how to properly wash dreadlocks in 2020

How To Properly Wash Dreadlocks in 2020

Dreadlock Tips and Tricks
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At the beginning of my freeform dreadlock journey, I needed to know how to properly wash my dreadlocks to avoid buildup and weird smells. Being of African-American descent, it is vital for me to get the right information for my hair type as there is a lot of misinformation regarding dreadlocks. Here’s how to properly wash your dreadlocks in 2020.

To properly wash your dreadlocks, fill up a sink or bowl with warm water. Next, add a small amount of low-residue shampoo and mix it in until it is completely dissolved. Then, place your dreadlocks into the sink/bowl full of warm water and allow your dreadlocks to soak.

While your locks are soaking, gently squeeze them and work your way from the roots to the ends allowing that water to pass through and cleanse your hair. Take your time while doing this to ensure you get all of the dirt and oils out.

How Long To Soak Your Dreadlocks?

You’ll want to soak for about 10-15 minutes or until the water turns an off-color. The color of your water indicates whether or not you’re actually getting your dreadlocks clean.

If it’s been a while since you’ve washed your hair, you’ll notice the water turn an opaque light to dark brown or grey. Continue to soak and gently squeeze your dreads until they no longer feel oily.

The reason for allowing your dreadlocks to soak rather than wash them as you would in the shower is because you want to allow the shampoo to dissolve the buildup in the center of your dreads.

Dreadlocks are like sponges and over the course of many days, dirt, dust, and oil will penetrate your locks and sink into the center. You want to allow enough time for your shampoo to dissolve this buildup, otherwise, you’ll end up with dirty locks that look clean on the outside.

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What Kind Of Shampoo Should I Use For Dreadlocks?

what kind of shampoo should you use to properly wash your dreadlocks in 2020

It can be overwhelming at first when you’re trying to decide the best shampoo to use for your dreadlocks. There are products marketed specifically towards dreadlocks while others are simply used for any hair type. So Let’s go over what to look for when deciding what’s the best shampoo for dreads.

The key to choosing the best shampoo for your hair type that is low residue. You do not want to use a shampoo that will leave behind a lot of build-up because your dreads act as sponges. Whatever you choose to use on your hair will be soaked up and you’ll want to easily clean and rinse out your dreads.

Should I Use A Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

There has been a rise over the years of stores selling sulfate-free shampoos. While using shampoos with sulfates is completely safe, you may consider using a sulfate-free shampoo if you have any of the following issues:

  • Your hair is naturally dry
  • Your hair is naturally frizzy
  • You have a sensitive scalpor skin
  • You’ve recently colored your hair
  • You have eczema or dandruff
  • You have very fine or thin hair

What Are Sulfates In Shampoo?

With the rise of sulfate-free shampoos, many people assume that sulfates are bad for you and your hair and should be avoided at all costs. However, this is not true.

Sulfates are cleansing agents that are found in many products such as detergents, household cleaners, and even shampoos. The purpose of sulfates in shampoos is to create a lathering effect while removing dirt and oil from the hair. There are two types of sulfates that are generally used in shampoos and they are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.

How To Wash Dreads With Baking Soda

how to properly wash dreadlocks in 2020 with baking soda, apple cider vinegar rinse, acv rinse

My preferred method for washing my dreadlocks is to just use baking soda and water. The reason behind this is because it is cheap, leaves little residue, and it is very effective. People have been using baking soda to clean their hair for years and it is one of the best ways to remove buildup from the center of your dreads.

Here are the steps to wash your dreads with baking soda:

  1. Fill up your sink or bowl with warm water
  2. Pour in a small handful of baking soda and mix until it is dissolved
  3. Soak your dreadlocks in the warm water and baking soda mixture
  4. Gently squeeze and massage your dreads in the mixture for 10-15 minutes or until your hair feels clean
  5. Rinse your hair under clean warm water until the water runs clear

You may also choose to use apple cider vinegar for a deeper cleanse however it is not necessary. A Youtuber who goes by the name “Chescalocs” used baking soda, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and sea salt to cleanse her locks. Although her locks came out very clean, it is not necessary to use that many ingredients and it may damage your hair. Baking soda alone will do the trick. Here’s how her hair turned out:

When To Wash Dreadlocks

When deciding how often you should wash your dreadlocks, keep in mind that your hair type, lifestyle, and the products you use determine how quickly your hair gets dirty. Before I started my freeform dreadlocks, I was washing my hair once a week. If I washed more often than that, my hair would be too dry and eventually break off. So when I started my dreads, I decided to continue washing once a week. So far, that continues to work for me.

Some people tend to have hair that is much more oily while others may use a lot of heavy products. Continue to wash your hair as often as you did prior to getting dreads. Then if you need to wash more or less often, go ahead and do so.

A Quick Note About Washing Dreadlocks

This method of washing your locks is suitable for all stages of your dreadlock journey. Whether you’re just starting out or have long mature dreads, gently soaking your hair in warm water and baking soda is safe for all stages of locks.

How To Dry Dreads Fast

Since dreads are similar to sponges, they tend to retain more water for long periods of time after washing. During my hair journey, I contemplated whether or not I should air dry my hair or use a blow dryer. But what is the best way to dry dreadlocks fast?

To dry your dreads fast, you can use a blow dryer set to “cool” or air dry them on a hot and sunny day outside. It’s best to use a blow dryer on the cool setting to prevent heat damage to your hair. If you choose to air dry, make sure your hair completely dries before going to bed.

It is extremely important to make sure your hair is fully dry before going to bed to prevent mildew from forming in your locks. Many people experience unpleasant smells from their hair because they fail to let their hair dry after washing. Remember that your dreads are like sponges and will retain water and residues from hair products unless you clean them thoroughly and allow them to dry.


In order to properly wash your dreadlocks, you’ll want to fill up a sink with warm water, put in a small amount of low residue shampoo and allow it to dissolve, then soak your dreadlocks in the water for 10-15 minutes while gently squeezing your locks until your hair is clean.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to choose a low residue shampoo to prevent buildup from occurring inside of your dreads. You may also want to consider using a sulfate-free shampoo if you have naturally dry or frizzy hair, sensitive skin or scalp, eczema or dandruff, very fine or thin hair, or you’ve recently colored your locks.

Always ensure that your dreads are completely dry before going to bed. You can do this by either using a blow dryer on the “cool” setting or allowing your hair to air dry on a hot and sunny day.

Check out our post “6 Best Shampoos For Dreadlocks” for sulfate-free, residue-free options.