Removal of Buildup in Dreadlocks

by Melissa King
Keep your dreadlocks in good shape with regular washing.

Keep your dreadlocks in good shape with regular washing.

Dreadlocks normally stay clean for quite awhile, but it's not uncommon for wax, styling products and other debris to build up in your hair. Your usual shampooing won't be enough to get rid of excessive built-up residue. Soaking your hair in dreadlock soap, though, usually does the trick. If you'd rather use a home remedy, try baking soda and vinegar. The fizzing action dissolves residue, leaving your locks soft and clean.

Soap Method

Fill a large bowl or sink with 1 gallon of water. Add 2 tablespoons of liquid dreadlock soap or shampoo, then mix well until suds form.

Soak a towel in the soapy water. Wring out the excess moisture, then wrap the towel around your hair.

Allow the soapy water to soak into your hair for 10 minutes. Remove the towel.

Rub dreadlock soap into each individual lock. Work your way down from the top of each lock to the tip. Let the soap soak in for five minutes.

Rinse the soap out under very warm or hot running water. Keep rinsing until no more suds remain.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

Wet your dreadlocks thoroughly, then towel dry so your hair feels damp.

Fill the palm of your hand with baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda liberally over your scalp and all surfaces of the dreadlocks. Rub it into each lock.

Fill a spray bottle about halfway with apple-cider vinegar. Spray your hair with the vinegar. As it reacts with the baking soda, the mixture will start fizzing. This means that the mixture is breaking down buildup and cleaning your locks.

Rinse out the vinegar and baking soda under running water. Shampoo as usual.

Items you will need

  • Bowl
  • Dreadlock soap or shampoo
  • Towel
  • Baking soda
  • Apple-cider vinegar


  • Wait one to two weeks after getting dreadlocks to start washing them. After that, wash them once a week or every other week depending on how dirty your hair gets.
  • To prevent kinks and smooth out frizzy hairs, dampen your dreadlocks and roll each lock back and forth between your hands.
  • Try mixing a few drops of vodka in with your regular dreadlock shampoo. The vodka removes buildup and cleanses your scalp.


  • Do not apply wax to wet dreadlocks; doing so can cause mildew and odor to develop.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images