I can’t speak much on dread rot or mildew itself- we have pretty much not encountered anyone with an actual case of mildew on this blog (of which I am aware- I may have missed something!).
However, there are a few things someone might mistake for mold and mildew which are not mold or mildew or “rot.”
1- Built up shampoo and/or conditioner.
This happens when you either use too much shampoo or do not properly rinse your hair. Rinsing is a majorly important factor in preventing a buildup in your locks. When you rinse your hair in the shower, rinse your hair from all angles, lean forward and rinse back to front, and lean back and rinse front to back. Rinse 5-10 minutes minimum. This way, you’ll most likely prevent any kind of sticky, whitish, oily feeling buildup from shampoo or conditioner.
Some people might get some dandruff flakes or lint built up in the core of their locks. These just accumulate from your scalp and your pillows. They may look like mold or mildew, but they’re pretty benign. If you have lint, you can take a soft brush and try to brush it out, or you can gently pick it out. For dandruff, use a dandruff shampoo or consult a professional about how to treat your skin condition.
3- Old oil, dirt, and wax
We don’t really promote the use of wax on this blog because it is not a necessary step in creating beautiful locks, and it is very easily overused- creating more of a mess than a benefit. However, some people use it successfully and really like it, so we don’t outright condemn it either.
However, if you have old wax in your hair, or you haven’t shampooed and washed your hair enough, you may have a buildup of wax and/or oil. You can melt wax out usually, and it can look kind of icky if there is too much built up in the locks.
For oil- just increase your washing habits a bit and you should be golden!
4- If you keep your dreads regularly wet, you may increase the chances of mildew or mold growing.
Don’t sleep on wet locks, dry your locks as much as you can with a towel, and wash your hair early in the day so it has time to dry before you sleep.
Allow your locks to become fully dry between washing them to prevent any real mildew from forming.
If you do wind up with mold or mildew (which is really rare and almost never happens it seems), you can brush your locks out and clean your brushable hair. That would be my number one choice if it happened to me. 🙂
I hope this answer is helpful to you!