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.

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

  1. Harmony says:

    I have always had oily hair. Several months ago went poo-less. I put some backing soda in a squirt bottle (like a bottle the salons use to apply hair color). I then add some warm water and gently shake it. I never have a lot soda left in the bottom. I squirt some of the mixture on my head and what is left I use on my body (baking soda is a great exfoliate).

    I always put my rinse in a spray bottle so I can mist it on. I use vinegar at times, but with my naturally oily hair I like to mix some lemon juice and water instead. My hair and dark with a lot of nature red tones and this does not bring out the red in my hair. Just be sure to rinse it out before leaving the shower.

    Point being, you may want to try some different rinses if you try the no-poo method in the future. I found the baking soda was not the problem. Playing around wit different rinses made a big difference. 🙂

  2. Amrit says:

    I’ve just tried this for a week now and love it. Retail shampoos flatten out my thick, wavy black hair and make it dry the first day or two, then super greasy. I’ve just tried this for a week now and love it. I’m not sure why the author’s hair took so long to adjust, but for me it was immediate.

    Now there’s much more bounce/volume/body to my hair. I make a baking soda paste and do not leave it on. Just scrub it in for a minute by lifting up sections of my hair and rinse out. No vinegar. It works just fine 🙂 I have argan oil on hand in case my ends get dry. But so far so good!

  3. Christine says:

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. =[
    I’ve been “no-pooing” for nearly 3 years now and I love it. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones it works for. For me, it makes my hair soft, shiny, light, and I don’t find that my scalp is at all flaky or itchy or anything like that (though I’d never had a problem with that before either).

    Here’s my routine:
    I take a tablespoon of baking soda and pour it into a bottle, then I add a cup of warm water. I stir that around, then place it by the shower. (note: if for whatever reason doesn’t dissolve in the water, I stir it around a few times before using it)
    I take a half a cup of apple cider vinegar and pour in a cup of warm(er) water, stir, then put near the shower.
    When in the shower, I wet my hair as usual, kind of give it a gentle but deep rub with my fingers, then slowly pour the baking soda over my scalp, massaging it in. After rinsing it out well, I do much the same with the vinegar, maybe leaving it in for a moment if it’s been a couple days without a wash.

    I wash with the whole shebang at least every 4-5 days (sometimes with a vinegar rinse in between), but I have a friend who does it who can go up to two weeks and not need to wash again. My hair is very thin, long, and I always considered it to be “greasy” if not washed daily. Personally, I give it a 5/5 because I love it, and it’s worked out lovely for me.

  4. Milissa says:

    No poo has been working for me. I wash my hair with shampoo (very very little) probably every two weeks. In between I use a baking soda in the shower (spray bottle method). After reading Christine’s comment I will probably start adding the vinegar rinse.

    After having my second child I lost over half of my hair thickness. The no poo method makes my hair seem thicker.

    Sorry it did not work for you.

  5. AS says:

    I do “co-washing,” which is going no-poo but using a conditioner to wash your hair. I look at the ingredients in conditioners, and if it’s got too many chemicals I go to a different brand where I know what the ingredients are and what the purposes are. For instance, there is a coconut-derived surfactant in conditioner which is much milder than sodium lareth sulfates, but it will still clean my scalp. I also use a wide tooth comb to rub my scalp as I wash with my fingers, and I don’t have flakes or oiliness.

    I went no-poo because my hair is long and curly, and I was tired of getting dandruff and no shampoo seemed to cure the dandruff. I stopped using shampoo and “poof!” the dandruff was gone after the adjustment period of 3 weeks. However, my husband didn’t have such great results and is better off using shampoo. I have read other ladies say they don’t even bother washing their hair anymore and they are okay with the top layer of hair looking greasy, but their hair stays in place. Like you said, there is a certain level of body chemistry that must be taken into consideration.

    Not washing my hair AT ALL, or not using conditioner would wreck havoc on my type of hair. The conditioner helps me detangle my hair and without washing, I’d just have a nasty looking frizzy mess of mop. In a way, I hear you 🙂 (pardon the pun)

  6. Me says:

    I tried last year and it was too harsh for me. But now when I had to do an ACV rinse(1 part acv 3 parts water) because of product build up on my scalp the vinegar cleaned my scalp, got rid of my dandruff, and hair feels sleek and strong. Scalp does not feel dry or itchy. I conditoned my hair like usual (I dont put conditioner on my scalp, just on hair below ear level) There are girls doing conditioner- only washing who uses acv rinse to clarify once or twice a month. I wonder if I could skip the baking soda and only use vinegar and then maybe conditioner?

  7. Me says:

    Sorry for the double post but I feel like I did not make myself clear.
    If co-washing girls use vinegar to clean their hair and scalp, then vinegar must be a very powerful cleaning agent. It cleaned my hair better than what shampoo does and without damaging the hair or drying out my scalp. Also ACV is used by no poo and by regular shampoo users instead of conditioner(or as a final rinse after conditioner?). So I wonder: could ACV possibly replace ALL produkts? Could it replace all these: baking soda, shampoo, conditioner? It would be a one- step routine, then, in the right proportions to water.

    I have yet to see anyone doing an experiment using only ACV to both clean and condition their hair. Would anyone dare to try? I guess It would have to be very dilluted (one to ten parts maybe?) and sit long enough on your scalp to dissolve oil and dirt, like 5-10 minutes, then massage and rinse out.

  8. Washing my hair with a strong vinegar solution and no baking soda is what works for me. Like “Me” said in her(?) first comment, a 1:3 ratio works well, and no additional conditioner is needed.

    It baffles me that the method with baking soda followed by a very diluted vinegar solution (often specifically used on the hair shafts and NOT the scalp) is so popular online, when it has such a lengthy adjustment period and ends up not working for many people. I alternated vinegar washings with shampoo washings for a while, until the shampoo started to seem too harsh, and did NOT have a difficult transition.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve been off commercial shampoos 8 yrs now? Anyway the no-poo or low-poo is better for us and less packaging which is why I tried it. BS and ACV only works for some and did not for me but I realize it is a chemistry issue. Having the patience to reduce time between washes and then going low-poo was a big step then finding the recipe that works for you that is simple and available locally takes time, especially if you are down to washing weekly. I also joined a FB group to save me some time on recipes and help w/ adjustments. I found this page bec. I am doing a coffee rinse today. I have a niece who has been water only for years.

  9. Nikki says:

    I have been no poo since july 16th 2014 and i started put with baking soda and vinegar. After a while it just made my hair waxy feeling and gross so i joined a facebook group with over 12000 people who are no poo and they are the best support for anyone struggling! They also answer any questions and helped me figure out that what works for everyone is not always whats best for my hair. I use egg yolks as a wash(good at getting rid of oil) and coffee as a rinse. The eggs are a protein treatment so its best to do that once a week or wait longer because too much protein is bad for hair. Coffee is an acidic rinse that will balance the ph levels in the hair and it makes my hair smell like coffee which i love. If anyone needs support i suggest joining that group!

  10. Pingback: 7 Awesome Beauty Life Hacks That I Didn’t Learn On The Internet | Anthroposcene

  11. Amberose says:


  12. Anne says:

    If you go from commercial shampoos to BS/ACV you are screwed and have a tough ugly transition. You have to space washes to let oil production reduce and maybe do shampoo again until your body adjusts. I took time but I avoided the transition look by being so patient.

  13. Alexandra says:

    I’ve started using shampoo bars as an alternative a few months ago. You can buy them at lush. They last much longer than a regular shampoo bottle, but you can buy them waste-free! There’s no chemical stuff in the bar, so it’s good for the environment. Plus, they come in different ‘flavors’ so you can choose which one works best for your hair. After washing I use a little apple cider vinegar as conditione and my hair has never felt as nice! Not even with regular shampoo 🙂

  14. Sara says:

    I read that the pH of baking soda isn’t close to your hair’s pH so that’s why it doesn’t work. An alternative is rye flour, which I happened to have in the freezer, so I’ve been using that mixed with water as a paste (I sifted the bran out of it first) followed by a vinegar rinse for the last couple of weeks and it’s been working for me. Would you be willing to try a review of it? I’m curious if it’ll work for you.

  15. Jodie Butler says:

    I knew there’s a lot of benefits of using baking soda and vinegar but I didn’t know I can wash my hair with them. That sounds very interesting.

  16. Halter says:

    One thing I commonly see when people had an issue with no-poo is: baking soda. Replacing it completely with your shampoo seemed like a little much when I heard about it. It’s an excellent cleaner, maybe a little rough on natural hair. Maybe a balancer could help, or using it less often.

  17. Kat says:

    You said your Grandma brushed her hair 100 strokes a day. I recently went No Poo (I make my own own soap-free) and I had similar issues with oil until I started using a 100% boar bristle brush and brushing my hair far more often and more thoroughly than I ever have before. I used to brush just to get the tangled out and just about twice a day. Now I get the tangles out then follow with a boar bristle brush to distribute the oil from my scalp down the hair shaft. My hair is shinier and healthier by using my scalps oil, I’ve also noticed it’s helps with volume. I usually brush my hair with my head upside down, then over each side. Basically in the way opposite way my hair lays. Then I flip my hair back normal and get the tangles out. I noticed that when I do this at night my hair feels oily all over, but by the time I wake my hair seems like it has absorbed the oil and it’s great. Just something to try. It also increases blood flow to the scalp, which increases folical health.