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How to Make Your Own Shampoo

On a trip last year, I realized I hadn’t packed my shampoo. No big deal … except it was a major holiday and all the stores were closed in that particular rural community. Rather than make an expensive drive to a bigger city, I thought I would just make do. The problem is, I didn’t know how.

That got me thinking. What if I woke up and my local drugstore was closed forever? If a worst-case scenario came true, and there wasn’t any more store-bought shampoo? Wallowing in my own filth isn’t really my style. Itchy scalp and greasy, smelly hair for eternity? No thank you!

It turns out that making your own shampoo is simple – and good for you. Most modern store-made shampoos are full of nasty chemicals and additives. You pay top dollar for them, too. By learning to make your own shampoo, you can save money and improve your health. History notes that before 1930, there was no such thing as commercial shampoo anyway, so if our ancestors could do it, so can we!

The Basic Principles of Homemade Shampoo

DIY shampoos do the same work as regular shampoo (clean hair), but they don’t necessarily act the same way. Natural, home-made shampoos don’t make suds like store soap – all that lather is necessary for companies to “show” you how clean your hair is getting, but natural soaps clean without being flashy.

Homemade shampoo can be more alkaline than store shampoo. You can offset this with a rinse to pH balance your scalp if you like. The need to tweak to what you like also makes small batches a feature of DIY shampoo, so be ready to say goodbye to jumbo bottles of store shampoo, too.

Last but not least, to switch to homemade shampoo, you need to commit to try it for a minimum of three weeks. The first week will be the hardest as your hair and scalp adjust to a shampoo that’s not a chemical soup and your natural oils find their balance. The next two weeks will let you settle into a routine and get used to how your hair feels using natural shampoo.

The Baking Soda Shampoo

When experimenting with homemade beauty products, experts say to start simple. It doesn’t get any simpler than this baking soda shampoo. There are only two ingredients!

To make this shampoo, put one tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of water. Put both of them into a small bottle or a jar with a lid and shake well. Don’t skimp on the shaking, and remember to shake your mix each time before using. This is approximately a week’s worth of shampoo, made for pennies!

In the shower or bathtub, get your hair wet and add about two tablespoons of the shampoo mix (a generous palm). With your fingertips, scrub the mixture into your hair and rub it around your scalp. There won’t be suds, but it is working. Rinse well using very warm water. Use every other or every third day for best results, rinsing your hair with only water on the other days.

Tips and Tricks of Baking Soda Shampoo:

  • Keep this out of your eyes – it can burn!
  • If you get dry ends with this shampoo or have naturally curly hair, rinse with apple cider vinegar to soften it up (one tablespoon to one to two cups of water)
  • Baking soda shampoo will take the color off dyed hair
  • Naturally shampooed hair looks better air-dried than blow-dried in most cases (convenient, since our ancestors didn’t have hairdryers, either)
  • If you have very hard water, try boiling the mix before bottling
  • Add a few drops of tea tree oil to fight any remaining dandruff, itchiness, or scalp irritation after your trial period

Shampoo from Castile Soap

Another simple shampoo mixes water, castile soap, and natural oils. You blend ¼ cup water with ¼ cup liquid castile soap and add ½ teaspoon of oil (olive oil for the most basic version). Shake well and use promptly. It will suds up slightly.

Tips and Tricks of Castile Soap Shampoo:

  • Change up the olive oil for scented or essential oils to have scented shampoo
  • Dry hair, damaged hair, or brittle hair may like this better
  • Safe for dyed hair and highlights
  • Hard water homes may find this recipe leaves a film behind – you can cut back on the oil a bit or boil the mix with a dash of rock salt to soften it up

What do you think? I was surprised how easy it was to stop using shampoo after I got past the first week and my hair adjusted. My hair looks great now, and I no longer care about shampoo from the store. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

©2012 Off the Grid News

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  1. Hey this is great! Thank you sir! On a mission…..

  2. Synchronicity! I was just researching how to make home made organic shampoo just last week! Turns out I found the harder, more expensive recipe of using castile soap (I was going to try to make the liquid castile soap myself out of lye because I’m to the point where “If I don’t see it being made, it probably isn’t organic”.)

    So, count me in for the Baking soda shampoo. I’ll tell you guys my results on a weekly basis.

    Live with love, guys! This is ObeyBunny signing out for tonight.

  3. Hi there. I really like the intent of this article, but I must point out some tiny chemical and and cosmetic chemistry formulation errors. Before I begin, let me state that I’m a rural living farmer and an experienced handmade soapmaker and natural based cosmetic formulator with my own business.

    “Homemade shampoo can be more acidic than store shampoo.” Actually, homemade shampoos will be a bit MORE alkaline than store shampoos. Store bought usually tries to hit the pH of 5-6.5, some venture into the 7. Baking soda is an amphoteric (it can have a reaction with either acids or bases (alkali) and will become alkaline when mixed with water. Castile soap is also alkaline, with a pH of anywhere from 8-10 depending on the brand or skill of the soapmaker. Both types of homemade shampoo will cause the cuticle of the hair to raise up a bit. This is the nature of an alkaline solution on an acid fiber (which is hair and even other natural fibers) This can be negated , as you pointed out, by doing a final rinse or 2 with a mildly acidic solution, such as a vinegar or lemon juice and water rinse (1/5 solution). This is also why vinegar rinses are wonderful when washing clothes. Neutralizes the soap or detergents, rinses them out cleanly and smoothes and softens the fibers.

    For fun in learning for homeshcoolers, in reverse, baking soda can reduce the acidity in fruit juices and in proper proportions is also what causes the fizzing reaction in alka selzter and fizzy bath bombs and bath powders. Ever do the volcano experiment of baking soda with vinegar? The mild alkalinity of baking soda is also why it helps boost the cleaning power of laundry soaps and is a wonderful natural cleaner in the home. Also, the mild alkalinity of baking soda and Castile (actually all real or true soaps) is why they are a capable though short term itch and sting reliever from many bug and plant induced skin rashes. The alkalinity helps neutralize the acid from the bite, sting or plant sap.

    Thanks for the wonder site and articles.

  4. What a great article, thank you. I have many allergics and reactiosn to harsh chemicals so this really gives me options for things to try.

  5. Okay. This is my update using baking soda shampoo (mixed with a little chamomile tea to lighten my ever-darkening blonde hair) every day sense I first read this article.

    I could never get baking soda shampoo cut grease the way that store bought shampoo did. I would have accepted having grease- free hair that was a little dry because I know that my hair would eventually start producing oils to compensate. I also found it difficult to lather in the shampoo because the stuff would slip right through my hair and into my bathwater. What I eventually started doing was soaking my hair in baking soda water using a mixing bowl and a smooth chopstick to stir the baking soda particles off of the bowl’s bottom. Even soaking in this manner for 20 minutes before rinsing, I couldn’t get the shampoo to make my hair less greasy at the scalp.

    Did I not use a strong enough solution or was I using a bad technique?

    • It might be better to try the castile soap recipe since it is a bit more “shampoo-ey” than the baking soda blend. I think the soaking should have worked, but maybe the pH of your hair is different? Or maybe your facewash is keeping your hairline too dry and it overproduces oil for your hair? (Have you tried honey washing your skin – amazing~!) Anyway, without being able to dig into your scalp like a hairdresser, I don’t know – just some thoughts.

      The baking soda worked okay for me, but I liked the castile soap better in terms of how my hair felt and styled.

    • Try the apple cider vinegar rinse. That should help your hair get softer, cleaner, and keep it from drying out due to the often drying effects of baking soda.

      My sister ran into a similar problem using the baking soda and water mixture. She said that it really dried her hair out and made it brittle. It also, at the same time as being dry, it became greasy. She started using apple cider vinegar and she loved that.

      So I would recommend either adding vinegar to your mix or switching to the castile soap mix.

  6. On the baking soda recipe, there is no second ingredient. It looks like a section is cut out. Can you please correct it? Here is what it says:

    When experimenting with homemade beauty products, experts say to start simple. It doesn’t get any simpler than this baking soda shampoo. There are only two ingredients!

    To make this shampoo, put one tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of water. (What goes here??) Put both of them into a small bottle or a jar with a lid and shake well. Don’t skimp on the shaking, and remember to shake your mix each time before using. This is approximately a week’s worth of shampoo, made for pennies!

  7. Does the Castille soap shampoo also take the color out of dyed hair? I would like to use the natural shampoos but my hair is dyed and I don’t want to lose the color. Thanks, Carol

  8. Unbelievable! I just tried the baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar rinse this morning. My hair shiny, soft, and clean!! Love it.

  9. Ireally want to try this out! I have suffered with dandruff for most of my life. How does baking soda shampoo and vinegar rinse affect a person’s scalp? Will this all clear up in absence of chemical shampoos I have been using for years? Currently I use a on / off combo of T-sal and T-fal and suave with suave conditioner. This works best to keep ichy flakes at bay. Thanks!

  10. Iisap, my husband has really bad dandruff as well, and he has found that vinegar has completely cured it! He sometimes washes with baking soda, sometimes a bar soap, sometimes regular shampoo. However he never skips the last step of a vinegar rinse (1 part vinegar, 4 parts water). He even keeps a spray bottle of the vinegar rinse in the bathroom and spritzes his scalp on days that he doesn’t shower. He smells like vinegar for a few minutes, but that clears quickly. Oh, but don’t use apple cider vinegar for a leave-in spritz – that definitely smells funny for quite a while. ACV is great for an in-shower conditioning rinse, but not for a leave-in.

  11. I’ve been trying to use an oatmeal/baking soda shampoo for a while now, I’ve read on other websites that criticize the baking soda shampoo method for damaging hair because of the high pH level of baking soda on naturally-acidic hair. It’s been a few weeks and my hair seems fine. I’m probably going to use an oil/soap shampoo just in case it turns out better than the baking soda method.

    I think the reason for my switching to a baking soda/water shampoo was purely because I know what I’m putting on my head. Normally, most shampoo/conditioner products say what they want and literally make their shampoo/conditioner sound like you are putting sunshines and rainbows on your head, but looking at the ingredients, the first 5 products aren’t even the ingredient advertised on the front. That’s ridiculous! To think that people are putting sunshines and rainbows on their heads without looking at the ingredients list makes me realize how enslaved we are as a society who doesn’t consider things that may in fact be dangerous to your health (Only for profit!!!) just because of advertisements and societal norms. Ridiculous, I say. Ridiculous…

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  27. I used the baking soda followed by vinegar for a little over two weeks…… my hair was awesome the first few days, so soft, could comb it wet even!! Then, it went down hill from there!! Apparently something changes too much, my flat iron started scorching my hair off!!!!! I stuck with it because I didn’t need to be in public, I really wanted this to work (just kept saying give it three weeks), then started the greasy stage. I finally gave up, not being able to blow dry (I MUST blow dry it or it has a mind of its own when left to dry natural) or flat iron, then the grease was just too much. Im about to try the castile soap, I didnt see to follow it with vinegar, so im wondering how it will go. ive got my fingers crossed!!!!

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  29. I was happily on the baking soda and apple cider vinegar no-poo train for over a year until I started going to the local pool once a week and found that baking soda is just not enough to get rid of chlorine. I’m not sure a honey recipe could hack it, either. Does anybody have a recipe that may help? Or maybe I should start wearing a bathing cap, much as I dislike them. Thanks in advance and check my diy shampoo recipe here:

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