Natural Shampoo: Only Two Ingredients

Apr 30, 2018
Natural Shampoo
Margaret Boyles


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One day early last spring, I counted the ingredients of three shampoos and two conditioners sitting on a bathroom shelf; each contained at least 20 ingredients, many of them unpronounceable and three or four of them suspected toxins. Two contained fragrances that made me sneeze. That day, I decided to try an easy two-ingredient method I’d read about for years, but that had always seemed too hokey. I’ve never looked back.

Borax (or baking soda) and cider vinegar

My new strategy calls for an alkaline washing ingredient—either borax or baking soda—followed by an acidic rinse of apple cider vinegar. That’s it!

To my surprise, the two-ingredient method worked well, leaving my hair clean, shiny, and more manageable than any of the hundred products or combination of products I’ve used through the decades.

Cheap, easy, remarkably effective, and probably a lot safer. I always have these ingredients on hand for various household uses.

Like me, you probably won’t believe that the baking soda or borax methods (either works equally well for me) will actually clean your hair, so you’ll want to give it your first try on a vacation or weekend day when you have the time to repeat with your usual routine if you don’t like the results.

I’ve seen dozens of “recipes” for this natural approach to hair care. I don’t think the exact proportions matter. I just fiddled around until I found what worked well for me.

Here’s how I do it:

  • I pour a bit less than half a cup of either baking soda or borax (either or a mixture of both works equally well for me) into a small bowl and ½ cup of cider vinegar into another, then add a couple of cups of warm water to each bowl.
  • I pour the dissolved baking-soda or borax solution through my wet hair.
  • Then I rinse my hair well. Borax may leave some undissolved grit, but that rinses away quickly.
  • Finally, I pour the vinegar solution thorough. I usually don’t rinse it out, but you can. Either way, the vinegar smell disappears within minutes.

It took me a while to get used to the idea that just pouring a solution through my hair with no scrubbing or lathering could get it clean, but it really does.

I haven’t found a need for conditioning, but I haven’t tested my new shampoo through a dry New England winter yet. Advocates of this hair-care method suggest adding a few drops of olive, sesame, castor or some other oil to the washing solution for frizz or static control. I’ll give that a try if it seems necessary.

Learn more
Check the safety rating on the personal-care products you use for yourself and your family. Environmental Working Groups staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites with information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.

See more DIY natural toiletry products.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

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Natural Shampoo-only two ingredients

Thank you very much (Tudah Rbah). I asked the Creator to help me rid my house of pharmacea. I asked Yah about what to use to wash my hair. I hadn't used shampoo for years and was using bee honey. But I learned bee honey is from an unclean insect; we are not made to ingest this. The men who call themselves rabbis say it is ok. But I follow only AHhD RB, HaMSHYHh (only One Rabbi, the Messiah). After asking Yah to help me on this, He told me (through the RYH HaQodesh) to use a cleaning agent (borax) and a grease-cutting agent (lemon juice). I thank you for your input. Know the real Name of the Creator is Yah (short version). When we say HaLLUYaH, we are saying , "the highest praise to Yah," in Hebrew. The Name as told to Mose is Hayah asher Hayah is His Name sandwiching the word asher, which means blessed. Hayah means Breath of Life, worship, Breath of Everlasting Life. We are to do the 7 appointed times, as written of in Leviticus/Wayyiqra 23, but no more animal sacrifices. Shalom UAhabah (peace and love) from our home to yours.

Does it work the same for

Does it work the same for curly hair, and is it safe for young children,5 and up

I used this for the first

I used this for the first time on color treated hair (Natural Instincts). I used 1 tbsp of baking soda to 8 oz warm water. One tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar to 8 oz water. I am 64 years old. This made my hair fuller. I have chin length hair. I love this! And I will continue using it. It is so cheap, natural & easy.

Easy shampooing

I've used this same formula for at least 5 years. I have long hair so I do 2 tbsp. baking soda to 2 cups warm water for the wash, and 2 oz vinegar to 2 cups warm water for my rinse. My hair is gray so I use white vinegar and it gives my hair a nice shine. I'll never go back to shampoo from the store!

Can't wait to try this!

Can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to more.

Wonderful article. I've also

Wonderful article. I've also been using these ingredients to clean my hair for a few years, it's healthier than it's ever been, and before this I had been using organic/natural shampoos, from the health food stores, for most of my life. Tip: I replaced the ACV with fresh lemon juice; smells better and highlights the hair.

hi as a chemist i would like

hi as a chemist i would like to say the bad smell of vinegar dissapears because the latter is neutralised by the soda another thing is that i used vinegar with henna an the result was fantastic shine hair now h sold a hair cream nder the name of shiny hair because of vinegar good luck

hi as a chemist i would like

hi as a chemist i would like to ssaay the bad smell of vinegar dissapears because the latter is neutralised by the soda another thing is that i used vinegar with henna an the result was fantastic shine hair now h sold a hair cream nder the name of shiny hair because of vinegar good luck

This shampoo is wonderful &

This shampoo is wonderful & my hair looks great.

Do you think regular vinegar

Do you think regular vinegar (not cider) would work as well?

Yes, regular white vinegar

Yes, regular white vinegar works as well. Vinegar just acts as a detangler. I use white vinegar because apple cider vinegar made my hair too greasy.

Home made shampoo

I was wondering if you thought it might work on color treated hair?

And this also got me to wondering "What did our ancestors wash their hair with?"

color treated hair

I don't know about using borax or baking soda and vinegar to wash color-treated hair, Lorimae, though I have read that over time baking soda will lighten hair.

If you have your hair colored professionally, ask the colorist. If you color your own, you might try calling the company that produces your product. They may have a toll-free number on the box. 

As for our ancestors, soapmaking goes back at least 2800 years. Native Americans and indigenous people's from around the world may also have relied on plant materials containing saponins. Your question would make an interesting research project.



Word to the wise about color

Word to the wise about color treated hair. Avoid essential oils and tinctures on hair like the plague. The chemicals in the dye will not like the herbs. I one use I was bald in a one inch area where it concentrated and fried some of the rest of my hair as well. A costly mistake I hope others can avoid.

I have been using this method

I have been using this method for a few years now, I was coloring my hair with natural instincts and it makes your color last longer using the baking soda vinegar rinse, kind of like tie dyeing clothes, the vinegar set the color in. Also if you find that the "vinegar" makes your hair too greasy it is not solely the vinegar it is the combination and quantity of baking soda/ borax and the vinegar rinse. So play around with the amount of baking soda or borax you dissolve in measured amount of water and then use the vinegar rinse, i.e. 1tsp to 1cp water or 2tsp to 1cup water. make sure it is dissolved well because it can crust on your head. I get my hair professionally colored now but still only use the demi color and find after all the washing and chemical processing at the salon it takes about a week or so for my own natural oils to get balanced out again.

eats weeds

what do you mean.. eat weeds... what weeds are you eating

eating weeds


I plan to blog more about this later. I eat all sorts of weeds common to my part of New Hampshire: dandelions, lamb's quarters, stinging nettles, burdock roots, chickweed, clover leaves...and more! Wild plants are generally much more nutritious and contain higher concentrations of phytonutrients than cultivated crops. But you really need to know your weeds before you begin foraging. Some poisonous wild plants are closely related to edible plants; some edible plants contain poisonous parts (even the common potato contains toxins in the leaves and sprouts.)

Stay tuned in spring!


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