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Do Dreadlocks Smell? Dreadlocks Health and Hygiene Guide

Whether you’ve already started your dreads or are considering it, you’ve likely heard conflicting information about them. One myth that goes around is that all dreads have a foul odor. But is it true?

We’ll answer this question and discuss why some dreads can smell bad and how you can ensure yours smell great!

Related: Keep Your Locs Fresh

Do All Dreads Smell?

Because dreadlocks are matted hair, they have the potential to trap odors more than other hairstyles. However, that doesn’t mean that dreads always smell bad (or that your locs are doomed to smell bad at one point).

If you don’t properly care for your dreads, then you could end up with locs that smell bad. But with the right care, your dreadlocks will smell great and have no difference in odor compared to other people’s hair.

Want to learn the secret to great-smelling dreads? It’s all about using the right products.

What Makes Some Dreadlocks Smell?

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There are various things that can make dreadlocks smell; identifying the underlying issue behind the odor is crucial to understanding why. Let’s look at the common reasons why dreads might smell:

  • The environment: While mostly out of your control, odors from smoke, air pollution, and food scents can settle into your dreads, producing an unpleasant smell.
  • Mold growth: It’s possible for dreadlocks to get moldy (called dread rot) if you don’t dry them thoroughly after washing, producing a mildew smell that’s difficult to remove.
  • Sweat: Whether it’s after a workout or a hot summer day, if you sweat without airing out or rinsing your dreads and scalp, you’ll likely start to notice a bad smell.
  • Improper care: If you don’t wash and maintain your dreads properly, you can get a buildup of dirt and debris, causing your dreadlocks to emit an unpleasant odor.

How to Keep Your Locs Smelling Great

Now that we’ve discussed what can cause dreadlocks to smell, let’s explore how you can keep yours from falling into that category:

Wash Your Locs

The best way to neutralize bad dreadlock smells is by washing your locs regularly and correctly. You have to wash your dreads to keep the smell away without washing them too often so that they begin to unravel.

Typically, you want to wash your locs about once a week with a shampoo designed for dreadlocks to help dislodge excess oils and debris to keep them clean and rid of odors.

It’s also crucial to scrub your scalp when you wash your dreads to reduce additional buildup and its associated odors.

If your locs are short, you want to try to scrub each loc individually when you wash your hair to ensure you get rid of all the debris and dirt.

If your locs are long, the best way to keep them odor-free and clean is to wash them in a large bowl with warm water and residue-free loc wash. You want to alternate between scrubbing your locs and lightly soaking them in the bowl — this helps dislodge more buildup than washing them the traditional way.

Related: Best Black-Owned Loc Products

Cover Your Locs

Covering your dreadlocks or wearing a headwrap can help keep environmental odors like smoke and dust from settling in your locs. In addition, covering them at night can help prevent damage from friction and keep lint from getting stuck in your dreads.

And if your dreads have an odor that you haven’t discovered how to fix yet, wearing a wrap over your locs can help mask that odor until you find a solution.

Use a White Vinegar Soak

If you think your loc smell is coming from dread rot, you can try a vinegar soak to kill the mold and remove the odor that it leaves behind.

To create a white vinegar soak, you need to mix equal parts of distilled water and distilled white vinegar into a large container. Then, pour this mixture over your dreads and scalp while standing over a sink or bathtub. Finally, allow it to sit on your locs for about fifteen minutes before thoroughly rinsing.

After this soak, you can wash your hair like usual — but ensure you dry them completely and leave zero moisture in your locs. If you still have the mildew smell in your dreads, you might have to repeat the vinegar soak during your next few washes.

Most of the time, eliminating bad odors in your dreadlocks is as simple as washing and drying them properly.

Try Moisturizers With Added Essential Oils

If you use a plain moisturizer for your locs, try switching it up with one that includes essential oils like tea tree, coconut, or lavender. These oils can help mask any unpleasant odors in your locs and may help with relaxation and scalp circulation, too.

Skip the boring moisturizers on the grocery store shelves — keep your locs healthy and clean with our organic loc products.

Tips for Keeping Your Dreadlocks Smelling Great

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The best way to ensure your dreads don’t smell is by taking preventative steps and following a proper dread maintenance routine. Other than washing them correctly, keeping your dreads dry is crucial if you don’t want odors to develop.

Whether your locs get wet from humidity, sweat, moisturizing sprays, or anything else, you need to allow your scalp and dreads to dry.

If you can’t air dry your locs before bed, you can use a blow dryer on the cool setting (this helps reduce the chances of breakage and damage) to ensure they are 100% dry.

In addition, it’s crucial to never cover your dreadlocks while they are still wet — get as much moisture out of your dreads as possible immediately after washing them and wrap them in a towel to get all of the moisture out of them.

Either blow dry, or air dry your dreads afterward until they are completely dry — you can even sit in the sun; don’t forget your sunscreen, though!

Dreads Only Smell Due to Improper Care

If you notice a smell from your dreads, don’t panic; once you figure out why they smell, it’s not hard to find a way to get rid of the odor.

Take preventative measures to keep your locs smelling great, but if you find an odor forming, use the remedies in this article to remove it fast.

Related: Summertime Loc Care

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