No-Poo Review: Washing Hair with Baking Soda and Vinegar – Does it Work?

No-Poo didn't work pin


1 out of 5 leaves

1 out of 5 leaves

“No Poo” is a method of hair washing that ditches traditional shampoos and conditioners, and replaces them with baking soda and vinegar, or even no products at all.  No-poo recently hit the national consciousness when Jacquelyn from Little Owl Crunchy Mama appeared on the Today Show to share why she hasn’t needed to wash her hair in five years!  The public reaction was a mixture of support, curiosity and snark.  Many wondered if no-poo would work for them.  Can you stop using shampoo and still have nice hair?

The Good

  • Better for you – Most commercial shampoos and conditioners have a number of chemicals which are not so natural, and have limited safety data (check out your brand here)
  • Better for the earth – less shampoo and conditioner on your head = less shampoo and conditioners in the waste stream, and no big plastic bottles to dispose of either!
  • Saves Time – save time by not needing to wash and dry your hair every day
  • Saves Money – baking soda and vinegar are cheap alternatives to pricey shampoos.  No Poo is even cheaper if you skip products all together.
  • All natural – replace chemically based products with natural, or eliminate products all together

The Bad

  • Adjustment period – the first 4-6 weeks can be quite a rough patch, especially if you’re used to shampooing every day
  • There is a base level of greasiness that you will have to get used to
  • Itchiness and flakes could come your way.
  • After your hair gets used to not being shampooed, it can be very hard to manage for a couple of days if you decide to do a quick wash
  • This method may not work for everyone especially for the work-out-hard-every-day exercise enthusiasts

My Experience

For much of my life (at least starting with the part where I started caring about my appearance) I shampooed, conditioned, and blow dried my hair every. single. day.  Then one day at work a crunchy friend told me that daily shampooing wasn’t necessary.  I vehemently disagreed: my hair was so greasy I HAD to wash it every day.  She gently told me that if I slowed down on the shampooing, my scalp would slow down on the grease production.

Over the next few years I slowed down a bit on the shampooing due to increasing kids, work, and life responsibilities, as well as the development of the “I don’t care as much” attitude that seems to come as the years pass.  I realized I had settled into a routine of washing my hair only 2-3 times a week.  I was happy with my hair.  It was healthy, manageable, and only turned into a limp grease ball on the fourth day after shampooing.

I was taking some time off work after my 3rd babe was born, and decided it was a perfect time to try out the no-poo method.  After doing a quick Google survey of no-poo recipes, I settled on the baking soda wash with a vinegar rinse method.  The baking soda is supposed to absorb the oils in your hair, while the vinegar rinse makes it shine!

It took a few tries to get the hang of it.  I recommend getting your hair really wet, stirring up the baking soda in a cup of water right before pouring it slowly around the crown of your head.  (Hint: the baking soda doesn’t really dissolve into the water, so after the first pour, you’ll have some in the bottom of the cup to do a second fill-stir-pour).  The baking soda felt really slippery on my skin and was salty in my mouth.  And it made my hair literally squeak with clean.

I diluted apple cider vinegar with water in a squirt bottle, and did a full rinse of my hair just before stepping out of the shower.  (Hint: leave the bottle in the flow of water during your shower so it’s not COLD when you squirt it all over your head).  The vinegar smell faded quickly, leaving a very fresh mild scent behind – mostly from the baking soda.

I’ll spare you the daily journal entries, but can sum up my experience this way:

  • Week 1: While my hair was soft and shiny, my scalp was itchy and greasy all week.
  • Week 2: A little less itchy and greasy.  Feeling comfortable with a twice/week wash.
  • Week 4: I have gotten used to a bit more oil around my roots, and feel like everything had evened out.
  • Week 6: Twice a week is working fine but I can’t stretch it longer than that without feeling really gross. I look forward to the fresh smell of the baking soda wash.  My hair can be styled as usual.  At this point I am at a scalp-oil equilibrium.
  • Week 8:  I’m a little annoyed by the constant low level grease around the crown of my head.  My scalp is starting to get flaky.  I really look forward to hair washing day.  I go back to work and mention to couple people that I haven’t used shampoo in two months.  The most common reaction is a startled “WHY NOT?!”
  • Week 10: I “cheat” and wash my hair with shampoo one day.  It is GLORIOUS!  My scalp feels cleaner than it has for a couple months.  But the fragrance of the shampoo and conditioner is overwhelming, and not in a good way.  My hair is very difficult to style for two days until the low level of root oils returns.
  • Week 12: I continue to feel annoyed by the constant mild oiliness of my roots.  The flakes persist.  I consider setting up a regular “cheat” day.
  • Sometime during Month 3: I mention to my husband that I’m tired of my hair always feeling a little less than fresh around the roots.  ”Then why don’t you WASH IT?!?” he responds.  ”Hmmm… good point!” I think.

So after three months, I gave up No Poo.

I think for me the main issue was the root oiliness.  My hair was always in pretty good shape.  It looked nice and styled well as long as I did the baking soda and vinegar rinse twice a week.  But my scalp just never felt clean.  The only solution to cleaning my scalp was to wash it with shampoo.

So that shampoo with the scary chemicals with limited hazard data?  I’m still using it.  I’ve switched to a much milder scent, but I’m using (and enjoying!) it 2-3 times a week.  See the thing is, I’m not concerned about the little amount that gets on my skin and is then rinsed right off.  I’m going to enjoy my feeling of clean that only shampoo can give me, and focus on removing chemicals from my home that have a much greater skin contact potential.  Things like deodorant, body lotion, and fabric softener.

Perhaps my hair really is too oily to give up shampoo.  We all have different body chemistry, and some things work better for some than others.  (As a side note, homemade deodorant didn’t work for me either).  Whatever the reason, I find I’m happier when I shampoo my hair.  Hats off (hee, hee) to Jacquelyn for her dedication and willingness to put herself out there!

Have you ever tried washing with baking soda, or any other variation of No Poo?  How did it work for you?  I’d love to hear about your experience too!


PS – a little historical note…  I spoke with my grandmother, who grew up in the 1930′s and 1940′s.  She said she had always washed her hair once a week, and brushed it 100 strokes a day to keep it shiny.  She was shocked when I suggested that some people wash their hair every single day.  And like me, she noted that her hair always behaved better the day after it was washed.

For more info, check out this cool read on the history of personal hygiene, and innovations in hair care over the centuries.

Posted in Baking Soda to the Rescue, The Power of Vinegar | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eating Marshmallows To Soothe a Sore Throat Review – Does it Work?

Marshmallows Soothe a Sore Throat!

Originally published Sept 12, 2013

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

 Marshmallows are confectionery treats that trace their roots back to ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians, and other Africans used the root of the marshmallow plant as a sore throat remedy, and to treat other maladies.  Today’s modern marshmallows no longer contain any marshmallow root (not even the homemade, all natural ones like these), and are made mainly of sugar, gelatin and water.  Even so, some still claim that marshmallows can soothe a sore throat.  Can marshmallows really soothe a raw and painful throat, even though they have no medicinal qualities left to them?

The Good

  • Better for you – better than drugs and syrups of dubious ingredients, anyway
  • No known side effects – marshmallows are just sugar, water and gelatin – no real nutritional value, but nothing there to hurt you
  • Easy – if going with store-bought, the only thing between you and relief is opening the bag
  • Saves money – basic marshmallows are super cheap
  • All natural – if you make your own at home

The Bad

  • It’s hard to convince the kids that “this is mama’s medicine”, and they don’t need any

My Experience

Yummy Marshmallows (hint: you don’t HAVE to have a sore throat to enjoy!)

Last year, I found myself with a summer cold.  I started fighting it with my Neti Pot as soon as I felt the first sinus tickle and managed to avoid most of the congestion.  Unfortunately, I still got the post nasal drip which made my throat raw and angry and very painful.  One evening my throat was so sore that I could barely talk or swallow.  I had been saving an all natural hot beverage sore throat remedy for just such an occasion, but it was a hot summer night.  In the sweaty stuffiness of our un-air conditioned house, I couldn’t stand the thought of a hot beverage, even to soothe my fiery throat.  I started searching Pinterest to see if there was anything else that might help.

I was shocked to find that several pinners suggested eating marshmallows to soothe a sore throat!  I had never heard of such a thing!  Honestly, it didn’t make any sense to me, and I really didn’t think it would work.  But it was way too warm for a hot beverage that night, and I figured I had nothing to lose.  So I sent my wonderful husband off to the store for a late night marshmallow run (note: late night food requests from a sick and also pregnant woman should always be honored!).  I also had him pick up the ingredients to make the hot throat soothing beverage.  I planned to make it in the morning, as I didn’t believe the marshmallows would have any real effect.

I took a small bowl of big marshmallows into bed with me and tucked in for a little sick time.  I noticed that the first marshmallow was easy to swallow – for once something didn’t hurt my throat on the way down.  ”This might work”, I said to my husband.  ”You’re crazy”, was his reply.  After eating the second marshmallow I noticed that it didn’t hurt to swallow even my saliva.  Also talking no longer hurt.  My voice was still super hoarse, but it didn’t hurt any more!  I popped a third, and then even coughing was painless again.  OMG!!  The marshmallows WORKED!!

So, friends, it turns out that marshmallows are a great natural sore throat remedy!  I’m not sure what it is in them that does the trick, (the gelatin, perhaps?) but they soothed my throat almost instantly!  The pain was gone and my throat did not bother me at all even through the night.  This will definitely be my go-to trick the next time the kids have a scratchy throat.  So simple, and easy – this one gets five leaves for sure!

Have you ever tried marshmallows for a sore throat?  What’s your favorite remedy for a scratchy, raw throat?

PS – You know I’m not a doctor, right? This information is based on my experience only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Your experience may vary. Please remember to speak with your healthcare professional about any medical concerns you have, and follow their recommended course of treatment. You can read additional fine print details here.


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Homemade Baking Soda Clay Ornaments Review – Does it Work?

Originally posted on 12/05/2012

2 out of 5 leaves

2 out of 5 leaves

Baking Soda Clay.  Have you seen this one pop up on Pinterest?  (Examples here, here, and here.)  With a simple combination of baking soda, corn starch and water, you can mix up a beautifully white, smooth, and soft batch of modeling clay.  You mold it or roll it, and then bake in the oven to completely dry it out.  It makes gorgeous clay bowls or Christmas decorations, or fun little critters in the hands of your kiddos.  Or does it?  Does homemade baking soda clay really work?

The Good:

  • Better for you – no weird chemicals here – just three ingredients you already have in your kitchen
  • Better for the earth – homemade means no packaging waste, no shipping trucks, etc
  • Saves money – the ingredients are super cheap – you can whip up a batch of this for less than a dollar
  • Easy – super duper easy to mix up and easy to work with too
  • Pretty – there’s something just gorgeous about snow white dough

The Bad:

  • Tends to crack and warp while drying
  • Very fragile, breaks, chips and crumbles easily
  • Dissolves when it contacts water

My Experience

Baking Soda + Corn Starch + Water = homemade modeling clay?

When I saw this recipe for homemade baking soda clay on Pinterest, I knew immediately that I wanted to try it.  The ingredient list was short and easy, and the mixing directions straightforward.  It was something I could do with the kiddos too, which is always a bonus for me.  I thought it would make great Christmas ornaments (and gifts) if we rolled it out and used cookie cutters to make Christmas-y shapes.

The recipe went together easily, just like the other bloggers promised it would (kind of like instant mashed potatoes).  We waited until it cooled and then rolled it out and cut it just like sugar cookie dough.  I dried the ornaments out in the oven, as instructed, and left them on a plate for about a week before we got around to painting them.  (Because as pretty as snow white ornaments are, when you’re a kid, painting them up is even better).

Pretty right? Just wait until the kids touch them…

When I pulled the unpainted ornaments out of their hiding place, I noticed immediately that a number of them had cracked or broken into pieces.  It seems that many had warped or curled as they dried, and just the weight of another ornament on top was enough to break the bottom layer.  So we lost about a quarter of the ornaments right off the bat.

As the kids were painting them, I realized how fragile these things really were.  We lost another quarter just by the kids handling them.  My little guys are 4 and 2, so they’re still working on perfecting gentle, but by no means were they crazy rough with them either.  I also noticed that any paintbrush water that got onto the ornaments started dissolving the clay after a few minutes.  I guess that oven drying time was only to dry, and not to cure, as I had hoped.

We got about half of them painted intact, optimistically set a few aside for gifts and hung the rest on the fresh Christmas tree.  A week later there are only two left on the tree (out of probably 25 that were originally rolled out).  It turns out that any drop onto the hardwood floor = broken ornament.  Even from a height of just a foot or two.  Also, a certain big brother jealous of his little sister’s gingerbread man ornament that inadvertently ended up looking like Spider Man may have found it a bit too easy to snap off said man’s arms and legs.  (Nothing like this ever happens at your house, right? ;) )

Overall, this homemade baking soda clay was a Green Idea Fail.  It was easy to make and fun to work with, but did not dry well, or handle well when dry.  I would recommend it as a cheap easy recipe for children’s play clay, but not for any serious arts and crafts work.  I’m not sure if I mixed it up incorrectly, or rolled it too thick, or dried it too much, but this did not work for me.

Have you ever tried out homemade baking soda clay?  Did it work for you?  Or do you have a better recommendation for Christmas ornament clay?

Posted in Baking Soda to the Rescue, Green Holiday Ideas | Tagged | 3 Comments

Removing Pine Tree Sap from Clothing with Rubbing Alcohol Review – Does it Work?

Originally posted 11/11/2012.

All Natural Pine Sap Remover

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

Tree sap or resin is a sticky substance that oozes from trees, particularly coniferous (or evergreen) trees. Once it gets on your clothing it can be very difficult to remove, as water seems to have no effect on it’s removal.  There are chemical based bottles of goop on the market that can help you remove it, but they can be expensive, and the safety is questionable.  Can rubbing alcohol, something cheap that you already have at home do the job?

The Good

  • Better for you – rubbing alcohol is safe on your skin in small quantities – just don’t drink it or inhale too deeply (but you knew that, right?)
  • Saves money – rubbing alcohol is super cheap!
  • Saves time – there’s a pretty big chance that you already have this in your bathroom cabinet, saving you a special trip to the store
  • Easy – rub the sap away, and it’s gone!
  • Dries quickly – you can spot treat your clothing and put it right back on without sending it through the wash and dry cycle

The Bad

  • Doesn’t work on all fabrics
  • May cause discoloration on some fabrics, so do a spot test first

My Experience

Icky, Sticky tree sap, just waiting to gum you up for the holidays.  Photo Credit.

Honesty time:  I can’t take credit for this review.  Today as we were getting ready to go out my husband says to me, “I’m doing a Green Idea Review!”  It turns out that he had gotten some pine tree sap on the seat of his favorite jeans, which did not come out in the wash.  He decided to try a different  to remove it.  What a perfect thing to test out during the winter (tree cutting and wood chopping season)!  I was so proud!

He poured a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on the sappy spots, and rubbed it in with his fingers.  The sap immediately started to dissolve and disappear.  Immediately!  There was a bigger spot that needed a second dose of alcohol, but when wet again, the remainder of the sport came right out.  Then he draped the pants over a fan, and the spot was dry within a couple minutes.

So there you have it.  Quick, and simple, easy sap removal.  I’m sure this tip will come in handy during the holidays as many of us will find ourselves inviting whole trees full of sticky sap into our homes!

Have you ever tried this nifty trick?  Do you have any other strategies for getting sticky pine tar out of your clothing?

P.S. – please remember to do a test spot in an inconspicuous place to ensure that you aren’t about to discolor or otherwise ruin your fabric!

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Natural Silver Polish with Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil Review – Does it Work?

Originally published on 11/14/2013

All Natural Non-Toxic Silver Polish

4 out of 5 leaves

4 out of 5 leaves

The holiday season often bring lots of company, and folks get out their best china and silver to serve the guests.  If you are blessed to have real silver cutlery or serving items, you are likely facing the unpleasant task of removing the tarnish.  Silver tarnish is caused by a chemical reaction between the elemental silver and hydrogen sulfide in the atmosphere.  Many silver polishes on the market can remove this sulfer build-up, but are full of toxic chemicals and come with many dire warnings about the bad things that could happen due to contact with the polish.  A more natural way to clean silver is to reverse the chemical reaction with baking soda, aluminum, and hot water.  But does it actually work?

The Good

  • Better for You – three harmless ingredients are all you need to remove the ugly tarnish
  • Better for the Earth – no toxic chemicals are being put into the wastestream
  • Saves Time – the tarnish is removed by soaking, instead of you polishing every square inch by hand – a big bonus when unexpected company arrives!
  • Saves Money – you can remove the tarnish with simple things you already have in your kitchen (aluminum foil and baking soda)
  • Easy – boil water, and dunk – can’t get much simpler than that!

The Bad

  • Not appropriate for silver jewelry with other gemstones in it
  • May take a couple tries for badly tarnished silver
  • Stinks like sulfur (but that means it’s working)

My Experience

Un-tarnishing the silver.

I don’t have a lot of fancy things.  Some “nice” dishes with a pretty pattern (but still from Target).  Some “nice” silverware, that is only slightly more dainty than our everyday cutlery.  A carnival glass bowl inherited from my late grandmother.  And the fancy winner: a silver cake serving set that was given to us as a wedding gift from my Granny.  Of course, I’m so not fancy that I didn’t even realize it was silver until I opened it a few years later and saw it had tarnished.

I’ll be honest: that tarnish scared me a little.  Not in an “I’m so scared!” kind of way, but more of an intimidated, “what occasion could be so nice that I would polish the silver?” kind of way.  Then I turned green and crunchy and didn’t want that toxic polish anywhere near anything that touches food.

The I ran into an all natural way to remove the tarnish from silver.  It’s a pretty basic chemical reaction: you place the silver in hot, salty water, with aluminum foil, and the sulfur tarnish transfers from the silver to the aluminum.  I did it via the following steps:

  1. Line a glass dish with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the silver in the dish, contacting as much of the foil as possible (you can see in the photo above that I made a little aluminum handle rest so the handle was touching aluminum and the server portion was flat against the foil as well).
  3. Sprinkle baking soda around the silver pieces
  4. Pour boiling hot water into the dish, enough to fully submerge the silver
  5. Wait ten minutes until the tarnish has turned into a dull grey color (see photo above for example)
  6. Wipe tarnish away with a damp cloth, and then wash as normal
  7. Be awed and amazed that IT ACTUALLY WORKS!!

Before and After!  (After the first soak – the second soak brought perfection!)

As you can see above, the method didn’t give perfect results the first time.  However, this was a very badly tarnished piece (I haven’t used it once in the ten years since my wedding).  When I tried it again with fresh aluminum, and fresh water, it shined up perfectly!  Now I have NO excuses for not using it anytime I feel like making the day a party!

Overall, this all natural, non-toxic, silver polishing method worked wonderfully to take the tarnish off the silver.  It was a little stinky as the sulfur was released, and I had to do it twice for it to get all the tarnish off.  However, my silver was really bad, and I’m sure with a longer first soak it would have probably been fine the first time.  Also, in the future, I plan to use this serving set much more often, so a quick soak and polish are all it takes to keep them looking great!

Have you ever tried this trick for polishing your silver?  What do you usually do to shine up those special pieces? 

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