Beyond no ‘poo: washing only with water

I'm washing my hair with only water.

At the end of December, I read this status on Unmistakably Food’s Facebook page:

At risk of grossing you out, I’m excited to say that I no longer have to wash my hair! October 25th was the last day I used shampoo. I transitioned using baking soda and liquid castille soap, but I didn’t like how either of them left my hair. Baking soda left it too greasy and castille soap left it too dry; however they were enough to get me through the transition period. One day I just realized that my hair was adjusting and I stopped washing it altogether. Two weeks later, my hair is grease-free and happy and I just rinse it with water once a week. Believe it or not, I’ve learned that hair is cleaner when it is not washed because the natural oils produced by the scalp are anti-bacterial.

I’ve been ‘poo-free since August, using only baking soda and apple cider vinegar with great results. My hair has been much less oily and easier to manage.

But, you know, I’ve always wondered what people did to wash their hair before the 20th century. Laura Ingalls didn’t have shampoo or even baking soda and ACV! And moreover, the frugal side of me says, “While baking soda and ACV is cheap, there’s not a thing that’s cheaper than NOTHING.”

So I decided to do a little New Years experiment.

Since New Years, I’ve begun, what I call, “water-washing.”

No shampoo, no conditioner, no baking soda, no apple cider vinegar, no nothing.

So far, I’m enjoying the experiment! My hair seems to have good and bad days, and I’ve heard it can take up to two months to adjust. I’m hoping it will take me less time because I’ve been doing no ‘poo for a while.

For the first week, I had to rinse it daily so that it didn’t get too oily, but in the last few days, I’ve been able to do every other day.

It doesn’t look bad, and I’ve actually been able to not use antifrizz or any mousse/gel on it.

I dealt with a little flakiness in the first few days, but I fixed that by scrubbing my scalp well while in the shower. Some days, my hair feels a bit dry and coarse, but it’s not every day. And I’ve noticed that I have less split ends.

Another thing, is that you’d only want to do water-washing with filtered or soft water. I have a Berkey water shower filter, which removes or reduces chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, microorganisms, scale and water-soluble heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and iron, as well as kills and inhibits the growth of bacteria, algae, and fungi.

I’ll be posting my updates via Facebook in the next few months, and I’ll write a follow up post sometime in the future! Have you tried only washing with water? How did you fare?

Facebook Updates

#1 – 12/28/2012
#2 – 12/28/2012
#3 – 12/29/2012
#4 – 12/29/2012 (Photo)
#5 – 01/03/2013
#6 – 01/07/2013
#7 – 01/13/2013 (Photo)
#8 – 01/16/2013
#9 – 01/21/2013
#10 – 01/29/2013
#11 – 02/03/2013 (Photo)
#12 – 02/05/2013

Beyond no ‘poo: Water-Washing UPDATE

Featured on Party Wave Wednesday and Thank Your Body Thursday.


  1. says

    It sounds kinda gross doesn’t it, not washing your hair with shampoo let alone nothing at all! But it really is the best thing ever for your hair. I was an every day kinda girl, I just felt really dirty if I didn’t wash my hair with shampoo (concrap I now call it because it is the greatest ‘sham’ of the century, the stuff is utter crap (poo) setiously!!). But honestly, just washing with water, my hair has never looked & felt better and is in great condition. I will never go back to shampoo ever again. Ever.

  2. Anna says

    Hi :) I’ve just found this article, it seems so great to try !!! Please, tell me do you use hot water or warm water at the beginning and do some kind of massage and later you just rinse it with cold water? Or maybe the temperature isn’t so important? Do you think it’s possible to really do it once a week? I know, i know, you have just written so, just curious, because it seems so fantastic!!! :)))) Regards, Anna

    • Anna says

      Forgot to ask about the hard water… Here where I live the water isn’t really that good, so maybe it’s a good idea to boil it before using on my hair? What do you suggest?

    • says

      It’s possible to do it once a week, but you have to work up to that point. :) I would suggest getting a filter because boiling still won’t remove sediment. Good luck!

  3. May says

    How would you wash out chlorine in your hair? I am wanting to try the just washing my hair with water but I lifeguard in the summer.

  4. Shelly Caplat says

    I’ve been washing my hair with water for three weeks now and my hair is driving me mad as its constantly greasy. I don’t really know what to do. ? in those three weeks I’ve washed out about 4 times. .. help

  5. Roxana Dora says

    I actually asked my grandmother how she did it when she was young (born in 1920’s East Europe) and it turns out she used to wash her hair with ASHES. Yeah, crazy I know. Turns out her hair was great!

    As for me, baking soda was awesome for my hair, terrible for my scalp. I tried changing quantities, but nothing worked. Eventually it was so bad (I really wanted that to work!) that I had to switch to a professional shampoo…the only thing that got my scalp back to normal. It was a really sad period considering I have amazing long hair…and I constantly looked like I had snow in it :(

  6. Stacy Yates says

    I have been doing baking soda and a small amt of acv since summer, too.  I am also intrigued by not using anything and tried to transition but our water is super hard.  Since trying nothing for a week or so and ending up with super oily hair fit only for a greasy ponytail, I have been decreasing my baking soda so currently I am on washing it twice a week and just rinsing with water on the other days and only doing the acv rinse on the ends of my hair once a week.  It seems to be okay and I am going to try to see if I can’t go completely to water again.  My hair looks and smells fine as is and I do exercise every day :)

  7. says

    I’m wondering if this “water only” version of shampooing would work on color treated hair?? So many shampoos strip out not only my hair, but the color from it as well :( Any ideas/suggestions for this type of issue?? I really love the idea of getting away from all the chemicals I seem to still need AFTER shampooing. My scalp is very dry, I suppose due in part to the coloring, partly because of a multitude of medication I need to take and my having dry skin in general to begin with. I seem to need to use a conditioner after shampooing and then additionally an anti-frizz treatment and sometimes a glosser as well. Most of this makes my hair seem to not only ATTRACT dirt/dust/grime (‘specially in summer with windows down when driving) My hair is VERY thick, grows quickly and therefore kept short/short-medium. Please HELP!!!!!

    • says

      Susan, I really have no idea, as I’ve never had color treated hair. It’s certainly gentler on normal hair, as long as you have a filter, that is. I’m not even sure what baking soda and apple cider vinegar wash would do on colored hair. You could try some of my other hair tips to help your dry scalp. I’ll post the link down below. With water washing, I haven’t had to use any products after washing. When I was using shampoo and conditioner, after I showered, I’d have to use anti-frizz and curl mousse, and sometimes anti-humidity milk, too! Ugh. Ridiculous. Now, I’m using nothing, and my hair essentially looks the same but with WAY less maintenance and products!

      Click: 12 Tips for Natural Hair Care

  8. says

    Back in the 1800’s they washed with homemade lye soap made with tallow. As far as water washing my hair, I live in South Florida. We sweat. Every. There is no way I could ever not use something in my hair. I tried it for a week. I smelled horrible. My husband and kids wouldn’t even give me kisses. I am all for being healthy and making green choices, but for ME that is just going too far.

    • says

      I think I’ve actually transitioned rather quickly! I’ve just managed for the first time to go two days in-between washes with no oil build up! It’s taken me two weeks of everyday water-washing to get here, but that wasn’t so bad. :)

  9. Jennifer Marshall says

    Like Debbie, I’m wondering about the smell. Do you find your hair is smelly when you’re only using water?

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