DIY Tip: Vinegar Hair Rinse

Why might this be a good project for you?

A vinegar hair rinse offers clarifying and conditioning qualities to distressed locks, useful in dry weather or overworked conditions.  It is especially useful for removing product buildup (like shampoo/conditioner residue). Pomade, gel and mousse also tends to buildup and can attract airborne pollutants while having a drying effect on the cuticles of the hair shaft, so the user is inclined to wash and condition their hair more frequently.  The hair’s natural pH can be relatively quickly restored with this vinegar.

Why does your scalp pH matter?

Imbalanced pH can result in dullness, dryness, breakage, dandruff or even hair loss.  As a soapmaker, I’m often wearing gloves and eye protection to use sodium hydroxide/lye, which has a base pH value of 14 at the most caustic end of the spectrum.  I always have white vinegar on hand, which has an acid 2.4 pH value, to balance the pH in the event of a spill or skin contact.  For perspective, a neutral pH value, like water, ranges from 6.5 to 8.5.  Hard water (high mineral content) is usually high in pH. Soft water (low mineral) is usually low in pH.  While a range between 8-10 is considered ideal for the cleansing action of soap, human hair and scalp oil, sebum, has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 5.5. This natural hair acidity prevents fungi and bacteria in the hair and scalp, and keeps the cuticle closed and healthy.  This is closest to Apple Cider Vinegar’s range from 4.25 to 5.0 pH.  It is essentially, your scalp health we’re talking about here.  Many hair products on the market are reacting to scalp condition, without responding to the pH.  It can be a quick fix, but once your scalp health is restored, you may find using less products to be an even quicker, inexpensive and satisfying routine.


I have fine, thick and wavy hair that is prone to getting oily.  Here’s my basic recipe, which you can adjust and scale to meet your weekly* needs:

1/4 cup (2 fl oz) Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (I like Bragg’s)

1 cup (8 fl. oz) Distilled or Filtered Tap Water

Combine ingredients and put in plastic, reusable, pourable container.

Optional: you can customize this for your hair type, increasing ACV up to 50% for dry or coarse hair.  I also like to Solar-infuse my vinegar with herbs and/or add up to 20 drops of essential oils for the 10 oz recipe above, which supports hair health.  These plants provide different, desirable qualities:

For shine and elasticity: Rosemary, Nettle (my favorite!)

For brightening or highlights: Lemon, Chamomile

For grey coverage: Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cedarwood


How to use it: Shampoo and rinse as usual and then slowly pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of the mixture on your scalp with eyes closed and massage your scalp. You should notice your scalp start to release sebum and along with it residue, so you can start rinsing at that time.  Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm or even cool water if tolerable, to close the hair follicles. Let air dry and see how it moves and feels before adding product. Your scalp sebum may be all the product you need!

*It is recommended to use the mixed batch on a weekly basis since there aren’t any preservatives in it.  Store in a pourable, reusable plastic bottle so that is safe to use in your shower.