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Are Dreadlocks Dirty? No, They’re Not!

Dreadlocks date back thousands of years and are still popular today; however, many misconceptions exist.

One common myth about dreadlocks is that they are dirty. But dreadlocks — like any hair — are clean if properly washed and maintained. In fact, many people with dreadlocks keep their locs exceptionally clean because clean hair knots faster and better than dirty hair.

So are dreadlocks clean or dirty? Let’s break down the common misconceptions.

Related: Keep Your Locs Fresh

Are Dreadlocks Really Dirty?

No, dreadlocks are not inherently dirty. Those rocking this hairstyle do not typically have dirty hair or scalps. However, dreadlocks can be dirty without proper care.

For example, the cleanliness of dreads depends on various factors, from your maintenance and washing routine to your lifestyle.

The key to having clean dreads is proper maintenance and the right products — get yours here.

Why Dreadlocks Can Be Dirty

a man with clean dreadlocks

Whether you’re considering dreadlocks, have just started them, or are curious, understanding why they can sometimes look dirty can be extremely helpful. Here’s why dreadlocks can get dirty:

  • Improper washing — dreadlocks that look dirty are often the result of them not getting washed correctly. It’s crucial to wash them properly since you don’t want to wash them too often. With improper washing, dreadlocks can begin to accumulate dirt and other buildups.
  • Chemical changes — various chemicals can cause dreadlocks to lose their luster, color, and shine (like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide), causing them to look dirty. In addition, we don’t recommend chemical hair dyes for dreads as they can make them look dull and dirty over time.
  • Neglectdreadlocks are often referred to as a low-maintenance hairstyle, but that’s no excuse to neglect your dreads. Neglect leads to smelly and dirty hair, tacking onto negative connotations. While excessive washing of your dreads isn’t good, going too long between washes leads to a buildup of dirt, odors, and skin cells.
  • Color changesmany things can cause your dreadlocks to naturally change colors, including buildup from improper washing, neglect, and even the sun. Proper maintenance, cleaning, and covering your dreads in the sun can help prevent them from looking dirty.

What Is Dread Rot?

Sometimes, dreads will begin taking on an extremely unpleasant smell — this is a sign of dread rot, describing moldy dreads. Dread rot occurs when dreads don’t dry properly after getting washed, trapping moisture and creating an environment where mildew and mold thrive.

These dreads typically take on a whitish tint and develop a mildew smell that’s challenging to conceal. Severe dread rot can even lead to respiratory problems.

However, people that take proper care of their dreads will never have to deal with this issue — preventing dread rot is as easy as correctly washing and drying your hair.

Related: Maintaining Frizzy Dreads

How to Keep Your Dreadlocks Clean

Now that you know dreadlocks aren’t inherently dirty and the reasons why they might look that way, let’s discuss how to keep your dreads looking clean, healthy, and great:

Wash Your Dreads

Washing your dreads is as essential as any other hairstyle. It’s one of the most crucial parts of maintaining clean dreads, and it’s not much more complicated than washing regular hair.

However, you typically want to wash dreads less often than other hairstyles, and if your dreads are new, you’ll have to be gentle, so they don’t unravel.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a clarifying, residue-free shampoo to wash your dreads — this step loosens and removes excess dirt and oils from your hair.
  • Scrub your scalp, ensuring that you work the shampoo throughout the length of your dreads.
  • If you need, you can do a second shampoo application.
  • Rinse — it will likely take a few minutes of constant rinsing to get all of the shampoos out of your dreads.
  • Follow up with moisturizing and conditioning products.

  • Keep Your Dreads Dry

    woman with locs in the snow

    Whether you just washed your dreads, finished an intense workout, or used moisturizing products, it’s essential to dry your dreads completely. This step is usually as simple as letting them air dry before tying them up or blow-drying them with low heat to remove any excess moisture.

    You want your dreads to be 100% dry before covering them or tying them up at night — this means squeezing them at various points to ensure the inside and outside of your dreadlocks are dry.

    Remember, if you let your dreadlocks stay wet for too long, it can lead to dread rot, resulting in mold, odors, and a dirty look.

    Don’t Over-Moisturize

    Using too much oil or moisturizing products can keep your dreads wet for too long, leading to dread rot and buildup — you typically don’t want them to stay wet for more than two hours.

    However, it’s also important not to neglect to moisturize your dreads — it can lead to dryness, brittleness, and breakage.

    The solution is to use oils and moisturizers designed for dreadlocks and follow their instructions about how often and how much to apply.

    Do you want to keep your locs clean and healthy? Then, see us at Lion Locs — organic products designed for dreads.

    Cover Your Dreads

    Keeping your dreads covered when you go out or during certain activities like cooking can help keep them looking and smelling great. Dust, scents from food, and external pollution can all lead to dirty-looking dreadlocks.

    It’s not a bad idea to cover your dreads when cooking pungent foods, going to the beach, or doing any activities that can lead to buildup in your hair.

    However, not everyone wants to keep their dreads covered that often. In that case, just ensure that you keep up on washing and maintenance to keep your dreadlocks looking their best.

    The Bottom Line: Dreadlocks Aren’t Dirty

    The cleanliness of someone’s dreadlocks depends on various factors, including how they wash and dry them and what products they use.

    The most important part of maintaining clean dreadlocks is washing them properly and using the right loc wash, oils, and moisturizing products.

    Hopefully, we’ve dispelled the myth that dreadlocks are inherently dirty — with regular washing, sufficient drying, and protection from the elements, your dreads can look and smell great all the time.

    Related: Summertime Loc Care

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