No ‘Poo: Get Beautiful Hair with Just Baking Soda & Vinegar

Truly natural or organic shampoos can be pretty pricey, but you don’t need to drop big bucks for shiny, healthy hair. It might sounds like the recipe for a hair volcano, but baking soda and vinegar work great as shampoo and conditioner substitutes. Folks who use baking soda and vinegar instead of shampoo often call this technique the  “no ‘poo” or “no shampoo” method.

Here are some tips on how to wash your hair with baking soda and vinegar!

Why Do No ‘Poo?

Like I mentioned above, it’s much cheaper than truly natural or organic shampoo and conditioner, but why not just grab a cheap bottle of Herbal Essences and be done with it, right? The trouble with conventional shampoo, including faux natural brands like Herbal Essences, is that they contain potentially harmful ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and fragrance.

For me, fragrance is the worst synthetic chemical in beauty products. “Fragrance” is actually an unregulated term that could refer to any cocktail of thousands of largely under-tested chemicals. Companies can get away with this misleading labeling under the guise of “proprietary information.” Meanwhile, we’re washing our hair with potential allergens and carcinogens. Boo on that!

I used to wash my hair with shampoo every other day, and after a few months doing no ‘poo, I only have to wash it once or twice a week, depending on how active I am. That means that not only do you save money, but you save water and the energy used to heat it for all of those longer showers.

Before we get into the ins and out of no ‘poo on the next page, I think it’s important to talk about one downside to making this switch: many people experience a breaking in period.

The Breaking In Period

I will warn you right now that almost everyone who switches to no ‘poo initially does have a breaking in period that can last from a few days to even a few weeks while your scalp adjusts. Some folks write the no ‘poo thing off after just a week or less, saying that it doesn’t work, but chances are that is because their body hasn’t gotten used to this more natural method for cleaning their hair.

Shampoo strips your hair of natural moisture, so your scalp might still be in oil-production overdrive for a little while while you adjust. The breaking in period can be pretty unfun, but there are a couple of things you can do to make it easier on yourself.

If you have short hair, brush it regularly. This helps distribute the oils more evenly, so your hair won’t look so greasy during the transition. Brushing can help distribute the oil in long hair, too, and you might want to go for updos, like pony tails or buns until your hair adjusts.

On the next page, check out my basic no ‘poo recipe and then some tips from fellow no-’pooers, including info on no ‘poo for curly hair!

Image Credit: Creative Commons phoot by trenttsd

No Poo

The Basic No ‘Poo Recipe

There are a couple of different ways that you can do this thing, but the basic idea is that you “wash” your hair in baking soda, rinse it thoroughly, then follow with a diluted vinegar rinse that you also rinse out thoroughly.

What you’ll keep in your shower are a water-tight container full of baking soda, and a squeeze bottle with your vinegar mixture. The amount of baking soda you use and the vinegar to water ratio that works for you really depends on your hair. If your hair is oily, you’ll want to up the baking soda and use less vinegar in your rinse. For dry hair, go the opposite direction. Here’s what works for me:

1. Pour about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the palm of your hand, and moisten it. Massage it into your hair and your scalp. Wait a minute, then rinse.

2. Combine 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar and 1 cup water in your squeeze bottle. You can do this in advance, so you don’t have to mix it up every time you wash, and you probably won’t need the whole cup for a single washing. Give the bottle a good shake, then squeeze some of the vinegar mixture onto your scalp. Massage it into your scalp and your hair, wait another minute or two, and rinse thoroughly.

Like I said, this is the mixture that works for me, but depending on your hair type, you may need to adjust the amounts of baking soda and vinegar that you use.

Up next: Check out some details on no ‘poo for curly hair and some tips from fellow no-’pooers!

no poo curly hair

No ‘Poo for Curly Hair

The most common question I get when I talk about no ‘poo is whether it works on thick or curly hair. My hair is thick and a little bit wavy, and it works just fine for me, but I couldn’t speak for truly curly hair. A little research turned up an account from Lorissa from Beautiful Somehow who did a 30 day no ‘poo experiment. Here’s what she had to say:

I am so completely happy with my curly hair now! The curls are bigger, more defined, and not as frizzy as before. I am still using a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of mousse to set the curls. I am currently looking for a more natural alternative for it though. So if you know of one, please share!

You can read all about her no ‘poo experience over at Beautiful Somehow, and if you have any tips for an alternative to mousse, I bet she’d love your suggestions!

Tips from Fellow No-’Pooers

Stephanie Moram from Good Girl Gone Green does a slightly different mix for her hair. She recommends about 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of water, and about the same ratio for vinegar. You can read about her no ‘poo method here.

My Healthy Green Family doesn’t like to call this method no ‘poo, but over there, Free Range Mama talks about the baking soda and vinegar method that she uses. She likes the same ratio as Stephanie recommends, and she also talks a little bit about a common question that folks have when they’re new to no ‘poo: the vinegar smell. As she describes, that smell should fade quickly as your hair dries. If it doesn’t, try using less vinegar in your mix next time.

Do any of you do the no ‘poo thing? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you – and what hasn’t! – in the comments.

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Kevin Cook
Kevin Cookabout a year ago


I was excited to read this article, because I don't trust corporate America to have our health in mind when they create products. So I've been on the baking soda plan for more than a year, and used it with my children, as well. Recently I started noticing that my hair seemed to be getting a lot thinner, which is odd since I'm 50 and have always had thick hair. A little late to start going bald when it's not in the family.

Yesterday I looked at my hair in the mirror, after seeing a bunch more hair in my comb, and was shocked by how thin it had become. I started researching minoxidil and wondering how this could be happening to me. Then it occurred to me that I never had problems until I started using baking soda shampoo. I just looked up "baking soda and hair loss" on Google and found several pieces about how it burns your hair because it is very alkaline. i'm going to stop immediately and hope that the damage isn't permanent.

Kathryn G.
Kathryn G.about a year ago

Good article! I'm always delighted to find another no-pooer. In response to your question, I've been doing baking soda/Apple cider vinegar for nearly five years and wouldn't go back to commercial products for anything. I have thick, wavy hair and always had trouble finding a shampoo and conditioner that didn't leave it looking and feeling kind of greasy, gloppy and icky.

My routine is to wash my hair every fourth or fifth day with 1 tablespoon baking soda in a cup of warm water, followed by a rinse using 2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar with live cultures. In the beginning I used 1 tablespoon ACV, but later found that 2 work better for my hair, leaving it silky-feeling and soft. The other days, I do water only and a quick scalp massage.

I blogged about my experience for awhile, and more recently wrote about it on Squidoo ("Could you give up your shampoo and conditioner?")

I hope someday to get to the water only method, but I've a ways to go. By the fifth or sixth day, my hair still feels lovely and clean, but in the mirror is hanging slightly greasy and clumpy, so I wash it again.

Your article is so well done. Thank you for sharing it here.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiranabout a year ago


Syd H.
Syd H.1 years ago

If you have dandruff, you might try limiting animal products and eliminating gluten. Along with the baking soda wash (for skin too) that's what rid it completely for me.

Teresa W.
Teresa W.1 years ago


Nichola Mac D
Nichola Mac D1 years ago

very good, I did wonder if it would work for me as I have curly hair, I'll check out 'at Beautiful Somehow' and see how she got on!

Timonberg T.
Past Member 1 years ago

That’s a nice site you people are carrying out there..
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Leng Maasland-Rivera

i have been seeing and reading a lot of no-poo approach. and im getting very curious that will be trying this soon. i have been doing the vinegar though. its a hair rinse as they call it. i boil 2 cups of water put in rosemary for anti-dundruf (but you could use whatever herbs you want) and once its cooled i add 1-2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, you could add a couple of drops of essential oil if you fancy. and make sure thats its not hot when you use it.

in the first 2 weeks i have been doing my hair rinse 2x a week but now its only once a week. and i must say i got good results, my hair is not as dry as before and my dundruf is lessened.

hope this helps somehow.