One of the most tedious tasks that come with having dreads isn’t washing them, but drying them.
Dreads are like sponges or worse. They take a VERY long time to dry.
Before I had my hair dreaded, showering was not something I planned ahead of time. Nowadays, I have to work my “hair washing” day around my ever-changing schedule. It’s perhaps my least favorite part about having locs because it’s plain and simple inconvenient but it is what it is. We don’t have much of a choice if we want to maintain our hair locked and healthy.
Over the course of time, I’ve learned some techniques and hacks that have helped me dry my hair quicker than I used to in the beginning. While it’s nothing short of dreadful (pun intended!), the following steps have become a mindless routine for me.
Keep reading to the end for some additional important loc-drying tips!
8 Steps to effectively dry your locs
You will need several microfiber towels and possibly a hairdryer, or the sun, wind, etc.
Wash your hair early in the day (preferably the morning) to make sure it’s 90% or more dry by the time you go to sleep.
Even though your hair might feel dry on the outside, it does not necessarily mean that it’s also dry on the inside.
1. Squeeze with your hands
After you’ve completely rinsed off all the shampoo, ACV, and product from your hair, separate your hair in four or six sections. Then, gently squeeze each section with your hand, starting at the root and slowly working your way down. When I say squeeze, I’m not referring to wringing them out. There are a couple of dangers in wringing your hair out. First, the twisting motion can cause hairs to break which might cause thinning along the length of the dreads later on. Second, it can cause unwanted stress to the scalp. It might leave weird creases in your dreads too. Squeeze your hair like you’re squeezing a stress ball.
2. Squeeze with a towel
For the next step, take a large microfiber towel and wrap it around your hair with your head upside down. Squeeze your locs a second time using the towel as a buffer for absorption. Microfiber towels are ideal for dreads for two reasons. One: a microfiber towel can absorb up to seven times its weight in water! Two: microfiber towels are made from synthetic materials that don’t leave lint. Cotton towels, on the other hand, will leave lint all over your hair and they’re not nearly as absorbent. If microfiber isn’t an option, use a t-shirt or a pair of leggings instead. But trust me, it’s worth the investment! I got mine on Amazon – ignore that it’s labeled as an auto detailing towel. It works amazing as a body towel, plus you get 3!
3. Wrap in a towel
If you have time to lounge around the house, then move on to this step. If not, skip to number 4. Take a second dry microfiber towel (or a towel turban) and wrap your locs in it. Leave your head wrapped for an hour, to allow the towel enough time to absorb any excess water. If you must use a cotton towel, use one of the color closest to your locs (to camouflage the lint).
4. Palm roll them
Palm rolling is most effective when your hair is wet. It’s also effective in extracting whatever water that is still trapped inside your locs. Palm roll your dreads starting at the root and work your way down.
If your tips are still dripping at this point, it means that there’s a lot of water left inside your locs. You may need to shake them by force! Some people will do a headbanging or dread flicking motion for a few seconds. Note that the longer your dreads are, the more weight they will carry when wet, and the more pain your neck will experience if you’re whipping your head back and forth. If you do this, make sure you have enough room in front and behind you… you wouldn’t want a dread catching on to something or getting stuck somewhere…ouch!
6. Air dry
Hopefully, at this point, your hair is just damp and the weather outside is nice enough that you can air dry them. A hot climate is ideal for air drying, especially if the sun is out and/ or it’s windy.
7. Blow dry
During the winter months, I like to blow dry my hair for 10 minutes or less. I recommend using a warm setting (medium to low heat) to prevent your hair from getting damaged and your head from burning. Using the cool setting will help to reduce frizz and increase the shine, but it may take longer for your hair to dry that way.
Blow dryer hack: If you have a third microfiber towel (it’s better if it’s dry), you can make a towel tunnel. Flip your head upside down and cover your head with the towel forming a tunnel. Using your blow dryer at an angle, blow air up into the towel. This simple hack allows more of the heat to be distributed evenly, rather than being lost.
Blow dryer tip: If you don’t have a third towel, you can use the diffuser attachment (also known as a concentrator) that your blow dryer came with. This will allow the heat to be concentrated around your locs rather than blowing in all directions. This bonnet is another cool (and cheap!) attachment you can buy. It disperses the air perfectly around your hair yet contains it within the bonnet.
[Use normal precautions with electronic devices. Make sure your hair does not drip on the dryer itself.]
8. Spread them out
If by any chance your hair is still wet by the time you go to bed, spread your locs in all directions over your satin pillowcase when you go to sleep. If you can sleep with a fan on, that’s even better. Stagnant air will not speed up the process and prolonging the drying time too much puts your hair at risk for mildew. I generally never cover my hair on the same night that I washed my hair for this very reason.
How long does it take for dreadlocks to dry?
Dreadlocks generally take several hours to dry completely through to the core. The average time ranges between eight to twenty-four hours. Time really differs based on the following variables:
– Your hair porosity
Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. There are three levels of hair porosity: low, normal, and high. Your hair will show unique characteristics based on the porosity level that it has.
- Low porosity hair takes the longest to dry because it locks in moisture. This type of hair has a difficult time absorbing and releasing water and other products, therefore it’s more prone to buildup. In order to identify your hair’s porosity level, pull a dead hair strand from your locs and put in inside a glass of water. If it floats, your hair has low porosity.
- Normal porosity hair retains moisture well and will look very healthy. It has elasticity and absorbs oils and water well. In order to identify your hair’s porosity level, pull a dead hair strand from your locs and put in inside a glass of water. If it sinks slowly, your hair has normal porosity.
- High porosity hair is dry and can be frizzy. Hair that has been damaged because of excessive use of chemical products and heat processes will experience high porosity. It absorbs water quickly so several moisturizing applications may be required. High porosity hair tends to dry fast. In order to identify your hair’s porosity level, pull a dead hair strand from your locs and put in inside a glass of water. If it sinks quickly, your hair has high porosity.
– How old (or new) your locs are
Newer locs will take less time to dry because there’s a lot of space between the hairs. Mature locs, on the other hand, are very matted and they will retain a lot more water. They’ll feel heavier after getting washed and may take twice as long to dry
– How thick your locs are
The thicker your locs are, the more layers of hair that you have. You may feel like the outer layer is dry, but the inner layers take longer to dry because they’re tucked inside. The deeper the layers go, the more moisture they retain.
– How long your locs are
Short locs obviously take a lot less time to dry than long locs of the same thickness.
TIP: Dry your roots first and then work your way down the dreads. This will allow the water to drip in its natural downward motion and your drying time will be cut short. Doing it this way also helps reduce frizz.
– How much water you squeezed out of your hair after washing it
After washing your locs, you should be squeezing them out as much as possible. The more water you wring out in the beginning, the less time your locs will take to dry up. If you squeeze a good amount of water and let them air dry, they might be dry come nighttime. If you’re uncomfortable with dripping hair throughout the day, you can give it a drying boost with a fan or blow dryer in a cool setting. This will dramatically cut down your drying time.
Can you get dreads wet every day?
Dreads should not be washed, nor soaked in water, every day. If you do, you are at a huge risk of mildew growing inside the locs.
If you spend a lot of time surfing in the ocean or swimming in the pool, wear a swim cap. It might look silly but you’ll be saving your hair from developing bacteria and attracting other unwanted organisms.
If you don’t want to wear one and insist on spending more than 4 ways a week in the water, dreads might not be the best choice of hairstyle for you.
Also, go the extra mile to protect and dry your hair if you live in a place that rains a lot. A little bit of rain or snow won’t harm it, but getting drenched often is just as dangerous as washing your locs daily.
How long is too long to keep locs wet?
Dreads that have been wet for more than 24 consecutive hours are at a high risk of growing mildew. If at all possible, aim to dry them within 12 hours.
One of the signs of mildew, or dread rot as many people call it, is the smell. Any odor that resembles wet dog or wet laundry that stat in your washing machine too long is a great indication that mold is growing inside your locs.
Can you let locs air dry?
Yes and no. It depends on your situation.
Considering that you washed your locs early in the morning, you should be able to let them air dry throughout the day. If they’re still damp before going to sleep, speed up the drying process with a blow dryer.
If you wash your locs at night, I wouldn’t recommend letting them air dry. If you don’t have a blow dryer, squeeze as much water out of them as you can. Lay a microfiber over your pillow, and spread your locs in all directions so that they can dry through the night. The microfiber absorbs water really well and does not leave lint in your hair.
The climate you’re in makes a huge difference in whether your hair will air dry or not. If it’s wintertime in London, your dreads will probably take two or more days to completely air dry, so a blow dryer is highly recommended. If it’s summertime in Southern California and you’re spending the day outdoors, you may be able to air dry your hair completely within a few hours. If your climate allows you to, dry your hair the natural way!
** I don’t recommend air drying your hair if you’ve used wax in your locs. Waxed hair retains water for much longer than unwaxed hair.
A handful of extra helpful drying tips
- Wash your dreads early in the day to prevent going to sleep with wet locs– first thing in the morning is the best time to do it.
- Leave your hair loose for the entire day that it’s wet or damp. Tying your hair or styling it in any way will prevent air from flowing in and out of your loc in certain places, therefore causing some sections to stay wet for an extended period of time.
- If possible, move any dread accessories (like beads) up and down during the drying process. The hairs trapped underneath the beads can start to grow mildew if air doesn’t get to them and they don’t dry all the way through.
- Skip oiling your scalp on the day you wash your locs. Oil retains moisture so it will prolong the drying time. I recommend waiting a day to make sure they’re thoroughly dry (from within) and proceeding with your hair care routine the following day. Mist your locs and scalp lightly with a moisturizing spray, and then apply the oil you want.
- Stop using products on your hair/scalp that retain water. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not an advocate of wax. Wax is not water-soluble, but instead, it holds on to water that is trapped between your hair strands. If you’ve used wax on your locs in the past, stop now. Wax considerably delays your hair’s drying time and encourages mildew if your hair doesn’t dry properly.
- Dreadlock extensions usually take much longer to dry, so keep that in mind if you already have extensions or are planning to get them.
I hope these steps and tips were helpful to you!