How Often Should I Wash My Locs? What if I Workout?

A young black male with healthy dreadlocks wondering how often you have to wash dreadlocks on a 4B hair type.

No matter how long you’ve had your locs, one of the most important things you need to do to maintain them is to wash them regularly.

Not only will regular washing dreadlocks ensure that your locs don’t develop an offensive odor, but it’ll ensure that your scalp remains clean and that your locs won’t get weighed down by buildup.

At the same time, there must be balance when it comes to washing.

You don’t want to wash it so often that your locs get dry and weak or neglect them to the point where they become greasy and grimy. So, how often should you wash your locs? That’s what we’ll address in this article. Let’s get right into it!

How Often Should I Wash My Locs?

The general rule of thumb is to wash your locs every one to two weeks. This gives your scalp and locs enough time to replenish the oils they need to be healthy, but not so much time that buildup becomes an issue.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

If you work out regularly or live in an area with high humidity or hot weather, you may need to wash your locs more frequently. Conversely, if you have a dry scalp or live in a cold climate, you may be able to get away with washing mature dreadlocks less often.

In the end, it all comes down to finding what works best for you and your locs.

A cheerful African American guy with mature dreads on 4B curly hair follicles cleaned with natural hair care products.

Can I Wash My Locs Once a Month?

Some people wash mature dreadlocks once a month without any issue, while others find that their scalp and locs get too gunked up if they wash any less frequently than every couple of weeks.

If you want to try washing your locs once a month, be very watchful of how your locs and scalp react. Your chances of developing loc odors and buildup increase with infrequent wash sessions.

How Can I Tell If I’m Washing My Locs Too Much?

Want to know if you’re washing your locs too much? There are a few telltale signs.

The first is dryness. If your locs feel dry, brittle, or like they’re breaking more easily than usual, you’re likely washing them too often and stripping away the natural oils that keep them healthy.

Another sign that you may be washing your locs too frequently is an itchy scalp.

If you find yourself scratching your head more than usual, it could be because you’re drying out your scalp with too much washing. The symptoms of overwashing locs may be different from person to person, but these are the most common signs.

A black guy with healthy dreads is experiencing matted hair clumped together with hair flakes, like dandruff.

How Can I Tell If I’m Not Washing My Locs Enough?

On the other hand, if you’re not washing your locs often enough, you may notice that they become greasy (i.e., hair feels oily) or start to smell bad.

This is because dirt, sweat, and other buildup can accumulate on your scalp and in your locs, leading to an unhealthy environment. If you notice that your locs are looking or smelling a bit off, it may be time to wash them.

How Long Can You Go Without Washing Your Locs?

There are people out there that wash their hair twice a year and say that their locs are thriving. We don’t advise going that long between washes, but it is possible, and it works for a tiny subset of people.

If you want to take a very holistic approach to loc care, we recommend only doing so under the guidance of a trained loctician. You don’t want to lose your locs over something preventable.

An African guy that's growing healthy dreadlocks is experiencing dry hair after deciding to wash locs daily.

Is It Okay to Wash Dreads Every Day?

It’s almost always a bad idea to wash your dreadlocks every day. Why? It’s not necessary, and it can dry your locs out in a hurry.

In addition, the act of drenching your locs with water every day increases your chances of mold growth, especially if you don’t blow dry your locs afterward to ensure they’re 100% dry.

Locs take a long time to dry on their own since they’re so densely packed, so it’d be a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process to wash and dry them every day.

How To Tell If You Need to Wash Your Locs

There are a few telltale signs that it might be time for a wash. The most obvious one is if your locs start to smell bad. If you find that your locs are starting to stink, it’s definitely time for a wash.

You may also notice that your locs are feeling heavy or greasy.

This is usually a sign of buildup, which can be caused by not washing your locs frequently enough. When in doubt, take a look at your scalp and hairline. If you see any flakes, dirt, or dustiness, it’s time to wash!

A young black guy with mature dreads and a few baby locs is making a peace sign with his hands.

How To Wash Your Locs

When it comes to washing your locs, the process is pretty straightforward. You’ll wash your locs almost like you’d wash your loose natural hair.

But one thing to remember is that locs develop and hold onto buildup much more than loose hair. That’s why it’s essential to use a clarifying shampoo every now and again when you wash your locs. Doing so will ensure that all of the buildup is removed.

Here are some tips to guarantee a deep clean without dryness:

  • Be gentle with your locs by using a shampoo that cleans deeply without drying out your locs. Click this link for a list of dreadlock shampoos.
  • Don’t scrub your locs too vigorously, as this can damage them.
  • Focus on massaging your scalp with the pads of your fingers (not your nails) to loosen any dirt or buildup.
  • Once you’ve rinsed out the shampoo, always follow up with a conditioner to keep your locs hydrated. Don’t use a heavy conditioner on your locs unless they’re in dire need of hydration. 
  • Boost moisture with a light conditioner or leave-in conditioner. You can also use a loc-specific product, like oil or balm, to help lock in moisture and keep your locs looking healthy.
A confused black male with loose hairs is wondering how his approach to maintaining dreadlocks can be improved.

Note on starter locs: People are often told that they shouldn’t wash their starter locs for the first 6-8 weeks. We advise against this.

If your locs are starting to smell or are just plain dirty, wash them!

Just ensure that you do so gently to keep them intact. Some people use a very diluted shampoo solution or wear a pair of stockings on their heads to minimize manipulation throughout the shampooing process. Try these methods to keep your locs clean and intact.

African American man with brittle hair after waiting about a week between washing his dreadlocks.

When to Do an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse (Loc Detox)

An apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse is a great way to cleanse your locs and eliminate any buildup. ACV rinses are also effective at balancing the pH levels of your scalp and hair, which can help reduce itchiness and dandruff.

ACV Rinse for DIRTY LOCS: Great Results!

The rinse involves diluting ACV with water, adding lemon juice and baking soda (some add essential oils), and then soaking your locs in the mixture. Here’s a video showing how to do it.

We recommend doing an ACV rinse every 3 to 6 months or as needed.

A black guy researching how to wear natural hair and keep it clean, removing excess oil without frequent washing.

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And that’s it! Now you know how often you should wash your locs, how often to detox them, and how to wash them properly.

Washing your locs doesn’t have to be a chore – just find a schedule and routine that works for you and stick to it. We hope this article was helpful to you, and we wish you the best with your locs!

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