Why I Don’t “No-Poo” with Baking Soda or Castile Soap Anymore

Why I Don’t “No-Poo” with Baking Soda or Castile Soap Anymore

Here’s Part 2 in my “No-Poo” series. In Part 1, I told you why it’s worth avoiding commercial shampoos and going the diy route.

In this article, find out why I no longer use either baking soda or castile soap to wash my hair. Plus the one reason it may not work for you and what you should consider before going that route.

Going shampoo-free reduces your exposure to chemicals, is cheaper, and uses less products. 

I used baking soda for a few weeks and would not go back to it because I felt like it wasn’t good for my hair. I used castile soap as shampoo for at least six months and I think it’s fine but not for me.

In the next post in this series, I’ll give you the simple recipe for the herbal hair rinse I’m currently in love with and that (in my opinion) blows “no-poo” out of the water (metaphorically).

Baking Soda and Vinegar: the gold standard

Washing with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar is the gold standard of crunchy “no-poo” hair care. You’ll see a lot of articles out there about them.

I tried this for a little while, figuring my hair would eventually balance out. And maybe it would have. But my hair was just kinda flat and scraggly. (See the Why below for how this might differ from your experience.) So I decided to continue my experimentation and try castile soap.

Liquid Castile Soap: the gentler alternative

I already had Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap around the house so it was perfect to apply this multi taster to my hair. In fact, this is what I traveled with for my entire 2 1/2 month North American Road Trip last summer.

The best part about using castile soap is its multi-tasking ability. The beauty products industry has us thinking we need a separate product for every use. Of course, peddling more options makes them more money.

But liquid castile soap takes care of shampoo, body wash, laundry, dishes, mopping floors, and many other things I probably haven’t yet discovered. That means that during my travels, I have carried just one bottle that I can use in the hotel room sink to wash my undies and also to clean out food dishes (not at the same time – I’m not an animal).

But I still wasn’t satisfied.

Why I don’t use either anymore

Now I’m finally at a point to let you know what hasn’t worked as well as I hoped. Next article in this series I’ll tell you about what is working.

Harsh on hair?

My hair dresser Pam gave me a scare when she said baking soda strips your hair and can be rough on it, especially on color (I henna my hair occasionally). I was already a few weeks in to using it. So I went straight to the masterful interwebs and did a little research.

I found some bad accounts and some that dismissed negative experiences and offered solutionsAnd I did discover that baking soda is, in fact, recommended for removing hair dye. 

Even though Pam didn’t recommend using baking soda every time you wash your hair, she did tell me to use it once a month as a clarifier to remove buildup. So it can’t be all that bad, right?

Lots of people have great experiences with it. Just see how it works on you. Which brings me to my next point.

Individual needs

First of all, everyone’s hair is different. Mine is oily and thick. It’s gonna behave a little differently than someone’s that is fine and dry.

Everyone’s shower water is also different. In Vegas, we have very hard water with a high pH. Since pH is an essential part of hair care, this makes a difference to how these things work.

Don’t overlook pH balance

Soaps are, by their very nature, alkaline. Higher pH means better cleaning ability and more ease cutting through oil and grease. Unfortunately, our hair requires a slightly acidic pH.

If you do use baking soda or castile soap, don’t forget to also use an acidic rinse like diluted apple cider vinegar after no-pooing. It will drop the pH back down, often referred to as pH balancing. A ratio of 1 Tbsp acv to 1 cup water should do the trick.

In Vegas, our hard water plus the high pH of the baking soda or castile soap results in a higher overall pH than no-pooers elsewhere are experiencing. When I was in Toronto for over a month this summer using castile soap, my hair had body and was decent. Whether that was due to the humidity in the air compared to the bone dry desert air of Vegas or to a difference in the water, I can’t say.

Chlorine in shower water

I use a chlorine filter on my shower head. Something I highly recommend. Why? Chlorine contributes to skin issues like dryness, dandruff, eczema. It’s also toxic – linked to respiratory problems and asthma

Every time you shower, you soak your hair and skin in chlorine and and inhale the heated fumes. I read somewhere that one shower contains the same levels as an entire day’s drinking water. 

You can get a chlorine filter fairly inexpensive at your local home improvement/ hardware store. It screws onto your existing shower head. 


I just wasn’t thrilled with the results. Baking soda was rough on my hair and castile soap left my hair kinda stringy with no bounce afterwards.

Judging by the quantity of raving reviews online, it seems to work well for lots of people. For me, I decided it was worth exploring other options. Plus I love experimenting and then sharing with you. And I’m not ruling out a little further experimentation in the future. 

When I do more long-term travel, I might just keep using the castile soap because it’s so portable and a great multi-tasker.

In Part 3 of this series, I share my DIY herbal shampoo/conditioner recipe that kicks “No-Poo’s” butt. 😉 So far I’ve used it for a few months and it has my hair feeling moisturized without weighing it down.

Now your turn. Do you use baking soda or castile soap? How have they worked for you?

33 Responses to Why I Don’t “No-Poo” with Baking Soda or Castile Soap Anymore

  1. Ok, I’m going to Target after work to go buy some Castile soap & the baking soda (to clarify). Question: Do I just use the soap like shampoo? And then do the rinse? I can’t wait to try this out!

    • Denise, you’ve got it exactly right. When I was using castile soap to wash my hair, I just lathered up with it like shampoo. Then did the rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar. You might want to also stay tuned for the next article in the series when I’m going to share the diy herbal hair wash I use now… Adria

      • I’m brand new to all this so this may come off a little naive. Do you use the soap, rinse all of it out with only the vinegar rinse then rinse that with shampoo? I guess I just need some extra clarification or a play by play or something.

        • I may be wrong but the way I would do it is:
          1. Lather hair with castile soap
          2. Rinse out like normal shampoo with water
          3. Rinse the hair with the ACV solution
          4. Rinse with water again (to remove excess ACV and get rid of the vinegar-y smell)

    • From my experience and from endless research, you have to dilute the Castile soap as it is concentrated. I dilute it about 10 drops to 1 Cup of warm water and then kind of rinse my hair with it, while rubbing your scalp. Then water rinse and rinse again with an acv& water solution. My hair feels wonderful and soft. Very manageable considering my hair is thick and wavy and have an oily scalp. Hope this helps. Happy Hair to you!!

  2. My hair is already very dry and brittle because it’s curly and I tried castille soup for a few weeks, first I noticed it had even less moisture. By the end of the month it was falling out! After almost two months and thinning hair I totally gave it up. I use organic products and a lot of natural oils to keep it hydrated.

    • Gaby, Yikes! And you were doing the vinegar rinse to balance out the pH afterwards? Thanks for sharing your experience. Right now I’m washing with my own herbal hair wash recipe and it’s a lot more hydrating. I’ll share it in the next article in this series – hopefully that will help. Adria

    • The PH of castile soap is much too acidic for your hair. Dilute a small amount i use about 1 tbsp castile soap to 1-1.5 cup of water and add a bit of vegetable glycerin. Shake it up in a squirt bottle. It lathers up well! Follow up with a bit of oil to seal :)

      • Castile soap is alkaline not acidic. My highly porous did not react well to the soap. Maybe mixing it up with something acidic like aloe vera, apple cider vinegar or citric acid will lower the pH.

  3. Can’t wait to hear about your concoction. I’m still using an organic commercial brand, but I’ve been wanting to try the DIY route.

  4. I’m too lazy for the DIY stuff. I tried to ‘no-poo’ my literally not washing my hair and just using water…until I couldn’t stand it any more. I lasted a little less than 2 weeks. My husband was completely grossed out! LOL! My hair was HUGE. It’s never had so much body, but it was also smelly :-/ I went back to my Nature’s Gate biotein shampoo and hemp conditioner. Been using that comb w/ great results for a couple of years.

    • Hey Veronica, I’m actually pretty lazy also. So when I do something DIY (or cooking for that matter), it’s usually super simple! Props for getting two weeks with no washing. My hair mostly becomes stringy and greasy rather than getting volume – but maybe that’s the humidity difference! Adria

  5. I use diluted apple cider vinegar on my hair and it makes it break and fall out. I used the regular store bought kind and not “with the mother” in it, so I don’t know if that makes a difference. But I’ve been trying methods of no shampoo and I have thin hair to begin with but I find it all makes my hair fall out! Help

  6. I’ve used baking soda and vinegar for over a year now. I love it. I use henna, and it doesn’t seem to affect the dye. My hair feels cleaner and stronger, and I only have to wash it every three or four days, or so. I have friends who this didn’t work at all for, so I think it may come down to what works for your particular hair. I’m glad it worked in mine though–I haven’t used shampoo or soap for over a year and my hair is shinier, healthier, and way less prone to getting oily than it used to be. I don’t think baking soda strips hair, unless you use it every other day. The whole draw to using baking soda and vinegar for me was because then I could wash my hair less frequently. And its certainly worked for me.

  7. I used bi-carb as shampoo for a year. At first it felt so wonderful, soft and smooth. After a while my hair lost its vibrance, I put it down to stress at the time not suspecting that it was the bicarb which I had heard so many good things about. When I did realize what was going on, the damage had already been done, the ends were completely mank so I had to bike the bullet, say goodbye to my mermaid length hair and welcome a new pixie do. PH matters, lesson learned.

  8. Hi Adria – I sometimes mix baking soda in with my organic care shampoo because i get a sticky oily build up at the crown of my head. i dont even use much products on my hair but it still builds up (probabl with shampoo) after a week and i have to use the baking soda to get rid of it. however long term the baking soda just isnt really working – i have thick long curly hair that is oily at the roots (especially around crown) and dry at the ends. the baking soda doesnt make it feel good long term. would apple cider vinegar be better to remove this occasional build up? we have hard water and i live in humid NZ haha. I’m just getting so sick of this oiliness at the crown weighing it down – im thinking of cutting my hair off just so i dont have to put up with it. everyday i dont wash it i wet and comb it in the shower to try and bring the oil down to the roots but it doesnt really help. any solutions does anyone have this issue? im on the contraceptive pill so i guess the oily build up on the crown could be hormonal. thanks for this blog by the way.

  9. So baking soda was leaving my hair super dry after prolonged use (more than once a week). Although this method DID leave my hair feeling super soft, it would get oily on the 4th day, thus I’d have to wash twice a week, which would actually end up damaging the hair. So I started using regular shampoo once a week but it was knocking out SO MUCH hair I decided to opt for another natural method…

    Then I bought a shampoo bar from someone that leaves my hair yucky (like it never washed off the oiliness) and my dandruff is out of control… so I am now considering castile soap (as soon as I find it of course)…

    BUT, I think I’m going to give your recipe a shot first too! We all have different hair and it reacts differently to different cleansing methods. My hair is thick and oily and I am all for experimenting to find something that works for me.



  12. I have tried no poo (because I don’t like having to buy shampoo and I am somewhat of a DIY addict). I have fine hair that I wear in an undercut, and my main hair problem is that it’s very flat and doesn’t hold volume or products well. I found that the baking soda seemed to damage my hair – it broke on my comb more – but also gave it way more volume. Possibly the additional volume was caused by the damage / raised cuticles making the hair not actually physically lay as flat. I don’t really want to keep losing that much hair to my comb, so I’m trying different things (and I’ll try your recipe). Have you had anyone else say anything about the volume side of things? Is there a way to get that without the damage? Am I missattributing the volume boost?

  13. I have fine, somewhat oily hair, but a lot of it (not thin). Baking soda cleans my hair amazingly well, but I think it’s making my face break out. I’ve had pretty bad acne since I switched to no poo.

    I’ve been trying different alternatives to baking soda, but so far haven’t found one that didn’t make my hair look even greasier than it did before I washed it.

  14. My hair is extremely long. (To my bum)

    I tried baking soda and vinegar. I didn’t like how it made my hair feel so, I ditched it…I tried the Almond oil liquid Castille soap for the first time last night.

    I only use shampoo if my hair feels greasy. In between washes I just soak my hair in water and do rosemany oil massages

    After using the Almond oil liquid Castille I condition I rince for almost 1 minute in very cold water. My hair is super full and bouncy. Next time Im diluting it though.

    I’ve also stopped brushing it as often or using any form of heat, which has made it look better and it’s so much softer and shinier.

    I only use a comb or brush once every 3 days. On the days I don’t brush I carefully use my fingers to comb through it. I keep it losely braided so it doesn’t tangle.

    I’m discovering that most of the things that humans do to their hair is completely unnecessary and only causes it to look bad.

  15. Have you ever heard of miracle water? You put 1/4 tsp of citric acid and about 1/8 tsp of ascorbic acid into a gallon of water and the acids help to neutralize the chlorine and minerals. You might have to adjust it to your local water. I have been water only washing with this mixture for a couple weeks now and my hair has felt very nice and the grease is finally fading with the use of a boar bristle brush twice daily, as well. I think this mixture would also work well to rinse hair after using DILUTED Castile soap to wash hair. It’s the minerals in your water that was making the Castile soap not work, that and not diluting it first.

  16. I used baking soda and a diluted vinegar combination as a “shampoo” and “conditioner” for about 2 months and I didn’t like the results. I kept thinking that my scalp is still adjusting to no poo. It felt that my hair was dirty and had no shine or body. After that I used JR Liggett shampoo bar and I loved it. My hair loved it too. It was reasonably priced but I wanted a challenge and I started making my own shampoo bar with oils that are pure and essential for hair, like coconut, avocado, argan, almond, castor and few more… its been about 6 months that I’m using my handmade shampoo bar and I get a lot of compliments. Once in a while I do avocado oil hair mask and leave it for few hours and wash with my shampoo bar. I’m very happy with my results and I keep Improving my shampoo bars as I learn more about oils nessasary to scalp and hair.

  17. I have a comment about using baking soda to “wash” your hair and vinegar to “condition” it. First let me tell you a little about myself. I have a cosmetology degree in Virginia and California. I went to school at an accredited, prestigious school outside of Washinton DC in Falls Church, Virginia, called the Potomac Academy of Hair Design. At that time, it took 2000 hours of school to qualify to take the licensing exam. I also have my certificate through Redken Scientific. We studied the chemistry biology of hair and skin. This certification process took 500 hours. So I know a tiny bit about hair (if I can remember back that far smile emoticon ).
    Hair and skin have a natural ph of 4.5 to 5.5.. Sodium bicarbonate has a ph of about 8.3 and vinegar 2.2 ( sulfuric acid or battery acid 1.0 smile emoticon ) Raising or lowering the ph of your hair is probably not that terrific for your hair in the long run. Okay so the hair shaft itself has three layers, the madulla or the core, the cortex is the next layer and the cuticle that are like fish scales on the outside layer. These scales are extremely important for “healthy” hair. If they are roughed up, they expose the next layer of the shaft (cortex) that contains the pigment that makes up your hair color. The cuticle is very sensitive, (more so in lighter colored hair or fine hair) just wetting your hair opens up the cuticle slightly. So maybe you can imagine what baking soda does to these poor little scales. I really believe that if you can keep your hair at it’s natural ph level rather than spiking it high then lowering it drastically your hair will be much more healthy.
    And I second thought, not out of the salon but out of the kitchen …. you use vinegar to remove proteins from your pots and pans…. Your hair is made up of keratin which is a protein…hmmmmm

  18. I started my no poo journey using the classic baking soda / apple cider vinegar combo. Right away I noticed that my hair was falling out more than usual. It was the baking soda that was causing this, and even though it caused hair fall out, I tried sticking to it (not for very long) because it cleaned my hair and took away the excess oil – I have very oily hair. Since then, I have stopped using it and am on a quest to find something that will help balance my hair. I am not happy. I not only have oily hair but it smells too. I don’t want to go back to using shampoos and my stubborn side won’t let me give up. I know I will find the right solution in time. It will just take more research. If so many people have succeeded. I will succeed too.
    I hear people rave about the classic way of going no poo but I think it’s also important to let people know that it can hurt you as well. The baking soda was hurting my hair and making it fall out. If you experience this as well, please, please, please, don’t continue. It is hurting you. You don’t have to give up. Just search for a better way. =)

    • I too started with baking soda and AVC rinse, but my hair never completely adjusted. Then I discovered shampoo bars that I order from Chagrin Valley Farm in Ohio. They lather, smell nice, and clean my fine, oily hair better than the baking soda did.

  19. I read about this several months ago and my hair has not looked this good in years. I have aging, thinning dry hair which always looked frizzy. I first tried the expensive Deva No-Poo (travel Size) with conditioner, but further reading suggested to skip the shampoo completely and use the cheapest conditioner around (think 99¢ store). I now use only VO5 once or twice a week. My hair is fuller, grows faster, breaks less and is not frizzy. I love it.

  20. Baking soda is meant as a cleaner, not for your body. Just use a clarifying shampoo. Even that’s better than baking soda. You scrub your tub with baking soda, not your hair or face.

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