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How Often Should You Wash Your Dreadlocks?

Part of growing healthy, long locs is knowing the answer to ‘how often should you wash your dreadlocks?’  The answer varies depending on your daily routine and the products you put in your dreads.

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Should You Wash Your Dreadlocks?

You should wash your dreadlocks. It’s how you keep your hair and scalp healthy.

I won’t say it’s easy – washing your dreadlocks takes time and patience. But whether you’re deep-cleaning or just going about your usual wash routine, you can wash your locs by yourself at home. 

It’s a worthy time investment if you want to commit to thick, healthy locs in the long-run.

Signs That Your Dreadlocks Need Washing

Hopefully you already know what it smells, feels, and looks like when your hair needs to be washed. It’s really no different when you have dreadlocks – if you want clean locs, you need to watch for those signs that you’ve gone for too long without washing.

Your Dreadlocks Smell Bad

It’s true – sometimes when you get used to a bad smell, you go nose blind. You might need a friend you trust to help you sniff check every once in a while to make sure that your locs still smell fine, if not fresh.

Your Scalp Feels Oily

That uncomfortable, oily, grimy feeling is probably a sign that your dreads need to be washed. Shampoo dissolves those natural oils that build up on your scalp and cause acne and irritation.

Your Scalp Feels Itchy Or Irritated

You might even need one of the best dandruff shampoos for African hair if your scalp is getting itchy, irritated, or flaky from going too long between washes.

Your Hair Looks Dry

Have your locs lost their shine? That could be because they’ve picked up some lint, dirt, and debris from going too long without a wash. Or your hair is getting brittle because you haven’t been shampooing and moisturizing. Either way, it’s time to wash.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dreadlocks?

You should wash mature dreadlocks at least once a week. When your locs are brand new, you may need to break that rule of thumb to keep them from unwinding. Some guys wait a month to wash new locs, then pick up a weekly washing routine after that.

Keep in mind, once a week is the bare minimum, but it’s not the ideal wash schedule for most guys. 

If you work out or have the kind of job that gets you sweaty, your hair and scalp will do best if you wash every 3 days or more frequently. The trouble there is that washing locs can be intense – depending on your hair length, it might take all day to properly dry your hair.

Invest in a good blow dryer, and aim to wash your locs 1-2 times a week where feasible.

Can You Wash Dreadlocks With Shampoo?

You shouldn’t wash dreadlocks with “regular” shampoo. Use a residue-free dreadlock shampoo.

Dreadlock shampoos are designed to be thin, so they’re easy to wash out of your hair. They won’t build up in your locs, so you won’t suffer from mold or dread rot.

If you have an all-natural shampoo that you really like, but it isn’t designed for dreadlocks, to achieve a similar effect, you can water it down before you use it in the shower. It’ll be thin enough to rinse easily.

What Should I Wash My Dreads With?

Aside from a good shampoo, you can wash your dreadlocks with apple cider vinegar and/or baking soda, depending on the occasion.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is the perfect after-shampoo rinse. Mix a cup of ACV with a cup of water, and pour it over your hair while you’re in the shower. Wait a few minutes, then rinse with water. When your hair dries, you won’t be able to smell the vinegar.

You should use ACV every time you wash your dreadlocks because it acts like a conditioner without unwinding your locs. It strengthens and moisturizes your hair, adding some gloss and bounce. Conditioner does the same, but you can’t use it on dreads because it will detangle your hair. ACV will help keep the locs tight.

Baking Soda

Baking soda rinses are for those once-in-a-while deep cleans. Put ¼ of a box of baking soda in a basin of water, and soak your locs in the solution for 10-30 minutes (depending on how much of a deep clean you want).

You should do this once every 4 months to remove stubborn debris that gets caught in your hair. The baking soda is drying, so you’ll want to moisturize afterwards.

How Often Should You Go Without Washing Your Dreads?

The only time you have an excuse for going longer than a week without washing your dreads is when they’re brand new and still forming. Some guys wait up to a month before washing baby locs.

When you do start washing new locs, you can use elastics to secure them, and focus on just scrubbing your scalp, not the dreads themselves. The suds will run down your dreads and gently clean them, while you can avoid accidentally unwinding them with your fingers.

Once your dreads are mature and tightly coiled, you should wash once a week or more. 

Skipping wash days will have negative impacts on your hair and scalp. You’ll increase the odds that you’ll suffer from dry hair, breakage, scalp irritation, and other issues.

Should You Wash Your Dreads Every Week?

If you want healthy dreadlocks and a happy scalp, you should wash your dreads at least once a week without fail.

You’ll dodge lots of common scalp problems that guys with dreadlocks face, like itchiness, dandruff, brittle hair, and loose locs. Because shampoo is cleansing, it’s also slightly drying, so it winds your locs tighter, while a scalp moisturizer keeps your skin from feeling dehydrated.

It’s a tall order for guys with busy schedules, but taking the time to wash your dreads every week is worth it in the long run.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.