If your hair is weighed down by product build-up and oil, you'll love this clarifying DIY apple cider vinegar shampoo. It leaves my hair feeling squeaky clean and softer than anything else out there. It's super easy to make too!
As someone with suuuper fine hair, I’ve long used apple cider vinegar as a post-shampoo rinse when my locks get limp and a tad over-styled. With a bit of trial and error, I finally came up with a clarifying homemade shampoo that combines two steps in one!
Made with cleansing soap nuts this recipe is gentle enough for sensitive scalps or fine hair that may be easily weighed down by heavier shampoos.
Apple cider vinegar — Health enthusiasts have been singing ACV’s praises for years. Although it smells funky and tastes even funkier, it's said to do everything from lower blood sugar and help you lose weight to soothe an upset stomach.
And applying it to the skin has just as many benefits.
- ACV is antimicrobial and helps control the bacteria or fungi that can lead to scalp issues.
- It’s rich in vitamins and minerals that nourish hair
- Plus its alpha hydroxy acids exfoliate the scalp and keep dandruff at bay.
- It’s also acidic and can be used to lower scalp pH and bring hair health back into balance.
Soap nuts — Soap nuts contain a natural detergent known as saponin. When mixed with water, saponin suds up like regular soap, and the mild cleansing lather helps remove dirt, oil, and buildup from the hair.
Because soap nuts are so gentle and soothing, they make the perfect soap base for homemade shampoo. Plus, they’re incredibly inexpensive, and a little goes a long way.
See recipe card for quantities.
Bring soap nuts and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and, without removing the soap nuts, let cool completely.
Squeeze out the bag until you see suds. Rinse the bag with cold water and squeeze it into the pan again. Pour the soapy liquid into a glass jar.
Combine soap water and ¾ cup apple cider vinegar. Add essential oils if desired.
Stir to combine. Transfer 16 oz to a squirt bottle and refrigerate the leftovers.
Hint: If your soap nuts didn’t come with a bag, wrap them in cheesecloth and tie it together with a piece of kitchen twine before boiling.
Using Soap Nuts
Unlike most commercial shampoos that use chemical detergents, soap nuts release a gentle, natural sudsing agent that cleanses hair without stripping it of moisture.
You should be able to get another 2–3 uses of your soap nuts before you need to replace them. Just know that each time you use them, they will create less and less saponin (soap compounds), so you might need to use less water as well.
You can also use soap nuts to make:
Once your soap nuts have been used a few times, they'll turn grey and stop releasing any soap. At that point, toss them in your compost pile, if you have one, and let them break down naturally.
If you don't have access to soap nuts, your best bet would be to make a post-shampoo ACV rinse.
The shampoo will be runnier than you might be used to, so I like to store mine in a small squeeze bottle and apply it directly to my scalp. You can also store it in a jar and pour it into your hands before applying.
The shelf life of homemade apple cider vinegar and soap nut shampoo varies depending on the specific ingredients used and storage conditions. But, in general, it's best to use it within a few weeks to a month to ensure freshness and effectiveness.
Store any unused shampoo in the fridge or freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it out overnight, and store it in a small squirt bottle until it’s gone.
To use, apply a small amount to wet hair and gently massage it into your scalp. Let it sit for 5 minutes then rinse well.
As a general guideline, use the shampoo 2-3 times a week, but that can vary based on the needs of your hair and scalp.
Yes, they are antimicrobial. And so is apple cider vinegar [source].
Using apple cider vinegar in shampoo can help balance the pH of the scalp, remove buildup from styling products, and promote a healthy scalp. It can also help to restore the natural shine and smoothness of the hair, reduce frizz, and alleviate scalp conditions such as dandruff or itchiness.
Yes, apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties and can help with dandruff and certain scalp issues. It can help to rebalance the scalp's pH, reduce scalp inflammation, and inhibit the growth of yeast or fungi that contribute to dandruff.
Apple cider vinegar shampoo is generally safe to use on color-treated hair. However, it's important to note that vinegar can slightly strip color over time. If you have concerns, it's recommended to do a patch test or consult with your hair colorist before using apple cider vinegar shampoo on color-treated hair.
While it’s not harmful, mixing an acid (like ACV) with a base (like Castile soap) effectively cancels each other out. It might get your hair clean-ish, but you won’t really reap the apple cider vinegar benefits.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo Recipe
- Small saucepan with lid
- Glass jar or squirt bottle
- Small muslin bag (often included with your soapnuts)
- Place soap nuts in the small muslin bag that they came with. If yours didn’t come with a bag, wrap the soap nuts in cheesecloth and tie together with a piece of kitchen twine.
- Place soap nuts in a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and, without removing the soap nuts, let cool completely.
- Squeeze out the bag until you see suds. Rinse the bag with cold water and squeeze it into the pan again. Pour the soap nut liquid into a glass jar.
- Add apple cider vinegar and essential oils if desired. Stir to combine. Pour 16 oz into a squirt bottle and refrigerate or freeze the remaining shampoo.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.472