From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon


OK, first off, don’t worry — there isn’t any actual urine sitting in that bottle. But it sure looks like pee, doesn’t it? (That stuff in the bottle on the left, by the way, is baking soda and water, which refuse to interact with one another unless shaken vigorously). Anyway, this is besides the point. The point is: After one failed attempt last year to wash my hair with nothing but vinegar, I decided to give the whole natural approach to hair maintenance another shot.

Reader Melinda over at One Green Generation convinced me that her homemade system would leave my hair shiny and clean without also leaving me with an I’ve-just-spent-all-day-at-a-fish-and-chip-shop smell.

Needless to say, I was skeptical. However, as part of my new semi-regular series From the Pantry to the Bathroom, I want to make more of an effort to try new things — more specifically, new homemade things.

So I took a few minutes this morning to assemble the recipe, then followed her directions, which go like this:

1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle. Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.

2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds.

3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.

4. In an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle, mix 1 part organic white vinegar to 4 parts water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.

5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.

I must say, it’s a bit awkward trying to pour watery liquid onto your head without having it run everywhere. The reason regular shampoos and conditioners tend to come in gel-like consistencies is so that you can squeeze a dollop on your noggin, put it down, then gradually work it into a lather until it disperses evenly. But with these mixtures, you tend to get a lot in one place and very little in others.

At least they both felt nice on my scalp, and there weren’t any major problems in terms of rinsing them out in the shower.

However, I do have long hair, so it felt like I required a LOT of this stuff. At least it was cheap.

Blow-drying my hair, I sensed it was taking longer than usual and got the occasional whiff of vinegar (this might be my fault, though — Melinda suggests using white vinegar, and I chose to stick with apple cider because I thought it smelled less offensive… maybe my olfactory senses are messed up). Still, I persevered, then brushed it out.

The result? Well, see for yourself:


Not too shabby, eh? (This is my bedroom, by the way — I was trying to get some natural light on it.) So far, it doesn’t smell at all, which is a good thing, although it’s not necessarily softer or shinier than it usually is. I think the real test will be how long it lasts — if it’s greasy by tomorrow morning, I’m definitely docking points.

Overall, I’m kind of semi-pleased with this Pantry to the Bathroom experiment. It’s obviously a better option than using chemical-heavy brand-name shampoos and conditioners, but considering I already use all-natural stuff and make a point of refilling it from the bulk store, I don’t know that this is really reducing my carbon footprint by that much.

What do you guys think? Are you into this whole no ‘poo movement or is it not worth the fuss?


28 Responses to From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon

  1. kit says:

    I’ll have to try this as well since I gave up on vinegar after using it to set a hair dye and then reeking like cat pee all day. How DO you make sure you get it everywhere if it runs so easily? Would a spray bottle be a better applicator than a regular bottle?

    Granted, my hair is short and bleached/dyed/fried to a crisp so I just use a bar of hippy soap on my head. It gets the job done and gives some nice waxy body so all I have to do after the shower is manhandle my hair into the proper state of disarray.

  2. Lizzy says:

    You clearly have to be the no ‘poo g. pig for us all. Do it now when J is away for 5 weeks!

  3. I still am quite dubious about the cleaning power of this stuff. I’d be curious to read your report after a few weeks of doing this. My hair is mid-back (bra-strap length) and I’m fairly sure this method must work better on shorter hair.

  4. Lara S. says:

    I’m doing the no ‘poo method and I’m doing all right this way. I follow the instructions listed here:

    So, according to this maybe you are using too much baking soda and vinegar. (you should use about 1-2 tablespoon BS and 1-2 tablespoons vinegar for each time you wash your hair). I love the idea of mixing cinnamon with the vinegar to make it smell nice, but if you use it as diluted as I do, it won’t be necessary at all since there will be no smell afterwards.

    I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks, but what I can say about it is that the most important thing is to adapt the ingredients and amounts to what your hair needs — don’t try to follow the instructions too closely if your hair starts to look too dry, maybe you just need to use less baking soda.

    Oh by the way, since you are a journalist, it would be *EXTREMELY* interesting for me if you interviewed a dermathologist about hair care and ask for her opinion about the “no ‘poo” way!!

    One last thing: it would be great for you to remind people that “no ‘poo”, besides being natural and healthy also contributes for people to reduce the waste of plastic packaging (you can buy the items in bulk,etc), and oil (because most hair care product contain mineral oil which comes from oil).

    Good luck! Please keep us informed about this!

    Lara S.

  5. arduous says:

    I just use soap on my hair. It works fine, though I do have to say that when I went home for Christmas, I used my mom’s shampoo, and I was like, “Oh shampoo, I miss you so!”

  6. Jenn says:

    I’m a “no-poo” girl, but it’s easy when you have curly hair which can’t be shampood frequently anyway… what I need to find is an eco/DIY superconditioner, so I can stop using the bottled stuff which works wonders but is also full of ingredients I’d rather not use.

  7. Melinda says:

    Waiting with bated breath! : ) I’m glad you tried it!! I agree completely with Lara that “the most important thing is to adapt the ingredients and amounts to what your hair needs.” Definitely, definitely, definitely. And yeah the apple cider vinegar is just way stronger smelling. The spices completely mask the white vinegar smell, but I couldn’t get that to happen with the apple cider vinegar.

    One other thing: I use an old plastic bottle we originally bought for mixing salad oil and such – has a tiny tip to it, so I can get the baking soda just where I need it. An old squeeze bottle or something with a small nozzle is very useful.

    @ Crunchy, I’ve been using it for a few months now, and my hair looks & feels & smells clean! Friends and strangers have both commented on how good my hair looks.

  8. claredragonfly says:

    Well… this method has been well-known in the natural hair community for years! I’ve never bothered to try it myself, but that’s because the method I use (natural soaps + vinegar rinse) works too well. I will say that there’s probably no need to wash your whole length every time. Baking soda is a strong cleanser. Also, vinegar is not a shampoo (were you really using it to wash with? how did I miss that?)–in this case and with soap it works more like a conditioner, smoothing and softening the hair as well as getting rid of any residue from the wash method.

    Also, your hair is not very long (?!?). Most of the people I’ve heard of successfully using no-‘poo have waist-length hair or longer, though I”m sure it works fine on short hair.

  9. teri says:

    i haven’t used anything on my hair other than baking soda and apple cider vinegar in about 1 1/2 years (and my partner converted shortly after i did – neither one of us would ever go back)

    i have long, straight hair, and it has more body and shine than it ever did with shampoo and conditioner

    shampoos tend to strip away all of your hair/scalp’s natural oils – hence the need for conditioner – and your scalp then works extra hard to produce more oil, leading to the oily feeling most people get if they go more than a day or two between shampoos

    with the baking soda/vinegar routine, you’re not stripping away the natural oils, which leaves your hair in better condition, plus as your scalp gets used to not having the oils stripped away, it eventually will stop producing so much extra

    (basically, the baking soda cleans your hair but it changes the ph – the vinegar restores your hair’s natural slightly acid ph, and adds shine and softness in the bargain)

    the end result is that i now go anywhere from 4-5 days to a week between hair washings – without any oily feeling – and my hair looks great and is healthier than it’s ever been (though be prepared for some extra oily days while your scalp gets used to the new routine – usually just during the first week or two, then it settles down)

    here’s my routine:

    i keep a single-serving yogurt container full of aluminum-free baking soda in the shower – to wash my hair, i pour about a tablespoon or so (estimated amount – experiment for what your head/hair needs) into my hand, and then dribble just enough water on it to make a paste – then i work it in as i would a shampoo – you really don’t need much at all – then rinse well

    i also keep an old plastic 20 oz soda bottle full of apple cider vinegar in the shower, with a single-serving sized yogurt container on top – to use, i pour enough vinegar into the yogurt cup to cover about 1/4-1/2″ of the bottom (again, it’s an estimate – experiment and adjust to your hair’s needs) and fill the rest with water to dilute it – then i pour it over my head slowly, working it in to all areas as i pour

    i usually leave it on for a couple of minutes as i gently work it in all over, and then again, rinse well

    you may have a little bit of vinegar smell while it’s still wet, but i’ve never ever had any lingering scent from the vinegar after it was dry – if you do, you’re using too much or not diluting it enough

    to really get a feel for this method, you’ll need to stick with it for a few weeks, while your scalp gets used to not being so abused – if you can, i’m betting you’ll be very happy you did

    (by the way, the difference in cost is astounding – especially since we used to buy the more expensive “natural” hair products – we buy both baking soda and vinegar in bulk, and just refill the smaller containers in the bathroom as needed)

    another tip – if you want to add extra shine, or if your ends tend to get try (as mine do – even when i used to use expensive shampoo and conditioner), you can put a couple of drops of coconut or olive oil on your palms, rub it around and then lightly run your hands through your hair, especially on the ends

    you can do this while it’s still wet, or when dry

    it shouldn’t be enough oil to make it feel oily, just enough to moisturize a little and add a little extra shine

  10. I’ve been using the baking soda/ACV method for many months now with great results. And my hair at this point is past my shoulders.

    I use MUCH LESS baking soda than you are. 1 Tablespoon baking soda to 1 Cup of water. I mix it up a double batch in an old sports bottle and squeeze it onto my head. No shaking required because that amount of baking soda easily dissolves in the water.

    I use the same proportions of ACV to water and keep that in another sports bottle. I add a few drops of rosemary essential oil for scent and also because someone told me it’s good for dandruff, which so far I don’t have.

    It seems like there are many methods and since each person’s scalp and hair are different, experimentation is a good idea.


  11. Allisone says:

    I’ve been doing the no poo thing since August and my straight hair is just down to my shoulders. I also use right around a Tablespoon of baking soda per cup of water (actually I think I use a little less than that) and about the same with the vinegar. I couldn’t smell it unless it was wet, but my husband said he could smell a trace when it was dry (not unpleasant though). I generally do it every 3 days, and sometimes I do a black tea rinse instead of vinegar – just for a change of pace.

    I really like no poo and have no plans to go back to regular shampoo.

  12. Rebekka says:

    I used to use the baking soda/apple cider vinegar (with a drop of orange essential oil usually, which makes your hair shine), but since starting to swim regularly, it’s not enough to get the chlorine out and I’ve switched to a solid shampoo bar and a solid conditioner.

  13. Malva says:

    I have really long hair and lots of it and I’ve been using bs and vinegar successfully for a couple years now. I wash my hair once or twice a week but even when I did use shampoo, it was only once or twice a week as well.

    I don’t have the problem you have with the stuff being liquidy and running everywhere because I make a paste of about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of bs with just enough water that it’s nice, kind of like soft peak egg whites.

    I only use only one capful of apple cider vinegar diluted in at least 1 litre of water. I dump the whole thing on my hair, mostly on the lenght of it, trying to avoid the roots. If my hair gets a bit weird, it’s always because I used too much vinegar.

    You may need to play with the proportions until you find something that works well for you.

  14. Emma says:

    aren’t there any eco-friendly poos out there? Like cinnamon, lemon cider, soda mix? In a recycled bottle? growing out of the ground? and can be replanted to grow a shampoo plant? with Meyer lemons to make new shampoo from?

    anyways… shampoo I feel isnt so important. I could double my soap as a poo…but conditioner?? that’s another story…

  15. yarrow says:

    i haven’t had good luck with the baking soda part, but i switched to a homemade vinegar rinse instead of conditioner about two years ago, and have never looked back. my hair has more shine and body than it ever had before. i use a more complex recipe, though—one half apple cider vinegar, to one half herbal infusion. the infusion is a heaping handful of fresh diced rosemary, a small handful of hibiscus leaves (i have red hair, and the hibiscus is good for redder highlights–chamomile and marigold are good for gold highlights, and sage is good for deep rich browns), and about two tablespoons each of yucca root, nettle root and nettle leaf. this i simmer until it is deeply fragrant, strain out the herbs, and mix with the vinegar. i apply with an old dr bronner’s bottle, which allows me to get it reasonably well distributed. it doesn’t need to be at the roots–too frequent application near the roots will leave your hair a bit greasy. so i apply only to the shaft of the hair, leave it in a minute or two, and then rinse well. i never smell like vinegar–in fact, a whiff of vinegar in the shower means it needs another rinse. i love the way this blend leaves my hair looking. 🙂 good luck!

  16. Carrie says:

    I’m on my third try with no shampoo. This time I’m trying less baking soda. I hope it works because if it doesn’t, I may well give up and declare the beauty industry has won. Good luck!

    • Hey Carrie, I know you wrote this a while ago,but I’m hoping you’ll get this! I have tried so many times, but the SECOND the baking soda (even as little as 1 teaspoon!) touches my hair, it feels greasy (even in the shower), and like there’s a bunch of build-up and it feels like I can’t even get it out of my hair without shampoo. I scrub and scrub at my hair with my hands trying to rinse, and then use the ACV after, but it still feels build-up-y.
      Then when I dry it, all the shine has been zapped from my hair and it looks dingy and feels terrible. I desperately want to do this, but it’s just not working! Has anyone else experienced this??

      • Will says:

        The greasiness you feel is the baking soda cleaning all the old basically chemicals and mineral oil that’s left in your hair from normal shampoo and conditioners. Try using the baking soda and if its your first time trying since you’ve been using regular shampoo/conditioner it will be, just keep using 1 tablespoon baking soda to one cup water as many times as necessary the first time you do it to get your hair feeling not greasy at all. After this proceed with using ACV or vinegar or lemon juice 1 tablespoon to one cup water. Then next wash follow standard 1tbsp baking soda mix/cup. This should solve your initial problem. For silky soft hair also try using one egg yolk beaten lightly as your conditioner one per week, but be sure to rinse with cool or cold water to remove the egg yolk.

  17. Chile says:

    I’ve been using those ingredients for over a year. I use about 3 tbs baking soda dissolved in about 1/2 cup of water. I wet my hair first and then slowly pour the solution over it, working it in with my other hand. After a couple minutes, I rinse thoroughly and use an old squirt bottle with diluted rosemary vinegar all over the hair.

    The ‘apply paste’ method does not work for me. My hair doesn’t feel as clean and it stresses the roots so more comes out later. (I shed.) The other way works great and I only wash twice a week at most. With shampoo, I had to wash daily. If I go a week and my hair gets really grungy, I add a squirt of very diluted shampoo to the baking soda mix. Works great and uses minimal shampoo over time.

    For the vinegar, I heated white vinegar and steeped rosemary branches in it for an hour. Smells great.

    Also wanted to point out that you don’t need to use the baking soda stuff on anything but the scalp and very top of your hair. No need to do the length.

  18. […] the No ‘Poo challenge seriously, I decided I’d follow her lead and, instead of just doing a one-off baking soda and vinegar experiment, I stuck with it. Well, it’s been a week and three washes without shampoo and while the […]

  19. Steelkitten says:

    Now I know where I was going wrong. I did the no ‘poo thing last year on my long hair, but just with small amounts of baking soda. I ended up switching back after a few weeks because I was vaguely dusty looking around the scalp no matter how much I rinsed and my hair had no life to it at all. I shall give it another go with the BS and the white vinegar.

    Love Chile’s idea about steeping rosemary in the vingear.

  20. Alyss says:

    I have been using the baking soda/vinegar no poo method since October and love it. I have fine, sorta wavy dark hair down to almost the small of my back (how did it get so long??) and live in an area with soft water.
    My routine is about a tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of hot water and just a little less than a tablespoon apple cider vinegar in maybe a little more than a cup of hot water. I usually add a drop or two of rosemary or tea tree essential oil. Both are in bottles with squirt tops, like Dr. Bronner’s bottles. I squirt the baking soda mix onto the top of my head and rub, scrub and massage it into my scalp. The baking soda softens the water so it feels a little slimy, or wetter than normal. I rinse that well, wash my body, rinse my hair again and then apply the vinegar solution, focusing on the lenght of my hair rather than the scalp. Rinse rinse rinse and voila.. my hair is clean. I may catch a whiff of vinegar when it is still wet, but usually the rosemary overwhelms that smell.
    I love no poo, and it even worked on my hair after I swam in a chlorinated pool!

  21. […] if you like. I used Peppermint since I had some leftover from Christmas. You can also add in a stick of cinnamon or fresh rosemary to give your hair a lovely scent if you’re afraid of smelling like a […]

  22. […] This person at GreenAsAThistle has tips on how to mask the vinegar smell, among other things. Melinda at 1GreenGeneration has a very nice article about her transition from Shampoo to this sort of method. Christi at NatureMoms has a tone of information about the effects of harmful chemicals in shampoo, and other reasons to switch hair care methods. Similar reasons, different application method at HealthHomeHappy. Even more options discussed in an article at Suite101. […]

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