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Are Dreads Dirty? 5 Tips To Keep Your Dreads Looking Clean

Many people wonder if people with dreadlocks wash their hair. They think that dreads are dirty! Is that true?

False. While dreadlocks are affordable and require little maintenance, they’re not quite that low maintenance. Dreads need to be washed and cleaned as part of maintenance. If washed regularly and well maintained, dreads should be clean and good-looking.

This post explains why dreads appear dirty and breaks down the process of washing dreadlocks.

are dreads dirty?

Are Dreads Dirty?

Dreads aren’t imminently dirty. A dreadlock’s level of cleanliness, just like braids, bangs, and colored hair, entirely depends on the owner’s maintenance regimen.

Dreads are made through a locking process. The hair is twisted, separated, and retwisted in the opposite direction, forming tight knots. These knots create a perfect home for lice. As a result, most people with dreads are motivated to keep their hair clean.

Dreadlock owners maintain clean hair because it dreads faster and tighter. Washed hair is less greasy and has a firmer grip, thus easy to twist. On the other hand, dirty hair is grimy and slides, making dreading difficult.

Clean locks can also appear dirty due to natural hair color changes. Severe sun bleaching might also make dreads appear ashy.

Those with synthetic dreads get their hair done every 6 to 8 weeks. Dreadlocks get loose and messy after this period. The loose flyaways make dreads look dirty and unkempt. 

What Causes Dreads To Be Dirty?

Below are factors that may increase gunk build-up and foul smell in your dreads.


Dreads are thick and highly absorbent. As a result, they soak in sweat, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth.

If you participate in physical activities, tie a spongy headband to absorb the sweat and prevent it from drying on the scalp.

Cotton headbands are the most preferable for their high moisture-wicking capabilities. Remember to use headbands with elastic ties to prevent hair loss.

Additionally, avoid wearing beanies if you have dreadlocks. Many dreadlocks owners love to stuff their hair in beanies, which increases their sweating levels significantly. The lack of fresh air also makes the hair stink more.

Poor Care

Going for several months without a wash will cause your hair to produce a horrible stench. Products like oils and sprays build up and attract dirt, causing the hair to get filthy. 

Cleaning your locks with the right shampoos and soap is crucial. Some shampoos leave residue in the hair, leading to build-up and a bad smell. 

Can You Wash Dreads?

Washing Dreads

Do people with dreadlocks wash their hair? Washing dreads is possible and fuss-free. Follow these steps to wash your dreadlocks.

  • Make the hair damp: Wetting locks make them lather better. For an effective wash, use warm water to soak the dreads.
  • Squeeze or rub a small amount of shampoo on your palm: Applying a small amount of shampoo at a time gives you control over the amount of product you place on your hair.
  • Massage the shampoo into your locks until it lathers: While working on the roots, massage the scalp using your fingers. Scrub your scalp attentively to get rid of dead skin and built-up products.
  • Rinse out the shampoo: After letting the shampoo sit for two minutes, rinse it all off with your head tilted back.
  • Dry rigorously: Drying your hair is crucial to combat the bad smell. Dry individual locks using a towel to absorb all the water.

How To Keep Dreads Look Clean?

Regularly washing your hair isn’t enough to attain beautiful dreads. Below are 5 tips you should practice to keep your dreadlocks looking clean.

#1. Use Residue-Free shampoo to Avoid Product Build-Up In Dreads.

Most shampoos leave residues in your hair even after thoroughly rinsing them out. This residue makes it challenging for thick locks to dry, promoting mold growth and a foul smell. Shampoo residue causes hair to slide when dreading.

Using a residue-free shampoo will leave your locks clean and enhance their look by promoting a tighter twist.

#2. Wear a Silk Headwrap When Going to Bed.

Tips To Keep Dreads Look Clean - Wear Silk Headwrap

Wearing a silk head wrap when going to bed is crucial. Dreadlocks easily collect lint on fabrics. After an entire night, your locks are guaranteed to look messy if you sleep with free dreadlocks, and your sheet’s fabric produces lots of lint.

A silk head wrap allows your locks to breathe and reduces the amount of sweating. It also prevents your hair from getting loose and shabby, with lots of stray hairs.

#3. Dry The Dreads Thoroughly Within 12 Hours of Washing.

Moisture is essential for hair growth. However, too much water promotes mold growth in dreadlocks.

Dreadlocks absorb lots of water, meaning they take a while to dry. The hairs are tightly wound up and hardly encourage evaporation of excess water.

To avoid mold growth, dry your hair rigorously within twelve hours of washing. It’s also advisable to use a hand-held dryer for complete drying.

Always adjust the heat settings to medium-high to prevent your hair’s essential oils from drying.

Air drying your dreadlocks isn’t advisable, as it gives an impression that the hair is dry when most of the moisture is still locked inside.

#4. Deep Clean Your Dreads Every 3 to 4 Months.

Tips To Keep Dreads Look Clean - Deep Clean

Aside from your bi-weekly wash, deep-cleaning dreadlocks every 3 to 4 months is crucial to maintain clean hair. In a basin or sink, dissolve ¾ cup of baking soda in warm water and soak your dreads in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes.

Ensure your dreads are fully submerged to eliminate dead skin, oil, and dirt build-up. Afterward, rinse the hair with cold water until it runs clear.

Mix water and vinegar at a ratio of 3:1 and use it to rinse your scalp and dreads. Vinegar helps reduce hair frizziness and keep the hair looking clean.

#5. Regular Locking

A consistent locking routine keeps your dreads looking tidy and clean. To maintain your dreadlocks, lock them daily by alternating palm rolling and twisting. The thickness of your dreads determines how much retwisting they need. Thin dreadlocks might break if twisted frequently.

Consult a loctician if you’re unsure how to retwist your locks. Locticians gauge your hair texture, then give professional advice on how to take care of it.

So, are dreads dirty? Your dreadlock’s cleanliness depends on your level of maintenance and hygiene. Following the tips discussed in this post will keep your dreads beautiful and shiny.

FAQs About Cleaning Dreads

How long can I go without washing my dreads?

Your hairstyle dictates the time you can go without washing hair. Dreadlocks need to be washed every three to four weeks.

Will dirty dreads smell?

Dirty dreads do smell. Dirt causes mold growth and dandruff, which produce a foul smell.

What will happen if I don’t clean your dreadlocks?

Not cleaning your dreadlocks will cause product build-up and even head lice infestation. Your locks might also have a mildew-like smell from sweat.

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