I’ve heard that hard water can make soap build-up in my dreads. Is that true?

Absolutely it is! However, this issue is one that is easily resolved with periodic apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses. Although all the soaps and shampoos we use and recommend are formulated to ensure that they leave behind no residue, hard water can cause build-up to accumulate anyway.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 85% of water consumed in the United States is consider “hard water”. The hardness of water refers to the amount of trace minerals in it; the most common of which are magnesium and calcium. The practice of referring to water with a high mineral content as “hard” refers to how difficult the water is to work along with soap, shampoo, or detergent. Hard water can significantly affect the efficacy and lathering ability of soaps.

Oftentimes, this can lead to consumers using greater quantities of soap to acquire the amount of later desired. In addition to making you run out of soap sooner than you would otherwise, another repercussion of having and using hard water to wash your  locks is that hard water causes the microscopic anatomy of your hair to become roughened and trap soap build-up that is created when the soap reacts with the minerals in the water.

On the other hand, rinsing with ACV causes the hair to become smooth again, allowing all the soap and/or mineral build up to be rinsed and washed out easily. Hard water can cause the hair to become dry, cause dandruff and/or eczema of the scalp, cause the hair to thin, and/or cause it to discolor. So there are many reasons to take steps to counteract hard water if it is present in your home!

If you find that when you rinse your locks the water will not rinse out clean, hard water is usually to blame (assuming no wax has been used in the dreadlocks previously), and you should consider following your wash(es) with an ACV rinse.

Different parts of the country have varying degrees of hard water. Below is a map that shows that hardness level of water across the country. (Please note, this is just a guideline and is not necessarily completely accurate!)

hard water map
Map copied from http://www.systemsaver.com/morton-website/education/water-facts/common-water-problems.html

GREEN — Extremely hard water (>10.5 grains/gallon)
ORANGE — Hard water (7 – 10 grains/gallon)
RED — Moderately hard water (3.5 – 7 grains/gallon)
BLUE — Slightly hard water (0.5 – 3.5 grains/gallon)
YELLOW — Soft water (0 – 0.5 grains/gallon)

Below is a chart we’ve put together with a suggest frequency for ACV rinses based on the hardness of your water:


And, finally, here is an ACV rinse recipe for you:

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 – 30 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • 20 – 30 drops of lavender essential oil

Pour ACV into a large pitcher. Add essential oils and water until full. Pour over head and let soak 3 – 5 minutes. Rinse well.