No-Poo Alternatives to Baking Soda – Some Recipes

If you’re a die-hard no poo-er (if you think that means some bizarre practice of forced constipation, then you’re not…) that gets tired of using baking soda as shampoo because it has no poo (you miss the suds) or because your hair or scalp is starting to get dry, then this post is for YOU!

No Poo Alternatives to Baking Soda

So, I haven’t washed my hair with shampoo for a year and eight months, using only baking soda/water as “shampoo” and apple cider vinegar as conditioner (see my no-poo post here). It keeps my hair squeaky clean and I’ve been very happy with it (I promise – it’s not disgusting!). The price is right (cheapest thing EVER!) and it really works to clean (contrary to what one might think). Except for one thing – my hair is dry.

I’ve had to use a lot of styling cream and oils to replenish the moisture and even then, it’s gotten drier. There have been some comments on my first no-poo post with folks who have the same dry hair issue, so I realized about a month ago after a comment that mentioned baking soda can be drying, that my no-poo regimen might be to blame. So, after lots of research and some time in my chemistry lab kitchen whipping up some new concoctions, I came up with a few other no-poo options that I have personally tried and can all recommend.


I look like a gelada baboon without moisture. Credits: Wikipedia Commons – Source: Eigene Fotografie, March 2006, Author: Kolumbusjogger

Keep in mind that my hair is thick, very curly, very dry and coarse. I’m one of those that without the right haircut and care, I could be confused with a lion or a wild baboon (especially in the mornings – ACK!).

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, er, I mean, scalp, here are the things I’ve tried that also work as a great no-poo but baking-soda-free alternative!

No-Poo Alternatives

All of these options will have a transition period if you’re just coming off of shampoo. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, read more about it in my original no-poo post.

Diluted Liquid Castile Soap – Good for All Hair Types

If you’d still like to try baking soda, this one is a great transition from shampoo, because it will make you feel like you’re in the old Herbal Essences commercials (ahhh! ahhh!) and it is still sulfate-free. Best part about using this is that you can use on your hair and body – make a batch to use all over! I like to use the Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap in Baby Mild  (where to buy) because my skin and hair are so dry and sensitive, but it comes in many different scents.

How To Make

1 part liquid castile soap to 3 parts water. To make it even more moisturizing, add a teaspoon or two of your favorite oil (castor oil) and Jojoba Oil are my favorite for the hair). To add scent, add your favorite essential oil! I like lavender, rosemary, and carrot seed oils for hair (where to buy high quality essential oils).

Add Some Castile Soap to the Baking Soda – Good for Oily Hair & Scalp

One of my readers commented that she adds a small amount of castile soap to her baking soda shampoo to give it some suds and make it feel more like shampoo (it will make it suds up).

Aloe Vera and Glycerine – pH balanced shampoo, leave-in conditioner, and spritzer – FREE PRINTABLE

This is a ph-balanced concoction because aloe vera and glycerine both have a neutral pH of 7, so they will be the best option (although not as cheap as baking soda!) for the health of your hair. (Baking soda is a litle bit basic, at about 9 pH). This has been my favorite cleaner so far. Glycerine acts as a cleaner because it bonds to dirt and oil and washes it out when you rinse and aloe smooths the cuticle and moisturizes the hair. By the way, in the picture I use a pretty pink plastic spray bottle because I ran out of my glass spray bottles. So, for the record, I do not recommend using a plastic bottle if you add essential oils to the recipe – they will make the plastic deteriorate and make the bottle unusable. I get my glass bottles on Amazon here.

    • 1/4 cup of pure aloe vera (this one is totally pure, from Aubrey Organics)
    • 1/4 cup vegetable glycerine
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Essential oils for scent or to treat a problem if desired – Tea Tree and Lavender are great for psoriasis and dandruff, and carrot seed and rosemary are healing to the scalp (where to buy high quality essential oils).

Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake. Shake before each use to combine. To use, just squirt onto your scalp and scrub with the fingers to loosen the dirt. Rinse.

I also use this concoction in between washes as a leave-in conditioner and a spritzer to freshen up my curls. It helps with the frizz and tames them!

Here’s a free printable label for you, if you want something pretty to stick on your bottle!

Aloe Vera and Glycerine Shampoo with Free Printable Label

Comes with a free printable label so you don’t have to look up the recipe again!

Some Notes

I use vegetable glycerine because it is derived from vegetables and not from animal fats like regular glycerine is.

I use pure aloe vera gel that contains no added alcohols or fragrances, as those can be unnatural and drying to the hair. But, it is more expensive. You can use regular aloe vera or you might be able to use it right out of the plant if you have one. I haven’t tried it, but I think you’d need to blend it, along with the other ingredients, with a mixer since it’s so thick.

Other Options (I haven’t tried)


Also need alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar for conditioner? Then check out my sequel to this post – Oils and Other Natural Conditioner Alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. Soooo glad to have found you! I have been sulfate free for years, and have been using a natural shampoo (after trying many no poo methods and stopped due to sensitive scalp) and am waiting on the arrival of my glycerine to try the Aloe/Glycerin in the hopes of FINALLY finding the perfect non castile/non baking soda alternative. I have a somewhat oily scalp after about a day or so (sensitive and hair fall due to hormones and iron deficiency) with somewhat dry ends. It is naturally curly/wavy but since I liberated myself and cut it to shoulder length for the first time since gradeschool, I have lost some curl and can finally brush it with a boar bristle brush at night before bed and in the morning before washing. 🙂 My question is simply, how much EO do I add to the aloe/glycerin recipe? I plan to use rosemary to aid in my hair fall situation, (I am lavender sensitive as are my daughters) and I would like to perhaps add some other oil for fragrance in the future but for my first batch I plan to focus on just rosemary and am unsure how much to incorporate. Thank you!

    • Oh, and I was wondering whether you think it would work to sub green tea for the regular water in the aloe/glycerine mixture? And when I do add an additional oil beyond the Rosemary (maybe even tea tree?), what amount do you recommend? I had a bad accident with some patchouli oil many years ago which left me very ill, and I am even now, some 20 years later, quite trepidatious when working with EOs. Even mixing my cleaning products I wear big old gloves and lean back as far as I can while mixing. Lol

      • hi there! i can help you with some of your questions. the amount of EOs you use should be no more than 2% of the final product. this percentage varies slightly depending on the kind of EOs you use, but generally 1-2% is recommended. your hair type and skin may also react differently to others.
        before you introduce any new EOs onto your skin, it’s recommended you do an allergy test on a more sensitive part of your skin, like the inside of your arm, and waiting a day. do this by putting some of the oil on your skin. some EOs must be diluted before putting on your skin, and a few, like lavender, generally do not need to be diluted. you can dilute EOs with a carrier oil, like coconut oil, sesame oil, almond oil.

        add the essential oils into your aloe/glycerin mixture. you can always add more, so don’t be afraid of putting in less than you’d like.

        • Thank you so very much! I have been trying all sorts of no-poo recipes, and started the Morrocco Method, but honestly, with two children, every dollar counts and I am wanting to try this recipe again since my transition period went rather well. Much appreciated!

  2. How do you store this or do you need to make fresh for every wash?

  3. Do you still need to use a conditioner after using the aloe/glycerin shampoo? Or does it act like a 2-in-1?

  4. What can I add to the shampoo for color protectant?

  5. Thank you for your wonderful website. I’ve been using soda and vinegar for a year and my hair is vey dry. I’ve tried your aloe Vera and glycerin recipe but my hair was left dirty. It didn’t feel/look like I washed it at all.
    Do you have any suggestions? Thank you

    • Hi Oksana! I would try the Aloe Vera and Glycerin as a conditioner instead, and wash your hair with the castile soap recipe I have here in the post. That works very well for me, or use the castile soap recipe, and Apple Cider Vinegar as a conditioner. I also REALLY like Young Living’s shampoo (it’s a no-poo) and conditioner – they are clean, no chemicals and work very well. My favorite is Copaiba and Lime.

  6. Debbie Lynn says:

    How long can the aloe/glycerine be stored?
    The past 4 months I’ve been washing my hair with egg yokes and apple cider vinegar. It’s a bit costlier than just baking soda and apple cider vinegar but I just didn’t trust the baking soda to be good for my hair. However, this solution I need to prepare every time before washing my hair. It doesn’t take long, but having something stored nicely in the shower would be great 🙂 and I do want to start using lavender oils for my scalp is getting dryer, though my hair is softer than never before!

    Another question my roommate and I were wondering. We live close to the golf and the water is often not drinkable. With all the chemicals added to the water to make it “clean”, we were wondering whether or not the diy natural shampoos are strong enough to fight against these chemicals? We were thinking on adding a water filter to the shower head. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are to that matter 🙂

    • Hi Debbie! I highly recommend adding a filter to your shower head. I used to live in an area that had a ton of minerals in the water, making it very hard, and my hair was awful. Anytime I’d go visit other places my hair would get so much healthier. Once I added a filter to the shower head, the health of my hair and skin improved! Secondly, the aloe/glycerine can be stored for about 2 weeks or even more. I made mine about once every 3 weeks or so.

  7. Patrícia Mata says:

    Hi Sara,
    Well, I’ve started using pure aloevera gel from the plant on my hair as a shampoo because it is said that aloevera gel washes the hair and has also many benefits, right? But after washing with aloevera my hair becomes too oily!! I dont know why! I thought it would wash my hair but instead it makes it even more oilier. Is it because of the fact that my hair is still getting used to the transition from shampoo to another substance? Well I’m thinking it’s beauce of that so i’m still gonna use aloevera to see if the oil starts to disappear. I don’t know how long will this transition take but I hope it’s not for too long because i’ve washed it twice with aloevera and it’s already too oily!!

    • Hi Patricia! I’d say the aloe vera might not be right for your hair, then. I suggest using it as a deep conditioner, and switch to the other option I have in here – castile soap and water. I also LOVE Young Living’s shampoos, which you can get through here.

  8. Hi Sara!

    Thank you for your funny and useful posts. I’d like to know how do you deal with hairdressers. Last time I went, I washed my hair with baking soda and rinsed with vinegar before leaving, to avoid their shampoo. However, the hairdresser said my hair didn’t look clean, although I felt it was fine. I gave in and mostly skip haidressers since I started going no-poo. Thanks in advance!

    Best regards, Jelena

    • Hi Jelena! I go to a hairdresser that uses a sulfate-free shampoo, that doesn’t have detergents in it. I suggest either buying some sulfate-free shampoo to take to your hairdresser or find one that uses natural products. I have curly hair so I go to a DEVA certified hair stylist, they specialize in curly hair!

  9. I was looking up the vegetable glycerin and realized that most have soy in them. I haven’t found one that doesn’t. I am going to have to find an alternative for this since I have a severe soy intolerance. Any suggestions?

  10. Can you tell me how many drops of essential oils to use when using rosemary and peppermint with your recipe? I see that you stated above in response to the first comment that you should use between 1% to 2% essential oils for the final product. What does this translate to in number of drops for each oil? By my calculations, a 2% dilution in 8 oz. of shampoo would require 96 drops. That seems like a really large quantity of essential oil. Would you use that quantity for each oil or half the quantity for each oil?

    • Hi Bonnie! That dilution rate would be if you’re using the oils for a health reason. But to add fragrance to shampoo, you’d need about 5-10 drops for an 8 oz bottle. Then I’d smell it and if you fee like you want more, add more.

  11. Hi Sara, thanks for the aloe/glycerin recipe, seems like the right thing for me! Could you please tell me the proportions in milliliters though? Thanks 🙂

  12. HI Sara – quick question. In this recipe it calls for water, but can you use tap water or should it be distilled? Will it make a difference? Most recipes I see call for distilled so I thought I’d double check before trying a batch. Thanks!

  13. One more question! Would I be able to sub George’s aloe vera water for the aloe vera gel?


  14. I started baking soda/vinegar method for washing my hair little over a week ago. I am loving it so far and am already noticing the difference. I barely went through that transition period everyone talks about, I’m thinking maybe because I was using a natural, at least what I think is natural, cleansing conditioner. I was already away from most of the chemicals you find in your typical shampoo conditioner pairs.

    One thing I do wish was different and I’m hoping either you or someone going through the comments can help me with. I want it to be less like water. Both the baking soda-water and vinegar-water concoctions I feel like I’m just dumping water over my head. Obviously I must be doing fine, because my hair is getting clean, I’m seeing results, but I feel like it’s being a little wasteful and that it can be so much more efficient if I could make it more creamy somehow.

    Has anybody experimented with this? I would love if anyone could pass along any tips!

  15. hi sara. i might try this as i’m looking for a natural shampoo option for my dry, curly hair. it is a bit more alkaline than hair though as i’ve read hair has a pH between 4.5 – 5.5. a pH between those levels for a shampoo would be best and pH-balanced. also, this is mostly water as glycerin & aloe are both high in water so it needs a preservative due to water activity i.e. any preservative in your aloe or glycerin will not preserve the other ingredients once combined. you won’t see any contamination until it has gone really bad but after about 7-10 days in the fridge this would spoil. shelf life of homemade products is just like with any food product so that is always a good guide. if you wouldn’t eat it being left out, then don’t put it on your body. hope that helps!

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