Mildew and Odor in Dreadlocks

Mildew and Odor in Dreadlocks
The causes of mildew and odor in Dreadlocks are numerous.  More often than not however people with these issues make some of the same mistakes:

* Not properly drying your hair.  Dreadlocks are like a wet towel.  If you allow a wet towel to sit, debris, allergens, and anything from the air will gradually settle on the towel and "breed."  If your locks are wet for hours on end, if you sleep on wet dreadlocks, you are encouraging the growth of mildew and bacteria.

* Not shampooing your hair.  Odor in locks is far more apparent when your hair is wet than when it's dry.  Unfortunately, many people will refrain from shampooing their locks for months on end...all the while claiming "my hair doesn't stink."  Well, a dirty, dry dog doesn't smell as putrid as a dirty, wet dog.  Just because the smell isn't knocking you down, doesn't mean your hair isn't dirty.  The longer you refrain from shampooing, the more that dirt and odor will become akin with your locks.  In essence, you could have your locks for several years and no matter what you do, you may never be able to get rid of that smell.  So wash your locks.

* Improper rinsing.  Most of the Build-up associated with locks has to do with product residue.  Make sure you rinse properly.  Shampoo can build-up on your hair just as easily as the products you use to twist you locks.

Removing Mildew and Odor
Astringents and antiseptic cleansers are available at naani and can be spritzed onto your locks before and after you wash/dry them. These alcohol based products will help to breakdown/loosen up any trapped material so that they'll be easier to wash out.  They will also work to kill the mildew and bacteria so that they are unable to spread or infect other locks.

Try to avoid spraying the antiseptic onto your scalp because the alco

hol will have a drying effect.  Although they have a distinct, mediciney (is that a word?) odor, they work wonders.

After allowing the antiseptic to set for a few minutes, wash your hair with a Clarifying shampoo.  The clarifier will remove any product or mineral build-up that has accumulated in your dreadlocks.

Unfortunately, some clarifying shampoos can be damaging to your hair so this isn't a shampoo you'd want to use regularly.  But for all intents and purposes, if you're a victim of mildew, using the clarifier for your next 2-3 shampoos is warranted.

If you're using a non-naani's natural Cucumber Lime Clarifying Shampoo, be sure to follow up your clarifier with a moisture-rich shampoo.  Use it as your final shampoo.

After shampooing your locks, you can spritz them (not your scalp) with the antiseptic again. Unless otherwise directed, allow the antiseptic to remain in your locks while you style them.

You should see results after the first application. Avoid using the antiseptic over the long-term because the alcohol will cause dryness and will lead to itchy, flaking scalp. Unlike it's All-Purpose counterpart, Witch Hazel has a distinct, earthy aroma.  It also far less irritating and drying to the scalp and is available at

Essentially Herbal Vinegar Rinses are also a great way to remove product build-up, odor and mildew from dreadlocks.  Vinegar has been used for centuries because it naturally removes odor and eats away at sediments.  You will find vinegar in products such as Window/Glass cleaner because it helps cut/remove oil from surfaces.  It's suggested for use in removing mineral deposits and sediments from Humidifiers.  And it's traditionally been used to clarify or remove build-up from hair.

Finally, rinse thoroughly after shampooing. Although you may not realize it, many of us often fail to completely wash shampoos and conditioners out of our locks. This is particularly a problem for those with thicker, maturer locks.

Keep in mind that just because the water runs clear doesn't mean you've removed all of the product. You may have to buy a faucet sprayer attachment to force the water out of your hair or rinse your hair in the tub where there is greater water pressure.

If you have already begun twisting and find that one or two of your locks is still saturated with shampoo...stop what you're doing and rinse.

The best way to do an isolated rinse is to get a large cup of warm-hot water.  Place the lock that still has shampoo in it as well as those that surround it into the cup of water.  Allow them to rest in the water for several moments.  Remove the locks.  Squeeze out the excess water using a clean towel.  Repeat until all the shampoo has been removed.

Article Series

This article is part 11 of a 14 part series. Other articles in this series are shown below:
  1. Dreadlocks Extensions
  2. Dry Dreadlocks
  3. Dry Scalp and Dandruff in Natural Black Hair and Dreadlocks
  4. Flapping or Flat Dreadlocks
  5. Frizzy Dreadlocks
  6. Hair Growth & Dreadlocks
  7. Hot Water Treatment for Dreadlocks
  8. How Long Does it Take to Grow Dreadlocks
  9. Manicured or Salon Dreadlocks
  10. Methods or Ways to Grow Dreadlocks
  11. Mildew and Odor in Dreadlocks
  12. Popping
  13. Removing Dreadlocks
  14. Rounded Dreadlocks Ends


Comment #1 (Posted by malin martelly) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
Thank you so much for your helpful article about mildew! I suspect I have a slight problem with this but everyone I ask keep telling me to cut my lock's! Now, I have had my lock's since 2002 and rather not cut them! I live in Barbados unfortunately! Where exactly are your products sold in the UK? Or are they perhaps available in the Us? Are there any home remedies I can use for now? I am particularly interested in the "antiseptic rinse" ! Thank you..
Comment #2 (Posted by Ronald) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
I live in a particularly humid city in China, I usually wash my hair at night and it takes forever to dry. Now I see the devastating results. Today I saw how things are growing in my hair and the thought of cutting my dreads is killing me. Dreds in China are very, VERY rare, so there are no available products for dreads here, I have to go all home made remedies to deal with this big issue.

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