How to Wash Dreads and More
There's a lot of information on dreadlock care available - some of it helpful, some of it not so much, some of it contradictory - including shampooing techniques. However, the most important thing to remember is your own common sense in keeping them as clean as possible.
Consider your environment and activities. If you work in a job with a lot of odours or contaminants like dust, or are planning to camp or sleep outdoors, always make sure you cover your dreads to prevent smells, dirt or bugs from being trapped in your locks.
An ancient technique is to dip dreadlocks in the ocean, as salt water can help to tighten loose locks. While dipping your dreads in a clean part of the ocean can be a very nice ritual, if you're just not sure how clean it is in there, resist and DON'T DO IT. A little salt water in a spray bottle once in a while will do the same for your dreads and helps them stay cleaner. Nobody knows your head better than you so use your intuition to keep your locks as fresh and sweet-smelling as possible.
Read on for more Knotty Boy tips on maintaing your new dreads!
Step 1 - shampoo
Washing your dreads regularly is key to growing a healthy head of locks. Contrary to popular belief, shampooing your hair will actually help dreads develop faster and tighter, with the added bonus of smelling great!
Once you've waited 1-2 weeks after creating your locks, you can begin washing them once every week or so, depending on your need. When you wash dreads, you only need to be concerned with your scalp - don't worry too much about soaping up your locks, a brief pass down them grasped in your hand with the water rinsing from your scalp will be enough.
Using your fingertips, massage the lather from the Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo Bar or Liquid Dreadlock Shampoo, into your scalp, following the detailed instructions found on the Shampoo pages. Both are formulated especially for folks with dreadlocks, and are designed to rinse clean and clear, and leave no residue behind. Many shampoos contain conditioning agents which help to untangle hair - the opposite of dreadlocking.
Step 2 - palm roll
Palm rolling is your first and most important dreadlock maintenance tool. Most lumps, bumps, kinks, and general fluffy disarray can be prevented and cured with regular palm rolling. Doing this when your hair is damp will help them keep a cylindrical shape, as well as encourage loose hairs to reintegrate back into the lock. It will also help keep new locks separate and prevent them from grabbing onto and growing into each other.
Step 3 - dry
Most horror stories about smelly dreads have a common cause: bacteria breeding in dreadlocks due to trapped moisture! Making sure your dreads are dry all the way through before covering with a hat or wrap or before sleeping will prevent that musty, stanky-towel smell from developing.
If you wash your hair more than once a week, or otherwise wet your locks often, make sure to use a blowdryer to accelerate the drying process. If you've got the time, air drying is also fine. Simply wait a day or two before proceeding with any maintenance routine that involves using Wax.
Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Don't cover wet dreadlocks.
- Allow dreadlocks to dry thoroughly
- Never wax wet hair or wet waxed hair
- Use a shower cap when showering but not shampooing
Step 4 - wax
Once your hair is dry, if you notice a lot of loose hair or knots that seem to be coming apart, apply a little more Wax to your dreads. Remember - less is more!. When in doubt, use less - you can always add more later if needed. The goal is to bind hair together, rather than coat your locks. You only need enough to bind the hair together, not coat it. If you have a jar of Wax, dig out a pea-sized amount, mash it with your thumb and forefinger, and run them down the locks that need it, starting near the root and working down to the end. If you are using the Knotty Boy Roll-Up Wax Stick, just lightly run the stick down the body of the dread and massage it in with your fingers in the same way, finish by palm rolling.
It's worth repeating to never wax wet dreadlocks, or wet freshly-waxed dreadlocks. Doing so helps trap bacteria inside dreadlocks of any age or hair type, and can be a source of that wet-dog smell you may have noticed emanating from certain well-meaning dreadheads out there. This smell nearly always comes either from locks that have not been allowed to dry thoroughly between washings, washing too frequently, waxing wet locks, or some combination of the above.
Step 5 - protect
Freshly waxed dreadlocks can stain some fabrics, so it's a good idea to find an old pillow case you don't care about to put on your pillow for the next while.
For daily use, and to protect clothing, if your locks are long enough you can use a few from each side near your ears to tie the rest of them back. If they're short you can always wear a Knotty Boy hat or band, or nylon stocking to keep them away from your face. Doing this will also help keep them from rubbing apart and getting really fuzzy when you sleep.
Step 6 - aftercare
Once your hair has started to form into tight dreadlocks (anywhere after about 2-6 months), it's recommended to wax less frequently, only as needed to touch-up. At this stage of maturity, the waxiness lasts for only about a day after you reapply it. Feel free to still use your comb to backcomb loose hair into locks again, don't forget to palm roll, palm roll, palm roll, and consider adding the ever-popular LockSteady Tropical Tightening Gel to your maintenance regimen for quick and easy tidying and increased lock-acceleration.
A word about itch
Itchy scalps, or a few flakes of dandruff, happen to everyone from time to time. A change of work environment or moving to a different climate, switching hair care products, a swim in a chlorinated pool if you're not used to it - any of these things and a bunch more can be the cause of a pH change in hair and scalp, and result in brief irritation.
It's important to determine whether your scalp is being temporarily irritated by one of these things or if the problem may be more serious. If you thought you absolutely definitely 100% have a bug infestation because all of a sudden your scalp is on fire with a maddening itch...well, you wouldn't be the first, and you won't be the last person to heave a sigh of relief when you find out different, that an annoying itch can be an unpleasant, but temporary, part of your personal dreadlock journey.
If the truly unpleasant happens, check out our comprehensive Dreadlock Answers Pages for help from other people who have dealt with lice and bugs in their dreads, but we urge you not to wait, for obvious reasons. When in doubt with anything to do with your health and safety, consult a physician.
If you've ruled out pest or health issues, (itchy, flaky, white, irritated, you'll know it...) and it's driving you crazy, get your hands on some Knotty Boy Natural Dreadlock Shampoo . Our Shampoo is excellent for keeping hair and scalp clean, which will help keep itch down. Taking advantage of the natural properties of Tea Tree, Rosemary and Peppermint Oils, free of conditioners, our All-Natural Shampoo is ideal for regular dreadlock use.
For instant soothing of hot, itchy scalps , we recommend our popular, time-tested, Knotty Boy Peppermint Cooling Spray, designed for, and loved by, dreadheads around the world. Simply spray directly on scalp for instant relief by the natural properties of Peppermint Essential Oil and Witch Hazel.
Itch driving you to distraction and you can't wait for the Cooling Spray to arrive in the mail? Take a look at our tutorials on how to make your own Homemade Rosemary Dandruff Tonic or DIY Vinegar Itchy Scalp Remedy!