As someone with suuuper fine hair, I’ve long used apple cider vinegar as a cleanser when the locks get limp and a tad over-styled. The real heavy-hitter in my hair care arsenal is a fancy apple cider vinegar shampoo.
It clarifies and cleanses at the same time, saving me a step and some much-needed time in the morning. Not to mention, it leaves my hair feeling squeaky clean and softer than anything else out there.
But as much as I love it, I’ve always wondered if I could make my own apple cider vinegar shampoo for less. (Spoiler alert: yes, you totally can.)
With a bit of trial and error, I finally came up with a clarifying ACV shampoo that I love. Here’s how to make your own.
How to Make Shampoo with Vinegar
Health enthusiasts have been singing apple cider vinegar’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 directly 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 and alpha hydroxy acids that 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.
But it’s the acidity that makes it a difficult ingredient in most shampoo recipes. When coming up with my own ACV shampoo, my first thought was to simply combine Castile soap with apple cider vinegar, but Google tells me that’s not such a great idea.
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.
My next thought was to use plain ACV as a post-shampoo rinse. But adding an extra step to my morning routine doesn’t exactly solve my time issue.
So—thanks, but no thanks.
Then one day, I stumbled onto a shampoo recipe that uses soap nuts. Soap nuts are a type of berry shell typically found in India and Nepal that contains a natural detergent known as saponin. When mixed with water, saponin suds up like regular soap, which makes it an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergents.
Although soap nuts are mostly used in the west as a laundry detergent, Ayurvedic medicine often recommends them for treating skin issues, like eczema and psoriasis.
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.
Simply make a big batch of this shampoo and 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.
When you’re done making shampoo, don’t throw out your leftover soap nuts. You can use them for:
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo FAQ
Are soap nuts good for hair?
Yes! Unlike most commercial shampoos that use chemical detergents, soap nuts release a gentle, natural sudsing agent that cleanses hair without stripping it of moisture.
This shampoo is also great for skin, especially troubled skin, so feel free to let it linger on your chest and back (or any place you might be prone to breakouts) before rinsing off.
Can I store a small amount of this shampoo in my shower in between uses?
You can let it sit in your shower for up to 3–4 days before it’ll start to go bad.
Is there an alternative to soap nuts I can use?
Sadly, no. Soap nuts are the only option I know of for this recipe. If you don’t have access to soap nuts, your best bet would be to make a post-shampoo ACV rinse.
Do soap nuts kill germs?
Yes, they are antimicrobial. And so is apple cider vinegar [source].
Can I reuse the soap nuts to make more than one batch of apple cider vinegar shampoo?
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.
What should I do with used soap nuts?
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.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
- 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.
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.433