How to Clean Gunk Out of Dreads

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Dreadlocks are voguish and trendy hairstyles that, however, it does not need too much maintenance. But what if you get gunks in the hair? We got you covered. Here is an article to explain how to clean the gunk out of dreads.

How to Clean Gunk Out of Dreads

The first thing you need to learn about cleaning gunk from the dreads is what causes it. It can be shampoo residual, conditioner, wax that you use for styling. The other reasons that cause gunk in your dreads are secretion of oil, sebum, or flakes on the scalp. 

Causes of Gunk Build Up in Dreads 

To clean the dreads properly from roots, it is essential to know what type of gunk it has. The build-up can be of various reasons, and exploring the cause of gunk can improve the cleaning procedure. 

Lint Build-Up

It is one of the most common build-ups that affects the dreads or locs.

When you expose the dreads to wool, cotton, sweatshirts, linen, you put the locs at the risk of accumulating the lint shreds

The trapped lint attracts oil and dirt, which causes gunk in the dreads.

Man with dreadlocks

Environmental Pollution

Dirt and pollution floating around you cause environmental pollution to the locs. The dirt and dust particles are attracted to the oil in your hair and cause layers of sticky gunk on the dreads.


As the dreads start growing in length, you will notice debris build-up. Commonly, you get food stuck in the hair, wax residual, make-up residues that can damage the hair and make the dreads unhygienic.

Biological Build-Up

Over time hair naturally secretes sebum, oil, and even mildew. The sebum secretion leads to dirt build-up in the scalp that breaks the hair follicles, damages the scalp, and becomes a magnet to dirt and pollution from the air.

The biological build-up layers the scalp over time, harming the skin of the scalp leading to dandruff, itchy scalp, and eczema.

Materials Required

  • Baking Soda
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Spray bottle
  • Sea salt
  • Measuring cup or tablespoon
  • Water
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Orange essential oil
  • Large bowl to keep the dreads soaked, do not use a metallic bowl
  • Warm water

Step 1: Make the Recipe

  1. Before you start preparing your dreads to wash, make the mixture.
  • Use ¼ cup of baking soda and dilute it with water. Make sure the consistency of the mixture is milky.
  • After that, pour apple cider vinegar slowly into the mixture. Be careful in this procedure as apple cider vinegar reacts with baking soda. Pour the ACV carefully.
  • Mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Adding lemon juice helps in removing flakes from the scalp.
  • Add 1tablespoon of sea salt and 10drops of lavender oil, 10drops of orange essential oil. You can mix any other essential oil according to your preference.

Mix this mixture well and pour it into a spray bottle.

Step 2: Prepare Your Hair

After completing the recipe for the mixture, you can start preparing the hair for deep cleansing from the gunk.

  1. At first, shake the locs appropriately to clean the excess lint from your hair. Clean the lint before shampooing as the lint can get tangled between the dreads.
  • After cleaning the lint, use a scalp massager to exfoliate the scalp to break out the dirt and flakes.
  • Untwist the dreads from the scalp to make space for the mixture. In this way, the solution will get into the scalp and hair properly.

Prepare your hair before applying the mixture. It makes sure that your hair gets the detox treatment thoroughly. 

Step 3: Apply the Mixture

After completing step 2, move forward to apply the mixture to your hair and scalp. Next, wet down your hair and shake the sprayer to spray the solution. 

  1. Spray the mixture on the roots of the scalp and the dreads.
  • Keep massaging well in the intermediate time.
  • For deep exfoliation, use exfoliating gloves. If you do not have any, massage the scalp thoroughly with your fingers. 
  • Wet your locks for hydration then, work with the mixture in the dreads and scalp.
  • Massage, Massage, and Massage! Until the mixture gets inside correctly.
  • Keep your hair like this for 15 minutes.

Apple cider vinegar and baking soda mixture are some of the most popular ways to detox the hair from gunk.

A man washing his dreadlocks in the shower

Step 4: Wash Off the Dreads With Shampoo

Once you let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes, you can move forward to clean off the gunk and oil from the scalp. This is also an important cleaning step for fake eyelashes.

  1. Thoroughly wash off the hair with the leftover mixture.
  • Clean the baking soda properly; otherwise, the mixture will look flaky on your scalp.
  • Dilute your shampoo with water, mix equal parts water and equal parts shampoo to avoid shampoo residual gunk in the dreads or scalp.
  • Wash off the shampoo with warm water. Massage well during the wash to make sure the shampoo residual is not left behind.

Here is a video guide for you to follow the procedure properly. 

Step 5: Condition It

This procedure has too much debate as the condition can leave a residue that can harm the dreads.

So, if you have new dreads, avoid this step. However, you can do it for dreads that are more than a year old. 

  1. Put some conditioner in your hand and dilute it with water. Next, use a mild conditioner with a liquid base.
  2. Wash the hair well with warm water. Make sure no residue of baking soda is left.

Conditioning the locks are as important as cleaning them. Dry scalp and dry dreadlocks are prone to break down. To maintain them, moisturize them well.

Step 6: Hydrate the Locks

If you are skeptical about conditioning, the dreadlocks then use this procedure to moisturize and hydrate the locks.

  1. Make a mixture of rose water and aloe vera juice. Rosewater and aloe vera have hydrating qualities that lock the moisture in your hair. 
  • Mix equal parts of rosewater and equal parts aloe vera juice and pour it into the spray bottle.
  • Apply when the hair is damp and then keep it for 15 minutes.
  • Wash off the hair no need to use any other product to cleanse the rosewater and aloe vera mixture.

Hydration of dreads is important while cleaning out the gunks. Once the gunks are cleaned, the locks can look brittle and dry. Applying this mixture will bring shine and moisturize the locs from the root.

One of the other benefits of using this mixture is you can get rid of the smell of apple cider vinegar. 

Step 7: Dry It Off

After deep cleaning of the dreadlocks, the last step is to dry off the locks as much as possible. 

  1. Squeeze out the excess water from the dreads.
  • Use a microfiber towel instead of a regular towel to reduce lint build-up. The microfiber towels are highly absorbent, prompting the locks to dry faster. 
  • After the dreads feel dry, cover them with a satin scarf to protect the dreads from pollution and lint. 

Do not use heating products in your hair as it can damage the dreadlocks. Instead, try to dry it off naturally or sit under the sun for a while, and it will dry off quickly.


  • Be gentle on your scalp and dreads.
  • Use products that are formulated for dreads.
  • Protect your dreads from the link while you sleep by covering them with a satin or silk scarf.
  • It takes a very long time to penetrate shampoo into the dreadlocks so you can use a wash cap. These caps are designed to be worn over shampoo lathers. 
  • Take the locs between your palms and twist them slowly to smoothen the dreads, and it will help them lock firmly. 

You can follow these tips or head to this guide to learn other methods to clean out the gunk.

Woman with dreads

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Wash My Hair With White Vinegar Instead of Apple Cider Vinegar?

Yes, you can substitute the apple cider vinegar with white distilled vinegar if you have allergies or if you don’t have it at home. White vinegar contains sun-ripened grains and water. You can use it in the same process by replacing the apple cider vinegar with white vinegar. White vinegar is a good substitute as the smell is less intense.

How Often Should I Detox the Dreads?

1-2 times a year is ideal for detoxing the dreads. In addition, it helps in deep cleaning of the locks and breaking up the gunk build-up in the scalp. After detoxing the locks twice a hair, you can maintain weekly cleaning to prevent the accumulation of gunk and oil in the hair.

How Often Should I Wash My Dreads?

Once or twice a week, you must clean your dreads. Clean it off with a homemade DIY cleaning solution or formulated product that is specially made for dreadlocks. Maintaining the cleaning routine will soften the dreads and prevent them from becoming smelly or flaky. In addition, rinsing it off will break the gunk build-up. 


The dreadlocks are cool and funky hairstyles that bring out the best of tight curls. Therefore, to keep the dreads healthy and retain the look, it is essential to clean them regularly. I hope this article will give better insight on how to clean the gunk from the dreads.