important to wash your dreadlocks to maintain their cleanliness, health, and overall appearance. While dreadlocks have a unique texture and structure, they are still susceptible to dirt, sweat, oil, and other environmental pollutants that can accumulate on the scalp and within the locks themselves. Regular washing is essential for the following reasons:

  1. Scalp Health: Cleanliness is vital for a healthy scalp. Regular washing helps remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and sweat from the scalp, preventing scalp issues like itching, dandruff, and fungal infections.
  2. Odor Prevention: Sweat, oils, and environmental debris can lead to unpleasant odors within your dreadlocks. Washing helps remove these impurities, keeping your hair smelling fresh and clean.
  3. Residue Removal: Hair products, hard water minerals, and other residues can build up in your dreadlocks over time. Proper washing helps prevent residue accumulation, maintaining the natural feel and appearance of your locks.
  4. Lock Integrity: Regular washing helps maintain the integrity of your locks by preventing excessive moisture that can weaken or unravel them. Proper drying techniques are crucial to avoid mold or mildew growth.
  5. Appearance: Clean dreadlocks look neater and more visually appealing. Regular washing helps maintain the vibrancy and natural appearance of your locks.
  6. Comfort: A clean scalp is more comfortable and less prone to irritation, itching, and discomfort.
  7. Hair Growth: A clean and healthy scalp environment promotes healthy hair growth by allowing hair follicles to function optimally.
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How Often Do You Wash Dreadlocks?

As a general guideline, most people with dreadlocks find that washing every 1 to 2 weeks strikes a good balance between maintaining cleanliness and preventing over-drying. However, some individuals may wash their dreadlocks less frequently (every 2-4 weeks) or more frequently (once a week or even more often) depending on their specific needs.

It’s important to listen to your hair and scalp. If you notice your dreadlocks becoming excessively dry, brittle, or heavy, you may be washing them too frequently.

The frequency of washing your dreadlocks depends on various factors, including your hair type, scalp condition, lifestyle, and personal preferences. While dreadlocks don’t need to be washed as frequently as loose hair, maintaining a regular washing routine is important to keep them clean and healthy. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

1. Hair Type:

  • If you have naturally oily hair, you may need to wash your dreadlocks more often to prevent excess oil buildup.
  • If you have drier hair, you may be able to wash your dreadlocks less frequently.

2. Scalp Condition:

  • If you experience scalp issues like dandruff, itching, or discomfort, more frequent washing may be necessary to address these concerns.

3. Lifestyle:

  • If you engage in activities that make your dreadlocks sweat or accumulate dirt more quickly (such as sports or outdoor activities), you may need to wash them more often.

4. Product Usage:

  • If you use styling products or have applied oils to your dreadlocks, you may need to wash them to remove any residue.

5. Water Quality:

  • The quality of the water you use can impact how often you wash your dreadlocks. Hard water can cause more residue buildup, while soft water may allow for less frequent washing.

6. Personal Preference:

  • Ultimately, how often you wash your dreadlocks also comes down to personal preference and how clean you prefer your hair to feel.


Washing dreadlocks can be a challenge, but with the right techniques it can be manageable. I’ve outlined some of the most common methods for washing dreadlocks and shared my tips on how to get them looking their best. Whether you are just starting out and are unsure of how to go about it or you have been washing your locks for years and would like to improve your technique, this article should help you get started.

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