How to Remove Dreadlocks Without Cutting

How to remove dreadlocks without cutting

All good things come to an end, and so are your dreadlocks. Now that you’ve made your final decision to remove your dreadlocks, we’ll help you achieve that with minimal damage.

Removing dreadlocks can be a nightmare. A fact is that dreadlocks won’t damage your hair but removing them will.

While cutting off your dreads is the only fastest option, it’s not the only option.

In this guide, we will show a detailed step by step on how to remove dreadlocks.

Understanding the Locking Process

The basic principle when it comes to dreadlocks removal is understanding the locking process. For most people, Rastafarian for example, dreadlocks are more than just a mass of knots. They have spiritual and identity connection. But the fact remains that dreadlocks are just a mass of knots.

So, how do you get rid of knots in normal hair? Brushing. To remove dreadlocks, the same concept of removing knots in normal hair is applied in this case. The only difference is, it takes more effort to remove thousands of knots.

To lessen “combing pain,” make sure you first wet your hair and smoothen it with a lubricating conditioner. Then use a metal or pick comb and start combing the hair from the tip of your locs and work towards the scalp. It’s a tedious and time-consuming process that will leave you tired by the end of the day.

Why People Remove Dreadlocks

The three main reasons why people comb out their dreads include:

  • Messy dreads
  • Job or lifestyle change
  • Too old, long or heavy

Messy Dreads

One of the reasons why people remove dreads is because they don’t like how messy they look. Messy dreads form when a person lets the dread to form on their own, or as a result of poor maintenance.

Job or lifestyle change

They say first impression matter the most, and that’s human nature. When invited for a job interview, we all want to look our best and impress our interviewers with the hope of securing a job.

At times lifestyle changes such as moving to a new city, starting or ending a relationship, or any other major lifestyle change may prompt you to change your hairstyle.

Too old, long, or heavy

Old dreads that stretch past waistline can get quite heavy. Some may find it hard to deal with the burden. Some people experience neck issues and headaches because of heavy dreads.

You should also note that wax buildup over the years can contribute to the weight of your locs. Therefore, before combing out your dreads, you may want to consider going through Deep Cleanse Guide to help remove wax build-up.

How is the Dreadlocks Removal Process?

Dreadlocks removal is usually a wet, grubby, and slippery process.

Combing out process requires the dreads to be very wet and well lubricated with the right conditioner.

Some opt for Dreadlock Removal Cream or Removal Kit to make the process easier. While these kits help, you can get by with just lots of conditioner. You’ll also lose some hair in the process as well.

How Long Does It Take to Detangle Dreadlocks?

The whole process can take a few hours or weeks, depending on a variety of factors:

  • How many locs you have
  • How long your dreads are
  • The products used
  • If someone is helping you
Dreadlocks removal before
Dreadlocks removal before
Dreadlocks removal after
Dreadlocks removal after (10 hours)

Is Combing Out Dreads Painful?

As earlier stated, combing out dreads starts from the tip towards the scalp. Most of the work is done away from the scalp and won’t be painful at all. However, as you get closer to the scalp, it becomes painful.

It’s similar to the pain you experience when combing out knots from natural hair. One of the benefits of undertaking this process on your own is that you can adjust to your own pace and stop when it gets painful.

Dreadlocks Removal Based on Age

Yes, you will lose hair in the process. It may seem like a lot of hair, but that shouldn’t scare you because you’ll be left with enough hair in the end. Additionally, the amount of hair you’ll lose depends on a variety of factors described in the sections below.

Under 6 Months Dreads

Young dreads are the easiest to comb out. They have healthier hair, less knots that haven’t tightened and matured. Combing out will result in some hair falling off but not as much as compared to mature dreadlocks.

6-18 Months Locs

Intermediate dreads have tighter and densely formed knots more difficult to comb. However, it’s still possible to remove them at this stage, but it requires patience and more work compared to young locs.

Over 18 Months Locs

Mature dread removal is still possible at this stage but requires more time and patience. You should also expect to lose more hair than you would with young and intermediate locks.

Dreadlocks Removal Based on Installation Method

The installation method will play a huge role in determining how easy or hard it is removing the dreads. It’ll also determine the amount of hair you lose in the process.

Free-Form/ Neglect Removal

The time it takes to remove and the amount of hair lost in removing free-formed dreads will greatly depend on the ethnicity and hair products used.

Free forms locs take longer to mature, and when removed at early stages, hair loss will be minimal.  On the other hand, mature free-form dreads are hard to remove and will result in more hair loss.

How to Remove Dreadlocks
Matted Hair Detangling Before and After

Twisting/ Palm Twist Removal

The age plays a huge role when it comes to removing locs on afro hair that has been twisted. Young afro locs that have been twisted are easier to remove with minimal damage. Mature locs that have been twisted have mature and tighter knots that are harder to remove and will result in hair damage.

On the other hand, removing dreadlocks in straight hair that has been twisted is the easiest. You will lose less hair compared to afro twisted locs.

Interlocking/ Latch-Hooking Removal

Removing locs in interlocked hair is the easiest. This is because interlocking doesn’t form knots in the hair and instead forms more of a braid. Cut the last inch on the tip of your dreadlocks. You will lose the least amount of hair compared to all other methods listed in this guide.

It’ll be more difficult removing dreads formed with other methods and maintained via interlocking. If that’s your case, we recommend you read other methods in this article to get a better understanding of the possible technique to apply in your case.

Backcomb/ Twist and Rip Removal

Backcombed locs are easier to remove when young. As they mature, they become harder to remove and also result in more hair loss.

Crotchet Method Removal

There are two variations to consider in this case:

The first variation involves backcombing and cover the hair encircling the backcombed hair to contain the hair beneath. This method is easy to remove when done in the first six months and becomes more difficult as time passes.

The second method is achieved by backcombing and then pulling several strands of hair through the backcombed hair hence creating tiny knots on each dreadlock. This method is harder to remove at any age because of the tight knots formed. You will lose more hair with this method.

Towel Rubbing Method Removal

This is the most difficult dreadlock method to comb out. The reason being, rubbed dreads get extraordinarily dense and solid within the shortest time. In this case, you will require more effort, time, patience, and different products to loosen up the knots.

The Influence of the Products Used during the Dreadlocks Journey

The hair products you use play a vital role in how easy or hard it is to remove your dreads and the amount of hair lost in the process. The product used will either contribute to knot tightening or lubricating your hair.

Conditioners and Oil

Conditioners and oil are great for removing locs because they loosen the knots. For this reason, these products aren’t recommended when keeping dreads. However, when it comes to dread removal, you can apply as much as you want to loosen up those tight knots.

One of the best oils is Olive oil. It should only be applied to dry hair during the removal process. This is because water and oil repel. Conditioners should be applied to hair that’s wet.  It’s important to note that not all conditioners are good for dreadlocks removal.

Sea Salt Sprays and Ocean Water

Swimming in the ocean or using tightening sprays can make locs knots tight and make the dread removal process more difficult. Saltwater absorbs oil and other lubricating oil and products. And as earlier mentioned, oils loosen up knots and in their absence, knots become tighter.

Dread formed with the twisting method will come undone when you swim in the ocean. The ocean water will absorb the products used to hold loc twists in place.

pH Levels and Hard Water

pH levels and hard water play an important role in the overall health of your hair and scalp. Hard water pH levels are normally over 8, and when pH levels are above 7, the hair cuticles remain open, resulting in tighter knot formation.

Even though this may sound like a good idea for those trying to create dreadlocks, it’s more damaging in the long run.

The cuticles remain open when the pH level of your hair is above 7. Removing dreads when cuticles are open will cause them to rub against each other resulting in hair damage and breakage. When combing out dreads, ensure the pH levels range between 4.5 to 5.5.

How to keep pH levels in the recommended range:

  • Use water softeners
  • Use conditioners- most are pH balanced
  • Rinse with apple cider vinegar
  • Use shampoos in the recommended pH range
  • Test pH of all your hair products

How to avoid high pH levels

  • Avoid Castile Soaps
  • Hard water with pH 8 or higher
  • Avoid excess baking soda and bleach

Shampoos and Lubricating Products

The shampoos you used during your dreadlocks journey will determine how easy or hard it will be removing the dreads.

Any shampoo used to tighten knots will make it more difficult combing out your dreads. When combing out, avoid shampoo at all costs. They are high in pH and are designed to clean the hair and will result in tighter knots.

Bleach and Hair Dye

Bleaches and dyes whose purpose is to lighten the hair, can result in excessive hair loss and breakages when removing dreads.  In order to lighten hair, the outer layer of the hair strand is removed, exposing the delicate inner part resulting in weak and damaged hair.

You will lose more hair with a bleached or dyed dread. And if your locs have been bleached more than recommended, you may still experience problems even when you’ve successfully combed out your dreads.

How to Remove Dreadlocks
Matted Hair Removal Before and After

Dreadlocks Removal Based on Ethnicity

Afro Locs Removal

Afro hair is the most delicate and prone to damage than any other ethnicity. For this reason, the methods and hair products play an important role in keeping the hair healthy and strong.

If the dreadlock formation method or the product used have resulted in weaker and damaged hair, you may be at risk of losing larger amount of hair during the locs removal process.

Even with the best methods and products, at times, afro hair will be too brittle.

Mixed Race Dreadlock Removal

African mixed races locs are often more comfortable to remove simply because most African American salons interlock or twist mixed hair types.  These two methods and the products they require don’t result in tight knots. Combing out dreads for mixed-race persons is much easier than other ethnicities and methods. Other mixed races dreads vary and so do the removal methods.

Caucasian and Hispanic Hair

Hispanic and Caucasian hair varies from one person to another. Some people have hair that’s thin and smooth while others have coarse and strong hair.

Italian hair is similar to Asian hair. It’s often thick and coarse, and it’s easier to remove than Caucasian hair. It’s important to note that you may experience hair loss even with fine hair.

Asian Dread Removal

Asian dreadlocks are the easiest to remove. Their hair strands have larger diameters and are round, a reason why their dreads are the strongest than any other ethnicity.

How to Remove Dreadlocks Without Cutting

  1. Get towels, a pintail comb / crochet hook and conditioner.
  2. Saturate a few dreadlocks with plenty of conditioner. You can then wrap the dreads with foil to help softening the locs.
  3. From the tip of the dreads, start with one strand and pick out one knot at a time.
  4. Repeat the same procedure until you get closer to the scalp.
  5. Keep the hair saturated with conditioner.
  6. When the dreads are all removed, wash the hair then apply a protein treatment.

Dreadlocks Removal Services

Because dreadlocks removal is a time-consuming activity, we highly recommend a removal service.

Additionally, we highly recommend people to remove their locs themselves because getting a professional to do it can be quite expensive.

Also, avoid cheap salons because they will rush through this process and may end up ruining your hair. Remember you get what you pay for with dreadlocks removal.

What to Consider When Removing Dreadlocks

If you’ve decided to undertake the process by yourself, it’s important to consider the following.

  • Ensure the pH of hair is at 4.5-5.5
  • Have a bunch of towels close by

Recommended pH levels

As earlier indicated, maintaining a pH level of 4.5-5.5 is very important when removing dreadlocks.  You can achieve this by avoiding shampoos, hard water and using conditioners. This will help protect the cuticles hence minimizing the amount of hair you lose when combing out.

Alternatively, you can soak your dreads in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Soak the dreads for at least 5 minutes and not longer than 10 minutes. Allow your locs to dry for 24-48 hours.


Things will get wet and messy. The whole process involves the use of wet and slippery products. Having towels close by is necessary to prevent further mess.

Select Removal Products

There are three products you can choose from in this case. They include conditioners and oils:


If the pH of your hair is above the recommended range, conditioners will help balance it. Conditioners are also good lubricants. Remember to keep your hair wet if you’ll be using a conditioner. We would recommend you to have a water spray bottle and conditioner with you as you work on each loc.


If you are using oil, you need to be careful with the type you use. Select a vegetable oil such as olive oil and avoid using essential oils as Tea Tree oil will make your hair dry.

For this process, you will need lubricating oil to loosen up those tight knots. Unlike conditioners, oil requires the hair to be dry.

Detanglers & Removal Kits

We would recommend these products over typical conditioners. Detanglers are highly effective in removing knots and will give better results when combing out. If you choose these products, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Some are designed to be used on wet hair and others on dry hair.

A few examples include:

Choose the Right Tool for The Job

Trust me when we tell you that a comb or a brush won’t work. Instead, use a need or a pick. Why? Combs and brushes will only work for smaller knots in normal hair and not with dreads. Again, the teeth of brush or combs will either bend or break because you’ll be dealing with a bigger problem. Below are some of the most recommended tools to use:

Steel Pintail Comb – they are cheap and readily available. Unfortunately, because of their long length, you may find yourself struggling to get a perfect grip. Use the pick end instead of the comb for best results.

Addi Swing Crochet Hook – the ergonomic grip will ensure the job gets done even when things get slippery. You can wrap rubber bands around the ergonomic grip for more grip.

Dreadlock – Dread Comb – certainly not the best but can serve as a backup.

Dread Removal

The rule of thumb when removing dreadlocks is to always start from the tip and work towards the scalp.

Start with one strand and pick out one knot at a time, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t spot any sign of progress. At times it may take up to an hour or two to see any noticeable difference. Repeat the same procedure until you get closer to the scalp.

To prevent hair from tangling, it’s always good to start from the back or side from beneath. It will become easier as you work out on several strands.

You may notice a significant amount of combed out hair. This shouldn’t worry, you’ll be left with plenty as well.

Keep Hair Saturated

Always keep your hair saturated with the product you chose for your dreadlock removal. The lubricating properties of the product used will contribute to the ease of dread removal.

how to remove dreads