How to Wash Dreadlocks, According to Natural Hair Experts

The actor Sasha Lane in profile, her dreadlocks piled into a chic ponytail


If you love experimenting with protective styles, you know there are many options—including dreadlocks. They've become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to how easy they are: For those who don't want to spend most of their morning trying to style their hair, locs are the perfect low-maintenance hairstyle.

But that doesn't mean you don't have to maintain locs at all. Contrary to what many believe, locs can—and should—be washed. When locs are kept clean, it's easier for your hair to grow. When you don't wash them, you risk accumulating dirt and oil that compromises the health of your hair.

To help us break down everything there is to know about washing locs, we tapped hairstylists Dionne Smith and Jennie Roberts. Keep reading to find out how locs should be washed and dried and for the best products and ingredients to use on wash day.

Meet the Expert

How Often Should Locs Be Washed?

Locs should be washed at least every 7-10 days, Roberts tells us. "Environmental dirt, scalp build-up, and general lint and fluff can make locs look dull and dry," she says. "Washing locs regularly is key to keeping them healthy and hydrated. Additionally, cleansing locs with a detoxifying cleanser is a must to remove any accumulated build-up."

If you lead an active lifestyle, Smith recommends washing your locs once a week. On the flip side, if you've just started your loc journey, she suggests leaving them alone for as long as possible "as this allows the hair to set."

How Should Locs Be Washed?

  1. Wet down your locs until all of your hair is wet. Then, pour a bit of shampoo into your hand and work it into your scalp and hair. "The first shampoo may not give you enough lather but try to ensure your scalp and locs are covered," Smith says.
  2. After shampooing your locs, rinse them thoroughly and shampoo again. "When you've produced enough lather, you can leave the shampoo on for a few minutes and start massaging your scalp, ensuring any build-up is removed," Smith explains.
  3. When this stage is complete, use plenty of water to rinse your locs to ensure that the shampoo is completely removed. If you have mature locs, you'll need a deep cleanse (Smith recommends a clarifying shampoo for this).
  4. Smith advises against using a conditioner unless applied directly to the scalp area. "Conditioners can stick to locs," she explains. "Use apple cider vinegar and oils if you want to add moisture to your locs or soften them."

For the perfect wash day routine for your locs Roberts recommends the Curlsmith Detox Kit ($69). It includes a lightweight pre-wash treatment to moisturize the scalp and hair, a clarifying detox shampoo, and a calming conditioner designed to soothe the scalp and lock in moisture. "The formula contains peppermint oil, lavender, and thyme along with Biotin complex for healthy strands," she says. "It makes your scalp feel like it's alive again."

How Should Locs Be Dried?

According to Smith, locs are best dried in natural sun. But since this isn't always possible, she recommends using a microfiber towel. "They absorb a lot of water, so they get as much water out of the locs as possible," she explains. "If the towel gets drenched, change it and keep going until your locs are dry, then leave them to air dry." If you use a towel to dry your locs, Roberts advises against rubbing them as "this will cause friction and could damage the locs."

"To keep your locs clean and healthy, diffuse them on a gentle speed and low setting," recommends Roberts. "Curlsmith's Defrizzion Dryer and XXL Diffuser ($189) is perfect for this."

Other Considerations

If you feel like your wash day routine isn't moisturizing your locs, Roberts recommends getting a steam treatment. "Alternatively, you can forget the shower cap between wash days and let the water run over your hair," she says. "Just be sure to dry it properly after."

The Final Takeaway

Although locs are a great low-maintenance hairstyle, they require care and attention during and in-between wash days to stay healthy and hydrated. Depending on your lifestyle, you'll need to wash them weekly or bi-weekly. A detoxifying cleanser is a great way to remove additional buildup, and investing in a microfibre towel for drying your hair is a must.

Wherever you are on your loc journey, remember that maintenance is key. As long as you have a good routine, your hair will thrive.

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