Updated: Jul 15, 2019
I've been using the no 'poo method on my hair for over 7 years now. This method uses baking soda to wash the hair and vinegar to condition it. Not only is this method effective, healthy, and frugal, but it is also easy to tailor this method to different hair types.
In this guide, I'm sharing:
basic recipes and methods for baking soda shampoo and vinegar conditioner,
ways to tailor this method for different hair types,
what to expect during the transition period and afterwards,
optional add-ins for the baking soda and vinegar mixtures, and
frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about how to use this method effectively.
Why ditch shampoo and conditioner?
Conventional shampoos and conditioners are loaded with chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed through your skin, and thereby contribute to health problems.
Organic shampoos and conditioners are very expensive, and many of these still contain questionable ingredients.
Washing your hair with shampoo can strip your hair of its own natural moisturizers.
Baking soda and vinegar can make your hair look great, and even reduce the number of hair styling products that you need.
Many people find that they can wash their hair less often when using baking soda and vinegar hair care.
The Basic Recipes and Methods
Here are the basic shampoo and conditioner recipes, and how to use them. These are just a starting point, so see the other sections below if you need to know more about how to tailor these recipes to meet your individual needs.
Baking Soda Shampoo
How to Make Baking Soda Shampoo:
Thoroughly clean out an old shampoo bottle (or use one like this).
For each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add 1/2 Tb baking soda (for normal or dry hair) OR 1 Tb baking soda (for oily hair). Use a funnel to prevent a mess if your bottle has a small opening.
Add water and fill to the top the bottle. Put the lid on and shake well.
How to Use Baking Soda Shampoo:
Give the shampoo bottle a quick shake before each use.
Wet your hair. Apply the Baking Soda Shampoo to your scalp, roots, and hair (only as far down as hair may be oily). This shampoo is very watery, so I find it works best to just run the shampoo bottle all along the roots on the top and back of my head, which lets a trickle of the solution out.
Use your fingertips to scrub your scalp.
OPTIONAL: Allow the shampoo to stay on your hair for a few minutes for extra cleansing action.
Thoroughly rinse your hair.
What Kind of Vinegar Should I Use?
This recipe works well with either raw apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar. If you have chlorinated city water, raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice to use.
If you have well water or other less-chlorinated water, using raw apple cider vinegar can result in lots of little SCOBYs (colonies of beneficial bacteria) growing in the conditioner. These SCOBYs are not harmful, but they are hard to get out of your hair! So, if you have well water or less-chlorinated water, use white vinegar. (Since conventional white vinegar is typically made with GMO corn, I buy organic white vinegar to use in my hair conditioner.)
How to Make Vinegar Conditioner:
Thoroughly clean out an old conditioner bottle (or use one like this).
For each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add 1 Tb of vinegar (for normal or oily hair) OR 2 Tb apple cider vinegar (for dry hair). Use a funnel to prevent a mess if your bottle has a small opening.
If desired, add 4-6 drops of lavender essential oil (or other essential oil of your choice) per 8 ounces of water.
Add water and fill to the top of the bottle. Put the lid on and shake well.
How to Use Vinegar Conditioner:
Give the conditioner bottle a quick shake before each use.
After washing your hair with Baking Soda Shampoo, apply the Vinegar Conditioner to the scalp, roots, and hair.
Massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Let the conditioner stay on for a few minutes.
Thoroughly rinse your hair.
How to Tailor the Method Depending on Your Hair Type
Depending on your hair as well the time of year, you may need to modify your shampoo and conditioner recipes to make them work better. For instance, my hair tends to be more dry in the winter and more oily in the summer. It is very easy to tailor the baking soda and vinegar mixtures to meet the needs of your hair.
If your hair seems overly dry, try one of the following:
Decrease the amount of baking soda in your shampoo, or even skip the baking soda altogether if your hair is very dry
Increase the amount of vinegar and/or essential oils in your conditioner
Decrease the length of time you leave the baking soda shampoo on your hair
Increase the amount of time you leave the vinegar conditioner on your hair
Wash your hair less often, such as once every 2-7 days
Try one of the optional add-ins listed below
If your hair seems overly oily, try one of the following:
Increase the amount of baking soda in your shampoo
Decrease the amount of vinegar and/or essential oils in your conditioner
Increase the length of time you leave the baking soda shampoo on your hair
Decrease the amount of time you leave the vinegar conditioner on your hair
Condition your hair less often, such as once every 2-7 days
The Dreaded Transition Period
To really give Baking Soda and Vinegar Haircare a fair shot, make sure you try this method for at least a month. When the hair and scalp are accustomed to storebought shampoo and conditioner, the scalp generally produces more oil because the shampoo has stripped the natural oils off the skin. When switching to Baking Soda and Vinegar haircare, it generally takes 1-to-4 weeks for the scalp to normalize oil production. For some people, the transition period lasts up to 3 months. This transition period often makes people give up on using the no 'poo method, but there are ways to make this period more manageable.
For instance, during my own transition away from storebought shampoo and conditioner, my hair was greasier so I found it beneficial to wash my hair every day (even though I had previously only washed my hair once every 2 days). After a few weeks, my scalp was able to normalize oil production, so I was able to switch back to washing my hair every other day. And I was surprised to see that my hair was actually less oily on the second day than it had been when I used storebought shampoo and conditioner.
What to Expect After the Transition Period
For many people, myself included, baking soda and vinegar haircare leads to healthier hair and scalp. Be prepared for the fact that your hair will probably feel different using this method than it did when using storebought shampoo and conditioner. My hair feels more soft now, and it also never feels quite so squeaky clean as it did with storebought shampoo.
Commonly, people also find that they don't need to use as many hair products as they did previously. My own hair tended to have lots of fly-aways when I was using storebought shampoo and conditioner, but there are many less since I switched to using baking soda and vinegar. The no 'poo method also brought out more of the natural curl in my hair.
Depending on your hair type, you might find it beneficial to add one of the following to your baking soda and vinegar haircare. Although I generally just use the basic recipes listed above, there have been a few times over the last 7 years when I've felt like I needed a bit of extra conditioning (such as when I've been swimming frequently), and my favorite method to deal with that is by adding raw honey to my conditioner.
Raw honey can be added to the Vinegar Conditioner to provide extra conditioning power. A good starting place is to add 1 tsp of raw honey per 8 ounces of water. Make sure to use warm water in the conditioner bottle to help the honey dissolve properly.
Some people find that it works well to add sea salt to their Baking Soda Shampoo, or to replace the baking soda with sea salt altogether. Although this never worked well for me, feel free to experiment to find what works best for your own hair.
Other Options - Rye Flour, Egg Wash, Applesauce, Plain Water, and More!
Some people find that baking soda and vinegar don't work very well for their hair. In those instances, there are many other no 'poo methods that can be tried, including using rye flour, eggs, applesauce, milk kefir, plain water, and more! Baking soda and vinegar have worked so well for me that I've never needed to try any of these other methods. However, everyone is different, so if you need more information about using those other methods, this site has oodles of information about other no 'poo methods.
Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can baking soda and vinegar haircare be used for kids?
It is certainly safe to use for kids, but generally most pre-adolescent kids don't actually need to use any shampoo and conditioner at all. Obviously, the vinegar solution WILL burn if it gets in the eyes.
Will this leave my hair smelling bad?
No. As long as the vinegar conditioner is thoroughly rinsed from the hair, there should be no vinegar odor left behind. Additionally, the essential oils in the conditioner can leave the hair smelling quite nice.
Will baking soda and vinegar lighten my hair?
No, this method does not change the color of your hair.
Are baking soda and vinegar safe to use on colored hair?
Yes. I don't have any personal experience with this since my hair is undyed, however many others have reported that baking soda and vinegar work fine with colored hair.
Does this method work well for very curly/kinky hair?
Yes. I don't have any personal experience, however many others have reported that baking soda and vinegar work fine with very curly/kinky hair. You may need to experiment a bit to determine the correct baking soda and vinegar ratios for your curly hair.
Can I use baking soda and vinegar on my hair after swimming?
Because pool chemicals and salt water can be very drying for hair, it works best to NOT use the baking soda wash after swimming. Instead, just condition the hair with the vinegar conditioner. Additionally, wetting the hair with plain water prior to swimming and rinsing the hair with plain water after swimming will help to reduce the drying effects of pool or ocean water.
Are you still using storebought shampoo and conditioner? Why not give the baking soda and vinegar method a try?
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