Clean Dreadlocks Guide

Dreadlocks have the unfortunate fame of being dirty, which is, of course, only a stereotype. It is a relatively new hairstyle in our society and a lot about dreadlock hygiene and care has been understood only in recent years. By reading this guide you’ll be able to keep your dreads fresh and clean at all times, and you’ll learn how to give them a detox when needed.


  • Main causes of “dirty” dreads and prevention: 
  1. Product residue, 
  2. Air particles, 
  3. Lint
  • How to give your dreadlocks a detox
  • The ideal dreadlocks hygiene routine
Man in water with dreadlocks holding up right hand with fist into the direction of a waterwall

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Cause of dirty dreads #1: Product residue

Because of their structure, dreadlocks are able to trap traces of products that you’re using. Product residue can build up over time and cause stinky, heavy and damp dreadlocks. Please note that your dreads should never stink, if they do, you’re probably building up residue which can create the ideal conditions for bacteria growth and mildew. 


To prevent residue buildup, use products that are designed for your dreads. The problem with most commercial shampoos, soaps and conditioners is that they get easily stuck inside your dreadlocks. On our website you can find dreadlocks shampoo and many other hair care products that leave little to no residue in your dreads. If using a shampoo bar, don’t rub it directly on your dreads, rather use this mesh bag, which is designed to protect your dreadlocks from solid shampoo residue. For any other product, such as tightening spray or gel, conditioner or pomade, the same advice is valid: use only products that are specific for dreadlocks. On DreadLab we cover all your needs.


One more thing to keep in mind is: the longer your dreads stay wet after washing, the higher the chance to grow bacteria and mildew. To dry your dreads properly, remove any excess water using a towel, and keep them open until they’re completely dry. To speed up the process you can use a hairdryer, or a drying bonnet.


two girls with dreadlocks facing eachother and playing with left hand side girls hair

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Cause of dirty dreads #2: Air particles

This includes kitchen fumes, dust, and pollution. In the long run, these particles can make their way inside your dreads and can only be removed with a detox. Our tips:

  • Protect your hair while cooking. A simple headwrap will do.
  • Protect your hair while working with tools such as saws, drills, etc. 
  • Protect your hair while walking in polluted areas. 

Get into the habit of covering your dreads with a scarf or hair wrap anytime needed. However, sometimes they will get dirty, in which case you can just give them a good detox.


Cause of dirty dreads #3: Lint

Lint is not necessarily “dirty”, but it surely doesn’t look nice. 

Lint is textile fiber that gets stuck in your dreads and accumulates over time. It looks like grey or white bits of fabric. Unlike product residue, lint can be very visible and nearly impossible to remove completely. It comes mostly from your clothes, towels, pillows, blankets and any other fabric you rub your dreads on, whether you're aware of it or not, such as car seats, the couch, etc. 

Lint is so difficult to remove that some people choose to dye their dreads, together with the bits of lint, to make it less noticeable. Our advice is to prevent its formation from the start. What you can do:

  • Use a microfiber towel, because it leaves nearly no lint behind. Be careful not to rub your dreads with it but rather press and squeeze them.
  • Use a night cap for dreadlocks. By sleeping, we spend about a third of our day with our dreads pressed on the pillow and blankets. Every time we move, even slightly, the friction creates lint. On DreadLab we have a large, comfy nightcap, made of smooth satin, that will protect your dreads while you sleep.
  • Tie your dreads up when you’re wearing clothes that shed a lot of textile fibers, such as wool. 
  • Avoid product residue from shampoo, hair dye or other products, because it will attract and trap lint. Please check the list of shampoos we recommend. If you’re wanting some colour on your hair and you’re thinking of dyeing them, consider installing synthetic dreadlocks instead. Read our synthetic dreads guide to check the options.


Man with dreadlocks flicking hair into the air

Photo by INSYNCT MEDIA from Pexels

How to give your dreadlocks a detox:

Dreadlocks detox is recommended for every dreadhead, and many locticians offer detox sessions in their salons, but you can also do it yourself at home. What you’ll need:

Follow the instructions on the detox kit of your choice. To make sure you remove all product residue, take your time to clean your dreads while soaking them. Shake, squeeze and bend them, to let the detox mix penetrate inside your dreads and release any residue that got stuck. The detox kits are able to dissolve insoluble substances (residue) and wash away any dirt that has got stuck in your dreads. 


Please note that these products, although not toxic, are a bit heavy on the skin and it’s recommended to use them a maximum of once a month.


To sum up: the ideal dreadlocks hygiene routine

The steps to keep your dreads clean and pristine are:

  1. Wash them with the correct shampoo. The frequency depends entirely on your preferences, and on how often you’re using other dreadlocks products.
  2. Dry them completely every time you wash them.
  3. In general, take care that your dreads don’t get too dirty or linty (also at night!
  4. Every now and then, give your dreads a good detox.


We hope you found this article helpful, and that we’ll be able to fight the “dirty dreads” prejudice!


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About the author

Margherita Orso Pletti - Italian dread maker, youtuber and blogger living in the UK. Creator of, website in Italian about dreadlocks
girl with dreadlocks walking through trees