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The Best Shampoo For Dreads in 2021

Dreadlocks are a great low-maintenance hairstyle that works well for anyone with thick, kinky hair that can be difficult to tame.

In particular, they are popular among African Americans, because dreads work so well for that specific hair type, but they are often worn by people of other ethnicities as well.

Caring for dreadlocks can be somewhat of an adjustment if you are new to wearing them, and you’ll likely need to switch to a new shampoo and conditioner routine.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to find the best shampoo for dreads, and how to care for them and keep them healthy.

Best Shampoo for Dreads​

There are many shampoos out there that claim to be good for dreadlocks. However, only some of them live up to the hype. In this article, we’ll review the best shampoos for keeping your dreadlocks healthy and happy.​

1. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner’s is a popular all-purpose natural soap that works well for a variety of different purposes, including cleaning your dreadlocks.

It is certified organic and vegan, and it contains no synthetic ingredients, so it does not leave a residue in your hair when used as shampoo.

The pure castile makes the soap moisturizing for your scalp without changing the shape of your dreads.

It is important when using Dr. Bronner’s soap for your dreadlocks that you dilute it so that it is not overly drying or harsh on your scalp. If you don’t dilute it, it may strip your scalp and hair of important oils.

You may need to experiment with the best ratio of soap to water for your hair. Once diluted, it is very gentle and has a mild peppermint scent that is very pleasant without being overwhelming.

You also don’t need very much of it to clean your hair, so the bottle will last you a long time and provide great value.


  • Completely organic and vegan
  • Cleans hair gently without irritation or residue


  • Needs to be diluted or it may strip your hair of important oils

2. Neutrogena Shampoo Anti-Residue Formula

Neutrogena Shampoo, Anti-Residue Formula

Neutrogena is known for their very gentle products, and this one in particular is great for those who have dreadlocks.

It is designed specifically not to leave a residue in your hair so that it rinses out clean.

It also can remove existing residue in your hair, so if you’ve tried another shampoo that didn’t work well, it’s helpful to have this one on hand.

The ingredients are gentle on the skin, and it doesn’t have any heavy moisturizing agents that could make your dreads slippery.

Some people may find this shampoo slightly drying because it is so clarifying. However, when used only once per week the dryness should be manageable.

It also has a very polarizing smell – some customers love it, while others prefer something more heavily fragranced.


  • Very effective for removing residue
  • Gentle ingredients


  • Can be drying if overused
  • Smell may bother some people

3. Dread Head Dreadlock Soap

Dread Head - Dreadlock Soap

This shampoo is designed specifically for those who have dreadlocks.

It is designed to leave behind zero residue and is free of perfumes and chemicals.

It is also designed to help dreads tighten up, because it cleanses the hair of moisturizing agents and natural oils that could make the hair slip apart.

It is gentle enough that anyone can use it, even if you have sensitive skin.

Customers find that this is very effective for actually getting dreads clean and maintaining their shape. It has a nice lather that helps you feel cleaner, which is something that many anti-residue products lack.

You also only need a very small amount, so a big bottle can last for a very long time. Some users have found that it does have a slightly watery consistency, which can make it difficult to work with.

Overall, this is one of the best choices for removing dirt and oil from dreadlocks.


  • Designed specifically for dreadlocks and helps keep them tight
  • Gentle and free of strong fragrances
  • Lathers nicely and provides the same clean feeling as traditional shampoo


  • Consistency is watery and potentially difficult to work with

4. Knotty Boy Liquid Dreadlock Shampoo

Knotty Boy Liquid Dreadlock Shampoo

Knotty Boy is one of the most popular brands for those with dreadlocks.

Their liquid shampoo is a very simple formula that has no synthetic ingredients or fragrances, and it is completely vegan.

Additionally, it is designed to combat dandruff and scalp itching, which is a common problem with dreadlocks.

It doesn’t contain any conditioners, so it helps keep the locks tight.

Customers really love this product because it has a very fresh scent that lingers, helping the dreadlocks feel cleaner for longer. It’s completely suitable for sensitive skin as well, so anyone can use it.

The one downside to this product is that it has a higher risk of leaving residue than some other dreadlock shampoos because it contains a few nourishing oils.

To combat this, just use a very small amount – that’s all you need to get your dreads clean anyway.


  • Vegan, biodegradable, and non-synthetic
  • Designed for dreadlocks, helps keep them tight
  • Good for sensitive skin


  • May leave a slight residue if overused

5. Baking Soda Formula

ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda

Many people choose to use baking soda to keep their dreadlocks clean instead of a commercially available shampoo. This is a very affordable and accessible way to keep your dreadlocks clean.

  • To use, all you need to do is dilute roughly ¾ cup of baking soda in some warm water
  • You can add a few drops of essential oils for moisture and scent if you want
  • Then, you can use this to clean your hair and scalp
  • Do this by soaking your dreads, and then do a preliminary rinse with cool water
  • Then, mix together three parts water and one part vinegar, and use that to do a second rinse and completely remove the baking soda.

This method is extremely effective for removing dirt and buildup in the dreadlocks. You only need to do it once every few weeks because it is so powerful – any more and it will dry out your hair and scalp. It is also very natural and safe, with no added chemicals or irritants.

The downside is that you don’t get the nice smells and convenience of a pre-made shampoo.


  • Very effective
  • Natural, affordable, and easy to make


  • Doesn’t smell as nice as commercial shampoo

Why wear dreadlocks?

men with dreads

Many people choose to wear dreadlocks because of their aesthetic appeal, but they can be very practical as well. Although they take some time to grow out, once they are done growing, they require very little maintenance.

If you don’t like spending much time on your hair, dreadlocks may be a good option for you. Not only will you open up a significant amount of free time in your routine, but you will also notice that dreadlocks can save you money.

This is because you’ll use less shampoo over time, and you also won’t use hairspray or other styling products to keep them in place.​

How Should I Take Care of My Dreadlocks?​

Since dreadlocks are so different from other types of hairstyles, they require different maintenance and care.

Many people aren’t aware of how to take care of dreadlocks, but it’s very important that you know what kind of care this style entails before committing to it.

A common myth surrounding dreadlocks is that you don’t have to wash them. In fact, you do still need to keep your dreads clean and healthy, which helps them grow longer and prevent breakage.​

Dreadlocks need to be washed approximately once per week. When washing, you should focus mainly on your scalp and the base of the locks.

Don’t concentrate any shampoo on the locks themselves, as this won’t actually clean them the same way it would clean other hairstyles. Instead, let the shampoo from the base of the scalp cleanse the locks as you massage it in and rinse it out.

As the hair dries, use your palms to help the dreads maintain their shape, and then use a hair dryer to get all the moisture out. It is very important to get the dreads completely dry to ensure they stay smelling fresh.

If you notice your dreads starting to loosen..
Use a very small amount of clean salt water in a spray bottle to tighten them up. You can also use a dreadlock wax to help them maintain their shape – just be sure to apply it to completely dry hair.​

What Kind of Shampoo is Ideal for Dreadlocks?​

It’s very important that the shampoo you use with your dreadlocks does not leave any residue on your scalp or in your hair. If there is any residue left behind, it can make your dreads look and feel very unpleasant and even affect the way they smell.

Because of this, most mainstream shampoo brands don’t work well for dreadlocks, since they contain many fragrances and chemicals. You’ll also want to avoid conditioners and heavy moisturizers, since they can make your dreads soften up and lose their shape.

There are many shampoos that are designed specifically for dreadlocks that provide your scalp with nourishment without weighing down your dreadlocks.

Organic and natural shampoos also tend to be better for dreadlocks because they have simpler, safer ingredients.​


There are many different methods you can use to clean your dreadlocks. We recommend any of the options listed above – all will effectively remove dirt and grime, and will keep your dreads clean without them dissipating.

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