Dread Detox Steps: How to Deep Cleanse Dreads and Locs

A young African woman with a sophisticated dreadlocks hairstyle used a deep cleaning treatment to detox dreads.

Chances are you’ve heard of the term “dread detox,” especially if you are loc’d. It’s a tried and tested way of deep cleaning your dreads.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about how to deep clean your dreads via detoxing, so we’d like to clear things up. In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about dread detoxing. 

Dread Detox Steps

  • To detox your hair, mix ¼ cup of Arm and Hammer Pure Baking Soda with ¾ cup of Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar in a basin. Fill the basin halfway with warm water. Add a tablespoon of ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice and 5-7 drops of Gya Labs Lavender Essential Oil for a nice smell.
  • Submerge your dreadlocks entirely in the solution, ensuring a thorough soak.
  • Gently massage your scalp to dislodge built-up residue.
  • Allow your dreads to soak for 20-30 minutes. Watch the color change in the water to assess the level of buildup removal.
  • After soaking, rinse your hair thoroughly. Rinsing will ensure all the detox solution is washed out.
  • Follow up with a clarifying shampoo to cleanse away the dislodged buildup.
  • Then, use a deep conditioner to restore your hair’s natural oils and moisture. This moisture would have been stripped away during the detox.

Using these dread detox steps, you can clean your dreadlocks and keep them healthy and strong.

Dreadlocks Baking Soda Deep Clean Tutorial/Review

Key Takeaways

  • Detox Recipes for Clean Locs: Use a mix of baking soda, apple cider vinegar with low pH, citric acid from lemon juice, and optional lavender oil for deep cleansing, effectively removing product buildup for cleaner, lighter dreadlocks.
  • Combat Scalp Problems: Address issues like dry scalp flakes and promote healthier hair growth by thoroughly rinsing your hair and using an essential oil treatment afterward.
  • Best Results in Detox: Soak dreads in the detox mixture for 20-30 minutes, and repeat the process if the water turns dark brown, indicating significant buildup.
  • Post-Detox Care: After the detox soak, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo and deep condition to replenish natural oils.
  • Avoid Over Detoxing: While it’s a good idea to detox your locs regularly, avoid overdoing it to prevent stripping away your hair’s natural moisture, which can lead to scalp problems and slow hair growth.

Keep reading to learn more about why we recommend certain dread detox ingredients, how to maintain scalp health, and ensure that your locs smell fresh. You’ll also find a step-by-step video tutorial within this article.

What Does It Mean to Detox Your Dreads?

Before we dive into the dread detox process, we’d like to fill you in on the term “detox” and why it’s important to detox your dreads. Detox essentially means getting rid of toxic or unhealthy things.

African woman on her dread journey in an orange dress standing with a mobile phone.

What Is a Dread Detox?

A dread detox is a process of deep-cleaning your locs with an acid (like an ACV rinse) or base (like baking soda) to remove unwanted or unpleasant buildup from products, sebum, dirt, and odors. The “loc detox” is a deep cleanse focused on removing buildup.

A beautiful African American female with clean locs after an ACV dread detox.

Do You Need to Detox Locs?

Hair products like shampoos, gels, and wax leave residue in your dreads. The residue accumulates over time and can give your dreads a slippery, coated feel even after using a clarifying shampoo.

It could even get as bad as leaving a dirty brownish or ashy color on the surface of your dreads or weighing your dreads down.

Another surprising fact is that a portion of the build-up results from a naturally occurring substance on your scalp called sebum. It is perfectly normal and advantageous for your scalp to produce sebum. Sebum production serves as a natural oil for your scalp and hair.

But over time, the sebum can start to build up in your hair. The nature of dreads makes it easier for the build-up to accumulate and remain even though you regularly wash your hair.

Although clarifying shampoos can prevent residue build-up, they cannot do much for you when you already have considerable product build-up. This is when a dread detox is in order. 

A pretty black lady used a thorough dread detox and natural oils to promote hair growth.

How to Deep Clean Dreads: Step-by-Step

If you’ve decided that you need a dread detox, this section is for you. The most popular detox method is the detox rinse, with its main ingredients being baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

The good news is you can do it by yourself if you follow the steps outlined in the following sections.

What’s in a Dreadlock Rinse (i.e., Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse)?

My FIRST ACV Rinse for Locs | Naturally Michy

Baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of sodium or sodium bicarbonate) is a substance that will draw out the residue in your dreads and make it easy to rinse or wash out.

While it helps rid you of the product build-up and other things that may be coating your dreads, it also strips your hair of its natural oil and throws your scalp pH level off balance.

That is because, on the pH scale, which determines the level of acidity and alkalinity of a substance, baking soda is a 9 (very basic). However, the hair’s pH ranges between 4.5 and 5.0, just like the sebum produced by the scalp.

This is where apple cider vinegar (ACV) comes into the equation. ACV contains acetic acid, amongst other nutrients that are good for your hair. It’s rich in vitamins B and C, inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria, and may even help with dandruff. 

In addition, the acid in apple cider vinegar balances things out. When baking soda and ACV are mixed, the product is salt, water, and carbon IV oxide. In other words, apple cider vinegar, which contains acetic acid, neutralizes the baking soda and brings the pH level of the hair to its normal range.

A cute black woman, after using an intense detox soak on her mature dreadlocks, leads to squeaky clean locs.

Ingredients You Need for the ACV Rinse with Baking Soda

Below are the ingredients you’ll need to make your dread rinse:

Note: It’s common to substitute lavender oil with rosemary essential oil or an essential oil blend (e.g., tea tree oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, etc.).

Make the Detox Mixture

  1. Fill a basin or sink with warm to hot water. 
  2. Take 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and add it to the water. 
  3. Pour in ¼ cup of baking soda. The mixture will get a bit fizzy. 
  4. You can now add a teaspoon of lemon juice.
  5. Add 5-7 drops of lavender essential oil to improve the smell of the mixture. 
  6. Stir the mixture with your fingers or a large spoon.
African woman wearing headphones and walking in the city listening to a podcast about natural clarifying shampoo.

Soak Your Dreadlocks in the Detox Solution

After completing the above steps, your dread detox mixture is complete. Now it is time to get down to detoxing your locks.

  1. Make sure that you position yourself as comfortably as possible, as the soak will last for about 20-30 minutes. Some like to do their dread detox in the sink, and this works for many. But if you have a back or neck issue or don’t like to lean forward for too long, you should place a basin on the floor and soak your dreads while you lay on your back. 
  2. Place your head in the sink or wash basin. Make sure that all of your dreads are completely submerged in the mixture. Using a cup, scoop up some of the mixture, pour it on your scalp, and gently massage your scalp to help dislodge residue there. Do this for a few minutes until you feel your hair and scalp is clean enough.
  3. Settle into a comfortable position and let your dreadlocks sit for 20-30 minutes. Set a timer to keep track of time.
  4. When time is up, use your hands to work the mixture into your dreads gently. Then squeeze from root to tip to get the rinse out of your hair. Depending on how much build-up you had, the color of the mixture may become murky and can range from light brown to deep brown. If the water is very dark brown, this indicates that you may need to repeat the process to remove more buildup. 
  5. Once you feel like you’ve removed enough buildup, rinse your hair thoroughly in the shower or sink and move on to the next step. 

Clarify and Deep Condition

In the final stage of the detoxing process, you’ll complete your regular hair routine. Wash your dreadlocks with a clarifying shampoo to wash away the buildup dislodged from the rinse.

Next, go in with a deep conditioner to restore some of the moisture and oils stripped from your hair during the detox process. Some people also incorporate a hot oil treatment into their deadlock regimen.

A young African woman in a bright orange dress talks on the phone about using natural scalp oil for healthier hair growth.

Dos and Don’ts of Dreadlock Detoxing

Dread detoxing is a fairly straightforward process, but some people still run into issues like dry hair, an irritated scalp, and more.

To reduce your chance of experiencing a hair disaster, we recommend reading and following the below dos and don’ts of dreadlocks detoxing. 


  • Make sure to thoroughly deep condition your dreads after a detox.
  • Do follow the dread rinse recipe exactly as documented. 
  • Detox your hair 2-4 times a year or whenever you think your dreads need it. 


  • Do not let your dreads sit in the rinse for longer than the required time. It could have damaging effects on your hair.
  • Do not detox more than four times a year. Exposing your hair to baking soda too often is not good for your dreads.

Pros and Cons of Dreadlock Detoxing

African woman with baby dreads in a city talking on the phone about how to detox dreads.

If you’re not quite sure whether you’d like to detox your dreads, the below pros and cons will help tremendously. 


  • Detoxing your dreads is excellent for getting rid of product residue build-up.
  • It helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew in your dreads (e.g., dread rot).
  • The apple cider vinegar in the dread rinse is excellent for combating split ends and taming frizzy hair.
  • It improves the overall appearance of your dreadlocks.


  • Due to the harsh ingredients, it can be quite stripping to the hair.

What Do You Need for a Dread Detox?

A dread detox is a process of removing build-up and residue from dreadlocks. To perform a dread detox, you will need a sink with warm water, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and optional lavender oil. Finally, you will need a deep conditioning treatment to help restore moisture to the hair after the detox.

What Is the Best Detox for Locs?

The best detox for locs is one that is gentle and effective. A natural detox that uses ingredients such as apple cider vinegar and baking soda is the best for locs. These ingredients effectively remove build-up and residue without damaging the hair. It is essential to avoid using harsh chemicals and products that can damage or weaken the hair.

How Long Do You Have to Leave Dreads in the Detox?

The length of time you have to leave dreads in the detox depends on the severity of the build-up and the length of your locs. Generally, it is recommended to leave the detox on for 20-30 minutes. However, if you have significant build-up, you may need to leave the detox on for a longer period.

Is It Good to Detox Dreads?

Detoxing your locs is good for them because it helps to remove build-up and residue that can weigh down the hair and prevent it from locking. Build-up and residue can also cause dryness and breakage, making it difficult for your locs to grow and thrive. By removing this build-up, you can help your locs look and feel healthier.

How Long Does It Take to Detox Your Locs?

To soak dreads in apple cider vinegar, soak the locs in a mixture of ACV and baking soda for 20-30 minutes, ensuring that all the hair is covered. Rinse the hair thoroughly with water and follow up with a deep conditioning treatment. Apple cider vinegar helps to balance the pH level of the hair and scalp and removes build-up.

Can You Detox Your Locs With Apple Cider Vinegar?

Yes, you can detox your locs with apple cider vinegar. ACV is a crucial ingredient in the dread detox process. It is combined with baking soda, lemon juice, and optional essential oils to create a potent detox mixture. This solution effectively removes unwanted buildup of products, sebum, and dirt from your locs. Remember to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment to restore moisture and oils stripped away during the detox process.

Can I Use Regular Vinegar for Dread Detox?

No, it’s not advisable to use regular vinegar for a dread detox. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the recommended type of vinegar for this process. ACV is rich in acetic acid and other nutrients beneficial for the hair and scalp. It helps in balancing the pH level of the hair, inhibiting the growth of fungi and bacteria, and aiding in the removal of buildup from products, sebum, dirt, and odors. Using regular vinegar may not offer the same benefits and could potentially harm the hair and scalp.

Related Articles

Deep Cleanse and Detox Locs as Needed

Dreadlocks are a great way to let your natural locs flow free, but they need a deep cleansing from time to time. The process of dread detoxification is important for keeping the hair healthy and clean!

With the information contained in this article, you’ve got everything you need to detox your dreadlocks like a pro. We hope that we’ve made the process a bit easier for you and wish you the best of luck as you care for your dreads.

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