Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo

November 11th, 2010 · 165 Comments · Green Living

It’s been over a year since I told you I stopped wearing deodorant, so I guess it’s about time I get fresh and honest with you again.

It’s also been over a year since I washed my hair with shampoo regularly.

It was June of last year when my last bottle of shampoo emitted its last drops, which signified my self-appointed deadline to try the “no ‘poo” baking soda shampoo method for washing my hair.

Lesson one: I wish I would have started washing hair with no shampoo NOT in the summer.

Why No ‘Poo?

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to go without shampoo; here are the two most prominent ones for me:

  1. Shampoo includes chemicals, which are absorbed into your scalp even faster than other products because of the steam of the shower.
  2. Shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils, which has a couple trickle down impacts:
    1. You need to use conditioner, another product with chemicals, to compensate for the loss of natural oil.
    2. Your scalp responds by producing more oil than usual, which means you’re more likely to get greasy hair faster.

As for why this method has been termed no ‘poo, I suppose people got tired of saying, “I don’t use shampoo. No, really – my hair is clean. I use baking soda, see? I’m not crazy…” No ‘poo is more fun. :)

Lesson two: This is not exactly something I advertise far and wide. People definitely think it’s weird.

 

The Basic No ‘Poo Method

baking soda to wash hair no poo methodThe replacement for the chemical shampoo is baking soda and water, and a diluted apple cider vinegar acts as the “conditioner” rinse. People have to use varying amounts and frequencies depending on their hair type, but the general strategy is:

  • Use 1 Tbs baking soda to a cup of water – you can mix in an old shampoo bottle
  • Shake the bottle to combine, then sprinkle evenly on your scalp
  • Allow to sit a minute, then scrub your scalp in circles with your fingernails, working the baking soda through evenly, especially on the top
  • Rinse with warm water while scrubbing
  • Use 1-2 Tbs apple cider vinegar per cup of water – I mix this in a spray bottle, but others just use a cup and dip their hair
  • Apply as needed to detangle and clarify
  • Rinse well, preferably in cold water on the scalp at the end to close the pores back up. This one I just can’t handle in the winter sometimes, but it is easier if you have a hand-held shower head so your whole body doesn’t have to frigidify just to get your scalp cold!

Lesson three: There’s a catch. Before your scalp adjusts to not having to battle shampoo by overproducing oil, you’ll have to endure a period of greasy hair.

The Oil Problem (Greasy Hair)

It makes perfect sense. Your scalp has been used to being stripped of oil every day or every other day, and its habit was to generate a bunch more to fill the gap. Now you’re not stripping it at all, and it takes a while for your scalp to realize what’s going on.

With nothing to cut the grease, your hair will likely go through an adjustment period where it’s quite greasy. This is why winter (at least in my climate) is a slightly better time to try it than summer, because you won’t have to deal with additional sweat.

Personally, I think my adjustment period lasted 6 weeks. It’s amazing I ever came out on the other side! That’s exceedingly long, and there a few reasons for it:

  1. I had really long hair. I don’t know if that hurt anything, but I doubt it helped.
  2. I wasn’t using enough baking soda at first.
  3. I wasn’t smart enough to look up the method again or try any experiments with amounts or procedures for quite some time. I just waited for it to “work” without trying to fight it. As soon as I increased the baking soda considerably, things started looking up!
  4. Some find that the vinegar rinse needs a lot of personalization: spraying on the scalp was important for me, but Stephanie found that her hair was greasier if the ACV rinse touched her scalp. Many also find that they only need the rinse every other wash or once a week. With my long hair, I needed it every time. At first, as with the baking soda, I wasn’t experimenting much because I didn’t know what to look for.

Lesson four: Do experiment and expect success, instead of waiting around for your greasy adjustment period to end.

My No ‘Poo Method and Results

It does work! I remain amazed that my hair is not greasy, and in fact, I’ve found that it’s less greasy on day two (I’m an every other day shower girl) than right after the shower since I did this:

I sent this in to Locks for Love, where they make wigs for cancer patients.

Having a foot less hair changed the way the no ’poo system worked, in my opinion. It’s only been two weeks, so more experimentation is needed (see how I catch on?). I’m wondering if I should use less baking soda and/or fewer vinegar rinses.

Here’s how I wash my hair without shampoo:

  1. I pour baking soda in an old shampoo bottle to about 1/4 full, then top off with warm water. This separates and needs to be shaken every shower. I use quite a bit more baking soda than 1 Tbs/cup of water, but it’s what I needed to make the method work when I had very long hair.
  2. I shake the bottle over my head about 6-7 times, then scrub vigorously with my fingernails. I’ve also had decent success with putting about a 1/2-1 Tablespoon of baking soda directly in my palm, adding a little water, and putting it on my scalp. This is what I do when traveling, and I often just skip the rinse if I’m only gone a weekend.
  3. I spray the ACV water all over my hair and scalp and leave it in a minute or two, then rinse. I used to end the shower with cold water (I have a shower head that detaches, so I can hit my scalp and not the rest of my body), but I’m such a wimp in the winter. This may help my short hair adjustment period, though, so I may have to grin and bear it.
  4. Although I didn’t at all at first, because I was afraid of stripping my oils and having to go through 6 weeks of greasy hair, I do use a regular shampoo about once a week. Sometimes it’s the NaturOli shampoo bar, other times it’s an organic random shampoo I got at Rite Aid.

Added bonus to the method – when you refill the shampoo bottle, spill some of the baking soda (you will anyway) and use it to clean your tub. The tub that looked more or less clean at my house, with the power of baking soda and the palm of my hand, let loose more dirt and grime than I ever expected to be rewarded with.

The Drawbacks of No ‘Poo
  • Your hair might smell like vinegar. If so, you’re probably using too much vinegar and should dilute it further with water. However, you’ll never have that shampoo smell, which may bum your husband out.
  • Traveling can be more of a hassle. It can also be less, because you don’t have to wash your hair that often.
  • It’s not a hands-off method. You might have to make adjustments, especially at first, but also when you cut your hair, get pregnant, or the season changes. It takes more involved thought than “lather, rinse.”
  • Your hair will probably feel different. My mom is the one who cut my hair last week (thanks, Mom!), and she said that the texture of my hair was “awfully different.” How can I describe it? It’s almost stickier, but not sticky like tape.
  • My brush gets full of baking soda residue. Or something residue. My brush is a mess. This probably is a sign that I’m using too much or something, but as we’ve established, I can be pretty dense sometimes. ;)

All in all, it’s still worth it to me to take this “crunchy” step, and it certainly makes for interesting conversation…or it would, if I was courageous enough to bring it up in person.

Other no shampoo resources and stories:

Not brave enough for no ‘poo? Here’s my list of other green personal product options.

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Photo by Mike Baird, Rowdy Kittens.

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165 Comments so far ↓

  • Jennifer

    What do you do about after-shower hair products? I want to give no ‘poo a try, but with super curly hair (in humid FL!), I’m not sure how to go chemical free for styling.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Brooke Reply:

    I tried no poo, in the humid summer weather, and I have naturally curly hair. I used coconut oil instead of hair gel/mousse(start with a small amt), and that tamed all the frizz. I did however have to no poo every day, and never got away from the greasy feeling. I have reverted back to shampoo, and products, but buying natural brands to help decrease the chemicals. Good luck.

    [Reply to this comment]

    joy Reply:

    i like to rub a tiny amount of coconut oil on my hands and then onto the ends of my hair–it helps to keep down frizz and define my curls. i’ve also used aloe vera gel in a similar way.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Johnlyn Reply:

    There’s a ton of info on the forums at this site:
    http://www.naturallycurly.com/

    I use homemade flax seed gel on my hair (search that site for more info).

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Jennifer,
    I don’t have a need for it, but you could check out the MadeOn hair butter, which is supposed to be a good styling agent. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Orrie Reply:

    Instead of chemical laden shampoo I use Dr. Bronner’s (vegetable Castile soap), diluted maybe 60/40. I have short curly hair. I find there’s no reason for conditioner. My hair is soft and manageable without all the chemicals. This is also great for the whole body wash, just be careful not to get it into your eyes and super sensitive parts.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Robin Reply:

    wow, really? no conditioner? I tried using Dr. Bronner’s on my hair and then ran a little coconut oil thru my hair in place of conditioner, and it didn’t work AT ALL for me. I have long hair, and I was trying to be very diligent about not using too much coconut oil (as I knew it would make my hair greasy), so I only used a small amount, ran thru my hair, and it was still almost impossible (and painful) to comb it out. And then, after drying overnight, it was STILL kind of greasy looking. Big fail for me :).

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I do use Dr. Bronner’s occasionally on my hair but not often. The tea tree soap feels really good on an itchy scalp. I’ve been using the baking soda/water and apple cider vinegar/water rinse on my hair for about a month. The first time I did it my hair looked amazing; then too oily; then to dry so I upped the amount of vinegar in the rinse. It is better now but but not exactly like I’d like it yet. However, my scalp has never felt so good. No itch.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I have been using Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap on my boy hair for probably most of 4 to 5 years. They have very short hair and it works for them. I have longer hair.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kay Reply:

    Been poo-less for a week. Seems okay but my hair is terribly dry and looks dry. No sheen at all. Greasy scalp is not my problem just starting out. What is recommended for dry hair. It is definitely harder to style this way. I used to use a leave0in spray conditioner and would like to eliminate this as well as poo. Any ideas????

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Katy,
    A lot of people use a tiny bit of coconut oil, I think combing it through wet hair, to add sheen. There might be something with an egg white rinse, too…Google “natural hair conditioner” and see what you get! Good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Rebecca Reply:

    I have very fine, dry hair and dry scalp. For me, washing with an egg and honey works better than baking soda. I mix it in a cup right before showering, use my fingers to apply it to the roots of my hair, let it sit for a few minutes while massaging into my scalp, then rinse out in cool to lukewarm water (too hot and you’ll have boiled egg-white in your hair). I follow with a conditioning rinse made from herbal tea (chamomile, calendula, nettle, horsetail shave grass, and oat straw) with a splash of ACV or lemon juice. Good luck in your experimentation.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I have tried Dr. Bronner’s on my hair also. My hair is a mess then: it looks bad, feels funny, seems to break easier . . . I love Dr. Bronners for hand & body soap though & have been using it for many years.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I stopped using the baking soda and vinegar rinse. I use Dr. Bronner’s Baby mild soap on my head/hair (and the rest of my body) and Br. Bronner’s conditioner (for the last few weeks). My hair was looking damaged from the baking soda/vinegar method. I did also wash old some of my darker coloring in my hair.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I switched to Burts Bees shampoo and my old Aussie conditioner and my hair looks a lot better. I became allergic to the Aussie shampoo 1 year ago; got exema? on my eyelid (eye kept swelling up). It took me about 6 mos. to figure out what it was.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah Faith

    I have curly hair, in which natural oils are very important for curbing frizz and maintain curl. About a year ago or more, I switched to once (or twice, some weeks in the summer) a week washing with an organic type shampoo. Not ideal, but I figure my exposure is dramatically reduced. The other days I will wet it in the shower and rinse with a glass of warm water that has a few drops of essential oil in it. My hair has never been healthier and I never did notice that oily period (maybe something with curly hair or the fact that I cut out shampoo gradually – first to every other day, then once a week). Also the essential oils smell great and make up for some of the missing “just washed” smell we have come to expect from shampoo.
    I am saving lots of money, too, especially with five daughters in the house! (My son uses Ivory bar soap – which is needed for the grime he gets on his head – and my husband shaves his head!)
    I will try the baking soda thing and maybe can cut down even more on the shampoo use! (I keep a jar of baking soda mixed with essential oil in my bathroom anyway for deodorant and whatever else I’m in the mood for – toothpaste, etc.)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Alison D

    Are there any major drawbacks to using a diluted castile soap like Dr. Bronners mixed with some baking soda? Does it still strip the oil?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Alison,
    Oh, man, I’ve been wondering about castille soap and all this. I don’t know! What do others think? It’s got to be better than regular shampoo, yeah? ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah Faith Reply:

    My reasons for changing how we shampoo was more the concern for chemicals and sometimes I use diluted Doc Bronner’s as shampoo. It works fine, but it definitely strips oils because my hair gets very squeaky and flyaway after! But sometimes you need soap just for getting dirt or spitup or whatever out of your hair!

    (this comment should have gone here! clicked the wrong reply button first)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Holly Reply:

    I would think the soap would strip the hair and add oils, even if it’s a castille soap. I would try just the baking soda alone first, then experiment with the soap.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Charity Reply:

    From what I’ve read, they say that Dr. Bronners doesn’t strip oils, but dissolves dirt so it is a good alternative to shampoo. I used to have “greasy hair” and HAD to shampoo everyday. I would have greasy hair by the end of the day it was so bad. So, I decided to make the switch. it only took about two weeks for my scalp to adjust. Now I shower every third day without much grease. I love how my hair feels the second and third day. It is pretty fine (in thickness), but I have lots of it, so texture is a big thing for me. Its been over a year and we save A TON!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Charity Reply:

    I forgot to ask about conditioner. This is the only problem I have. My hair gets a little tangly…though no stickiness. Maybe I’ll try out the ACV. I’ve also heard of a honey and oatmeal conditioner you make, but it sounds scary :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Holly Reply:

    After moving to the UK, where the water is very different from what I was used to, I stopped no ‘poo and am back to using regular shampoo every 7-10 days. I may have to try Dr. Bronner’s. I’ve seen it in stores here, so I know I can get it easily. Thanks for the info!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Ryann Reply:

    Thanks for your comment! This is what I needed to read today! (I’m currently going through the transition.)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Gail Reply:

    I tried Dr. Bronner’s and my hair was very heavy feeling- I’d say almost greasy feeling. I have very fine hair, shoulder-length, and I switched to organic shampoos some time ago. I didn’t use conditioners because they were too heavy for my hair. So I decided to try no poo last fall, and it wasn’t hard to transition from the organic shampoos. However, when winter came, my hair got so static-y that I decided to use conditioner to tame it, and so I also used organic shampoos. If spring, and warm weather ever gets here (New Englanders will know what I’m talking about!) I’m going to try to go back to no poo again. I wish I could get my 4 daughters to try it. They just look at me like I’m a little off my rocker…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tara Reply:

    I have dreadlocks and use dr bronners once a week when I was. It’s recommended for dreads since its supposed to not leave a residue.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Anne

    I’ve stopped using shampoo also, but I found a recipe in the Living Without magazine that I like: 1/2 cup liquid castile soap, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp oil (adjust oil to hair’s needs). I halved the recipe and keep it in one of those travel shampoo bottles, so I can travel with it, too. I should try the ACV in a spray bottle – I’ve done the vinegar rinse before, but not to my satisfaction. I think the watered down spray would work better.

    It does change the texture of your hair – for me, it was for the better! I always thought my hair was super fine and thin and I had to use tons of products to keep it looking full. Without shampoo, it looks full without any extra product. It’s also a LOT less greasy. I do occasionally (maybe once a month) wash with shampoo, just to soften it a bit because it does get coarse. Maybe I need more oil in my shampoo?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Peggy Reply:

    Do you have any other recipes for shampoos? I have some dr brenners but I have no luck-I have well water.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mystie Reply:

    I hadn’t tried adding oil to dr. bronner’s soap. Interesting. I did try their (dr. bronner) conditioner and it left my hair too greasy.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Megan Jenelle @ A Blossoming Homestead

    I tried this method also, but stopped after a few days because I had heard several people say it was bad for your hair, and that it actually made their hair start to fall out! Yikes! I didn’t want that! My hair is pretty fine so I would like to keep as much of it as possible. Does anyone know if there is any validity to this? After a week of going back to my shampoo, I think I prefer the baking soda and vinegar! I went ahead and tried again this morning! I think I need to tweek the formula, but maybe I give it a second chance!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Megan,
    My hair is definitely not falling out any more than usual! That’s not one I’ve heard before… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Holly Reply:

    Sorry I’m replying to these comments one by one, but I just wanted to second you on this. I’ve been using baking soda for 6 months or so and I haven’t seen any more hair fall out than usual. Maybe the person who noticed more hair loss made some other change in her life that might have caused it, or started taking some kind of medication?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Esther Reply:

    I’ve always shed a lot of hair and the no ‘poo seems to exaggerate this, but I don’t think it’s causing my hair to fall out more, just makes it more apparent. Instead of shedding all day, wherever I go, it’s more concentrated when I’m in the shower washing my hair and that same morning when I’m brushing it out. But it’s not “falling out” really, since it continues to grow at the same rate to replace what sheds. So my hair’s no thinner or thicker than ever despite the shedding.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jen

    I have also found that cutting way back on using ANYTHING “washing” – helps drasctically. For awhile I was doing no-poo every other day, using a good org. store bought once a week, then I cut back to no-poo once a week, store bought once a week (so actually washing 2x a week) – I am now at washing once a week, (yes, just using store bought cause it’s easier right now and lasts much longer since I am only using once a week)- I shower just about every day and I just rinse and get my hair wet. Usually comb through it in the shower, might add a little leave in conditioner if I feel like I need it.
    I have long hair too and it is up 90% of the time, so that probably helps too.
    But, maybe play with not actually washing every shower and see how it works. It helped me a ton :-)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kate

    @Jennifer…my husband also uses this method and he still used product at first because he has very thick curly hair. The baking soda still took out the gel or mousse or whatever with no problem although eventually his hair texture changed to the point where now he just rubs a bit of olive oil on his hands and rubs that through his hair.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jennifer Reply:

    I had tried coconut oil with little success, so maybe I’ll give olive oil a try – thanks!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kate Reply:

    I will say, if you do it right before bed, put a towel on your pillow. It takes a while for the oil to soak into your hair and it ends up making a big greasy mess on the pillow. :-)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kate

    I switched over to the baking soda method almost a year ago. I am a fan! I’ve never read of doing it the way I do, but just to add yet another option:
    1.pour a little baking soda into a kiddie size plastic cup.
    2. fill the cup a little, mix it around, then fill to the top with shower water.
    3. pour evenly onto dry hair and let sit for 30 seconds.
    4. spray undiluted raw cider vinegar (with some essential oils added in to mask the smell. I like Eucalyptus, Peppermint or Lavender. I put this in a hairspray-type bottle) onto the baking soda mixture. Doing it this way seems to cut down on baking soda residue in my hair.
    5. use fingernails and really get into the scalp to break up dirt, oils and sebum, then rinse.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah T.

    I wonder if the adjustment period would be less for me since I only wash my hair every 3-4 days… I tried the “no ‘poo” method several years ago but wasn’t that impressed. Since then I’ve been washing once (I don’t repeat), rinse thoroughly, and I don’t condition. I very rarely use additional products (as in I have no idea when the last time was). If I need to at some point, I’ll try the lemon juice hair spray idea.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Becky Reply:

    Your adjustment time will be substantially less, since you’re already on your way to no ‘poo :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Megan R.

    I have been using no-poo for about 6 months or so and love it! After experimenting quite a bit I have found some “fixes” to many of the problems I was having, and it sounds like they might work for you, too!
    1. I use 1pt b.s. to 3pts water, pour it on my DRY hair and scrub, rinse after about 1 minute.
    2. I use 1pt ACV to 4pts water. I put them in an old shampoo bottle and add 1 cinnamon stick, a splash of vanilla, some cloves, and a chunk of whole nutmeg. I haven’t even smelled the vinegar since I made that change.
    3. Also, if your hair has a lot of residue built up, squeeze a lemon into a cup of water and use that as a rinse. It takes away all of the buildup!

    I hope this helps! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kathryn

    I tried this last summer (’09) for a couple of months. I eventually gave it up & went back to “organic” shampoos from the health food store.

    I found that with ‘no poo i always had baking soda residue in my hair and brush. I have long hair that tangles easily & so found this very difficult to handle. My hair felt gritty to me.

    Reading this over, i think i was using too much baking soda, but i don’t really want to try again.

    What DID make a huge difference for me was when i stopped using conventional commercial brands of shampoo 4 or 5 years ago. I found that my head doesn’t itch all the time and i don’t develop allergies to shampoos that don’t contain SLS or variants or any kind of paraben.

    I wish the no ‘poo method worked for me. At some time in the future i may give it another try.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • aniko

    I’ve been doing no ‘poo for almost 5 months and I just love it! I had to do lots of tweaking, too. I was recently given the idea by another no ‘pooer to boil the water with the baking soda! it makes a perfect solution and there is no settling. i boiled half gallon of water with the appropriate amount of baking soda (for me, 1 1/2 TBSP per cup of water), poured it into a half gallon canning jar which I now keep in the bathroom and refill my squirt bottle from that. That half gallon has lasted over a month, I think, and it’s still about half full. I use old dish soap squirt bottles for both the baking soda solution and the vinegar solution in the shower.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie @ Riddlelove

    Wow, this is so helpful! Thank you for honestly sharing your experience with it, along with the perks and drawbacks. The only thing stopping me is the fact that my husband LOVES good-smelling hair. Hmmm…. Maybe I can experiment with some essential oils? Or would that make my hair more oily?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Katie,
    I hear a lot of people use EOs for scent! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • renee @ FIMBY

    My hair is to short (I have buzz cut) to do much with but I use this system for my daughter long tresses:

    http://fimby.tougas.net/homemade-shampoo-and-conditioner

    I still use my homemade bar soap on my head and as a wash for her hair. Not sure that counts as no-poo.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • LuAnn

    Wow…I’d love to try this!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Becky

    I’ve been no ‘poo for a year now & love it. :) Once your hair adjusts, you don’t have to wash/rinse it more than once or twice a week, saving tons of time! Just make sure to clean your brushes well, as they are helping to remove excess sebum/dust/grime from your hair. That’s the build up on your brush Katie!

    [Reply to this comment]

    lori Reply:

    How do you clean your brush? I use water only on my hair (no bs/acv, etc. – truly just water) and the residue on my brush is so intense! Any idea on what that could be from?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Lori,
    The residue is intense, that’s the perfect word for it! I tend to just pick at the darn thing…if I use soapy water and another brush or comb to scrub it, it seems to barely do any good anyway. I always thought the residue was baking soda, but grime makes sense, too. Hmph.
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Rachel Reply:

    I just started ‘no-poo’ and am only using water as well. So far I am amazed! I haven’t seen many ‘water-only’ ‘no-pooers’ yet, but I am still researching. I have thick but fine oily hair. Normally I would wash my hair every day or it would oily on top and look yucky on day two…but I decided to brush my natural oils through my hair over and over prior to showering and then just use water. I towel dry my hair and then pin it up to dry. It looks wavy/curly and thicker and thicker! I can’t believe this! My husband said I looked like a movie star and that it looks like I spent hours on my hair…that was day (1)! Day two looked even better…WATER!! Who knew. I have wasted hours and years, lol :) :/ :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Laura @ Homemaking Joyfully

    I’ve been shampoo free (mostly) for over a year and LOVE it! We are currently traveling, moving to another state, and I am using conventional shampoo and noticing a huge difference in my hair. It’s limp and has no body.

    I have wavy hair and sometimes use products in my hair and find that I rarely need shampoo to get the products out. Usually making sure to rub the baking soda in down to the tips (rather than just the scalp) gets all of it out.

    However, I still haven’t found a natural conditioning method that works for me. Unfortunately, I’m still using conventional conditioner on my ends. Once we get settled in at our new place, I’m going to experiment again.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jamie

    I have been ‘poo free since May and I am loving it! I have long layered hair that is just past my shoulders and I wash it every third day.

    I put 1/2 Tbs in a 4oz travel bottle and fill it with water and shake it up. I like to use cold water because then I can feel where it is going on my scalp.

    For the cider rinse, I do 1/2 Tbs ACV in another 4oz travel bottle and fill it with water. That will last me two washes. How I distribute the ACV is I roll the ends of my hair into a low bun and pour it on the bun and squeeze it to distribute. My hair only needs it on the ends.

    My hair has so much more volume and a lovely natural wave now. And my husband actually prefers it, I thought he would be totally against the idea. It took about a month of feeling heavy, but I think I wasn’t using enough baking soda to start with too. I use a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush, otherwise I bet it would get nasty like yours Katie :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS

    I’ve been wondering about this for some time. I do NOT want to go through the transition period. I tried the oil cleansing method for skin and all I can say is AWFUL, the transition and the results. (Not to influence anyone, just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t for others.) I’ve gone back to washing with my homemade soap which is just perfect for my skin.

    Mind if I ask a few questions about this no-poo method?

    -I wash my hair 2x per week or less, and I don’t use conditioner. Would either of those make the transition less greasy, do you think?

    -What requires more water for rinsing, shampoo or baking soda?

    -Where’s a picture of your new cut?! :) I just cut 5 inches off last week. Even regular washing is so much easier with less hair!

    We already use baking soda (gently) for scrubbing skin and exfoliating, and of course for scrubbing sinks. I’d love to give this a try.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tara Reply:

    Oh Wardeh! So sorry the oil cleansing didn’t work out for you! I’m still amazed that it works for me. I guess we all need different things, huh?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cathy Reply:

    I would bet that if you’re already down to 2x a week, you won’t have a very oily transition.

    As for the water question, I feel like I use much less water with the no-poo method for a couple of reasons. First, I put the baking soda solution on before I start the shower (don’t know if this is standard protocol, but it works for me). Second, I think it rinses more quickly than shampoo, even with a high baking soda to water ratio (I end up with quite a range because I’m too lazy to measure and I often re-dilute in the middle because I don’t feel like refilling as often). Using less water is one of the things I really like about it. But since you’re already only washing 2x a week, you’re saving a bunch!

    That’s too bad the oil wash didn’t work. Did you play around with the type of oil and amount of castor oil? I have dry skin, so the oil washing brought immediate improvement, but I can’t speak for what it would do for oilier or combination skin.

    –Cathy

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Wardeh,
    I’m definitely no expert, but it sounds like you’re a great candidate for little transition. You only go to town once a week, right? tee hee – so just hide at home if you get a little greasy! ;) I always had the most trouble rinsing out conditioner, myself. It never feels like the baking soda doesn’t come out, but then it’s in the brush! With shorter hair, it’s been better. You’re not the only one asking for a pic of the new do – I’[ll have to have someone other than Leah take one! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Gail Reply:

    Oil cleansing method- I love it! I did, however, have to make some adjustments, like lowering the ratio of castor oil to EVOO- the skin on my nose and forehead would flake dreadfully. But I usually do it at night, and those enlarged pores just disappear! In the morning I just rinse with clear water, and use my homemade Madeon Hard Lotion to moisturize if I need to. I also had a problem with my scalp flaking when I used baking soda…I’ll have to try out some of the ideas others have presented here…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Esther N Reply:

    I wash my hair only twice a week and I have been doing no poo for a couple weeks now and I have noticed no extra grease at all so I would think you wouldn’t either.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tara

    I’ve also done this. Now with my dreadlocks I go back and forth between BS and vinegar and Dr. Bronners peppermint soap. I’ve even used kombucha vinegar in place of the ACV, which I really liked.

    Here’s a funny – once when I was freshly showered I went to go somewhere with my youngest son. After a few minutes in the car he started sniffing and said, ‘what’s that bad smell??’ I was thinking that someone must have left some food or something in the car that was hiding. So I asked him what it smelled like and he said, ‘it smells like dying easter eggs!’ LOL!! He was smelling my vinegar head! Sometimes I don’t rinse it out, just let it stay in. ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cathy Reply:

    Ooo–I’m going to have to try the kombucha vinegar when I run out of my current bottle. I’d forgotten about that option.

    I also use Dr. Bronners as my once-a-week soapy wash. I had used it while camping since I didn’t want to bother with BS and vinegar, and I really liked it.

    –Cathy

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  • Sheila

    My roommate said I should use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar because ACV would dye my blond hair reddish. Any idea if that’s true?

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    Jamie Reply:

    I have blond hair and it hasn’t done that to mine. It’s really quite diluted. On a side note, I feel like using baking soda instead of shampoo has made my blond hair a bit lighter and more shimmery. I might be imagining it though.

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  • Keilah

    The only problem I had was my transition period was forever, 8 weeks! Then I read somewhere about hard water and no poo. If you have hard water you need to boil the water first and SLOWLY add the baking soda(otherwise it foams over) and let it cool to a warm solution and use. It is a little bit more time consuming but my hair was instantly better after weeks of yucky.

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  • Jassica

    I tried the no ‘poo method a few years ago and hated it. I have long thick hair and the baking soda made it even stickier (for lack of a better term), making it difficult to work into my hair. But then again, I would just pour it into my palm and moisten it, then try to work it in. I think mixing it with water would work much better!

    I have since discovered something that works much better for me. I’ve found a couple of WAHM’s that sell homemade natural soaps and sell them online. So, I’m using a shampoo bar that is superfatted (more oil than is needed for the lye) with coconut oil. It works GREAT for my thick, curly hair, and even has a very nice lather. Now, even though I don’t often see it recommended with the shampoo bars, I still have to do a vinegar rinse. That makes all the difference! My hair is so much softer and easier to run my fingers through when it’s wet after the vinegar rinse.

    I do have a confession though. I have recently begun using “product” in my hair again after over 2 years of rarely ever using it. I’m sick of always having my hair in a ponytail because it’s frizzy or unruly! I like something that defines my curls and helps them hold. If someone could recommend something more natural that would help, I would be so grateful!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Amanda Reply:

    Jassica – I’m the same way. The only natural (no waste, no chemicals) solution I found to tame my curly hair is flax seed gel. I boil 1 T flax seeds (I buy in bulk at WF or another local grocery bulk bin) with 1 cup of water for about 10 min stirring constantly. Strain out the seeds with a cheesecloth, and you’re left with hair gel :). I keep it in the fridge for about a week – longer if I add grapefruit seed essential oil. Hope this helps!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jassica Reply:

    Ooh! I’ll have to try that! I have a big bag of flax seeds in my ‘fridge right now just waiting for a purpose. Thanks!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Amanda @ Simplify To Save

    Thank you for this. I’ve been wanting to give up shampoo, I think I’m going to take the big step once mine runs out in a few weeks. You mentioned that you have curly hair-did changing from shampoo to no poo improve your curls? Mine have been really limp since I had kids and I’ve wanted to figure out a natural way to encourage them to return…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Michelle Reply:

    Someone above mentioned naturallycurly.com and I want to second that recommendation. They have a whole section about going no poo and the forums there are great for getting questions answered.

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  • Erinn

    After my no ‘poo experiment, I determined the following:

    1) Baking soda seemed to work at first, but became less and less effective as a cleansing agent over time. It also made my hair brittle after a while. No bueno.

    2) I eventually ditched baking soda and switched over to the castile soap method, which works a lot better.

    3) Conditioner is a thing of the past. Vinegar does a better job, and costs a fraction of the price. And it’s eco.

    4) I’ve tried ACV, white vinegar and lemon juice – and white vinegar works best for me. I wish lemon juice worked, because I’m not fond of the vinegar smell… Although a few drops of peppermint essential oil covers the eu d’pickle fairly well.

    5) After washing with castile soap, I need half as much vinegar at rinsing time, around 1/4 cup to 2 quarts of cold water. Not sure why it does this, but I notice an immediately more ‘slippery’ feel to my vinegar-rinsed hair after a castile washing than after a baking soda or conventional shampoo washing.

    My hair changed texture, too – it’s much stronger than before, and less prone to split and broken ends. Also, it’s lighter; over time, it had turned a mousy, dull, drab brownish, but now I’m back to my former honey-blond state, and it’s rich and shiny!

    It’s all about experimentation…

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  • Ann

    I heard about this option from a hair stylist about a year ago – I just use the acv straight – so now I’ll try a few of the other options. I like the idea of castille soap since Ihave hard water.

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  • marcella

    I’m thinking that all that residue in your brush means that your hair isn’t nearly as clean as you would like to believe it to be, and that sticky feeling would be clue number two. Anne’s formula sounds like a good one for getting cleaner hair without all the chemicals. There are brands on the market without the sodium laurel sulfate and other scary things, though they do cost quite a bit more than the drugstore brands or the make it yourself brands. Seems all would work better than the baking soda.

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  • Frances

    I tried this once and gave up on it after a week. My hair was so greasy, I was having a hard time keeping up my professional appearance at work. After that week, I had major flaking issues for about a month. Now I use a shampoo bar, which gives my hair texture like never before and saves a plastic bottle.

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  • Tonya

    Just curious as it wasn’t completely clear. After you put the baking soda on your hair do you rinse with water first and then the ACV or do you just use the ACV as the only rinse? I have done the baking soda and loved it but haven’t gotten back into it…waiting for my shampoo bottle to be empty. But I wash my hair about every 3 days or so…at one point I was only washing once a week! I took showers everyday just didn’t wash my hair.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sonia Reply:

    I personally, rinse the baking soda first, then use the ACV. I think using them together kinda cancels each other out (neutralizes one another).

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Tonya,
    I rinse the baking soda out with water first, then spray the ACV on. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sonia

    I can honestly say I have NOT used shampoo in over a year. :) I went no-poo last October and I love it! My hair was short at the time and I was on maternity leave for a year so it was a perfect time to test it out! Now, I usually wash my hair 2x a week and can even go once I week at times. If I straighten my hair I usually can’t go the full week on one wash.. probably more oils are released when I iron it is my guess. I am also careful on who I mention this to as well because I know most people with say “Ewwn thats so gross, you don’t use shampoo???” I like to shock people in small doses haha. The people I work with already think I’m super ‘crunchy’. :) I have a hair dresser friend who I have told and she asked the other day if she could touch my hair and then was like wow this is really nice and healthy. (She doesn’t think she could no-poo though lol)

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  • CookinMommy

    I have been “no ‘poo” (that really IS more fun than “shampoo free!) for just over a year now, and I think my tendencies are exactly opposite yours- I cannot help experimenting. Several interesting things I found that might be useful:

    When starting out I needed a lot of soda in the mix and I used it frequently, every day or every other day. If I used too little or went more than 2 days without cleaning it I got the horrible oiliness that people talk about in the transition period, but if I was careful to clean it every day it was just fine.

    At some point I noticed that my hair was getting dry and brittle, so I adjusted the amount and frequency, first to every 3 or 4 days using 2T/C water, then later to once /week. For the record, I have waist length, straight, incredibly unruly hair.

    I find I have better results if I massage the scalp for a few minutes before washing. If it gets dry or flaky a little coconut oil massaged in about half hour beforehand helps.

    Kombucha vinegar gives a much better shine than anything else I have tried.

    I notice far less unruliness these days and tangles are easier to brush out than they used to be.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Stacy

    I’d like to try this but the transition period (and experimentation required) scares me a little. I work full time and need to be presentable.
    I attempted to go conditioner only at one point and after a week or so my hair didn’t feel like it was getting clean at all.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Stacy,
    My hunch is that the conditioner would hamper the “no ‘poo” success because it would coat your hair a bit, right? Depending on your hair style, you can still be presentable – I just wore it up in a clip for a while. Good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Fi

    I used the baking soda in the hand method for about a year with success. Travelling was a bit of a hassle so I gave it up, but I will try again with your idea of a premixed bottle. That sounds like an improvement.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Erin from Long Island

    I am really excited to see this! I did a huge vlog about this a few months ago. Do you add anything to your baking soda slurry? Maybe some herbal tea instead of just water, or use it to dilute the vinegar.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Erin from Long Island Reply:

    for example, Excessive oiliness can be remedied with astringent herbal shampoos that contain witch hazel, lemongrass, grapefruit, or tea tree.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah Faith

    My reasons for changing how we shampoo was more the concern for chemicals and sometimes I use diluted Doc Bronner’s as shampoo. It works fine, but it definitely strips oils because my hair gets very squeaky and flyaway after! But sometimes you need soap just for getting dirt or spitup or whatever out of your hair!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Holly

    I’ve been no ‘poo for about six months now, maybe more. My hair is short, so it’s been easier. I think the main trick is to rinse a LOT when you’re done. I never have baking soda residue on my brush, but I was warned to rinse my hair very well when washing.

    I also don’t do the ACV rinse, even though I had read that from the beginning.

    I saw questions regarding hair styling products. I think this system might be a bit difficult for someone using hair styling products, because those are additional chemicals that sit on your hair, so you might have to wash more often.

    I usually wash about once a week, and that works for me.

    My transition was 2 weeks, not six. And I didn’t have more grease. My hair felt dry, kind of like straw, which was exactly what my friend who recommended no ‘poo to me experienced. Straw is probably easier to get through than grease, but it’s all worth it in the end.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • shannon

    Great post and lots of helpful hints from the commenters. I would like to try this but also don’t like the transition period. Yuck. I’ve got very oily hair so I think I’ll give it a go with double the baking soda and take it from there.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jennifer

    Just curious…what do you use for your kids’ hair?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Jennifer,
    Sometimes my baking soda bottle, but we also have some little samples still of Keys Soap castile based shampoo and TruKid shampoo (a compromise, not totally natural, but way fewer chemicals than Johnson’s). I really should probably only wash their hair once a week regardless – we were just talking about this tonight after their bath (hubs used the bit of Johnson’s we still have left). My son thought it was a GREAT idea to only wash hair once a week! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Megan R.

    I use Dr. Bronners on my kids’ hair. My husband uses Dr. Bronners too. I haven’t been able to make Dr. Bronners work for me, but the no ‘poo works wonders!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Melissa @Cellulite Investigation

    In Kate James book, The Truth About Beauty, she mentions

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  • Diana

    Thank you soooo much for this! I’ve been thinking about going no ‘poo for a while, but wasn’t exactly sure how to do this. I think I will definitely make this my last bottle of shampoo!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Melissa @Cellulite Investigation

    Oops, I see my whole comment didn’t go through. Maybe it’s because I tried to link to the products I mentioned. To recap, Kat James recommends a mineral hair cleanser in her book. I haven’t tried it, but it inspired me to use the clay minerals I was using as a face mask instead of baking soda in my no poo routine. It works just as good as baking soda and doesn’t leave the residue. If you’re interested, drop me a note and I will give more details about the products.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Peggy Reply:

    I am interested-I have extremely hard water and I need a safe shampoo alternative for my curly hair. My hair is fragile.

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  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I need to do this. I really do. I’ve been meaning to for…months. Since my “natural” shampoo ran out. I end up just showering a couple times a week and borrowing my husband’s crappy shampoo. lol. I used to shower everyday but once I got into college I slowly did it less and less often. I can easily go 3 – 4 days now before my hair starts looking blah. My hair is short now anyway. I did once have a box of baking soda in the shower and I dumped some on my hair and scrubbed and rinsed…it seemed to work just fine. I’m sure I’d do well with this. I just keep using the excuse “but I don’t have a bottle to mix it in.” How lame am I?!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Clara M

    I normally read your posts from my safe RSS feed, but I had to comment on here. My reason for coming out of my shell is to say this:

    Locks of Love does NOT give wigs to cancer patients for free.

    It SELLS wigs on a sliding scale to children who are suffering from permanent hair loss.

    That is… The small amount of hair that is actually usable gets made into wigs. Only about 10% of the hair gets made into wigs. The rest of it gets sold to wig makers or simply gets thrown out.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Clara,
    Makes me glad I didn’t send a $ donation as well! That’s a bummer, but still a good excuse for a major haircut change. ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Clara M Reply:

    Dramatic haircuts are always welcomed in my book!

    The hair is still going to a good cause, it’s just not the cause everyone thinks it is. =)

    [Reply to this comment]

    aniko Reply:

    for future reference, pantene beautiful lengths takes donations to provide wigs for free to cancer patients of all ages, not just children as locks of love does (or used to, that may have changed.) also, pantene requires less hair than locks of love. http://bit.ly/czslbO

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Aniko,
    Thank you, I’m definitely bookmarking that one! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • 'Becca

    I went off shampoo 6 years ago using a vinegar-only method, and I’m thrilled with it. I wash my hair less than half as often as I used to, and it looks better! I have longish, thick, wavy hair.

    Am I the only one who thinks “no ‘poo” sounds like some kind of digestive problem?? The term bothers me a little when I see it written, a lot more when anyone says it aloud. What’s wrong with “shampoo-free”?

    I read in several places that you can wash your hair with coffee grounds, but my experiment with that was a disaster!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Dana

    I went shampoo and conditioner free about 4 months ago and I love it! I don’t think anyone has mentioned using olive oil with the apple cider vinegar mix. I use this mix and it works quite well for my thick frizzy hair. You have to adjust for your own preferences of course but it does help with the dryness made by the baking soda.

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  • Julie

    I was poo-free for about six months with GREAT results – My hair was much more manageable and shiny!

    Then I got pregnant and the whole system failed. Not only was my hair impossibly sticky/greasy after a wash. (But the nail in the coffin was that the smell of vinegar was aggravating my already awful morning (noon/night) sickness!)

    Since switching back to shampoo, I have been delighted to discover that my hair only needs to be washed once a week. (I don’t know if it’s a pregnancy thing, or the result of six months of non-shampooing . . . but I’m going to go with it for as long as my hair will let me – or until my tummy will let me go back to vinegar!)

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  • Emily @ Live Renewed

    Great post Katie! I feel like I learn something new every time I read about the no ‘poo method (and I agree with ‘Becca that I really don’t like that term, but that’s what everybody call it – sigh).

    Anyway, you are definitely right that It’s not a hands off method the way the conventional shampoo and conditioner is, BUT, I think that it has simplified my life and my routine b/c even though I have to spend time mixing my solution each time I am going to wash my hair, and spead time tweaking when my hair gets a little off – for me, I have saved SO much time not having to “do” my hair and not messing with all kinds of products to smooth or de-frizz or add volume or whatever. I don’t use any other products on my hair anymore and my hair looks better than ever!

    So to me it’s a trade off that’s worth it because it has simplified my getting ready routine and simplified my bathroom cabinet, and it’s so stinkin’ cheap – I don’t think I’ll ever go back to regular shampoo.

    And thanks for the link love! ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lori

    I tried Castile Soap for shampoo earlier this year. It was aweful, absolutely aweful. I read that it would be at first but my hair looked and felt like a birds nest and smelled like puke. It was impossible to brush. Vinegar made it brushable but thats when it would smell like my baby spit up on my head. I couldn’t take it after a few weeks. I went back to regular shampoo. Then I tried backing soda and vinegar rinse. I liked that my head felt clean and in a pinch I would use the baking soda again, but in the amount of vinegar I have to use for my hair to be managable made me smell like vinegar. My husband told me I smelled like his salt and vinegar chips whenever we went to bed (I shower in the mornings btw). So I would rather smell nice for my husband and trust that God will take care of the toxins from my shampoo. I do use organic shampoo and conditioner and I only wash 2x a week and just wet and condition on the other days. Its the conditioner I really need. I hate having to comb my hair for an hour to get all the tangles out. I like it to be nice and soft :)

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  • Andrea

    I’m totally with you on the deodorant thing – but not sure I’ll be joining you in the no-poo days. I can’t bear the greasy days.

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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