Shampoo-Free: An Update

Approximately 18 months ago I decided to try going shampoo-free, or “no poo”. What this means is that I stopped using shampoo and conditioner to wash my hair, and switched to to baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead. This naturally leads into the question of how I wash my hair without shampoo.

I have a food container filled with baking soda in my shower, and I scoop out one or two teaspoons into my hand, add a bit of water to make a paste, and put it on my hair. I concentrate on the roots mostly, making sure that I work it through well, and then I rinse. To condition my hair I use a solution of roughly eight parts water to one part organic apple cider vinegar, which I put in an old water bottle in my shower. I pour a little bit on my head (I would guess a few tablespoons), trying to cover my hair evenly, and rinse it. That’s it.

Why No Shampoo?
No poo is easy, but that’s not really a compelling reason to do it in and of itself. At least I don’t think so. Dusting is also easy, but I don’t do that. So what compelled me to channel my inner hippie and wash my hair this way? There are a few reasons. The first is that I wanted to use less plastic, and I can find baking soda in cardboard boxes and apple cider vinegar in glass. The second is that this is much cheaper than using shampoo – especially nice shampoo. And finally, I could eat baking soda and apple cider vinegar. They don’t contain hormone disrupters or suspected carcinogens like some conventional shampoos.

How Shampoo-Free is Working
When I first blogged about going shampoo-free, I was only a few weeks in. I wasn’t raving about how awesome it was, like some people do. But I also wasn’t throwing in the towel in disgust, like other people do. I found that my hair was much the same as ever. I couldn’t skip a day washing it or I became a grease-monster, but since I shower daily anyway, it was a non-issue. And so I stuck with it for the past year and a half.

I did cheat once, on a spa visit. The next day I returned to baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and all was well. Some people report an adjustment period during which their hair is awful and then gets way better, but I haven’t personally experienced that. I seem to be able to switch back and forth without any issues, at least within reason. And so while I’m still not raving about how awesome no poo is, I’m sticking with it.

Water Hardness and No Poo
I have discovered a wrench in the shampoo-free works, and that’s hard water. I live in Vancouver, where the water is extremely soft. In fact, they make a brand of laundry soap called “Vancouver Only”, which works only in our very soft water. I have always heard complaints about washing hair in hard water, and I have found that when I travel, my standard hair-washing regimen doesn’t work as well. Even in Washington State or San Diego, which aren’t places I personally associate with super-hard water, there was a noticeable difference in my hair after a few days. It was greasier and I had to use more baking soda and vinegar to get a decent result.

Apparently, I am not the only one who has found that going shampoo-free works better in soft water. I found some instructions online about how to use no poo with hard water, and the next time I travel I may switch up my regimen to avoid the grease monster look and itchy scalp.

Think of the Children!
I have a confession to make. While I have been shampoo-free for 18 months, my kids have not. I buy them a store brand that I am comfortable with for two main reasons. The first is that shampoo is just a whole lot easier when you have a kid who objects to hair-washing of any kind (cough Jacob cough). The second is that baking soda or apple cider vinegar in the eyes sting, and I appreciate that kids’ shampoos are formulated to be more pH neutral. It’s also why I didn’t use soap on my babies’ hair, even though I used it on the rest of them. I feel slightly hypocritical to be going all natural on myself and not on my kids, but I’m doing the best I can, and I am very selective about the shampoo I buy for Hannah and Jacob.

What about you? Have you ever tried no poo? How did it work for you? Or would you be interested in trying it? And if so, what’s holding you back? I’d love to hear!

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  1. Been thinking about it, haven’t followed through yet. I have switched to bigger bottles though to avoid plastic waste as good as I can – and I don’t shower daily to save on energy and soap. We have very soft water too, so may give it a go!

  2. i went for it and was poo-free for about 3 months. I cheated once too when I went for a hair cut, and it threw a total wrench into the works for another week or so. I stopped because, well… I think I was getting tired of the regime and the smell. I’ve started using Klorane brand shampoo, I use a dime size portion, and I only wash my hair once every 3 days or so. It’s a good balance for me. I’m still rejecting conditioner, but as my hair is growing I am finding that harder to maintain. We’ll see how that goes. 🙂
    Jen’s last post … Camping with a PreschoolerMy Profile

  3. I have tried using baking soda and vinegar, but our water is to hard. I read the info at the link you posted and will give that a try.

  4. I’m not sure I have the discipline.
    My hair is very heavy and tends to be oily at the roots.
    I have a LOT of hair too… Volume is never and issue, and neither is lack of shine…
    As it is, with a regular good quality shampoo with “clarifying” properties it takes a long time to get my hair clean with the traditional lathering from root to tip. In fact I want to get it cut again because it’s taking TOO long to wash! I don’t like washing everyday either, and the clarifying shampoo seems to let me get away with up to 3 days! I use a heavy duty thick conditioner on the ends only that sits in for at least one minute wihile I do the rest of the shower routine. I am proud of my hair (to a fault) and it’s natural smoothness, lack of damage (no curling, flattening nor blow dryer except for special events)… I know it will all change when the gray becomes more obvious, but I’m hoping I have the willpower to accept it graciously!
    Long story short. It took me a long time to get the right hair care formula, and I don’t have the courage to mess it up. I fight my plastic battle in other areas. Sorry.
    *pol’s last post … Lakeside House is GoneMy Profile

    • You certainly don’t have to apologize to me. I’m sure there are areas where you’re plastic-free that I am not. We’re all doing our own thing, and if you want to use shampoo, I’m not about to judge you. As I said, I use it on my kids, so I would have no leg to stand on.

  5. Not there yet but I do try not to wash it too often. As for Theo, well for some reason he loves having his hair washed but it’s the evil lather that really gets him excited. Washing it out, well that’s an exercise in wrestling!
    harriet Fancott’s last post … What I learned in JulyMy Profile

  6. I have super dry hair that is not only dry naturally, but extra dry because I dye it as well. I have serious doubts to whether this would work for me. I don’t really understand how no poo would work on my hair without using conditioner. My hair is extremely thick and knots easily. I can’t imagine that I could get a comb through my hair without conditioner. Just not feeling it at this point.
    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … Click for Babies: Period of PURPLE CryingMy Profile

  7. I wash my hair every two or three days & I use a super-expensive organic shampoo in plastic bottles; it’s something I splurge on. Two reasons I haven’t switched to no-poo: 1) I can. not. stand. the smell of vinegar; it makes me gag. I can hardly even cook with it, so I can’t imagine having it on my head. 2) I love the super-yummy natural herbal-y smell of my shampoo.

    So these are probably both one reason. I have an aroma thing, apparently.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Breastfeeding is All About SupportMy Profile

    • I put a stick of cinnamon in my mixture and it no longer smells like vinegar (I have about a cup premixed). Its smells nice also.

  8. I went no poo for a while and notice my hair started collecting residue. Not just my scalp, but the ends of my hair too. I would spend more time rinsing since I thought the BS was sticking to my hair. Nonetheless, I had to stop the no poo method, but I’ve dedicated myself to using all natural/organic products. I’ve discovered I only need to wash my hair twice a week, so considering how much I’m spending on natural shampoos, I’m not using them daily. However, with it being summer and I’m into a running frenzy, I’ve been washing my hair more frequently, but I try to keep my runs to every other day, and particularly on the eve’s of when I need to wash my hair again. Somehow it does work out. I’ve gone through a few different natural products but have landed safely and most satisfied with Renpure Organics. Our Walgreens had a sale on them, Buy One Get One, plus Renpure had a rebate of a full priced bottle, so the deal ended up being free for 2 bottles. Not too bad considering I was shopping for decent shampoos. Here in the US, the Renpure Organics is about $5-$6 per bottle.
    Sara’s last post … 5 years ago…My Profile

  9. My hat’s off to you for sticking with this, but I think my hat would be on permanently if I tried it – although I never seem to be happy with my hair so maybe I should try it under the ‘how could it get worse?’ category. I have issues with the vinegar smell too, and I’m pretty sure I need conditioner. I still think they need something else to call it – no poo always just makes me think of severe constipation. 🙂
    allison’s last post … Cottage Surfing – it’s Awesome.My Profile

  10. I have never tried this but now I think I will! Although I don’t wash my hair daily but I will do some research I think this is a great idea! Less chemicals the better!

  11. I’m just not a fan of the ‘no poo’ term in general and it’s probably not a process that I’d do. I only wash my hair every 4-5 days and use a shampoo and conditioner. I’m fine with it!
    Mama in the City’s last post … A Quick Get Away With My HusbandMy Profile

  12. I thought your hair looked great. 🙂

  13. I’ve been no-poo for about that long too, and love it. For those who can’t stand the smell of the vinegar, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil and that masks the smell quite nicely.
    Stephanie – Green Stay at Home Mom’s last post … How Can You Be Eco Friendly With Your Toddler?My Profile

  14. I want so much to love no-poo. I dabble, usually on for 6 months off for 6 months, I’m in an off phase that seems to be extending.

    I also had an issue with residue, and the more I read about shampoo-free, the more I read that washing everyday was the cause, or using too much baking soda. I just couldn’t figure out how to wash less, or use less without still having residue and also greasy hair. Right now we live somewhere with very hard water, that is making my hair look a fright as it is. Plus humidity. It’s a daily battle for this short hair not to look like a bad day at the dog groomers.

    I want to love it. I stand behind it fully. I AM that granola. I just keep to recover for the last pout and try again.

    (I also found it difficult when I was doing births, and up for long amounts of time, for some reason it just went EW at a birth, and that I didn’t like).

    Sigh. Soon soon. I will try again.
    Amber Morrisey’s last post … Little Lemon Mason Jar TerrariumMy Profile

  15. I do sometimes use soda on my hair. I always forget to take the vinegar in until I’m wanting to rinse … so end up not using it. *Mental note to take the vinegar in today*.

    But I have discovered that baking soda works great on armpits. If your armpits are hairy. Which mine are. It’s not a statement or anything, but I also forget to buy razors so my pit hair can grow long and free for weeks at a time, which, in the summer, can get fragrant. When I washed with soap, my armpits smelled like soap, with a faint undertone of body odours, but when I washed with soda, they smelled like nothing. NOTHING. For the first two hours of my day, anyway. And yes I do wear antiperspirant but I also eat a lot of fragrant foods. Anyway. Baking soda: it’s all you need for anything.

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