Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Going no poo: the final report

I suppose this should come as no shock to you, but I gave up the no poo project last week. At first I thought I'd just shampoo my hair and reset things and start over again, but I never got around to that starting over part again. Family health circumstances last week made my life quite hellish and having to deal with a dirty, itchy scalp wasn't helping matters much.

Now, as you all know, I am willing to subject myself to all sorts of strange things, bordering on torture for some, in the name of being more environmental. But, there are some things that just aren't worth it. I'm starting to doubt the overall benefit of not shampooing from an environmental standpoint as there are plenty of commercial shampoos that are low-impact, can be bought in bulk or in bars and clean relatively well without the health/environment issues.

The other big issue for me is my water usage would most likely be higher with this method since it takes so long to wash and rinse out the baking soda. But, ultimately, even though my hair didn't look oily or greasy and it looked moderately okay, it just felt totally gross.

I would stick with it if I felt like there was going to be some improvement. The itching I can tolerate, but there's no reasonable way that the rest of my hair is going to get clean no matter how much vinegar I pour on it. It needs something saponified.

I know this works for some of you or perhaps your for tolerance is different than mine, but this is just not something I'm planning on sticking with. So, I'm back to my organic, fair trade, biodegradable shampoo.

No poo? No thanks. At least not right now.


Anonymous said...

It's a shame no poo was no good for you but at least you tried. Good to hear an honest voice as well.

Sometimes things just don't suit and there's no point dwelling on them.

I'm hoping to find a poo alternative that is low in water usage as we relay on rainwater collection. I think I'll stick with my quick once a week hairwash for now though.

Willo said...

Good for you for trying! I think that everyone's hair is different, everyone's water is different (hard, soft, etc), and everyone's preferences for how they look are different. So no one solution is going to work for everyone. But at least you gave it a shot. Hope you family feels better soon!

ruchi said...

Yikes! Yeah I think you're right about the no poo.

Personally, I've been doing okay just using bar soap on my head, but I think that's because my hair is curly and therefore very forgiving,

Lisa Zahn said...

When I tried the baking soda thing, I got the same results. I hated the way my hair felt! And it didn't look so hot either; even with the cider vinegar rinse my dry-ish hair got too dry with this.

What I've done instead is gradually train my hair/scalp to go longer between washings. I can go 5-6 days without being too greasy now, and I'd love to go 7. Sometimes I wash twice a week, other times it's closer to the 6 and it's fine.

I also use less and less shampoo all the time. For my long hair, I use maybe a nickel-sized amount. And I just rub it into the scalp well, then I use about a pea-sized amount of leave-in conditioner on the ends of my hair. I figure by using so little product, and washing so rarely, I'm making very little impact on the environment. And I use way less water. And, my dry wavy hair is happier.

Jennifer said...

I agree. I see no point, as it takes more water, and baking soda is mined out of the earth. I'd rather support a local business person in their sustainable product endeavor (and found a local hair shampoo bar produced blocks down the street from me) AND wash my hair once a week instead of washing every couple days with lots of water and baking soda!

Farmer's Daughter said...

I think I'm going to try making my own shampoo/conditioner sometime in the future, but I don't think I'll go the no 'poo route. Thanks for the feedback.

Alison Kerr said...

Too bad it didn't work out for you, but I think it's great that you tried it. You got me thinking about whether I should try something different. The comments on your first no-poo post about shampoo bars interested me so I can add this to my list of green things to explore.

Anonymous said...

well, at least you've tired it. actually, you really don't have a reason for giving up shampoo, so why would you, anyway?
my case is different, since i have various allergies. still, i think baking soda is not appropriate for this, and if you decided to try it again, i'd really recommend egg+vinegar.
again, don't worry about the whole thing, you have much more important things to cope with, so i can totally understand it would be just waste of efforts for you.

Anonymous said...

LOL. So you've poo poo'd the no 'poo, eh? Everyone has to find their own way. Works for me, but it did take some experimenting. In your current shoes, I don't think I'd take on getting rid of shampoo or fridges. Not worth your time and effort when you have other major things going on.

BTW, what organic, fair trade, biodegradable, bulk shampoo do you use?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the experience. Even though it makes my head itch when I read these posts!

I'm with Ruchi, I've just started using my bar soap and I like it so far. At least as much as any of the shampoos I've tried in the last few months.

Sorry you've had a rough week.

Anonymous said...

About the shampoo. It's one thing I can't quite keep organic or all natural. It looks so much better when it's all full of chemicals. What to do?

I read your blog regularly, as I am sure many do, and you have been one of the few in my blogroll as well.
Here's a meme, if you do them.
I am tagging all those blogs that are regulars on my read list with this meme.
Here's the meme. Maybe you've heard the "This, I believe" NPR program?

Write twenty sentences starting with, "I believe". It can be silly or serious. I was in a philosophical mindset when I wrote mine.

I'd love to include a link to your answer in this post.

Anna Marie said...

Yeah, I've heard good things and bad things both about the whole baking soda method, which is why I didn't bother trying it. But, there are other methods, so if other people are interested, they should do a few google searches.

For myself, the last time I used shampoo was Thanksgiving. Since then, I've been doing water only washes, and occasionally conditioner only washes. It's be working well for me- no itchiness, and my hair feels great. And it only takes an extra minute or two for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experiment. You gave it a try, at least. As for me, I'm still debating. I think I might give it another go once my current bottle of shampoo gets low. I like the idea, but I think I might just settle for seeing if I can wash my hair less frequently, as some others do.

Sharlene said...

Thank you for trying. I think I am going to stick with my organic fair trade biodegradable shampoo too. But what the heck am I gonna do with all the apple cider vinegar and baking soda I bought last tie I attempted this experiment?

Joy said...

I feel good about the poo I use - it's from Melaleuca and is herbal and low impact - so I'll be sticking with that. Thanks for your candid report! We need to hear both sides of the story! :)

Maeve said...

When the weather is warm and sunny and I can go work in the garden and pretend my hair isn't feeling gross and matted and stringy and greasy (it really didn't look that bad, honest!), then I might give an alternative hair-washing method a try. But I was *not* a fan of the baking soda/vinegar method after the first round of washing. It just doesn't work well with my hair type. And fiddling around with ratios and adding in other products, just negates the whole "simplify the routine" aspect.

Besides, like someone said in the earlier comments, baking soda *is* a mined product. ;)

Anonymous said...

good for you for trying, crunchy, and hoping your family is feeling better this week.

troubleshooting for others who may read this post and be daunted by it:

- itching is usually due to microbial action and can be simply remedied by adding a couple drops of lavender, lemongrass, or grapefruit essential oil to the vinegar rinse.

- it should take less water, not more, to wash with baking soda. 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water. pour over head, scrub scalp with fingers and let it sit one minute, then rinse. should rinse out simply & easily.

- vinegar does not clean the hair. baking soda will cut the oil in your hair. vinegar emulsifies the oil and moves it from the scalp down the hair shaft so that it doesn't clump at your scalp and can condition the hair as it is designed by nature to do.

- the "totally gross" part is temporary. the scalp will take 2-6 weeks to adjust its oil production to the level that is needed by this method of care. in the meantime, it will still produce the large volumes of oil that were necessary when you were stripping off the oil with shampoo every day. it is much kinder for a daily shampooer to go in slow stages over weeks, first watering down shampoo, using less, washing less often, etc. i was already at shampooing weekly before i switched to baking soda and vinegar; now all i need is a vinegar rinse once a week and baking soda every couple months. it is good to plan to wear your hair up or under a scarf for a bit during transition for some folks!

- this method takes time and experimentation at first. once you get the details worked out, it is a breeze and takes almost no time or resources outside of a nice solid daily brushing.

Katie @ said...

Thanks for being our experimenter. It was really interesting... the water usage was enough to keep me away. We're charged by the liter of water we use in Germany, so you can bet not a drop gets wasted at our house!

Jessica said...

I've been happy with my Lush shampoo bar, though I would be thrilled to find a local supplier. I haven't figured out what to do about conditioner though...

Anonymous said...

I tried going no-poo once, and had about 10 different things to try that I'd read up on.

I'm back to poo after 6 months of experimenting. It just isn't for me and my hair, if I want to get out in the public eye. I had people pointing and staring, I kid you not. My hair was one huge greaseball, and then it started dreadlock-ing and let me tell you, I am SO not hip enough for that. :)

I figure I'll just redouble my efforts in other areas to make up for it!

Erika said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one that can't deal with the baking soda and vinegar hair cleanings! I, too, have long hair, and it wasn't so much getting the ends of my hair clean (I don't use any products on it), but actually getting the baking soda mixture to my scalp and the actually dirty/oily hair.

There's just something easy, convenient, and effective about the thicker sudsier stuff...


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this... I gave up the no 'poo thing after just over a week (erm... yeah, maybe I should mention that on my blog actually).

Either way, there are far more important ways we can be helping the earth than using baking soda and vinegar on our hair. Good on you for at least trying it!

Robj98168 said...

At least you tried. Nobody ever did anything by not trying. It is better to have tried and fail, than not trying at all-Ooops! I just made an argument for trying to unplug the frigidaire!

Midge said...

I also gave up on the baking soda and vinegar method, because it dried up my hair something awful. I now do a very diluted natural shampoo about twice a week and an occasional vinegar rinse or wash using shikakai powder. I also do a lot of sitting around indoors this time of year, and rarely work up a sweat, so dirtiness isn't generally a problem.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm just realizing that most no-poers still wash everyday. Der on me.

Yeah I think if that's the case, no-poo wouldn't be as worth it (environmentally speaking) as washing less often...slowly spacing out washes to go longer and longer.


Debbie said...

I'm really surprised it didn't work for you -- frankly I don't think you tried long enough, but if you're not happy with it then you're just not. It's too bad; my hair an scalp are in the best condition they've ever been in.

I do hope others will not give up too early because of your short trial, though, because it does work for many of us.

brinnet said...

I haven't tried no 'poo, but as an interesting alternative, I've read that conditioner by itself has enough surfactants to clean your hair as properly as shampoo.

You might be able to get away with no shampoo, but using only conditioner instead!

Chervil said...

I have gone without shampoo for a year. I only used rain water from our water tanks. Baking soda sounds like a very bad idea to me - no wonder you felt all yucky and itchy!

It took a little while for my hair to adjust - initially I had to wash my hair twice a week instead of just once as before, but I gradually returned to my once a week schedule. The hair looked fine, it did not smell, it felt perfect and was not sticky.

And I used less water than before because I did not have to rinse etc.

Part of the reason why I decided to try the no-shampoo method was to see whether it would help get rid of some eczema that had been troubling me. Unfortunately, however, it made no difference whatsoever in that respect.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I may try it again in the future or perhaps alternate occasionally with Aveda, my "green" shampoo and the baking soda action. Oh, who am I kidding. It's unlikely I'll try it again. I've got more weird things I'd rather experiment on.

I had really bad luck with shampoo bars, but it's possible I just need to keep looking for something that works on my head.

I like the idea of using something that is low in chemicals for cleaning my hair, since the rest of my cleansers are inert. But I also don't like drying the crap out of my hair experimenting either...

knutty knitter said...

I only use the bs twice a week and the cup with the tablespoon in lasts about 6 washes on average. Water use is down if anything. Maybe you just had too much of it in your hair?

Mine has never been better.

Try again when you aren't stressed by other things perhaps :)

viv in nz

Green Bean said...

At least you tried. This is one thing that I don't think I'd ever try. I'm just not that brave.

nemo said...


Why don't you try to stay away from the shampoo for a while. Once a week should work fine. You may need to go through an initial period of very greasy hair -your sebaceous glands are probably working overtime with all that shampoo, but after a while your body will adjust.

Then you can take a more sensible and environmentally friendly approach. Use less. Remember using LESS is always best. Better than using something else or recycling !

Your hair looks great. Stop beating it up with shampoo or other detergents! You need the natural oils to protect it.

Anonymous said...

I've been doing the bs/vinegar about once a week for awhile now. At first I tried the baking soda paste, massaging that into my scalp, but it seemed to dry my hair out too much, since I don't have alot of oil to contend with. So now I just do the 1 tablespoon in a large tumbler of water and that works great.

Crunchy, maybe you need more bs? I'm thinking the oilier the hair/scalp, the more bs is needed to cut it.

My hair is so shiny and soft, it's amazing that this really works! I hope you'll try this again in the future, Crunchy One, when things calm down for you. It really simplifies life and FPF would be so proud of you! :)

Anonymous said...

At least you tried, Dear crunchy Chicken. Lots of hairbrushing seems to be a key factor too. I have got the hang of it now after 3mos of more itchy scalp/ear canals/under-carriage!!!

However, whilst you've got your bicarb on hand have a go at this use for it.

It works so well for my sensitive teeth and cleans my partial denture beautifully too.

(Apologies to Riana for my "cheek" in pasting her post...I would have asked but can't comment on her wonderful blog as it doesn't take "anonymous" comments :( )

Great work and kindest regards from Australia,

Sue Caissy

Anonymous said...

I tried the BS method and thought it wasn't great either. What I switched to was a smaller than dime size dollop of shampoo and rinsing with vinegar (apple cider vinegar, a hunk of rosemary and 2 yummy flavor tea bags mixed with warm water- my hair never smells like vinegar). I've been using the same bottle of shampoo for over a year now. My hair is mid-back length and very thick. I've had excellent results with this method so if you want to try another variation, you might give this one a go. While I DO use poo, 1 bottle over the course of 13-16 months isn't too bad IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I tried no-poo. It was very nice at first, actually. My hair seemed fluffier and dried faster. (I had very thick, long, oily hair.) But eventually it became very "tacky" to the touch. I'm too busy to deal with that mess.

I think I will try the shampoo bars. Plenty of people here are raving about them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Crunchy, but "ooh, I tried it for a few days but it was like icky-poo" is incredibly lame.

Maybe you could sell the blog to someone who really does something? Nah, you're just another greenwashed media whore.

Anonymous said...

As somebody mentioned, just using conditioner actually can work well, and cuts down on rinse time. I know because I did this accidentally once...bought the similar to the 'poo conditioner and used it for weeks before I figured it out. However, I DID figure it out, because, though I have a lot of hair, it is fine, and the wave I usually have disappeared as it became quite limp. This technique would probably be great for somebody with dry, frizzy, thick, or super curly hair.

And WOW, that last comment...that bitter-sounding person needs to get a grip. People who are really trying don't belittle others who are, too. Any bit helps.

...e... said...

okay, i'm doing this today. i have very thick, 3' long straight hair that everyone has always commented on, and still does even though i'm 57. i have reduced hair washing to pantene once weekly for over a year now. and have very hard water. washing my head upside-down in the sink with the hand hose (mommies used to do this to kids all the time when i was a kid) so i can pool the hair in the sink, i first wet it with a cup of 50/50 white vinegar/britta filtered water to see if that helps the hardness (i hav previously tried dr. bronner's but it came out like hay scum which must have been the water.) then on to a tablespoon of soda in a cup of britta, then a hose rinse, then a tbls acv in a cup of britta. then another hose rinse, and then olive oil rubbed into the hair in the sink, which i put the stopper in and filled during the last hose rinse. let's see what happens.

...e... said...

oh, joy, i'm thinking maybe Melaleuca is the name of the manufacturer? because if it's from the actual melaleuca tree, people will need to be very careful as melaleuca is a highly allergic thing for many (especially me.) makes my asthma go nuts!

From the lion's mouth said...

I used to do the baking soda thing, but with swimming regularly in chlorinated water I had to go back to a shampoo bar.

"Jessica said...
I've been happy with my Lush shampoo bar, though I would be thrilled to find a local supplier. I haven't figured out what to do about conditioner though..."

There are quite a few shampoo bars on etsy, you might have luck finding a local on there. I've used the Lush solid conditioner as well, although it doesn't work that well (I have thick, dry hair and it's just not conditioning enough, but it does work well enough that I can just use a little bit of Aesop rose hair masque in the ends and be ok).

Anonymous said...

Glad to read there are so many others who can't do the no poo thing. I get tired of women with beautiful thick hair telling me I shouldn't shampoo everyday. My hair is thin, dry and brittle. If I go without washing, it's greasy. If I use baking soda, it's dry.

Those who poo poo the ones who can't no poo just have no cloo.

Anonymous said...

I just spent 4 months trying to "train" my hair to go longer than every other day without needing to be washed and all I have is an itchy, built up with oils scalp. :( I was doing somewhat ok when my hair was shorter when I started (also growing my hair out) and could go 4 or 5 days without it being itchy and that's about when it would start looking bad too. But I also started stretching it to 5 to 7 days and it got really itchy and gross looking. Now with longer hair, I find that I can go maybe 1 day without washing, 2 if I'm lucky but that my scalp is itchy if I go more than 1 day without washing. So neither no poo or going longer in between washings is working for me.

mechiko said...

Your problem was that you went cold-turkey. Of course it didn't work! Silly.
You have to gradually switch over, over the course of 3 to 6 months. You have to let your hair get used to it. Here's a great post on how to make the switch:

I think you should try again, it would be a shame if you didn't.

Unknown said...

Errr... Like a few others here, I'm not surprised you were unhappy with your results. The point of “no poo” is to stop washing your hair so often. BS strips the oil from your scalp too, so you’re not helping yourself if you’re using that every day. No successful “no pooers” use the baking soda/ vinegar routine every day. That’s why your head was itchy. You’re supposed to use it once or twice a week, maximum, and let your hair be natural the other days. Once you stop stripping the oil out every day, your scalp will stop trying to replace it. You also need to brush your hair with a boar bristle brush to pull the oil to the ends of your hair.
This is all coming from an avid “no pooer” with very fine, straight long hair.