Homemade shampoo. Way better than garbage.

You know what's weird? I'm nervous about writing a blog post about waste-reduction and homemade shampoo. I'm nervous because writing about the habits that I've made for myself (or that were reared into me) are personal, I do them for personal reasons which are in-line with the personal way in which I choose to live. And writing about those habits feels so arrogant. Which, as I type that, seems downright really silly.  Arrogant for living with a lighter footprint? Arrogant for weeding my garden by hand instead of by Monsanto? Arrogant for washing out my garbage can instead of using plastic garbage bags? But being green is often seen as synonymous with a holier-than-thou, choke on my electrical exhaust, my compost doesn't stink but my armpits might mentality. Which! is why I'm nervous about writing about homemade shampoo. 

Except for the other day I posted the following question on the gDiapers facebook page, and shared it on my own page with the accompanying statement. Following that I was pinged with requests (more than 1! More than 2 even!) to talk about it (my habits I suppose?) in more detail. 

We have to stop making garbage. So let's start here:

If some of the above items seem daunting, skip them for now. And let's just start with one. Shampoo! Because it's the very most fun on the list to say AND it smells delicious. I have been on a mission to create for myself a packaging-free shower. I've never been one to buy into a different body wash for each day of the week, and my shower has been pretty simplistic for a long long time, but I knew it could be even more blissfully without labels and added chemicals. So I've been weaning myself off of store-bought shampoos and conditioners, and using soap and water (gasp!) for the rest of my body-scrubbing. My soap comes without packaging (soap is already pretty dang hygienic, it doesn't need a plastic layer), so I've just been winding down what was left in the 'poo bottle over the last few months. Conditioner ran out some time ago. I only wash my hair about twice a week, sometimes less. And so far not one person has run away from me screaming "The stench! The stench!"

So homemade 'poo. Easy for me. Easy for you.

Let's lay out some expectations:

1. Your homemade shampoo will not froth under your fingertips. You don't need it. You are, however, very used to it.

2. Your hair may not feel "clean" in the stripped down, lighter than air way that 10,000 parabens and sulfates can provide. Mmmm, sulfates. Your hair will, however, be actually clean. Think of it like this. You have painted walls in your home. You can wash them down when they're dirty with soap and water. Or you can rent a pressure washer and blast every last speck of dust off of them (including chunks of paint and plaster). Clean? Yes. But probably more than you were looking for. You have been unnecessarily power washing your hair. Stop it. Give your hair some time to adjust to its new state. Un-pressure washed. It will right itself. It will find its balance. Please don't give in to the knee-jerk reflex of "but my hair just gets so greeeeeasy". You were not born with a brand requirement. Your maker (god, the universe, your mom, frito-lay) did not custom-design your genetics to only work with Paul Mitchell or Aveda products. Packaged products do not make you a better person, NOR do they even make you a cleaner person. But! They do take your money, your time, a fleck or two of your soul, and a whole lotta earth-space:

thank you to the film Trashed for this incredibly telling (and totally real) photo. 

Now go find yourself a reusable bottle, I mean several.

There is no shortage of homemade shampoo recipes on the interwebs. Pinterest was custom made for DIY shampoo. And cat beards. But I did find one pin that took me to this blog post. And that was the winner. She had already done all the research for me! AND she did the trials and experiments. Way to go, Ashley. Way. To. Go. So here's Ashley's research and hard work swiftly re-created by me in my boyfriend's kitchen. And I'm not kidding. Make sure you have a few reusable bottles ready to go. I found an old glass milk bottle with cap at Goodwill. But then I also had to use another empty corked bottle, and an empty dish detergent bottle. Cause one batch of homemade 'poo equals a whole lotta homemade 'poo. 

  • water, about a gallon - $ free-ish
  • 6 or so tea bags (I used chamomile cause I'm "blonde") - $3 for a box of tea
  • 1/4 cup castille soap (I used lavender) - $10 for the big bottle
  • 1/2 cup baking soda - $ dirt cheap
  • 3 tsp Xanthan gum - $13 for the whole bag
  • essential oils - $ whatever you have or want to spend
Fill up a soup pot with your gallon (give or take) of cold water. Put your tea bags in and raise the temp. When the water starts to bubble a bit, turn off the water and let it steep. While it's steeping, go ahead and fill up your 1/2 cup of baking soda, which, will look like the largest amount of baking soda you've ever used at one time.
bananas and chocolate chips not required, unless you are hosting an Arrested Development party and have to make frozen chocolate bananas to go with your cornballs and vodka drinks.

Pour your enormous half cup of baking soda into the tea water. If you don't stop to take a million photos, it will fizz in a pretty gratifying way.


Whisk in your Xanthan Gum and get rid of all the little clumpies. Xanthan Gum, by the way, is a REAL thing that you can buy in the grocery store. It's with the baking stuff. If it's not, order it online. That $13 bag of mystery powder will last you a lonnnnnng time. Also, it's not so much a mystery as just not talked about enough. Poor Xanthan Gum. In short, it's a thickening agent.

Then whisk in your 1/4 cup of Castille soap. Whisk whisk whisk. If your children are nearby they'll pretty much love what the soap does to the whisk.

So. Now it's whisked. And you're practically done. In fact, you are probably quite alarmed at 1) how few ingredients this took, 2) how very little time it took, 3) how very little mess you made (compared to the frozen chocolate banana/deep fried cornball mess you'll be making soon enough), and 4) how this project could so very easily turn into a party in which everyone brings a couple bucks, their own reusable container, some wine and cheesecake, and then fills up their own shampoo bottle!

Let it all cool down a bit. Add some essential oils (if you want). I added some tangerine essential oils, maybe 20 drops or so, which, though I thought the chamomile/lavender/tangerine combo a bit odd at first, I ended up being really pleased with it. Annnnnd then whisk whisk whisk recruit your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner/tall child grab your reusable bottles and a ladle and then SCOOP WOMAN SCOOP! SCOOP YOUR 'POO!

I filled this entire milk bottle (rubber bands added for grip), a reusable dish detergent container, and a tall corked bottle that I think once contained homemade kahlua. 

I really honest to god don't want to do any math right now, but. Fine. So let's say I made a gallon of shampoo. Cause I did. With all the ingredients that I actually spent money on at a grocery store (not counting essential oils cause I didn't buy them for this specifically), I spent about $26. With the amount of ingredients that I actually used, I could replicate this recipe another 15 times EASILY without going to the store for anything more than baking soda. So that would be, oh, 16 gallons (give or take) of lovely good smelly homemade shampoo that I spent about $30 on, also give or take. And how much garbage will I have left beyond after 16 gallons which also equals a lifetime supply of shampoo? About this much. 

And guess what I could re-use that big fun bottle for?

Thank you to Ashley of Ashley's Homemade Adventures for the original recipe and post!


Unknown said…
Does it matter what kind of tea you use?
I think it comes down to preference really. Chamomile is supposed to be a natural brightener for blonde hair. Black tea is supposed to be good for preventing excess hair loss. Green tea is supposed to be good for curbing dandruff. And other teas smell delicious :0)
Way to go. I definitely have reduced the amount of garbage over the last 5 years, getting less and less each year..but I am not totally minimal. I do recycle more than I ever did before as our programs got easier to use.
James Murphy said…
It's true that traditionally, different herbal teas have been used by people to cure their hair, but now there are several best options available such as Shampoo, Conditioners, and others etc. these are designed to make our hairs healthy and shiny.
Rachel said…
What about using some of a bar of castile soap? Could I just grate some into the mix? If so, how much of the bar - just a few shavings?
Rachel, I'm not sure to be honest! I don't know how it would melt down and mix in. I DO use grated castile bar soap in my laundry detergent, however.
Kelly Lee said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lei said…
It's fairly easy to make homemade shampoo too.

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