I switched to this method almost 4 years ago and would never go back to commercial shampoos and conditioners. The main reason is that my hair and scalp are in better condition since the switch than ever before. That right there is the only reason I need personally.
But, there are other advantages I'll lay out here that can be particularly good for preppers and those in the mobile (RV and vandwelling) lifestyle.
- Environmentally sound. If you are washing your hair out in the boonies and do not want to have fragrances and chemicals around your bathing area, you can't get more basic and natural than baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Gray water is not contaminated if it is to be used for gardens, etc.
- Frugal. The ingredients are pretty cheap and since you do not use much per washing/conditioning, you will save lots and lots of money over commercial concoctions.
- Adjustable proportions so you can find the perfect balance for YOUR hair and scalp.
A huge side benefit for me -- with very curly, thick hair -- is that the vinegar is truly magic! All my life I've struggled with trying to comb my hair and with trying to get out knots and tangles after a washing/conditioning. My mother will attest to regular screams and "ouches" in my youngest years. Now, as soon as I pour on the apple cider vinegar rinse, I can comb it through my hair... tangles seem to fall out before the comb even touches them. Maybe more amazing, after my hair is dry and the curls are going gonzo, I can STILL run my fingers through my hair without snags. Unheard of for me me my entire life before this!
The basic recipe (and the proportions I generally use) is 1 tablespoon of baking soda to one cup of water. And the same for the vinegar: 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar in one cup of water.
I use two plastic (safety in the shower) re-usable water bottles to mix my two formulas. This allows me to shake the baking soda and water mixture to blend it well. The vinegar and water needs only a gentle shake or stirring just before use to make sure it has not separated. My bottles each hold enough for 2-3 uses.
I wet my hair, squirt the baking soda "shampoo" near my scalp and lightly "scrub" with my fingertips for just a minute or so. I rinse that out. I pour on the vinegar "conditioner," again trying to get the liquid mostly on the scalp -- it will coat the hair strands to the ends on its own as I comb the vinegar through my hair (many people don't bother with that step if it is not needed to get out tangles). Rinse the hair again and you're done. Don't worry, the vinegar smell will likely be completely gone by the time you use your towel and it will for sure be gone when hair is dry.
As stated above, an advantage of mixing your own is that you can adjust the concentrations. If I have been in a lot of dust or gotten pretty sweaty, I up the baking soda a bit. If my hair seems to be a bit dry (affected by weather), I will lessen the baking soda for a few washes. If I use too much vinegar in the rinse, I find my hair gets a bit heavy instead of staying fluffy. Your results will vary.
For a quicker than usual fast wash, I have been known to wet my hair, use a spray bottle of vinegar to apply the tangle magic, and then rinse thoroughly. This can leave my hair a bit "heavier" but it is actually smoothing during frizzy weather.
1/ Some folks find they have an adjustment period of a few weeks, especially if their scalp is used to lots of products. The scalp may be used to producing lots of sebum to counteract commercial shampoos. I had no adjustment period at all, but with this warning you may want to give yourself some time for your head to adjust.
2. A nice reader notified me that if you color your hair, this system will/may take out the color. Sorry, I didn't even think of that since I've never used hair color.