No shampoo, week 11: hard water epiphany

I declared success a few weeks ago and had to issue a retraction several days later.  This time, I’ve definitely discovered a key to life without shampoo.  It’s all about the water.

You know how some people say that their hair is soft and clean after using baking soda and vinegar, while others of us struggle with excessive oil for weeks?  It’s not just about how oily your hair was to begin with.  After a weekend at a hotel, I am absolutely convinced that the effectiveness of baking soda hinges heavily upon whether you have hard or soft water.  In the hotel, the baking soda dissolved into the water, giving me super-soft, almost slimy water that left my hair clean and soft, and my scalp feeling wonderfully refreshed.

Back home, I was still struggling to keep the gritty baking soda suspended long enough to distribute it through my hair, and I was dependent upon egg shampoo to keep the oil under control.

On a hunch, I finally decided to try take a reader’s advice to add the soda to boiling water first.  It fizzed like another science experiment (what’s in our water?!) and I waited a few minutes for it to cool.  Perfect!  The soda was dissolved, the water was slippery, and my hair was clean, soft and silky again, just like in the high-dollar hotel water!


The boiling seems like a lot of trouble, but it’s really not.  It only takes about 1 cup to do my hair, and I can make it ahead in larger batches.  I use it about 3 times/week, so it’s not hard to make a whole week’s worth at once:

  • Heat one quart of water to a boil in a large pan.
  • Turn it off and add about 1/2 cup of baking soda.
  • Stand back and wait for the fizz to go down, then let it cool.
  • Pour into a squirt bottle and keep in the shower.
  • Use a bit like conditioner:  just work it into wet hair, gently massaging scalp, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Follow with apple cider vinegar, as usual.

So now, after 11 weeks, I finally really like my hair without shampoo.  It’s soft and shiny, and my scalp feels clean and healthy.  Styling is different too.  I don’t do much with my hair, but I do wear it in a clip most of the time.  When I was shampooing daily, my hair was too limp and slippery to stay in the clip unless I put it up wet and left it in place all day.  Now, I can change it as much as I want and it obeys happily.

My hair stays nice and clean for 2 days, but I’m trying to adjust toward 3 days.  3 days now are far different from how 3 days used to be. My hair used to disgust me after more than 24 hours.  I didn’t want to touch it, and I certainly didn’t want to see it down.  Now on the third day, even when my hair is getting oily, it still looks shiny and healthy, feels soft and my scalp is still clean.  It’s a subtle difference, but it feels like a huge change to me.

i love no pooooooooooo

Just kidding.  I still hate the term.  I just like not using shampoo.


  1. I just tried the boiling technique and it worked so well. Thank you! I have been cleaning my hair with baking soda and vinegar for seven months and wondering why it wouldn’t adjust. I never thought in terms of it being the hard water. I might invest in a filtering shower head too.

  2. Sarah Fischer says:

    Do you rinse with the hard water or your boiled water?

  3. So glad I found this post, I nearly gave up no-pooing last week (my first week) as my hair was unbelievably disgusting. Tried your advice above and what a difference! Thanks so much 🙂
    We have the hardest of the hard water where I live (Kent, UK) and I have been wondering does it also affect cleaning with BS?

    I have been finding that BS leaves a chalky residue on taps, cooker etc which even with vinegar is a job to remove. If boiling the water has such a profound effect on my hair, then perhaps it will work for cleaning too?
    Anyone found this?

    • So glad I could help!
      I don’t know if boiling the water helps with cleaning, but I do know that a little vinegar will easily take the residue out of your pots and pans.

  4. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m two weeks into no-poo and was close to calling it quits. I just could not get my hair to an acceptable level of cleanliness. And I had no idea what this “slippery feeling” was I kept reading about. Then I suddenly thought, maybe it’s the water. Did some research and found out we have hard water in my area. I tried your suggestion of boiling the water first and it worked like a charm. FINALLY, for the first time in two weeks, I have clean hair. I just wish I used a bigger pot when I boiled the water because it made a mess when I added the baking soda. Oops! lol

  5. Does this still work if you rinse your hair afterwards with hard water?

  6. Ana de Mendoza says:

    Thank you for this post and I think this could be the key to my problems! I was using SLS free shampoo for the last year and then about 8 weeks ago (when the SLS free poo ran out) I switched to no poo method. Well, I have been having a horrible time and have not been able to figure out why my hair kept ketting this waxy feel to it. Not the greasy or oily stage, which I passed through. SO, I this hard water thing could be the key! I will be trying your suggestions to boil the water. I know about that supposed “slippery” feeling you are supposed to get, but I can never get it. After reading this post, it all makes sense! I am off to try out this new twist….keeping my fingers crossed!

  7. You were wondering why boiling the baking soda makes it work better…I’m not entirely sure about this, but I recently make my own laundry detergent and one of the ingredients needed was “washing soda”, which is more caustic than baking soda. You can actually make your own washing soda by heating up baking soda in the oven (it changes the chemical composition somehow, changing it from sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate), so perhaps the same thing is happening when you boil it. Just my two cents worth.

  8. I just want to thank you for this information! I have been struggling with this for almost a year now. I kept bouncing back and forth between using bs, liquid castille soap and organic shampoo. The organic shampoo worked but i really wanted to be shampoo free so i kept trying the bs method, even though it always left me with a waxy flim on my hair that was actually worse than just greasy hair. Boiling the water did the trick! I tried it today and the difference is amazing! My hair feels like it does when i give in and use the organic shampoo. Thanks so much!

  9. I finally got around to boiling my water so I could dissolve the baking soda. I had forgotten the detail about the fizzing, and found it rather alarming – I would have sworn I’d dumped it into vinegar! What in the world makes it do that?!


  1. […] to be transitioning a lot differently and worse than what I was reading. I finally came across this post, from In A Shoe, that mentioned issues with hard water and the need to boil the water, if your […]

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