Thursday, 18 October 2012

Washing Dreadlocks

Washing dreadlocks and keeping them clean is the most important thing you can do to ensure the longevity and enjoyability of your dreadlocks. If you don't keep them clean they will become greasy, itchy and generally unpleasant just like regular hair. Keeping them clean will keep them happy and therefore you happy!

You can wash your dreadlocks as little or as often as you so choose. I personally wash mine every other day but other people choose to only wash them once a week. However often you choose to wash them, as long as you keep the pattern regular then you will be fine. Here is a video where I talk through how your head gets used to how often you wash it and 

how should you wash your dreadlocks?:

 You can still shower your body as many times a day as you want. The only reason washing your dreadlocks every day is usually avoided is because they take so long to dry. See my "Showering without washing your dreads" post for more on that.

Soaps and Shampoos?

You won't want to use 'normal' shampoos with dreadlocks. They can leave residue in your hair, making it sticky and irritating. When the residue shampoo dries it will flake out like dandruff, an all round negative experience. You don't actually have to use shampoo with dreadlocks at all, I have been months at a time using only water, once your head gets used to not being washed with oil stripping shampoo it will re-balance it's oil production and you can survive just fine with only water., however it is my experience that the dreadlocks will not lock as quickly or as effectively without a soap/shampoo being used to clean the oils from the hair - using water alone doesn't really 'clean'.

Shampoos I have used:
  • RockingLocks - Liquid shampoo available in different sizes and also available in an SLS free variety. A straightforward residue free shampoo. 
  • Dollylocks - Available in both liquid and bar form. Organic, vegan and GMO free. The liquid variety is very strong and so only a very small amount is required and so one bottle will last for a long time if used appropriately.  
  • DreadHead HQ - The DHHQ liquid soap is widely available worldwide. While I cannot recommend most of their other products, their liquid soap is generally quite a popular residue free shampoo choice.
  • Dr. Bronners - This is very hit or miss, some love it and some hate it. Bronners is not strictly a residue free shampoo but it popular due to it's friendly ingredients and because it's one of the only options that's widely available in stores. To use it on dreadlocks it needs to be heavily diluted down to 1:10 or more and even then if you have hard water it can be tricky to wash out effectively. 
Obviously use all of these within reason. If you cake your head in any soap then it's going to leave residue because you won't rinse long enough to get it all out. But all of the above will work long term without leaving residue. I like the bars of soap because I can rub them all over my head, but I've been favoring liquid soap for a long time now because I use the bars up way too fast.

My Washing Routine

I wash my dreadlocks in the shower and I would fully recommend washing in the shower over washing in the tub. The higher the water pressure you have, the better! Power shower? excellent. Washing with a high pressured shower means you can wash your dreadlocks thoroughly and faster, it also means you're more able to wash out the excess soap.

  • Get in the shower and soak the dreadlocks completely. If you have a weak shower it might take some time as the dreadlocks can hold a lot of water, depending on how long and/or thick they are.
  • You can then apply the soap / shampoo if you're going to use it. I only use a little over a teaspoon of soap for head.
  •  I will apply the shampoo directly to my scalp. I will scrub it all over my head and the dreads will act like a scrubbing brush, moving it all around. You don't need to apply soap to the dreads themselves as the soap/shampoo will rinse from your head, through the locks.
  • After that I wash the rest of my body, leaving my head under the shower, giving the dreadlocks as long as possible with water running through them as you really want to make sure all the shampoo rinses out.
  • Make sure you scrub behind your ears and on your neck, these areas can get oiler than normal because the dreadlocks can keep your head warmer than normal hair - like wearing a hat. 
  • After I'm done washing the rest of my body I return to my head, spraying it with the shower on a high setting, rinsing out the soap.
  • I will then squeeze water out of the dreadlocks, they don't have to be squeezed one by one, but I make sure I squeeze the water out of all of them.
  • After one last soak I will turn the water off.
  • While remaining in the shower I squeeze out as much excess water as I can. The more you can squeeze out, the better. Also the squeezing is a passive way of maintaining your dreadlocks and encouraging them to mature.

 My Drying Routine

  • Once they're squeezed I will roughly rub them with a towel to dry them some more. (Use a towel that definitely won't start flaking and leave bits of towel in your hair. You want a towel that you can really rub hard with, but not let any towel material fall out and get stuck in your hair).
  • Wrap the towel around your body and then (possibly outside) headbang. Nod your head up and down shaking out the water that is left. This method really reduces drying time.
  • You can then proceed to blow dry your hair, I do this while having a towel wrapped and leaning forward so as to trap the hot air within the towel and really heat the dreadlocks - be careful that nothing covers the intake at the back of the drier.
  • After that I would continue with my day, usually using a headband to hold them back for a while because they will still be a little damp - depending on how long I had to dry them.
It's recommended that you don't wear a hat / tam while they're still wet because you can encourage mildew. Almost all negative odours that people can experience with dreadlocks is due to leaving them damp.

Deep Clean

See my Deep Cleanse topic for a step by step deep clean tutorial!


  1. So I asked someone what they think of the Rocking Locks shampoo and she said that Methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and sls are toxic.... Is that true?

    1. You can pose the question to Rockinglocks personally, he's quite knowledgeable on the subject. I personally have nothing to do with making soap, nor am I chemist. Those ingredients might well be harmful in high concentrations or pure forms, they're for killing off bacteria and fungus that obviously you wouldn't want inside of your dreadlocks. I'm under the impression that they're common ingredients and no more harmful than any other shampoo you'd pick up off of the shelf. You're not going to be drinking it.

    2. As Chris said, these ingredients, in very small amounts, cause no harm.
      They are used in MANY beauty products if you look at the ingredients.
      Here in the UK we have very strict regulations regarding the use of chemicals in cosmetics.
      As chris also pointed out, these ingredients are anti bacteria and fungal agents which is very important for dreadlocks.
      Even when dreads feel dry to the touch, moisture can still remain inside them. This then can become a breading ground for bacteria, which is why we encourage the use of Microfiber towels to dry the hair and discourage the use of Waxes as these trap moisture and other debris into your locks which will only end smelling of mold etc..
      For those who are concerned about SLS and SLES in shampoos, I would like to point out we do offer an SLS, SLES, Sodium Chloride, Residue Free, and fragrance Free shampoo.
      At the end of the day we are all different, our bodies react in different ways to different chemicals, some people are more sensitive then others.
      I would also like to point out that we have had words with our supplier regarding the concerns people have regarding these ingredients - the tech team behind the shampoo have said the same as I regarding the quantity of these ingredients.

      A good example of this type of scenario is demonstrated in a product that everyone uses (i would hope) at lease twice daily.. toothpaste!
      Fluoride in its purest form is a toxin! the NHS say it is a naturally occurring mineral found in water! but this is false!
      The fluoride was added to the water, the reason? supposedly to help teeth health in the UK, but yet there is strong evidence that links Fluoride with infertility in men and women, Im not here to argue that lol but this again demonstrates chemical use in quantities.
      Im not saying the same about rockinglocks shampoo, im just saying that some people have more of a sensitivity to these chemicals mentioned, then others. Again we have already passed these concerns to our suppliers, who will be listening and analyzing any problems that may arise.

      At the time of writing this, we have not had any complaints from any of our customers regarding these chemicals or the cause of such.
      Any complains would be treated very seriously and investigated.

      I hope this information helps :)
      Happy Dreading to All!

  2. I started my red dreads 3 months ago using the techniques of backcombing, rip and tear and neglect combined. (I have a lot of big bumps and loops that I hope will take care of themselves)

    I'm wondering this - I have been trying to use Dr. Bronners as shampoo but have had problems with residue even though I have diluted it and rinsed madly...? Is there a trick I don't know about?

    1. Hi Erika, Bronners is very dependant on water hardness. If you live in an area with hard water, Bronners just doesn't work very will and becomes very difficult to wash out effectively.

    2. Ah ha! Mystery solved. Perhaps I'll try RockingLocs. Thank you so much - you are a wealth of information. I'm always quoting you as my hair guru..."Well, lazydreads guy says blah blah blah. ;)

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  4. Have you tried knottyboy shampoo bars? If yes are they any good? Thanks

    1. I didn't use it long enough to find out whether it was any good - it was incredibly irritating to my eyes.

    2. You're meant to put it on your hair not your eyes ;-)
      I use the bars and love em. Alot of people say it leaves residue, but I probably wash my dreads less than alot of people. ....

  5. Great site!!! I like your honest input. My locs are almost 8 years old and a bit passed my tush [lol] and I've tried everything to deal with itchy scalp. Dr. Bronners is fine once in awhile but I feel it does over dry my scalp. My question is about the blow drying after washing, does it cause added issues with dry/itchy scalp? And do you blow dry after each shampooing? I also get these painful pimples on my scalp, any idea how to treat them??? The joys of dreadlocks!!!

    1. I would think that exposing the scalp to excessive levels of heat would likely have some sort of negative effect, but dry scalps are usually related to the soap/shampoo being used. A shampoo that works great for one person might not work so well for someone else. I would generally recommend trying different soaps until you find the one that balances best - I wouldn't continue to use a soap if it left me with a dry, irritated scalp.

      I blow dry my hair after every wash, they will otherwise take an excessive time to dry which puts the hair at risk of developing some other issues.

      I'm afraid I don't know anything about painful scalp pimples.

  6. How soon after I start my dreads is it safe to start washing them?


  7. so, i have been watching your videos for sometime now. i think they are awesome! i am planning on starting my dreads soon and was wondering what you thought of some of the other dollylocks products, ie. the tightening sprays, gels, and powders. from everything that i have gathered from your videos it seems like you would want to avoid them. have you used any of these things?

    1. I have tried everything apart from the pomade (which is a type of product that I personally would not like to use) and the dry shampoo (which I have not yet been in a position where I've needed it).

    2. Hey thanks! Well see how it goes! 😊

  8. What chemicals should I look for in shampoos that leave residue??

  9. is it ok to use teatree oil to wash locs