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Why zero waste shampoo alternatives are something you should consider?
First off, most store-bought shampoos are full of harmful chemicals that strip your hair of its healthy natural oils.
Furthermore, their packaging is incredibly wasteful. Millions of shampoo plastic bottles end up in landfills every year. (552 million in the US, to be exact)
Below, you can find the best sustainable shampoo ways to keep your hair clean while avoiding unnecessary waste.
In the end, you can find an FAQ section with additional information.
7 Zero Waste Shampoo Alternatives
The 7 zero waste shampoo alternatives are:
- Shampoo bars
- Refillable shampoo brands
- DIY shampoo
- No-poo (water-only washing)
- Baking soda
- Apple cider vinegar
- Soap nuts
Let’s take a closer look at each option!
1. Shampoo bars
The easiest and probably most common switch is a shampoo bar.
It is efficient and easy to use – rub the bar over your hair and scalp to eliminate dirt.
Some great benefits of shampoo bars is that:
- They come in recyclable, plastic-free packaging
- Usually contain very few & natural ingredients
- They tend to last longer, or as long as bottled products
- The bars are small and easy to transport during traveling or camping
- Can double as a body wash bar due to their gentle ingredients
A few fantastic shampoo bars that I can recommend are:
- Eco Roots shampoo & conditioner bars – A wide range of vegan, cruelty-free, sulfate-free, silicone-free, and paraben-free.
- Butter Me Up Organic – Various plastic-free shampoo options. Vegan options are available.
- HiBAR – Highly moisturizing coconut oil-based shampoo. Vegan, palm-oil-free, silicone-free.
- Ethique – Sustainable & vegan. They have many cool shampoo bars, one of which is their famous Heali Kiwi for itchy scalps.
- Authentic House Shampoo Bar – Organic shampoo bar with natural oils, clays, and essential oils.
- Hairy Layne Solid Shampoo – Solid shampoo bar handmade in the UK.
2. Refillable shampoo brands
A lot of great brands offer refillable shampoo and conditioner in sustainable metal or glass packaging.
Once you use up the products, you can send them back & get a refill.
Or you can even check in local bulk stores if they sell refillable shampoo and conditioner.
A few brands that I can recommend:
- Plaine Products – Refillable shampoos and conditioners in 100% recyclable and aluminum bottles. Vegan, palm oil-free, chemical-free.
- Butter Me Up Organic – All liquid products can either come in a BPA-free plastic bottle or a glass bottle on request.
- Ksoni Shampoo – Liquid shampoo in a recyclable aluminum can.
- Hairy Jayne Reffilable Shampoo – Vegan & natural shampoo in an aluminum bottle
- Fulfilled Reffilable Shampoo – Refillable shampoo. Lasts between 3 – 6 months
If these options aren’t accessible, do a quick online search, and see what’s available to you. Check also local bulk stores.
3. DIY shampoo
Making your shampoo is another way to cut down on plastic waste. It is easy to make, too.
The recipe below is based on liquid castile soap – a plant-based mixture made from oil, water, and lye.
Besides being eco-friendly, homemade shampoos come with several other benefits, like:
- free of the common additives found in commercial shampoos, so you don’t have to worry about sending toxic chemicals down the drain
- making your shampoo saves you money and puts you in control of what goes into your hair
- It also allows you to customize and make a shampoo that’s specifically for your needs
Here’s a simple DIY shampoo recipe:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup castile soap (plastic-free or bulk)
1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil or castor oil for hair growth (optional – omit if your hair is oily)
10-15 drops of essential oils – good options are rosemary, tea tree, or rose
Add everything to a reusable shampoo bottle, and then mix well. The DIY shampoo will last ~ a month.
Shampoo-free hair washing methods:
Another alternative to plastic shampoo bottles is to switch up your hair care routine and skip shampoo altogether.
There are several ways to wash your hair without using any shampoo. For example:
4. No-poo (water-only washing)
Some people choose No-poo, which is washing your hair only with water.
Know that this method is excellent for some and terrible for others. It usually works well if your hair is curly, thick, and prone to dryness.
Also, your hair will probably go through a transition period, in which it will feel oily and disgusting.
Since your scalp is so used to its oil being stripped with harsher shampoos, it will be overcompensating for a while, most commonly 4-6 weeks.
But once it gets used to the only water washing, it will revive and go back to normal (possibly even better than before).
No-poo method – Step-by-step:
- Before showering, rub your fingertips (not fingernails) in quick yet gentle motions all over your scalp.
- After that, separate your hair into sections.
- Brush each part with a boar-bristle brush to loosen up the oils from your scalp and distribute them down to your length. This also adds hydration to the ends of your hair, and washing the hair will get easier.
- Now, apply lukewarm water. Use your fingertips (not nails) to scritch your scalp in quick motions gently. Focus on the roots, and make sure the water stream goes directly on the area you are rubbing.
- In the end, follow with a final cold rinse. Alternating between different water temperatures helps remove dust and dirt without stripping your hair of its natural oils. If you hate getting a cold shower, you can do this step under the sink.
- The last step is to pat your hair dry, and if you wish, hydrate the ends with a bit of oil (I use macadamia oil).
You can consider infusing a bit of water with essential oils, herbs, and flower petals to add fragrance and nutrients to your hair.
How often you will wash hair only with water depends on several factors, such as:
- How much oil does your scalp produce
- How much sweat or dirt is present in your hair
- Your hair type
5. Baking soda
Another shampoo-free method for washing your hair is making a paste with baking soda and water.
Baking soda has a pH of 9, which is slightly higher than the one on the scalp (5.5).
However, it works effectively for cleaning build-up dirt and excess oils. It also can soothe your scalp if you have issues like dandruff or an itchy scalp.
To use baking soda for hair washing is very simple:
- Combine a couple of spoons of baking soda with water. Gradually add the water and aim for a medium-thick paste.
- Wet your hair, and then scrub your scalp with the mixture to remove dirt, oil, and product build-up.
- Then rinse with lukewarm water.
I’ve tried that a couple of times when I was struggling with dandruff. I found that baking soda might help, so I gave it a try.
While I’m not sure if it helped for dandruff, I felt my hair clean.
Some people use rye flour as an alternative to baking soda, but I never tried it, so I can’t recommend it.
6. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar rinses are a common choice for people with extra oily hair.
It also has a pH of 4.5 – 5.5, similar to the scalp, which balances your hair.
To wash your hair with apple cider vinegar:
- Combine 2-4 tbsp apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of lukewarm water.
- Wet your hair, and then pour the apple cider vinegar gradually over your hair.
- Rub your scalp gently.
- Let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Then rinse it out.
Apple cider vinegar can act as a great conditioner, too. I tried to wash my hair a few times with it, and I liked it.
There might be a very, very mild vinegar-ish leftover smell from the hair, but 99% of it goes away once the hair dries off.
Make sure you use raw and unfiltered ones for the best results.
The one from Bragg is ideal, plus it is affordable. You can use white vinegar, too.
Pro tip: Many people combine baking soda & apple cider vinegar for washing hair. To do that, first, make the paste scrub gently the scalp. Rinse, and then finish up with apple cider vinegar.
7. Soap nuts
Soap nuts or Indian soapberries contain the natural cleaning agent called saponin.
Saponin is a 100% natural substitute, and you can use it as laundry detergent, dish and hand soap, shampoo, body wash, etc.
To use soap nuts to wash your hair:
- Get 5-6 soap nut shells and add to 2 cups (~460ml) of water.
- Bring to boil, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. You can remove the soapnuts and reuse them several times.
- Let it cool down, and then transfer to a jar. Store in the fridge upon use.
- When washing, pour gradually small amounts of the liquid into your hair and massage gently.
- Cover the whole scalp, and rub!
- Then, rinse with warm or lukewarm water.
Another easy method is to blend the soap nuts with a bit of vinegar and water. Then, strain and use instead of shampoo.
I still haven’t tried this method, but I definitely will once I get some plastic-free soap nuts. It is an excellent alternative to the only-water washing.
You can buy some at:
- Soap nuts from Earth Hero (the US)
- Plastic-free soap nuts from Greenwill Organic (Amazon, the US)
- Soap nuts from Wearth London (the UK)
Is it safe to use apple cider vinegar or baking soda on my hair?
It depends on your type of hair.
For people with thick, curly hair, apple cider vinegar or baking soda can be excellent hair washing methods.
On the other hand, baking soda or apple cider vinegar might not be ideal if you have fine or thin hair that gets oilier faster.
But it is individual, so you must try it out and see. Test shampoo-free routines to see how your hair reacts.
If you experience excess dryness and breakage, switch to a different method for washing your hair.
What are the cons of the zero waste shampoo alternatives?
- Shampoo bars can leave a waxy residue on your hair if you don’t rinse it thoroughly or your water is hard.
- Some hair washing methods require more time to perform.
- There can be a longer transition period.
- Some people may experience skin irritation.
- Hair may dry out for a short time as your hair adjusts to the chemical-free formula.
What are the cheapest zero waste shampoo alternatives?
Some sustainable hair care products can be a bit pricey. If you’re on a strict budget, consider trying a shampoo-free hair washing method.
Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or plain water will save you money since you can usually find these products in your kitchen pantry.
Furthermore, many refillable shampoo brands offer subscriptions that give you a discount.
I hope this list with 7 zero waste shampoo options will help you decide which one is the right fit for your budget, hair type, and routine.
Have you tried out any of these zero waste hair washing products or methods?
Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you have any other questions.