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Washing hair

To wash and condition hair

The scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of the body and shampoos are awash with dangerous and dubious synthetic chemicals. Almost all contain sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulphate, substances with known health dangers, to provide foam.

These methods of hair care (often called “no ‘poo”) take a little getting used to, as they are so different from the experience we are used to with foaming shampoos and creamy conditioners. But they are incredibly effective, becoming more so the longer you go on with them. Over time, you will find you need to your wash hair less frequently and use less of the ingredients as your hair adapts and becomes naturally healthier and shinier. For some people “no ‘poo” is effective from the first try, others find their hair goes through an initial adjustment period before it starts to work well. We encourage you to persevere: we find this one of the most rewarding and liberating parts of going spotless.

Along with their extreme simplicity and cost-effectiveness, being able to adjust the recipes to suit your hair is one of the great advantages of these methods. I’ve been using them for a long while now, and find they last a long time. I only need to wash my hair once a week (instead of almost daily previously) and use very little at each wash.

Here’s how it works:

Part one: wash

Method A: Rye Flour Hair Wash

Rye flour is low in gluten so it won’t turn into a doughy mush in your hair (so don’t use wheat flour instead). It’s natural saponins and vitamins like pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) allow it to gently clean and nourish your hair. It has a pH very similar to our hair and skin so it won’t disturb their natural pH. It absorbs excess grease but without stripping or drying. Although it isn’t one of the core Spotless ingredients, it is a winner for washing hair.

Method B: Bicarb (baking soda) Hair Wash

Bicarb is a mild base (alkali) which allows it to bind with the fatty acids naturally present in unwashed hair to form a soap-like mixture, thoroughly cleansing the scalp and hair. Because of its alkalinity, it tends to open up the hair cuticle, allowing for a deeper cleaning action but temporarily disrupting the smoothness of the hair. It is essential to follow a bicarb wash with an apple cider vinegar rinse (see below), to reseal the cuticle for smoothness and shine. We strongly advise you to use this one as an occasional wash, favouring the rye flour wash (above) for general use. Regularly using only bicarb to wash hair over a prolonged period, even following up with the vinegar rinse, can result in dull, frizzy and dry hair and a dry scalp.

Part two: condition

Follow either hair washing method above with a dilute vinegar rinse. It restores the acid mantle, smoothes the hair cuticle, and adds softens and shine.

Once you are happy with the quantities that suit your hair, mix up a bottle of vinegar and water solution to speed up the process. Add some herbs or a few drops of essential oils to your vinegar solution if you like. (See more on adding herbs or oils below [1].) Even without adding herbs, the smell of vinegar completely disappears when your hair dries, leaving lovely clean, fresh smelling hair that shines.

In brief: 1 tsp bicarb + 1/4 cup water on roots. 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1/4 cup water on ends.


Adjustments for hair types

For dry or frizzy hair

For oily hair

For persistent dandruff or an itchy scalp


Adding herbs or essential oils

There are various herbs that are known to benefit hair. You can add herbs either by infusing them, or by adding a few drops of herbal essential oils. To take advantage of herbs:

To infuse herbs

Essential oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be used with care as simply shaking or stirring them up in water does not disperse them sufficiently. The scalp is an especially absorbent part of the body. That said, the acid in vinegar does act as an emulsifier to some extent (spreads the oil evenly through the liquid) so adding a little to your vinegar solution is generally fine. Or, blend them with coconut or olive oil in a conditioning treatment [2]. But don’t use more than a few drops and avoid any you have a sensitivity to. Read my notes on using essential oils here [4].

Herbs to use

Here are a few suggestions you could try.

See above [1] for how to use herbs. Learn how to use Rooibos [5] and coffee [6] on hair.


All-in-one conditioning wash (for dry hair)


Dry shampoo (for oily hair)


See more about hair care [7]. Or look at hair removal inshaving and waxing [8].