In this post you’ll learn how to clean your dreadlocks with the magical Dread Cleanse. We’ll be using a Baking Soda Soak (aka Bicarbonate of Soda) with an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (ACV) to get rid of buildup in your dreadlocks and trust me there’s a lot more than you think! I’ll be explaining the most important things you need to know about Deep Cleaning your Dreadlocks along with why you should do it and how to do it right!
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Why a Dread Cleanse is crucial for healthy dreadlocks
No matter how clean you think your dreadlocks are I guarantee that there is plenty of residue buildup inside. Even the best shampoos that claim to be “residue free”, including shampoos designed for dreadlocks, often leave residue behind. In this section you’ll learn why doing a routine Dread Cleanse/ACV rinse locs is crucial to deep cleaning and removing buildup in dreadlocks!
1. Baking soda absorbs oil and residue
Residue buildup is mainly due to ingredients in shampoos that don’t wash out and the accumulation of sebum from your scalp. Sebum is an oily secretion of the glands on your scalp which may sound gross, however it is a very natural part of having a healthy scalp. Sebum production is only a problem when it builds up inside your dreadlocks.
Soaking in baking soda water will leave you with a fresh scalp and lighter, healthier dreadlocks by removing buildup!
2. ACV rinse balances the pH levels
Apple Cider Vinegar keeps your scalp at a healthy pH level, which contributes to a healthy amount of sebum production.
More on pH levels in the “MUST KNOW” section below!
3. Prevents mold, mildew, lice, ew!
Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid which is a powerful antimicrobial that kills bacteria and fungus. I’m sure no one wants anything to do with these problems.. Do I have to explain more?
4. Even more benefits of using ACV!
There are many benefits of doing an ACV rinse for your dreadlocks. Here are a few to boast:
- Softens rough feeling dreadlocks
- Tames frizzy and fuzzy hair
- Stimulates hair growth
- Can help prevent hair loss
- Reduces split ends and breakage
Dread Cleanse guidelines you MUST follow
There are a few key details you must do correctly to avoid damaging your dreadlocks which I have outlined below. This is a MUST READ if you’re doing to do a deep cleanse!
1. You MUST follow up with ACV
Although baking soda is very effective at removing excess oil and shampoo residue, it is VERY harsh on your scalp! In this section I’ll explain some basic information about pH levels and how that applies to our dread cleanse.
The importance of following up with ACV mainly comes down to pH levels. According to Wikipedia, pH is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. In layman’s terms it tells us how acidic or alkaline a water soluble substance is on a scale from 0-14.
A healthy scalp will range between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale. Baking soda, on the other hand, has an extremely alkaline rating of 9. Apple cider vinegar has a pH rating of around 4. To put things simply, baking soda is very harsh because it creates an imbalance with the pH of your scalp. Following the Baking Soda soak with Apple Cider Vinegar will neutralize and dilute the Baking Soda and balance the pH of your hair and scalp back to the healthy level that it loves.
2. Only deep cleanse 3-4 times per year
Using too much baking soda and/or using it too frequently may contribute to stripping too much oil and sebum from your hair and scalp. This excessive stripping can lead to an overproduction of oils because your scalp is trying to balance and replace the oils that you strip with baking soda.
Using baking soda in place of shampoo is not recommended for this reason.
Alternatively, you can still ACV rinse locs after your normal washes on a regular basis. But I recommend only using baking soda for deep cleaning purposes a few times per year.
3. Be aware of Hard Water
I’ve recently moved to an area with very hard water and it has really been taking a toll on my scalp and my dreadlocks.
Instead of using water from the tap I use drinkable water from a large 5 gallon jug. This is recommended to avoid the minerals that are present in hard water that reduce the effectiveness of shampoos and this deep cleanse.
4. ACV Soaking vs. ACV Rinsing
If you’ve followed along with the information above it may have raised a question in your mind asking “will a simple rinse actually penetrate my dreadlocks deep enough to neutralize the effects of the baking soda???”
This question raises the debate of soaking with ACV versus simply rinsing with ACV.
I personally think that soaking in ACV water would be far more effective from a theoretical standpoint, however my personal experience has always given me better results doing a rinse.
Feel free to remove the water after your baking soda soak, replace it with new water and apple cider vinegar, and try a soak instead of a rinse. However, you do not want to soak for more than 3-5 minutes in ACV. It can loosen your knots which can lead to your ends coming open, or just general loosening. 3 minutes is perfect.
How to do a Dread Cleanse
STEP 1 – Gather your necessities
- Wash basin, (we love this inflatable one!) you can use a cat litter pan (a new one of course)
- 3 or more thick towels – the more the merrier – trust me
- 1/4 a box of Baking Soda (aka Bicarbonate of Soda)
- Approximately 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar (we recommend Bragg – who doesn’t?)
- 1 squeezable water bottle, I use an empty dish detergent bottle
- For areas with hard water – heat up a large pot of bottled water on your stove
STEP 2 – prepare your water bottle
- Fill up your water bottle half way with Apple Cider Vinegar
- Place it in your shower before the soak
STEP 3 – Place your towels
- Roll them up to use as a neck rest
- Keep a towel within reach to grab later
- Place your wash basin over the towels
- Test out the comfort level before you commit to laying in the water
- You may need more or less towels to get your head in the right position
- Ideally you would have your head tilted back to get as much of your scalp under water as possible
STEP 4 – Fill your wash basin
- Fill about halfway with comfortably hot water – remember to use bottled water instead of tap water if you live in an area with hard water
- You’ll have to make a judgement call of how much water you need based on the size of your wash basin
- Try to avoid overflow when you lay your head in the basin
- Get this comfy inflatable one on Amazon
STEP 5 – Add baking soda
- I tend to use around 15-20% of a standard box of baking soda when I soak my dreadlocks
- Mix it with your hand – you might feel a slight change in the consistency of the water
- There shouldn’t be any need to use more than a quarter of a box, baking soda is extremely powerful
STEP 6 – Soak for 15-20 minutes
- Set a timer on your phone
- Don’t guess, baking soda is harsh and shouldn’t be used for any longer than necessary
STEP 7 – Squeeze your dreadlocks
- When the timer goes off, carefully get up and wring your dreadlocks out into the wash basin
- At this point your water should resemble a dirty water puddle
- This is all the dirt and shampoo buildup that has been living inside of your dreadlocks!
- Wring out enough water so you’re not dripping water anywhere and wrap your dreadlocks with a towel
STEP 8 – ACV rinse your dreadlocks
- Rinse once or twice with regular water to get more baking soda water out before you use ACV
- Then, fill the remaining half of your bottle with water
- Pour it over your scalp and work down your dreadlocks
- Squeeze the ACV in as much as possible
- Let it soak in for 3-5 minutes
- Wash it out and you’re done!
We hope your Dread Cleanse went well and hopefully your water wasn’t too dirty! We highly recommend using one of our top rated shampoos to keep that water a little clearer for your next Dread Cleanse.