How to Wash Your Hair with Baking Soda and Vinegar

How to Wash Your Hair with Baking Soda & Vinegar

Why this method?

Baking soda and vinegar is an incredibly simple and easy way to clean your hair without shampoo. Since I am always on a mission to reduce my exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and simplify my beauty routine, it felt right to be using a natural, time-tested method to clean my hair.

Now, you might be asking, what’s so bad about shampoo? Shampoos can contain a lot of harmful ingredients. I am by no means an expert on this, but in my research, I’ve repeatedly found the worst chemical-offenders to be:

  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (used as a foaming agent in shampoo and is a possible carcinogen)
  • DEA/Diethanolamine (an emulsifying agent that can create carginogenic compounds when combined with other chemicals found in personal care products)
  • Parabens (used as preservatives to extend shelf life, but many of these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer)
  • Fragrance (the word “fragrance” on a label can mean the presence of over 4,000 separate chemical ingredients; scary!)

How I got into this method…

When I found out what was really in shampoo back in 2011, I vowed to stop using it and so I switched to the baking soda and vinegar method.  This worked really well for about four months. Then I fell off the baking soda wagon.

As my hair grew out and I got a bit lazier, I began resorting back to shampoo and trying to find natural brands that didn’t contain the ingredients listed above. The funny thing is that I eventually found my way back to baking soda because it actually works better than shampoo!

A few months ago I began struggling with my shoulder-length hair being really limp and flat due to the Seattle weather. I tried to remedy this with mousse and styling products, which then caused build-up. To remedy that, I started incorporating a clarifying shampoo every few weeks, but this dried out my hair, so I added in an intensive conditioner that only made the lifeless hair problem worse. Plus, with the winter cold, my hair was getting really static-y. Urgh. I was ready to chop it all off and go back to short hair when I remembered the baking soda and vinegar hair care method. Could this solve all my problems? Yes, and it did.

After being back on this method again for six months I can honestly tell you that I will never stop using it.  My hair now has more body, volume, and strength than it did with all the crazy shampooing, products, and special hair care nonsense that I was doing before. And now my routine is incredibly simple: wash with baking soda, rinse with vinegar, blow dry, and maybe flat iron the front strands if I feel like it. That’s it. Now that I’ve been using this method for awhile, I’ve found that my hair doesn’t get as oily as it did before (shampoos strip our scalps of natural oils so this increases oil production to compensate) and I only have to use this method every 2 – 3 days.  The baking soda and vinegar method is cheap, effective, simple and chemical-free and I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

How to Wash Your Hair with Baking Soda & Vinegar

Method – Part 1: Baking Soda

It might be hard to adjust to the lack of shampoo foaming action at first, but I promise this is worth it in the end.
Start by mixing 1 part baking soda with 3 – 4 parts water.  I was making a large batch of this and then keeping it in my shower, but I noticed it wasn’t as effective as the individual batches I used to make. Then a reader (thanks Heather!) informed me that water activates baking soda and so now I am back to mixing individual batches in travel-sized squeeze bottles (pictured above).
I have shoulder length hair and use about 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1/2 cup water. You can adjust this depending on your hair length.

To Apply:

  • Apply the baking soda and water mixture to dry or wet hair by applying it to the roots at the scalp.
  • I like to rub it into my scalp for about a minute and give myself a mini head massage. It feels great and it helps to make sure I get my scalp clean.
  • I don’t wash the ends with this mixture because the rest of my hair doesn’t get super oily.
  • Rinse with warm water.

Method – Part 2: Vinegar

After washing and rinsing with the baking soda mixture, you’ll want to apply a vinegar rinse. I’ve found that white vinegar does not leave as strong of a smell compared to apple cider vinegar so that is what I use in my rinse. Mix 1 part white vinegar with 4 parts water.
To minimize the vinegar smell, I like to add a variety of essential oils to the vinegar mixture.  Here are my favorite combos:
I usually mix a big batch of this ahead of time and keep it in a squeeze bottle in the shower.

To Apply:

  • Tilt your head back, close your eyes (to avoid getting this mixture in your eyes), and distribute through your hair.
  • After a few seconds, rinse with cold water.
One of the ways that I’ve changed my method recently is rinsing my hair with cold water after the vinegar rinse. The cold water helps to seal in moisture, smooth the hair, and add shine. I have straight hair and have noticed that this really made a difference with eliminating frizz and static.
Since my hair is longer than when I used to use this method, I first noticed the vinegar smell leftover in my hair much more. To remedy this, I simply add two drops of lavender essential oil to my hair brush and run it through my hair as I blow dry it. Works like a charm!
And, if you enjoyed this tutorial, check out my other DIY and natural beauty recipes!

Reader Questions & Concerns:

“My hair seems oily – is this normal? What do I do?”

Many readers experience an adjustment period for the first few weeks where their hair is oilier than normal. Shampoos strip our scalps of natural oils so our skin has to produce more oil to compensate. When we stop using shampoo and harsh detergents, our bodies will adjust to this and will not continue to produce as much oil. When I used shampoo, I usually only washed my hair 2 – 3 times a week so I did not experience a very long or noticeable adjustment period. However, if you shampoo daily, you might notice this more than others. To help with oiliness (or just to extend the time between washes), try my DIY Dry Shampoo!

“How often should I use this method? Will I eventually be able to not wash my hair anymore?”

I can only tell you what has worked well for me and I like to use this method 3 times a week. On the days when I don’t use this method, I’ll wear my hair up or tied back. The point of this method isn’t that you’ll never have to wash your hair again (I think that would be physically impossible as our scalp will always produce oils :) ), but for most people you’ll be able to scale back to using this method every other day or every 2 – 3 days.

“My hair seems a little dry. Have others had this problem?”

Some folks have had issues with hair dryness, especially with the ends of their hair. The ends of your hair should not be oily so when you use the baking soda, focus on the scalp. If I scrubbed the baking soda on my ends, I did notice they got a little drier than normal. If I feel like my hair is getting a little dry, I like to apply a dab coconut oil (I use Tropical Traditions) to the ends before bedtime and wash it out the next morning. Note: if you overdo it on the coconut oil and put too much on your hair, it will be really hard to get out using this method.

“Is this method safe for color-treated hair?”

As far as I can tell, yes. I’ve used this method on my hair when I used henna and once when I used an at-home coloring kit and and never had any issues with this. Several readers have also experienced great results with chemical color-treated hair.

“I don’t think this method works for my hair. What are some other options?”

Some readers have had great results with this method, while others haven’t. I can’t tell you if this method will work great for your hair type, but if it doesn’t work for you, then that’s ok too! There are definitely natural brands of shampoo/conditioner out there without the harsh ingredients. Check out EWG’s Skin Deep database to find a brand that works for you.

Have you tried the baking soda and vinegar method? Any tips that have worked well for you?
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