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Healthier Hair Wash – Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda, vinegar and a measuring cup are all the ingredients you need for this hair wash
Baking soda, vinegar and a measuring cup are all the ingredients you need for this hair wash

Two of my ongoing goals are to put fewer chemicals on and in my body and to reduce the number of things I buy with packaging.

The more I learn about the chemicals in products and their potentially dangerous side effects – in my body, in the people and places along the way to their creation, and in the water supply after washing down my drain – the more I want to avoid them.

In a recent Puget Consumer Co-op newsletter, they highlighted concerns about the thousands of chemicals found in personal care products. Statements that jumped out at me in one article were:

“…the Environmental Protection Agency website states that ‘of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products, just 11% have been assessed for health and safety.”

“Body care products are among the least regulated products on the US market. There are few meaningful laws about what can or cannot go into body care products. Consequently, conventional hair care products have few standards.”

The most concerning “personal care” product chemicals I keep coming across in my research are:

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates – a foaming agent in shampoo, possible carcinogen, attracts and kills many bugs, can affect people with skin sensitivities (I have VERY sensitive skin!)  

DEA/Diethanolamine – an emulsifying agent that can create carginogenic compounds when combined with other chemicals found in personal care products).

Parabens – (used as antimicrobials and preservatives, but many have been linked to breast cancer and hormone disruption).

Fragrance – this can mean any of thousands of chemicals, most of which are unregulated and untested – yikes!

Those are just the chemicals found IN body care products. The containers they come in are also full of unregulated chemicals, which pollute people and natural systems while being made and after we’re through with them, whether we recycle them or not.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Over the years I’ve tried endless natural shampoos, conditioners, gels and sprays, but found my hair was always about the same – kind of lifeless. A couple months ago I FINALLY tried washing my hair with baking soda and rinsing it with white vinegar…and it worked!

I was expecting my hair to look drab and flat, but instead it was full of body and looked incredibly healthy. I talked to my favorite hair cutter (Alex at Moda salon on Bainbridge Island) and she said she regularly uses a vinegar rinse to liven up her hair as well. Alex has beautiful, shiny hair.

It’s really fun to experiment – I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you experience!

I’m still playing with the best amount of soda and vinegar to use and the lack of foaminess was weird at first, but I’m excited to be free of all those plastic bottles full of chemicals.

Here’s the general recipe – tweak it according to your hair length and level of oiliness. Mmy hair is few inches past my shoulders and the ends tend to be dry.

(I keep a glass measuring cup in my shower for this to mix the ingredients in)

Baking soda wash:

  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup water

Use your finger to mix them together thoroughly, then immediately tip your head back a little (to keep it out of your eyes), pour the mixture all over your scalp, and massage into the roots for a bit (using it on the ends can dry out the hair).

Rinse with warm water.

Vinegar rinse:

  • 1 part white vinegar (I use about a half cup)
  • 4 parts water (I use about two cups)

Let the vinegar soak in for a few seconds, then rinse with cold water. I’ve read that cold water rinses are best, but I can’t get myself to douse my head with cold water in the winter! Warm water seems to work just fine. I hear the cold water method will help eliminate static and frizz, and will make hair shinier. As it gets warmer I’ll give this a try.


Washing every day with any product will dry hair out, so try washing every 2-3 days and see what happens. My hair is much healthier when I don’t wash every day. It can take one or two months for your body to adjust to not having to produce so much oil, so your hair may seem oilier at first, but it’s worth the wait!


Essential oil fragrance – the vinegar smell disappears surprisingly fast, but longer hair can hold a slight vinegar smell for awhile. To cut this, I add a couple drops of essential oil in the vinegar rinse before pouring it over my hair or I’ll put a couple drops on my brush and run it through after my shower.

My favorites essential oils right now are:

  • jasmine
  • ylang ylang (one of the ingredients in Chanel No. 5 perfume!)
  • vanilla (you can use the same vanilla you use for baking)

Baking soda grease cutter – if your roots are a little greasy but you don’t have time to shower, rub in a little baking soda. The added bonus is that you’ll get a little extra body! If you have dark hair, mix in a little cocoa powder. Using too much can make your hair look grayish, so again, don’t experiment before a big outing unless you have a hat handy.

Coconut oil conditioner – when my ends are dry I rub a tiny bit of coconut oil into them and leave on for an hour or overnight, then I wash with the baking soda/vinegar method. Be careful not to use too much as it can make your hair look greasy – don’t experiment just before a hot date!

Alex (my favorite hair cutter I mentioned earlier), suggests an occasional coconut oil “hair mask:”

“All you do is slather it on clean, wet hair, leave on for 20 minutes – you can wrap a towel turban style to use the warmth of your head to increase penetration. Rinse well. So shiny and soft, and smells good too.”

What are your sustainable hair wash and personal product experiences? What are your “green goals?”

Great resources for more information about chemicals in personal care products:

5 thoughts on “Healthier Hair Wash – Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. ..and of course it’s good to put fewer exotic chemicals from personal care products into waste streams that find their way into Puget Sound…
    Thanks, Spring, for suggesting an alternative.

  2. Great advice Spring!! The amount of chemicals that make it into our water system is astonishing. Thanks for suggesting alternatives!!

  3. More columns like this can only encourage Kitsap county and other Pacific Northwest communities towards a better, healthier life in harmony with nature, not at war with it.

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