Eco-Friendly Shampoo: Using water only

I’m hearing this go around the blogosphere and it’s the end of my 6-week experiment so I’m going to recap what happened and what I’m doing now.

None of you have to try this, but .. figured I ought to post my results.



Lather up some vegetable soap (the purest kind), and mix with water as a shampoo


  • Dried my hair out. Like CRAZY dry.
  • I hated it. Stopped immediately.



Tablespoon of baking soda, mixed with water into a paste.

Use paste on scalp like shampoo rubbing it into your scalp, and not on your roots.


Mix Apple Cider Vinegar (one tablespoon) in a 12 oz glass of cold water.

Carefully pour it on your head (at each temple, on the top of your head, and on the other temple).

Let it sit for 10 seconds.

Rinse with cool-to-warm water.


  • Baking soda caused dandruff, and I NEVER get dandruff.
  • It also dried my hair out, like crazy dry.
  • Stopped after two times.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar worked however.


Before I start, BF had been harping about this method for a long time. He hasn’t used shampoo for 20 years, and I believe it – I saw the bathroom when I first started dating him!

I was a skeptic. I tried washing with water only once, but I clearly didn’t do it right, so it failed, miserably.

I gave up on it, until I learned the proper way to do it, and it does not involve letting water just run through your hair. You gotta work it!

Now, I’ll never, ever use shampoo again. But I may consider a leave-in conditioner for the ends of my hair, but I think I may end up buying jojoba oil or something and moisturizing my ends with that instead of a chemical conditioner.


Total time to shower and shave: 10 minutes

Prepare a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a large 12 ounce cup with cold water & set it where you can reach it in the bathtub, without it being diluted more by the shower

Soak your hair in regular, warm water

Scrub at your scalp vigorously with your fingernails as you would if you were rubbing shampoo into your scalp.

Do that scrubbing for about a minute (and squeeze out the water from your hair in between)

Take your prepared apple cider vinegar mix, and pour it all over your hair

Let it sit for about 5-7 seconds

Rinse it out thoroughly, scrubbing vigorously at your scalp again with your fingernails

Squeeze out the water from your hair and get out of the tub

Let your hair dry, and the next day as it starts to get a bit oily again, use the 100% boar bristle brush to comb the hair out from root to tip, to use your own natural hair oil to moisturize your hair.


Under very warm water, soak your hair.

Using your fingers, scrub as your scalp. Skritch at your scalp if you must. They say it promotes blood flow to your scalp and helps stimulate hair growth.

Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but I have to do this if not the sebum, oil and dirt does NOT come off my hair.

You MUST scrub at your scalp, or else you’re just running water over the top of your hair, and it won’t do anything for you — that’s what I tried the first time I tried Water Only, and I cursed at BF because he told me it worked, but didn’t tell me to scrub my scalp, so I ended up with VERY oily hair that made me irritated.

The method I use to get out the oil is I usually turn my head sideways and let the water run down one temple and I rub my scalp at the temple, then I rotate my head from the crown (the part of your head, where a hat might normally hug your head), and then I do the other temple.

In the beginning of the 6-weeks, you might want to try flipping your hair upside down in the shower and scrubbing at your crown from underneath the hair. This may be easier because you can reach your crown easier and most of the oil collects on top of your head and crown.

After you are finished scrubbing at your scalp, grab that cup of cold, very diluted apple cider vinegar rinse (1 table spoon, 12 ounces of cold water), and slowly pour it on one side of your temple so that it reaches the length of your hair, rotating to the top where it spreads all the way down, and at the other temple.

Basically, saturate your hair with this stuff if you can.

Then, do another quick vigorous scrub of your scalp with the apple cider vinegar liquid still on your hair, to get it into the folds of your hair.

Let it stay in your hair for 10 seconds.

Switch the water to cool-to-warm, and rinse.

You’re done.

Note: You need to alternate the temperature of the water to help the sebum break up. That’s the tip I read online, and it seems to work. Very warm, to cool, back to slightly warm. Works great.

The last step that you absolutely must do, is buy a Boar Bristle Hairbrush (100%).

You will NEED to use this on the second, or third day before you wash your hair with water only. What you need to do, is brush your hair, to break up the sebum and oil, going from the roots to the tip.

Think of it as brushing natural hair oil throughout your hair so that the tips of your hair get conditioned from root to tip, naturally.

I never brushed my hair before this (seriously.. haven’t owned a hairbrush since I was a little girl), so this was a new thing I had to keep remembering to do. I always had naturally bouncy bedhead.

It also helps in the shower, because it untangles your hair and makes it easier to scrub at your scalp.

You will see all the oil and sebum in your hairbrush by the way. You’ll be fascinated by how much natural hair oil comes off on those bristles, and feel the partially solidified oil that your own body created. Sounds gross, but is kind of cool, if at the very least, interesting.

And you will need to learn how to clean that brush by rubbing out the oil from the brush with a towel and once every two weeks, washing it carefully with soap, water, and letting it air dry.


The smell of my old shampoo made me gag. I felt extremely sick. Probably a placebo only-in-my-little-head effect from just the idea of what’s in my shampoo in terms of these chemicals, and I probably made myself sick….. but it still made me dizzy and nauseous nonetheless.

I am going to consider buying some mineral oil, or jojoba oil.. or heck, just using olive oil, rubbing it in my palms (a couple of drops) and then just moisturizing the ends of my hair only, to keep them moisturized, but feeling them now, they don’t need anything.

Oh, and now I only wash my hair once every 3 days. I used to shampoo every day, then every second day.. and now, I wash my hair every third day with water. The third day looks a BIT oily, but nothing a little ponytail can’t fix.

If I don’t like it, I can just wash my hair quickly and it’ll be clean again.

I think every 2-3 days of washing works for my hair. I can’t go a two weeks or a month without washing. Some people have claimed to NOT have washed their hair for a month. I can’t believe that and I will never believe that because I can’t even get past the third day without washing.

BF washes his short (kind of stick-uppy, golf grass-like hair) every week, and it looks clean and feels clean all the time.

I tried washing my hair once every week (still taking showers every 2 days), and my hair was SO THICK and full of oil and sebum that I had to wash TWICE to get the oil out.

You would have thought my hair transformed into an otter or something, the way it repelled water in the shower.

No way. It felt sick, awful, disgusting.. I have to wash every 2 days to feel like my normal old, shampooing self.


I’ve read countless articles and have been researching this for a couple of months now.

What you are essentially doing, is re-training your scalp to produce LESS oil than required. With shampoos, they strip your hair entirely of all the natural oils and moisture, and then you add it back with conditioners at the end.

To me, that didn’t make any sense: Clean our hair entirely of all dirt and oil, but then we essentially add it back in? Huh? Why don’t we just keep our natural oil?

After 6 weeks, your scalp WILL learn to produce less oil because you aren’t stripping it with shampoos, but it’ll be a bit of a transition in between.

And water only works and has always worked, because apparently, we do NOT need soap to get rid of grease or oil, BUT, soap makes it easier to do so, without having to scrub hard at a pan.

People say that you can actually remove grease with just rubbing at it with water, but it takes a longggggggg time. So enter the marvels of soap!

Anyway, my hair isn’t so dirty that I need a heavy duty cleanser like soap or shampoo to get dirt and oil out. And this is when I was walking all around the States, being a tourist for 12 hours a day, sweating like a slob.

It works, because you need to scrub at your scalp with your fingernails to break up the sebum and release the oil that is being caught there in between your (thick) hair, if you don’t, you will never get rid of that oily, greasy feeling.

You also need to get your fingers into the crown area and scrub there, as the oil tends to pool in that area. If you don’t, you will feel greasy.

It doesn’t seem to really matter what length of hair you have (short hair of course, is easier to clean), but if you have long thick hair like me, your hair soaks up the water and gets extremely heavy and water-repellent, like an oiled body of a seal.

It’s sometimes kind of hard to lift up that heavy thick hair, soaked in water, to get to my crown to wash my scalp there.

As for the apple cider vinegar rinse, it has been awesome.

CAUTION! Rae says that the cold water and the vinegar will SNAP your hair shafts tight, and that’s WHY it looks shinier and healthier… but I haven’t seen any damage to my hair at all, and in fact, it feels better than before. Less frizzy, smoother, silkier.


Boys – they seem to have the best results.

If your hair is fairly low maintenance

If you have short hair (best results have been seen on people with short hair)

If you want to avoid washing those chemicals down the drain…
…or just if you are allergic or nervous about that kind of stuff on your head (like me)

If you don’t style your hair with mousses, gels and other things that need heavy duty stripping

If you want a very low maintenance program for your hair without losing your beauty (I’m vain)

If you travel a lot and are sick of bringing shampoo/conditioner along with makeup (me!)

If you don’t blowdry your hair or straighten, or curl it often

Maybe it’s better if I list what I DO to my hair:

  • Wash with water
  • Rinse with apple cider vinegar
  • Let it air dry
  • Brush it once every 2 days

I don’t use any products, any blowdrying, styling tools, dyes… you name it. All natural.

But I’m naturally blessed with very nice hair to begin with.


I am never going to advocate that you do anything I do. But if you are interested in trying, you should read these warnings first, learned first-hand by yours truly.

Hard Water is not recommended

If you have very hard water with a lot of lime in it, avoid trying this. I don’t know how to figure out if you do or not, but in New York, the water was VERY hard at the Marriott Hotel.

My sister has this in her apartment, the water is just NOT good for this method. Even after washing and washing the way I normally did at home, my hair still felt greasy.

I should mention that I didn’t bring any Apple Cider Vinegar along with me, and it seems to work if you use that rinse at the end to finish.

So I started packing 2 bottles of 100mL of vinegar to start mixing in hotel rooms when I travel.

If you like to play with your hair or if you have long hair

If you use hair styling products (before or after), although a leave-in conditioner only on the tips of my hair works for me or if you like to do things to your hair, this may not be a good idea, as trying to wash out mousse or any hair product with just water, is not recommended.

I don’t use any of that stuff, so… I was the perfect candidate.

But I do have long hair, and I find that it does get difficult to wash my hair by rubbing the scalp bit by bit.

If you LOOOOVE shampoo!

If you also like shampoo and how easy it is to use and smell like a fruit or flower after, then avoid this by all means!!

Also avoid if you are allergic to apple cider vinegar

This will NOT be easier than using a shampoo from a bottle, in the sense that you can’t just rinse your hair with water, without rubbing at your scalp for longer, and expect it to work. The water just slides right off your oily hair if you don’t break up the oil and sebum with your fingers to let the water rinse it off.

(Although, can I mention that you don’t need as much shampoo as you think? A LITTLE dollop on very saturated hair will lather up wonderfully and do the same thing as if you squirt half the bottle on your head)

This is a bit more work in the beginning, because it is NOT easier (at the start) than using shampoo and conditioner (although it takes the same amount of time).

Much like a Diva Cup, you have to get used to it, then it’s second nature. Takes me 10 minutes in and out of the shower, including shaving (I don’t use shaving creams, I don’t ever get knicks, burns or scrapes — I also use a men’s Gillette razor on my body instead of a woman’s)

If you can’t stick to the regimen

It WILL take 6 weeks for your hair to adjust and your scalp to stop producing oil. And maybe a bit longer, or shorter. Took me 4 weeks, but I wanted to be sure, and go the whole hog at 6 weeks. I think doing that baking soda thing, really helped wean my scalp off shampoo before I went with water only.

Once you go water only, you can’t start alternating with shampoos. You will confuse your scalp.


Glad you asked.

Update: This was before. Now as of 2011, I use more natural/normal shampoos sparingly and every 2 days. My hair is too long to handle no-poo any longer. It’s especially hard in the summer.

I knew this whole post would not convince you, but this is my hair now, and it has changed into being bit wavier, shinier, silkier, and thicker. It was very oily before, and I had to shower and shampoo daily and it looked nice before, but now my hair seems to take even less to look great.

And it keeps its style and shape longer.

UPDATE – July 3rd 2010

Long hair in the summer, takes too long to clean with this no shampoo method, especially if you are a disgusting Sweaty Betty like myself.

I’ve switched back to using shampoo, and went through Hugo Naturals (AWFUL brand of shampoo and conditioners, although they smell good, they SUCK).

I have Burt’s Bees Pomegranate line next, and if I am still not satisfied, I’ve heard great things about using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap as a shampoo, and they just came out with a line of conditioners.

Green Beaver is also another good, TRULY eco-friendly brand to try. There are plenty of options out there, just experiment.

Another good brand might be Ojon. I have yet to try them.

Don’t trust the big brand names blindly (Aveda, Kiehl’s, Frieda, etc) only because they tend to use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) but in a milder format of SLS like sodium laureth sulfate, or sodium lauryl sarcosinate…which allows them to claim that they don’t use “sodium lauryl sulfate

Watch out for sneaky parabens and pthalates as well.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.