*This post was updated on May 20, 2013 to include apple cider vinegar*


Many naturals like the “no shampoo” or “no poo” approach to hair care (although we should note that shampoo is not inherently bad, and there are quite a few that do a great job of cleansing without stripping), and have to decide which cleansing alternative is best for them. We’ve compiled a list of 5 shampoo substitutes that are effective and reasonably priced.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is a perfect cleanser, gently lifting dirt and residue off the hair and scalp while also laying down the cuticle for a smooth finish. Just make sure that you dilute this highly acidic product so that it doesn’t dry out your hair. One part ACV to one part water is a good mix.

2. Terressentials Mud Wash

This mud wash is known for cleansing hair without leaving the “squeaky” feeling, and for increasing the ease of detangling and condition post-wash. Many naturals feel that it’s the perfect pre-styling cleanser, because it leaves the hair so soft and conditioned. Plus it’s 100% organic! Check out Naptural85’s review:

3. Bentonite Clay

A detoxifier that can be used on hair, skin and internally (to release body toxins), bentonite clay is a highly effective cleanser. Like Terressentials, it leaves the hair feeling soft and moisturized, and is known for producing defined curls post-wash.

4. Baking Soda

While baking soda is too harsh for some naturals (because of its high pH), it’s a highly effective cleaner for others. Check out this post weighing the pros and cons of baking soda to determine if it’s the right option for you.

5. Beer

Yes folks, you heard it right, beer. It’s a cleanser known for also adding body to the hair, possibly because of the protein it deposits. TruthinAging.com breaks it down:

As we’ve seen in the many ways it is believed beer can help your hair, there are special components within beer- including B vitamins, wheat proteins, and maltose sugars- that make drinking a bottle less useful than pouring it on your head. The complex carbohydrates in beer have a hydrating effect, while proteins coat each strand, giving them more strength and elasticity. Not only does hair appear shinier in the short term, but it also becomes stronger to avoid long-term breakage.

There are quite a few “beer shampoos” that are formulated with beer as a main ingredient. You can also make your own concoction using a homemade recipe.

6. Castile Soap

Castile is an oil-based (usually olive or coconut) cleanser that can be used on hair, skin and even for laundry! However, this cleanser is very alkaline and can leave the hair with a super squeaky feeling, and even agitate the scalp (particularly if you suffer from dandruff). If you choose to use this make sure to dilute it (1 parts soap, 3 parts water).

Ladies, do you do the “no poo” method? If yes, what products do you use to cleanse your hair?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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72 Comments on "6 Great Shampoo Substitutes"

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Are any of these ok for a person with dandruff?


Rhassoul clay mask cleans scalp very well you can also add ingredients to treat dandruff like EO in it too.


What about people with dandruff (sebhoreic dermatiitis) and locs? I figure clay may not be the best for the locs.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

Me and shampoo are good. I use Shea Moisture Hair Thickening Shampoo alternating with the Coconut and Hibiscus shampoo.

I also have Terressentials Hair Wash but won’t buy it again because it takes too much to do my hair and I only got like 4 washes out of the bottle.


I’ve tried Teressential’s Mud Wash and still use it actually. I like that it’s not too drying on the hair but I can’t rave about it like Naptural85 does. It didn’t clear up my whack patch or make my hair easier to manage…but it didn’t dry it out so that’s a plus!


bentonite clay was horrible for my hair! i added olive oil, honey, and acv to my mix and although my curls were defined the final results were horrific. guess i will use the remainder for facials only 🙁

Lillian Mae

I use the exact mixture with the exception that I add conditioner. Try that. 🙂


What were the final results?

Alicia G

you’re not supposed to add anything extra to it. just water or acv, that’s probably why it didn’t workout the first time.


I love bentonite clay as a cleanser for both my face and hair. I also do ACV rinses for my hair and scalp.


Do you mind sharing your routine? How often do you use the ACV rinse on your face?

Lillian Mae

Ditto! Same here!

I use bentonite clay once a month and diluted ACV on my scalp in the meantime.


I’ve been using castile soap for a year. It never dries out my hair and it leaves my scalp clean. Plus, it’s super cheap and comes in a 32oz bottle. I buy it online.

Cathey Poindexter-Taylor
Cathey Poindexter-Taylor

I agree! I use the Castile Soap Bars and I swear by them. They never dry my hair out and they cleanse my scalp well!


I use diluted ACV!!!


Same here! I use diluted acv to clarify once a month and then cowash in between.


I rarely use shampoo, I make my own rhassoul clay wash, I use black soap diluted in water and also ACV.

I’m going to have to try the beer wash though and I like the sound of hop flowers too.

Thanks for the ideas.


I like to use apple cider vinegar and Africa black soap. Both are great cleansers that does leave your hair with that squeaky clean feeling.

Cee Mac

I’m a proud no-pooer. 🙂 My hair feels so much better without using reg. shampoo. I use Terressentials Lavender Garden Mud Wash. It’s UH-MAY-ZING! It’s duh-truth. lol I’ve also used an ACV rinse when I didn’t have my Terressentials.


I use Indian powders for a mask for the scalp either mixed with aloe vera juice/ water or with a conditioner/coconut oil. Does wonders for the scalp and hair. Leaves my hair soft and balanced. I use a mixture of Alma, Shikakai, Neem,and Brahmi.


Fab post! Love shampoo alternatives especially clays. Organic Rhassoul Clay has been a long-standing favourite of mine. Always leaves my hair feeling clean but not stripped, just soft and fluffy.

Had to stock it once we started our online store at loveharlem.com


I use rhassoul clay, black soap or Marseille liquid soap to wash my hair and so far so good sometimes I use shikakai infusion too. I didn’t know it was a no-poo thing, I have used shampoo about twice since I started my hair journey and didn’t like it so I quickly used other things like handmade soaps, alep soap, even co washing (my scalp didn’t like it) and what I mentionned before.

Lola Zabeth

I’ve tried and love all the examples in the post. Lately I’ve been steeping dried hops flowers (used to make beer) in boiling water to make a tea, and then add a little castile soap once its cooled. My scalp has never felt cleaner and fresher.


i enjoy reading your blog.

Lola Zabeth

Thx so much, merry!