How To Clean Braided Hair Without Washing or Ruining Your Braids

Gorgeous African American female with 4B natural hair follicles wearing her hair in a braided protective style.

You may have thought that washing your braids was the only way to keep them looking and smelling good, but that’s not the case.

There are several ways to cleanse your braids without washing them, and that’ll be the focus of this article. We’ll teach you how to clean braided hair without washing it.

Let’s get right into it! 

Black woman with box braids and a stressed scalp wearing red eye shadow and silver hoop earrings.

Quick Cleanse with Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is quite possibly the quickest and easiest way to clean your hair without soap and water. This product is specially designed to remove oils from the scalp and hair within a minute or two. The result will be fresh-looking braids without excess oil.

Here’s how to use dry shampoo on your braids. 

What you need: 

Once you’ve got your supplies, do the following: 

  1. Ensure that your braids are 100% dry.
  2. Sprinkle some of the dry shampoo onto your roots and scalp. If you have a spray shampoo, shake the can first to mix the contents and then spray it directly onto your scalp and braids. Be sure to hold the can at least 8 inches away from your scalp as you spray. 
  3. Wait for a minute or two. 
  4. With your fingertips (not your nails), rub the dry shampoo in. Be gentle to avoid unnecessary frizz. 
  5. Use your towel or t-shirt to blot away the excess dry shampoo. 

You can use dry shampoo whenever your scalp gets too oily, or your braids begin to take on an oily sheen. 

Young African American lady keeping her hair clean by using an ACV cleanser to spray braids directly.

Apple Cider Vinegar Braid Cleanser

Apple cider vinegar has a laundry list of uses, one of which is deep cleansing everyday surfaces and hair. You can use apple cider vinegar to break down buildup and oil deposits on your scalp and hair to increase the longevity of your braided styles.

It also helps to decrease the itching and irritation that comes along with wearing braids and other protective styles. You can buy an apple cider vinegar braid cleanser from your local beauty supply store or online.

Although if you’re unable to get your hands on some, you can make it yourself by mixing one part apple cider vinegar with two parts water and pouring the mixture into a plastic spray bottle. 

Follow the below steps to cleanse your braids with apple cider vinegar: 

  1. Hold the spray bottle a few inches away from your head and spray your braids. You don’t want to spray too much, as braids take a long time to dry. Focus on the roots as well as any areas where your scalp is exposed. 
  2. For any visible buildup, gently wipe away with a moist towel or t-shirt. 
  3. Proceed with your braid moisturizing routine to keep your hair hydrated.

You can repeat this cleansing method every week or two as needed. You’ll know it’s time for another cleansing session whenever your scalp starts to itch. 

African American lady wearing trendy makeup after using a few drops of ACV to lightly dab her scalp and braids.

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes come in handy for everyday spills and all-out messes, but they’re also a lifesaver when you need to clean your braids in a pinch.

All you need to do is wipe your scalp, roots, and braids with a few wipes. Once you’re done, you can proceed with your regular braid moisturizing routine. 

Here are a few things to think about when cleaning your braids with baby wipes: 

  • Make sure the wipes are not made of an easy-to-rip fiber. Otherwise, you’ll end up with little bits of wipe all over your scalp and braids. The wipes should be able to stretch without breaking into tiny pieces. We highly encourage you to test this before using them on your braids. 
  • Wipe gently so as not to irritate your scalp.
  • If you have sensitive skin or an easily irritated scalp, we suggest avoiding wipes with strong fragrances. These fragrances are often to blame for skin irritation, rashes, and other forms of discomfort. Wipes formulated for sensitive skin often have milder scents – these may be a better choice. 

You can use baby wipes to freshen up your braids whenever you feel you need to. There’s no risk in using them every day. 

Young black woman with box braids wearing a casual outfit with blue fingernail polish.

Witch Hazel Cleanse

Witch hazel is a well-known natural skin toner and astringent. It can instantly rid your scalp of the itching that comes along with dirtiness. It’ll also leave your scalp feeling clean and invigorated.

If you want to give witch hazel a try, this is how you do it: 

  1. Get your hands on some witch hazel. You can find it at your local drugstore or online. In addition, grab some cotton balls and a squirt bottle. 
  2. Separate your braids into a few sections to make them easier to work with. 
  3. Dispense a few ounces of witch hazel into the spray bottle. 
  4. Spray a bit of witch hazel onto a cotton ball. 
  5. Go section by section, wiping your scalp in repetitive sweeping motions. 
  6. Your scalp may feel a bit dry afterward, so use your favorite oil to rehydrate it.

Witch hazel may be used whenever you feel it is necessary. But if your scalp begins to show signs of dehydration, cut back on your witch hazel cleansing sessions. 

Black woman with visible roots underneath a braided protective style that was recently cleaned with liquid shampoos.

When Washing Is Non-negotiable

You may be able to get by with one of the above remedies for some time, but there are instances when washing is non-negotiable. We’ll dive into such scenarios below: 

  • Your braids smell bad. Weeks of environmental exposure, sweating, and more can easily cause your braids to smell. This is normal, and the associated smell is usually mild. But if you allow your braids to stay wet for too long, live an active lifestyle with lots of sweating, or have an excess of sweat or oil buildup, the smell may be powerful. If the odor is difficult to get rid of with other methods, you’ve got no choice but to wash your hair
  • Excessive buildup – If you’ve got dandruff or any other scalp condition that causes oil buildup or flaking, washing your braids is the only way to get rid of the buildup. Heavy hair products may also be to blame for excess buildup – you’ll need to wash these away. 
  • Itching that won’t quit – Scalp itchiness ranges from mild to severe, and if it’s mild, the above remedies may work perfectly for you. But if you’re scratching incessantly, it’s time to break out a clarifying shampoo. 
Young African female with a detailed braided protective style that looks fresh after using an oil shine mist.

How To Minimize the Need for Washing

Some braided styles are not well-suited to washing, including twists, long thick braids, and any other style that unravels quickly. You certainly don’t want your braids slipping loose or unraveling while you’re washing your hair.

So, when you decide to rock these styles, you should do everything you can to steer clear of traditional washes. Here are some things you can do to keep your braids and scalp as clean as possible: 

  • Avoid heavy moisturizers and stylers – Light moisturizers and stylers do their job without leaving behind sticky, gunky buildup.
  • Keep your braids dry – Whenever your hair gets wet in the shower, or you go for a swim, take measures to ensure that your braids get 100% dry. Trapped moisture can lead to mold growth and an unpleasant smell that only a strong shampoo and a good scrub can remedy. To get your braids totally dry, you may need to blow dry them or sit under a hooded dryer

Related Articles

Though there will be times when washing your braids is necessary, you don’t have to most of the time. If you use the methods outlined in the section above, you can skip the hassle of scrubbing your braids down in the shower or sink.

Just be sure that when your braids show signs that they need a full wash, you don’t skip out on it. No one wants smelly, gunked-up braids. We hope that this article was helpful to you and wish you the best with your braids! 

Similar Posts