Conditioner vs. Vinegar Rinse

Despite the fact that we have been taught that oils in our hair are bad (unsightly, gross, unclean, etc.) and that we should wash them out on a daily basis, the oils in our hair are, in fact, a good thing. Our bodies know how to take care of themselves without chemical intervention. The oils in our hair protect and condition. You may be surprised to hear this, but you don’t need to use conditioner on your hair to keep it healthy.

Conditioners contain a plethora of unpleasant ingredients – they make the hair look great but at what price? Fragrance and (usually synthetic) preservatives can be found in almost all conditioners. Then you have polymers, silicones, and surfactants, all of which bind to the surface of your hair for the purposes of repelling moisture, smoothing the hair follicle, detangling, and creating shine. Did you catch the phrase “BIND to the surface of your hair”? In other words – they don’t rinse out. So you are walking around with a head full of chemicals all day long.

As far as I’m concerned, nothing is more effective than a good, old-fashioned vinegar rinse. According to Rosemary Gladstar:

Vinegar is especially suited for oily hair, though it can be used effectively for dry hair as well. Apple cider vinegar is usually the best vinegar for the hair, but wine vinegar is milder and more appropriate for dry hair. Vinegar rinses are also good for itchy scalp, dandruff, and dull hair, and they help restore the natural acid of the scalp.

For the rinse, you will mix apple cider vinegar with water – a 1:4 part ratio for oily hair, and a 1:6 part ratio for dry hair. You can do this in a cup, or simply pre-mix the two ingredients in a large spray bottle or squeeze bottles. I prefer to either mix it in the shower with the warm water, or use a spray bottle, as pouring the rinse over the head all at once can be surprisingly cold – even in the summer.

Soak the hair with this mix after shampooing (or no-pooing) and rinsing out the sham/no-poo. In other words, this isn’t meant to rinse out your shampoo – and definitely NOT to rinse out your baking soda wash! (Vinegar and baking soda mixed in the hair would not be good.) Work it into the scalp, then rinse out. If you can stand to alternate hot and cold water, this is supposed to give the hair a nice shine.

Vinegar rinses make the hair so smooth and soft – you will be surprised if you’ve never tried it before.

Now, if you are worried that you will smell like a salad after using this – try it, first. For the majority of people, the vinegar smell disappears as soon as the hair is dry. You have to be willing to experiment. You may want to try diluting the vinegar with more water if you find the smell too strong. I typically use 2-4 tablespoons in three cups of water, but sometimes I use the regular 1:4 dilution ratio. If you have any problems, contact me ( or Google vinegar rinses – there are millions of tips on the internet.

You can also add a few drops of essential oils to your rinse. I use rosemary, which is great for oily hair, or lavender, which helps with itchy scalps. Basil and peppermint are said to promote hair growth, patchouli and ylang ylang can help counter dandruff, and chamomile and lemon are great for enhancing the golden highlights in blond hair.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with this one – vinegar rinses are so good for the hair. Give it a try.

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28 thoughts on “Conditioner vs. Vinegar Rinse

  1. Pingback: How to Unclog a Drain |

    • I’m so glad to hear from someone who has had a good experience with vinegar rinses! I know people can be anxious about the smell, and it helps to hear it from more than one person. Thanks for your input!

  2. i love this! i “read” you on familysanityreviews. dina is a friend of mine and i follow her everywhere. hence i have found you. its like a breath of fresh air to read in laymans terms how to go about learning new ways to do things. and i am one of those who realizes you don’t have to shower every day! but i’m sure my friends would freak if they actuallly knew this. lol!!! anyway, i’m so glad to have found you.

    • Hi, Kay! Thanks so much for stopping by! Isn’t it funny how many of us who don’t shower or wash our hair every day like to keep that our little secret?! But then again, once people find out, they usually say, “Wow, I never would’ve known if you hadn’t told me.” Which goes to show that we’re doing something right!

        • @Louisa: I don’t see why not, but the vinegar rinse WILL condition your hair, so you’d be adding a step. :) Try the rinse by itself, just to see what happens – if you’ve never tried it before, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by how amazingly soft it makes your hair!

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  4. Why is it bad to mix baking soda and vinegar on the hair?

    I do rinse out the baking soda first. But I always thought that the vinegar would help get rid of any residue left behind.

    • @Smiley: I’m actually not super sure that you can’t or shouldn’t mix these. I’ve just heard that the chemical reaction between the two items makes it really hard to rinse out. I’ve never tried it, though! :) If you try it, please let me know how it worked for you!

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    • @raczyk: Yes, it’s good for the scalp. Vinegar detangles the hair, removes residue and stimulates blood flow on the scalp. Keep in mind, though, that vinegar rinses are diluted, at least 1:4, with water. As for the rest, when you do it in the shower, the water rinses it from your body very quickly, so there’s no problem there. Vinegar rinses are an old, time-tested remedy, and coming from someone who has used them for over five years, I can definitely recommend them! :)

    • @maya: Uh oh! I’ve never heard of that happening. After I rinse my hair, it feels very smooth, even when wet, and super smooth and silky when dry. What kind of vinegar are you using? What kind of container? How is your water? I would suggest making sure you use pure apple cider vinegar (make sure there are no additives), make sure your container is not contaminated, and use filtered or distilled water in your rinse. It’s possible that your water is causing the problems. Keep in touch – I’d love to hear how it goes and am happy to brainstorm further! (P.S. Sounds like a good ratio – that’s what I use – but maybe try to dilute it further, if none of these other things seems to help.)

  6. I recently started using an apple cider vinegar rinse that I’ve infused with chamomile and added some lavendar oil to. I am enjoying the effects on my hair (especially that it is FAR less staticky than usual) but I’ve found that when I go running, the vinegar smell comes back with a vengeance! Someone I was running with today actually kept asking if anyone else smelled food, and I’m pretty sure what she smelled was me! I’ve been leaving the rinse on my hair and towel-drying instead of rinsing with water because I wanted the most anti-static effect I could get, but I think I’m definitely going to try rinsing out the vinegar now. I’m also thinking of using peppermint oil as well. Any other suggestions to help me not smell like vinegar when I exercise?!

    • @Tristan: I would say to definitely rinse the vinegar out. It may not do as much with the static, but if you don’t rinse it out and your hair gets wet or sweaty, there’s no stopping that vinegar smell! LOL. Sounds like you have a good system with the lavender oil, though – that would’ve been my second suggestion, but you’re on it! ;) Do you dilute the vinegar pretty well? That helps, too. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  7. Hi, Im new into this.. For a month I have been using the organic shampoo (Castile soap+ jojoba+some essential oils), then vinegar rinse (1:4) and corn starch. Im happy with my hair condition, its feel and touch..but after a month I have even more dandruff and lose hair quite a lot every day. But those were the reasons (hair loss and dandruff) why I switched to organic resources… any ideas what shall I do? Thanks a lot! Diana.

    • @Diana: Just a quick question before I fully answer, so I know exactly what you’re doing. What are you using the cornstarch for? Dry shampoo? How are you applying it? Let me know and I’ll get back to you asap! :)

  8. I started the no-poo method about two months ago, and since getting through the oily over-compensating phase, my hair has dried out completely, become knotted and started falling out more than usual :(
    My scalp is also getting pretty irritated.
    Any ideas on what’s going on on my head?

    • @Eya: What are you using? Baking soda diluted in water? Castile soap diluted in water? I have found two things to be true for me: 1) Using only baking soda and water really dries my hair out and irritates my scalp if I don’t switch up my shampoo. 2) Castile soap shampoo, over time, makes my hair a gummy mess. I would recommend two things. First, try a shampoo bar. Sellwood Soap makes the BEST shampoo bars. I never thought I would like shampoo bars but I’m totally hooked now. They are awesome – less irritating than baking soda and they leave less film than castile soap. Secondly, if you haven’t tried a vinegar rinse, TRY IT! It works WONDERS to keep your hair from knotting. You shouldn’t be left with any knots after a vinegar rinse. Be sure to use ACV and dilute it in water – use a LOT more water than vinegar right now, and work up to see what your scalp can handle. Please let me know how it goes!

  9. Hey so I tried this today! and I wanted to put in some leave in conditioner after but wasn’t sure when to do that so I didn’t put any…my hair is super thick and curly so kinda need it… Also my hair seems frizzier :( I am not sure if I did this right lol…any feedback much appreciated!

    • @luv89food: This is definitely a process, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work quite right the first time or two (or three). Try changing the ratio of vinegar to water each time until you find a good balance for you. You *should* end up with hair that feels really clean and silky and smooth. My hair is extremely thick and very coarse and when I use a vinegar rinse, it actually feels thinner and so much sleeker. I’d wait a week or two and see if you can find the right mix of water/vinegar for your hair before adding leave-in conditioner. The leave-in might alter your results and make it hard to figure out what works. (If you do end up using it, just use it after you have rinsed the vinegar rinse from your hair.) Let me know how it goes – you can email me, too, if you like! (My email is under my blog pic.) Good luck!

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