Going Shampoo Free With Sodium Bicarbonate

no poo

On 29th April this year, I stopped using shop-bought shampoo and conditioner.

I wanted to reduce the amount of chemicals I put in and on my body and I’d read a lot about washing hair with sodium bicarbonate. For many people this seemed to be a kind of panacea for all sorts of hair problems.

If you are thinking of doing the same, I have found Alex Raye’s blog to be invaluable. She covers 100% natural everything from shampoo to make-up.

For almost three months I persevered with sodium bicarbonate and I have finally given up (but I haven’t gone back to shop-bought – more on that later).

I think the success of this method depends greatly on your hair type. My hair is straight, very fine, but I have a LOT of it.

The first week

It didn’t start well. For the actual shampoo (or no ‘poo as it is affectionately called), I used a solution of sodium bicarbonate – about a dessertspoon mixed with a cup of water. It made my hair feel instantly rough. Working (rubbing) the watery solution through my hair took a lot of physical effort. I also used a vinegar rinse afterwards, which I really liked once I got the amounts right. The vinegar rinse softened my hair nicely and as long as I rinsed a LOT, there was no trace of vinegar smell afterwards (essential oil really helps with the smell, and apple cider vinegar smells much worse than ordinary white distilled vinegar, in my opinion).

I knew there would be a period of transition where my hair adjusted to its new routine, so I was happy to leave it tied back and let it be greasy between washes. Long-term users report that they wash about once a week, which is what I was aiming for.

The initial problems I encountered were static, flat, heavy hair and grease like I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. It was horrible.

By the end of the first week, I thought I was probably over the worst (hah!).

The first month

By the end of the second week, I was on the verge of giving up. My hair was constantly disgusting. It was rank. It was hair I didn’t want on my head. I contemplated chopping it all off into a pixie crop to see if that would make it easier to deal with.

It felt the same all the time – it was rank straight after I washed it and it was rank for all the days in between (I was washing about every 3 days).

At this point, I did some research online to see what I was doing wrong. I found this excellent troubleshooting guide here, and this sentence jumped out at me:

Your hair should feel great after your first no ‘poo day.

I was definitely doing something wrong. Even straight after washing it was still horrid. After reading that and searching around online some more, I decided to up the amount of sodium bicarbonate. Instead of a solution I made a paste (a lot of people say don’t use a paste, as it is too harsh, but in my case it was the only thing that worked).

Next time I showered and washed my hair, I rubbed in the paste, did the vinegar rinse and lo and behold – clean hair! I felt so much better. I thought I had cracked it, although I still had to wash my hair every three days (any longer and the grease was just too awful).

The second month

After a few more weeks, I reduced the washing interval to more like 5-6 days. Then I developed a sudden, terrible dandruff problem.

OMG if you have greasy no ‘poo hair and dandruff, it is AWFUL.

My boar bristle brush (which I had used happily for yonks), was constantly filthy. I had to wash the brush each week with soap to get the sticky, greasy hair out of it. It never really felt like it got through my hair and brushing my hair seemed more and more difficult.

At this point I switched to a quality, hand-finished comb that I’d had for years and dropped back to down to washing every 3 days.

The dandruff cleared up and my hair looked better because it was being combed properly.

As I said at the start, I have a LOT of very fine hair. In my case, unless it is commercially squeaky clean, I can’t get a boar bristle brush through it, so the brush has been redundant for a while now.

The third month

I was hoping at this point that I would start to see a reduction in the grease, but no change. I managed on a kind of schedule of washing my hair twice a week and keeping it tied back a lot of the time. But I wasn’t really happy with it.

Then along comes the hottest UK summer weather we’ve had for ages.

Oh dear.

Wash days are fine, but the day after I wash it, although my hair still looks clean, it smells.

It smells kind of musty.


And not only that – it just never, ever really feels clean. Even on the day I wash it, I can still detect a slightly greasy feeling. And I have noticed that when I wash my hair, I lose almost no hair in the shower, but when I comb my hair afterwards, tons of it comes out. It is as though the hairs are all stuck together and it’s the comb that draws out the loose ones.

My comb is constantly full of grey, greasy fluff.

I must just have the world’s dirtiest hair.

Finally, I start researching again.

One thing I did find was that hard water can often make sodium bicarbonate less successful. We have very hard water here. The suggestions of fitting a water filter, or storing a large pot of boiled water in the bathroom (where?!) didn’t seem too practical for me.

And then I stumbled upon something completely different.


By this point, after three long months of having crap hair, I was more than ready to try something new. So I did.

Now, to finish off, I know that for a lot of people sodium bicarbonate is a fantastic solution. Many people who have gone no ‘poo with it have never looked back.

I think it is fantastic if it works for you – it is better for your body and it shows a braveness in caring for yourself that I think sets a great example.

I’m really glad I tried it, and the whole thing has shown me that I can live quite happily without commercial shampoo, which is great.

Now I just need to find the perfect solution for my hair. 🙂

1 thought on “Going Shampoo Free With Sodium Bicarbonate”

  1. Rose! I’ve been meaning to comment on your other posts on this subject…Since last summer, I’ve been experimenting with “no poo” (hate the phrase because it makes me think of someone who can’t eliminate properly). I don’t love baking soda and I’ve “played” with a few different natural shampoo+body bars of soap. I have long, thick, wavy hair and I’m still searching for my groove. I love the way ACV with Rosemary EO makes my hair feel and smell. Still struggle with the weird, grey greasy stuff on my brush. I look forward to what you have to say about clay. Cheers, my fabulous friend!

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