Lint in locs is unavoidable. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong.
But there are some things you can do differently. Here are a few…
Let’s face it…no matter how well you try to maintain your locs — lint happens! This is especially the case in dry climates and during the winter months when static electricity can attract those pesky little particles to your hair strands like moths to a flame and seemingly bind them in place.
There are many ways that lint finds its way into locs. Luckily for us LocStars there are just as many ways of removing lint from locs.
Here are a few of the best solutions for those of you who have asked,
“Help! How can I get the lint out of my locs?!?”
1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse – An apple cider vinegar rinse is one of the most popular solutions if you’re looking to find out how to quickly get what may appear to be lint out of your dreadlocks. You can whip up a batch of this DIY rinse easily by combining 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.
The natural hair cleanser is great for removing product buildup and should be applied right after shampooing for best results.
Find a big bucket that allows you to dip and immerse your dreads into it. You’ll repeat the process of dipping and squeezing and soon you’ll start to see the residue dissolve into the bucket.
When the water in the bucket is sufficiently sullied (or you’re totally grossed out) empty the bucket and do it again. This time the water should be less cloudy. Rinse your hair thoroughly with water afterwards.
2. Clarifying Hair Mask – Bentonite clay is a real wonder even for lint-free locs, as it absorbs all kinds of build-up with ease. Clay has minerals and nutrients that benefit the body like magnesium, calcium and potassium (is that why little kiddos love to make & eat ‘mud pies?’).
But lucky for the loc’d & lovely, bentonite clay also has antibacterial properties, drawing out toxins and is great for getting out stubborn lint and buildup from the multitude of hair products that we try out in search of the Holy Grail of hair care (thank goodness).
This natural clay should be mixed with equal parts apple cider vinegar (water works too) in a glass bowl using a wooden or plastic spoon. But don’t use metal!
Why?…what’s the big deal?
Well, because bentonite clay is a healing clay that carries a negative charge which bonds to the positive charge in most toxins. When it comes into contact with say a toxin, heavy metal or chemical, it’ll absorb the toxin. So using a metal spoon or bowl will lessen its detoxifying properties on your hair. And we want the most bang for our buck, don’t we?
You might see bubbles or hear a little fizzle as you stir if using the ACV, but this is normal. Smooth the clay onto your locs and let it rest for up to 30 minutes.
Have a plastic bag handy to wrap your locs in while you wait. Then rinse well. Extremely well. After this process the lint will be easy to remove.
3. A Good Shampoo Comb – If you have only a small amount of lint, just using a shampoo comb made especially for dreadlock maintenance when you manicure your dreads can help to remove the fuzz without thinning out your locs.
I prefer using the tip of a rat tail comb for this method. If the lint is trapped at the very tip of the loc, I’ll gently coax it out and and tightly recoil the tip with the comb.
4. Trusty Pair of Tweezers – If even more extensive loc surgery is needed, using tweezers to grab and remove the lint is another option.
However, manually plucking out lint can be very time consuming, as well as, damage the integrity of the loc if you’re not careful. So I wouldn’t recommend this technique if patience isn’t one of your virtues.
It’s a good idea to try the other methods first (like the ACV rinse) and then use this method to remove the pesky pieces that linger.
Make sure that you work slowly, so as not to rip or tear your locs. You may even want to enlist the help of a friend if the lint is in a hard-to-reach (or hard to see) spot.
But sometimes, more serious measures just need to be taken…
How To Get Rid of Buildup In Dreadlocks
If you are suffering from a serious case of product build-up, it may be time to detox your locs.
Detox kits such as The Loc Detox Kit allow you to deep clean your dreads, taking the loc detox process into your own hands…
Soft Boar Bristle Dry Brush. A soft boar bristle brush will help you rapidly rid your locs of lint and other debris or particles. No need to brush too vigorously, just a light dusting on a regular basis should do the trick.
Tweezer Tool. Lint lifter tweezers are excellent for helping you to pick out those lint fibers that are difficult to remove without damaging or interrupting the overall structure of your locs. Remember to use a fine point tip and, most importantly, be gentle.
100% Pure Black Soap Clarifying Shampoo. 100% pure black soap clarifying shampoo will go a long way to help you deep cleanse your locs, ridding them of product build-up.
If you are dealing with locs that contain mildew or rancid smells, this shampoo will prove beneficial to solving the problem.
Bentonite Clay & Apple Cider Vinegar Mask. As mentioned above, bentonite clay receives high praises for helping to extract lint, dirt and other debris from your locs.
Mix this clay with apple cider vinegar in a non-metal bowl with a non-metal spoon and apply to your hair after cleansing with the clarifying shampoo. Leave in place for 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly.
Lint Free Microfiber Towel. Lint-free microfiber towels are absorbent and help to absorb excess water from your wet locs, reduces the risk for mildew or mold growth, and does it without leaving lint behind thus serving as a great preventative measure.
You can also use a needle to coax out stubborn lint that’s embedded in your locs. If you have a lot of embedded lint (is it waxy with a grayish tinge?) then that’s a strong indicator that you’re using too much hair product and suffering from a serious case of product build up. Time for an ACV rinse (see above) and a clarifying shampoo.
Right now, I’m really enjoying Jason’s Normalizing Tea Tree Shampoo. It doesn’t have any any harsh chemicals (I purchased it at the health food store and that was all the convincing I needed…lol!) No, but seriously…no parabens, no sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate or phthalates and not tested on animals.
I read about it on a dreadlocks forum and sought it out, when I finally found it and saw on the packaging that it’s recommended for itchy scalp (which I have), I was convinced enough to try it and thus far it’s my dreadlock shampoo of choice.
[UPDATE:] In mid-2017, a class action lawsuit was brought against Jason’s for falsely advertising that their products contained no sodium laurel/laureth sulfates. They have agreed to settle the lawsuit with a settlement to its purchasers. Thus, I no longer include this shampoo in my hair care regimen and now use liquid black soap as a clarifying shampoo.
If you’re wondering how to keep lint out of your dreadlocks in the first place, the best *Quick Tip* is to always…always…always be sure to wear a scarf at night, when you’re working around the house and anytime you might be pulling on a top that is prone to fuzz-like wool.
Choose a lint-free scarf, switch to dark colored towels (microfiber towels are best) and skip petroleum-based styling aids, which are big lint attractors. Are you guilty of using beeswax, pomades and greases? Stop it right now as they are primary lint magnets.
Locs & Lint: Six Reasons Your Locs are Attracting Lint
Lint is notorious for infiltrating locs and producing a hot mess. Even the most stylish LocStar can meet his/her demise in the face of a lint epidemic. Common dreadlock rockers think that if they just protect their locs overnight, they can avoid the lint accumulation that comes from tussling with blankets and sheets during the night. However, if you think your bed is the only source of lint, you’re in for a real eye opener…
Here are six other reasons your dreadlocks are attracting lint.
- Product Buildup. Your loc maintenance products may be the likely culprit of your lint buildup. Hair care products like waxes, gels and creams have the ability to not only to attract lint but also embed it deep within the fibers of your locs (kind of like glue), making it extremely difficult to brush it out.
2) Scarves and Hats. Scarves, hats, and other loose fibers draw lint to your locs. To protect your locs from lint, make an effort to choose materials that have very few loose fibers like silk or satin.
3) Bath Towels vs. Lint-free Microfiber Towels. Use lint-free microfiber towels to dry your locs and avoid standard bath towels. It makes sense to think that dark colored towels like black or brown will prevent visible lint. But the thing is color fades over time. And so even if you don’t notice dark lint today, as that lint fades to grey it suddenly becomes very noticeable and your heads lights up like a disco ball at the next blacklight party. Look for lint free micro fiber towels instead.
4) Laundry and Locs. Microfiber towels are great fibers for keeping lint at bay (as opposed to the dreadful cotton) but they can still become a natural magnet for lint during the dryer cycle with other clothing that deposits tiny pieces of lint.
Are you washing your regular towels in the same load as your microfiber towels? Fuzzy sweaters in the same load as your work shirts? Guess what guys…lint travels. Lint gets all jumbled around in the dryer and before you know it… those magical lint free towels are suddenly full of lint too. It’s best practice to dry your microfiber towels separate from the rest of your laundry.
5) Long Locs and Lint Traps. Your long locs are no match for your beloved wardrobe. Beware of locs that rub against all types of clothing materials. This action can create a natural lint trap within your locs!
6) Housekeeping Habits. Your housekeeping habits can also play a considerable role in the lint that gathers in your locs. Air filters, laundry, dust, and carpet carry tiny fibers and other particles that love to attach themselves to your hair. So remember to cover your locs when vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the house. This is one area that’s easy to overlook, but those dust bunnies have a field day in your locs at times like these.
Lint will gather in your locs sooner or later. But stay consistent with your loc care regimen. Take the time to brush those locs to remove particles before you shower and just before bedtime. Daily (or alternate daily) brushing of your locs with a soft boar bristle brush after your locs have reached the mature stage is a great way to stay ahead of those pesky rascals.
What Causes Build-Up in Locs?
Product buildup is like lint cement for locs. Product buildup binds lint into locs and makes it nearly impossible to brush off or rinse out without extensive intervention.
The most common way to catch a case of product build-up is when you repeatedly use of certain kinds of products on your locs. Beeswax or wax-based products, protein gels/gels, shea butter, and heavy cream-based products are all known to cause build-up in your locs. Combine these things with the dreaded addition of lint, and you have a recipe for disaster.
No one sets out to choose products that will cause build-up, right? You’re merely trying to rock your locs and express your signature style. Usually, your primary goal in using these dreadlock hair products has everything to do with trying to help protect the structure or integrity of the locs and provide a firm hold until the loc has time to naturally matte up.
Unfortunately, these products, which are intended to function as a “hair locking” source on the outside of the loc, embeds itself into the internal shaft of the loc. This gradual process of integration leads to build-up.
What’s most troublesome is that as the build-up occurs, you don’t always see it right away. So you don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.
The second most common way to accumulate build-up is, believe it or not, not rinsing your hair well enough in the shower. Even clear shampoos (as opposed to the creamy conditioning kind) can leave buildup if not rinsed thoroughly. So make it a practice to squeeze your locs as you rinse.
Rinse well after the water runs completely clear and rinse at least ten minutes for shoulder length locs or longer. Also flip over your locs to rinse from the back to front as well as from front to back, you’d be surprised how easy it is to miss spots in the back when washing your hair.
How to Prevent Build-Up in Locs
So, what can you do to reduce the risk for build-up in your locs? Prevention of loc build-up begins with reading the labels on your products. You want to have a clear awareness for what it is you are about to apply to your hair. Once you detoxify your locs, make a conscious effort to avoid the following products.
Protein Gels. Too much of a good thing can damage your locs. Protein is well-known for its structure enhancing properties, but protein gels can have the opposite effect on your hair leaving it hard, brittle and heavy with visible white flakes or build up.
Gels are naturally drying and can have an opposite impact on the hold you are so desperately trying to achieve.
Shea Butter. Some LocStars are fans of shea butter, but if you can avoid using it, definitely make an effort to do so.
However, if you swear by your shea butter, remember that less is more. Too much shea butter can have nasty effects on your locs and expedite the rate at which build up occurs.
Waxes. Yes, beeswax and other waxes may be very tempting in the early stages of cultivating your dreadlocks, but wax build-up can leave locs feeling heavy and make them especially prone to breakage thanks to its ability to block hair from receiving the hydration that enables it to be flexible.
Usual Suspects. Just because you are wearing locs does not mean the rules change for natural hair care. Stay away from those products which contain parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, phthalates, and alcohol.
Why is there Lint in My Locs?
Why do locs seem to be a magnet for lint? Lint, being the tiny particles of fiber or fiber-debris that is often visible on cotton fabrics. These small particles love to attach themselves to locs.
Fabrics such as sweaters, knit caps, cotton pillowcases, and blankets can contribute to fiber finds its way into your hair. The products you choose to use on your locs such as waxes, gels, and heavy cream-based products attract lint as well.
So, Is There A Surefire Way To Prevent Lint from Getting into My Locs?
Unfortunately, no. There is not surefire way to prevent lint. Actually, lint gets into all types of hair, long or short, kinky or fine, loose or loc’d. It’s just that the nature of dreadlocks make it more difficult for the lint to fall off.
For example, if your hair is loose, you likely brush or comb it daily and the lint would come off during this normal grooming process. This doesn’t happen when the hair is loc’d. But all hope is not lost, here’s what you can do to be proactive and reduce the lint.
Cover Your Locs When Cleaning. When cleaning or doing anything that may stir up dust particles around the house, cover your locs. A silk scarf or satin bonnet can go a long way to help you keep lint at bay.
Use Satin Pillowcases. Do not minimize the effect your pillow may have on your locs or the amount of lint they may hold. Swap out your cotton pillow cases for satin pillowcases. You will especially appreciate this method if you are not a fan of wearing sating bonnets or sleep caps.
Brush Those Locs. This next tip is not as complicated as it might sound. It involves incorporating the use of a soft boar bristle dry brush.
When you come in from the outside –particularly during windy days, high pollen times of the year or dusty environments, take the time to brush those locs using a soft bristle brush gently. Try to avoid brushing around the root area. Instead, focus your efforts 1/3 of the way down from the bottom.
How exactly does Bentonite Clay remove lint from locs?
Bentonite clay essentially binds with dirt, product buildup and residue trapped in your hair and draws it out of the loc. This, combined with the dissolving action of the apple cider vinegar, works as a one-two punch for getting the gunk out that hair products leave behind, leaving your hair soft, supple and revitalized. It is a powerful detoxifier for skin and hair.
Is a clarifying shampoo good for lint in locs?
A clarifying shampoo’s main purpose is to strip your hair of residues that hair products leave behind. So yes, it is good for lint in locs. But because it strips the hair, it is not good for regular use. Every 3-4 months is a reasonable length of time between uses.
If All Else Fails to De-Fuzz Your Dreadlocks…Conceal It
When it comes to lint in locs, you have quite a few options on how to get rid of that pesky hair lint. You’ll need to find a method that is the best match for your lifestyle and your natural hair care needs.
By combining one of the methods on how to remove lint from dreadlocks with the prevention tips, you’re sure to have lint-free locks ahead in your future (or at least much less of it).
Again, lint build up happens to the best of us, so don’t feel bad now that it’s happened to you. Just like sugar, it sneaks up on us in the most unexpected places.
How do you care for your dreadlocks? Is deep cleaning dreads a regular part of your hair maintenance regimen? Leave your best tip in the comments.