Monday, 21 May 2012

Living Chemical Free, Part 1: Living Without Shampoo

I don't use shampoo anymore.

I don't use much soap, either.

I make my own deodorant.

I also make my own laundry soap.

I have no strong feelings about these changes, really.

Oh sure, it's nice to not have to buy bottles of shampoo each month, and I like being self sufficient and making my own stuff, but I think I started out doing these things just because they sounded interesting, and I've found that they actually work. Huh.

So the key ingredient in most of these changes in my daily ablutions is Baking Soda. Or, if you are in England, Bicarbonate of Soda. I don't know why the name is different across the pond, but for simplicity's sake, I'll call it B.S. Ha! No, not really. That would be rude. I'll call it baking soda, because that's what they call it in my homeland and it's easier for me to remember that name.

Living Without Shampoo

Not like baking soda at all.

Anyway... baking soda instead of shampoo. I read a lot about it, and tried different methods: mixing it into a paste in my hand and scrubbing it into dry hair and washing it out; scrubbing the paste into wet hair and washing it out; sprinkling it in like talcum powder and brushing it through; dissolving 1 Tbs into 1 cup of water and using it like shampoo.

Nothing doing. I went from slightly greasy to hideous after about 2 weeks. Seriously, there is no way to clearly describe the nastiness that resulted from this experiment at first. The blogs and websites talk about a "settling in period" but nobody mentioned that my hair would be greasy from the roots to the tips, but ALSO be static-y! How?

I don't know.

Here's what I found out: Baking soda will not dissolve in hard water. Therefore, it won't actually do much in washing the ol' noggin.

Ding ding ding! We have super hard water, and that was my problem right there. Some people suggested using distilled water but that seemed like far too much effort.

In desperation, I researched a little more and about 5 minutes before I ran screaming for my shampoo bottle, I found a comment on a blog post about using BOILING water to dissolve the baking soda. I thought that sounded promising, so I combined a ratio of 1 Tbs baking soda with 1 cup boiling water and went to work.

Wait, back up. Be aware that when you combine baking soda with boiling hot water that it reacts rather similarly to baking soda combined with vinegar. As in, it bubbles over. Do not touch your container (which is, I hope, heat proof) whilst pouring the water. Learn from me and my mistakes, please!

Okay, so you have your container of cooled baking soda mixture -- because who would pour freshly boiled water on their head, right? -- and you are ready to wash your hair.

Now what?

Well, on that first fateful day of washing my hair properly with baking soda, our shower wasn't working. I was kneeling in the bath, wetting my hair with a cup or something, and then poured a bit of the mixture on the crown of my head. I started scrubbing, and it actually sudsed up a bit! It was amazing!

I got all of the nasty build up of grease that had been accumulating for the past 2 weeks completely out of my hair. It wasn't a perfect job, because of the bath situation, but it was near enough to having my old shampoo'd hair back. I could have danced for joy.

That was a month and a half ago, and I haven't used any shampoo since.

But I'll be honest: my hair isn't the same as it would be with a fancy shampoo and conditioner treatment. It feels clean, and it smells nice (more on that in a minute), but it doesn't have that slick, shimmery quality that it would if I was using store bought chemical concoctions.

I'm mostly ok with this. Some days I don't get my hair washed as well as others, and I feel a little annoyed, but I'm willing to concede that I might still be in the settling in period, and I might just need to fiddle around with my baking soda ratios.

I've also found that if I make my mixture ahead of time and let it cool completely before I get around to using it, some of the baking soda sinks to the bottom and it just doesn't work as well. So unfortunately, there is a bit more faffing around before I can take a shower.

But all in all, I like it.

So that's the cleaning side of things, but what about the conditioning? Easy. I just use vinegar.

Many places on the web tell you to use apple cider vinegar, with the same ratio as the baking soda (1 Tbs vinegar to 1 cup water).

I don't have apple cider vinegar, but I do have a bunch of the clear stuff, so I just poured that in a glass bottle (same ratio as above) and added some spices to even out the smell. Right now I have a handful of cloves, a cinnamon stick and a dollop of vanilla brewing away in there. After I've washed my hair, I sprinkle the spiced, watered-down vinegar on my hair (mostly on the ends) and let it sit while I wash everywhere else. Once it's rinsed out and dry, there is no vinegar smell but I do smell rather spicy! It's quite nice.

I rather enjoy living a bit independent of large retailers like this. I just buy a 5kg bag of baking soda off eBay and use it for all sorts of things. It's even food grade, so I can use it in actual baking, too. Handy or what?

So what about the soap and deodorant thing? This post is long enough so I'll get to those later....


Becca said...

Amazing! I tried "no-poo" for a while, but I hated it (I have really frizzy hair - not just "frizzy" hair... but "FRIZZY" hair - like Ms. Frizzle)

I think it was the hard water thing. I'm totally going to try the boiling water thing again and see if I can stand no-poo again. It sure would be nice. I'll probably stick to my chemicals for conditioner, though, just because my hair is so finicky (I went with cheapo shampoo but I just can't stand anything but the highest end conditioners).

Thanks for the tip!

Raisin4Cookies said...

Good luck, Becca! I hope that makes a difference for you and your hair acclimatises to the change quickly!

Holly said...

I'm just popping over here to see what Misty did. It looks so cute!
I've wanted to try the no poo She did recommend a vinegar rinse- but only once or twice a month- saying more than that could be damaging. I wish I could figure something out that I could make! Good luck in your experimentation.

Raisin4Cookies said...

Oooh, that makes sense, Holly! My hair has been feeling a bit dry recently.

I don't pretend to be a pro at all this; just passing on a few tips that I've learned recently. :) Thanks for stopping by!

(and isn't Misty just fab??!)

Emma-Jane said...

Very interesting. I've been using a 97% natural shampoo and conditioner for a while, that I found it Boots, from a range of products called 'Naked', because that's as good as I could get, but can't wait to try this! Sounds like fun!

Raisin4Cookies said...

I might have a look at that range, Emma-Jane. My husband isn't going shampoo-free, but I'm sure he'd be happy enough to use a more natural bottled product. Thanks for the tip, and I hope you have fun with your own baking soda experiments!