My Water-Only Hair Routine – Giving up shampoo and embracing simplicity

*Please note that this article is regularly updated as I find better ways to simplify my hair care routine, add better content and share it with you. I prefer to add to this blog post to create a comprehensive list rather than have several scattered posts related to the same thing. Let me know if this method is good for you. Constructive feedback is welcome. Thanks. ^_^”

Over the years, I have purchased and used various brands of shampoos and conditioners to clean and look after my hair. Like most people, I want my hair to be clean and smell good and for the longest time, shampoo was the only product I knew of that ticked those boxes.

If I didn’t wash my hair regularly with shampoo, I just felt greasy and unclean, especially after a sweat session or being out in smokey environments. 

I’ve tried many of the various brand names that you find in the supermarket, which typically had a lot of fragrances and packaging to go along with the marketing.

I’ve experimented with hair waxes, sprays and creams to keep my hair tamed or conditioned and also tried many short and long hair styles that involved their own types of maintenance costs. I noticed the amount of products and items I had accumulated just to maintain the hair on my head seemed a little, well, a lot, and we’re not even talking body hair maintenance yet!

I realised how long and expansive the hair care aisles are in the big supermarkets and when I stood still and watched, I found I wasn’t alone. I was typical of many as I observed the very same multitude of hair care products in the trolleys of fellow consumers. I saw the same uncertain expressions as they gazed back and forth at the different colourful bottles on the shelves and thought to myself, “They probably just want clean hair too”.

So, I decided to experiment and go on a simple adventure to change my hair care routine. I wanted to simplify my routine and minimise how long I spent on my hair day to day, so I researched online to see what was out there and what might suit me.

In terms of alternative hair products, I came across various brands that either had interesting or exotic-sounding ingredients, were advertised as eco-friendly, natural or vegan, or just came in pretty non-plastic packaging. The multitude of products seemed a bit overwhelming, but in the end, they seemed just like the same types of products I was already buying but dressed up in different outfits, so to speak.

When I looked into the possibility of making my own shampoo, I discovered some interesting alternative methods to replace standard shampoo which included rinsing with apple cider vinegar, washing with baking soda, using soap nut water, sticking with regular shampoo and conditioner but just washing less often, the “no poo” method (i.e. no shampoo method), and finally, the water only method.

In the end, I found that I just wanted it keep the process as simple as possible, so this is what I decided to do:

  • I washed my hair less frequently – this really depended on my schedule but it went from every day, to every other day, to maybe once a week.
  • I eventually stopped using hair care products altogether – No more shampoos, conditioners or styling products. Just water only.
  • I started simply maintaining my hair by brushing it with a good bristle brush from roots to ends and giving myself the occasional scalp massage to help move the oils and naturally condition my hair.

And the result? Well, if I’m honest, a bit hit and miss.

My hair initially felt a bit oily. I read that this was common as our scalps go through a “detox” period where it realises it is overcompensating by producing more oil than needed. A “transition” period is therefore required which means your scalp needs to take a little while to regain control since you’re no longer stripping your hair everyday using shampoo, thereby forcing your scalp to overproduce oil. I guess that makes sense. 

Using water only to wash my hair and scalp felt like it didn’t quite get all the greasy feeling out. However, after really sticking to it for a couple of months or so, I found that my hair has responded really well and looks healthy and tangle-free (after brushing). Whenever I wash my hair with water only, I always give myself an inadvertent scalp massage as I’m running my fingers along the roots to remove any excess oil. Along with regularly brushing my hair with a natural bristle brush, I believe this is the main reason why the water only method has been so successful for me.

My hair generally doesn’t feel oily or weighed down anymore, the lengths feel soft and conditioned from my own scalp oils, and my hair is simple to maintain. Best of all, my hair feels clean and does not smell like a mix of synthetic perfumes from various products. My hair just smells like me. ^_^”

My Essential Simple Hair Care Tips:

  • Keep your hairstyle simple to minimise maintenance. This means no need for waxes, sprays, ironing, curling. etc. I have found that keeping it shorter in general means less tangles and maintenance.
  • Don’t heat-style your hair – Give up the hair dryer, curler and straightener. Heat damage makes your brittle over time and harder to maintain without using products. Try better alternatives such as braiding your hair when still damp for soft waves. Think of it as aiming to work with your body‘s natural groove instead of forcing it with heat or chemicals to hold to an artificial standard of beauty.
  • Invest in a good natural bristle brush that will help to distribute the natural oils in your hair from your scalp to the ends. This helps to condition the entire length of your hair with no need for extra conditioning products. Buy quality, sustainable and cruelty-free.
  • Wash your hair using water only if you can. Some people have commented that the water only method doesn’t work for their hair, so try it to see if it works for you and the area in which you live. Everyone is different and the water available to you will be different. I live in a soft water area and the water-only method works very well for me. The advantage of using water only is there’s no need to purchase shampoos, conditioners or other disposable hair products. You basically just need a good brush and to wash with water when you feel like it needs it. Definitely a simple, cost-effective routine.
  • Troubleshooting – I have found that I do still have some days where my scalp feels a little bit dry and itchy. During these times, I’ve found that using dilute apple cider vinegar really helped (I would approximate one capful of apple cider vinegar to one full glass jar of water as shown in the photo below). The smell is a little bit strong on the nose initially but fades in a short time. It leaves your hair surprisingly shiny and soft and your scalp soothed. Yes, I know this is technically still buying a product but I think using the water-only method for your hair and the occasional apple cider vinegar to condition your hair and scalp is much better than the concoction of chemicals we use in standard hair products. Not only that, but it’s about using minimal products with minimal ingredients. Stick to locally made, organic apple cider vinegar with the “Mother”.
    Water-only ACV.jpg
    Important sidenote: This Bragg brand of organic apple cider vinegar (as pictured above) is not locally made (made in the USA and imported to Australia), but I did recently discover a brand made locally here in Australia that I plan to switch to once I finish this bottle called Barnes Naturals Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother. They seem to be pretty much the same on the label (certified organic, raw, unpasteurised, with the “Mother”) and both come packaged in reusable glass bottles, but the fact that the Barnes Naturals brand is made locally here in Australia proves to be a more sustainable option.  Interestingly, it also turns out to be cheaper which I suppose is a result of not having to import (Bragg is $1.37 per 100 mL as opposed to Barnes Naturals at $1.25). Remember to vote with your wallet and support local companies who are doing the right thing by sustainability. To read more about this topic, please check out my other post: Conscious choices – Vote with your wallet

  • Troubleshooting – On some days where my scalp is a little oily but my hair still feels pretty clean and I don’t want to wash it, I sometimes use arrowroot powder and massage very small amounts directly onto my scalp with my fingers. I’ve found this works quite well at extending the days in between washing your hair with just water only. I don’t do this often though, just when I feel like my scalp is still clean (i.e. not sweating from exercise) but is a bit too oily for my liking. Just remember to use arrowroot sparingly and massage thoroughly to avoid your hair looking white and powdery.
  • I personally also love the little bit of self-care that goes hand-in-hand with washing with water only too, which is a regular scalp massage. Because self-care is important ^_^”
  • Cut your own hair – or ask a good friend that will help. It will not only save you money and time going to a hairdresser, but regularly allows you to be creative and have fun with your own personal style (cause hair grows back… or alternatively, you could rock a hat till it grows out). I’ve had cheap haircuts that cost me $20 to designer ones that cost me $250 for the whole wash, cut and style combo O.o I’ve cut my own hair for a number of years now and I definitely recommend it. I even enlist the help of my partner sometimes to help me shave the back of my head when I need another pair of eyes. (In case you’re wondering, I am currently rocking an undercut with shoulder-length hair and eyebrow-length bangs) ^_^”
  • Avoid dying your hair – Rock your natural colour loud and proud! Your natural hair colour will always compliment your skin tone, plus it requires zero chemicals and wasteful packaging for both you and our environment. I do however, support the freedom of expression that changing your look can bring with a new colour so if you do dye your hair on the regular, it’s just about making conscious choices and knowing the effect of your actions, both positive and not-so-positive, on both your body and the environment.
  • What do I do with all my unwanted hair products that I have already accumulated? Well, it is always better to give your unused/unwanted products to someone who will happily use it rather than have it clutter your space remaining unused or added to landfill.  I donated an almost full can of hairspray and a bunch of elastic rubber hair ties to my brother (who happens to rock a hip top-knot style do). I also no longer use bobby pins and have passed my huge collection of them on to a friend who rocks a more high maintenance hairstyle and will put them to good use. I slowly used up whatever other hair products I had with the assistance of my partner before beginning my adventure with the water only method. Remember: Donate, Repurpose, Upcycle, or Recycle only after using up your products. Don’t just toss things in landfill because it’s the easiest option. Be creative. Live with intention. Make conscious choices.

Other benefits of a Water-Only hair routine:

  1. Using water only means this hair care method is vegan and cruelty-free. Stick to natural plant fibre bristles for your brush instead of synthetic (unsustainable) or animal hair (animal welfare cannot be guaranteed).
  2. Water is generally toxin-free and extremely cost-effective as you only pay for your water usage. If you add in a navy shower style to your routine you’ll save even more in both water costs and time showering. To read more about navy showers, please read my blog post “Why I choose to have cold showers – And why you should try it too”
  3. You really only need water and a good bristle brush so that makes this hair care routine super minimalist and simple.
    Water-only essentials.jpg

  4. Eco-friendly. Low impact on the environment. Sustainable. Zero waste. Zero packaging. 
  5. You save storage space because there’s no need to store any hair products or styling tools (except for your brush).
  6. Travelling is easier as you don’t need to pack anything in your luggage but your brush. No more bulky containers or liquids to pack or declare.
  7. Save time. Hair maintenance will likely be a lifelong repetitive chore for most of us, so the less time we spend cleaning, primping and preening our hair in our lifetime, the more we can experience all life has to offer ^_^”
  8. So in summary, essentials for your hair care are water and a natural bristle brush. Optional items are apple cider vinegar and arrowroot powder (go for organic and locally made with sustainable packaging), sharp scissors and an electric shaver for DIY haircuts, and maybe an additional wooden comb to style your fringe or beard if you’re so inclined.
    My water-only hair care routine.jpg

I hope my simple adventure into simplifying my hair care routine has inspired you to rethink how you take care of your hair too. I really hope this method works as well for you as it does for me.

Thanks for reading ^_^”


My simple eco-friendly oral health routine

We all want nice teeth and bright smiles but I think as a consumer, it is important to make conscious choices – to know your products and learn what alternatives are out there that are sustainable, produce minimal waste, and contribute to a simple daily routine.

I should probably mention that I have a slightly more complicated history with my oral health than most as I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Essentially, it meant that I had to have a number of surgeries to reconstruct the bone in my upper jaw, but perhaps I’ll save the details of that for another post. ^_^”

Anyway, I suppose you could say that my condition and subsequent surgeries led me to be very grateful and extra appreciate of my oral health. I was lucky enough to receive dental implants as well as years of braces that helped to straighten my teeth and normalise my bite. So after all that, you can be sure I was inclined to take extra good care of my mouth so I could keep my teeth for life.

Enter my oral hygiene routine.

Originally, my routine didn’t differ from the average person: standard toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Maybe even the occasional rinse from a store-bought mouthwash. Brush twice a day, try to remember to floss, and visit my dentist once or twice a year.

After I decided I wanted to be more conscious of simple living and produce less waste, I did some research into sustainable or “almost” zero waste alternatives. I was excited by the idea of making my own products so I dived straight in!

I trialled some recipes for toothpaste and mouthwash, but these are the ones that worked best for me in terms of simplicity and minimal ingredients:

DIY – Make your own toothpaste!

Ingredients: Bicarbonate of soda + Virgin coconut oil
Make: Mix the two ingredients in a small jar until you get a paste consistency.
Use: I use a small stick to scoop some paste onto my toothbrush. Brush your teeth as usual using small circular motions. Spit. Floss. Rinse.
Note: You can add peppermint essential oil for that minty flavour if you like. I found I actually preferred this recipe without it, but experiment and see where it leads you. ^_^”

DIY – Make your own mouthwash!

Ingredients: Water + Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution).
Make: I actually make this mouthwash as I need it. I use half a capful of peroxide and add it to half a measuring cup of water (about 125 ml).
Use: I use this every couple of days or so to rinse my mouth after brushing and flossing. Simply gargle as you would a regular mouthwash for about 15 seconds and spit out.
Please note: Hydrogen peroxide will whiten your teeth, but I don’t recommend daily use as it could make teeth and gums sensitive.

I have looked at the possibility of moving from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes which are compostable, but as I used to work for a dentist, I still have a small supply of soft plastic toothbrushes that my partner and I need to use up before we try bamboo.

I currently still use regular floss (again, small supply from work), although I have noticed a lot of zero waste bloggers/YouTubers promoting a certain brand of silk floss made in Germany that comes packaged in a glass vial. Maybe something I’ll look into at a later time, though other than being less waste, it is not a local product by a local company that necessarily meets my criteria for sustainability and simple living.

A tip on recycling toothpaste tubes and floss containers: In general, oral health products tend to end up in landfill. However, if you choose to continue buying your toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash products you can still reduce your waste by sending your used product containers to TerraCycle. They have branches in countries all across the world and recycle the odd items that would normally go to landfill. Best of all, it’s a completely free service. You just collect your empty containers and print off a reply-paid label to send it to them. For more information, please check out their website. ^_^”

So this is my new daily oral health routine:

  1. Use a stainless steel tongue scraper – removes excess bacteria and prevents bad breath.
  2. Brush my teeth with my DIY toothpaste (currently still using a plastic toothbrush but hoping to transition to bamboo toothbrushes in future).
  3. Bonus tip: Use your soft-bristled toothbrush to buff and exfoliate your lips! Just use water and use gentle circular motions. No more need for lip scrubs!
  4. Floss – I use a combination of Super Floss which has a hardened end for between my dental implants, and regular floss for all my other teeth.
  5. I use my DIY mouthwash every other day (not daily) to whiten my teeth and maintain gum health.
  6. On a side note, because I used to wear braces, I have a retainer that I need to regularly wear when I sleep. I use the same DIY mouthwash to soak my retainers and clean them before putting them in for the night.
  7. Bonus tip: Rinsing your mouth and gargling with a salt water solution will help with any gum bleeding or inflammation you may have. This can be easily helpful if you are guilty of not always flossing daily like I am -_-” Just add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water to dissolve. Swish, gargle and spit. Any type of salt will do. I personally use pink Himalayan Rock Salt because it’s what’s on hand.

I hope that my adventure in simplifying my oral health routine has given you some ideas in not only being a more eco-conscious consumer, but also getting you to embrace the concept of self-reliance that making your own products entails.

Thank you for coming on this simple adventure with me. ^_^”

Zero waste laundry: the natural, sustainable and eco-friendly way

My story with laundry…

Some time ago, I discovered that after many years of regular use, I developed an adverse skin reaction to the standard laundry powders I bought at my supermarket. Weird, right!? I broke out in a horrible itchy rash and had hives covering my body in large, blotchy patches. After some detective work and a few anti-histamines later, I narrowed the cause down to my laundry powder after ruling out foods, environmental and other possible medical causes. I initially trialled switching to other laundry brands that catered to sensitive skin or marketed themselves as “eco-friendly” and my skin slowly recovered, so this is what I stuck with to clean my laundry for a number of years.

I recently developed an interest in simple living and minimalism (intentional living and mindfulness, minus the pretentious bits), and I wanted to try my hand at making my own laundry detergent, but eventually found that most of the recipes I discovered online were more trouble than they were worth i.e. I would have had to buy several ingredients that I would otherwise not necessarily have bought just to make one product. This idea of D.I.Y. laundry detergent ended up not being all that cost-effective or even effective in terms of cleaning better than conventional detergents.

I was dismayed. Why couldn’t there be a simpler alternative?

And then, I discovered organic soap berries (also known as soap nuts due to their appearance)

I now use soap berries as an alternative way to wash my laundry instead of store-bought laundry powders or liquids. I had never heard of them before stumbling across them online and they weren’t sold in any of the standard supermarkets I frequented. Naturally, I was sceptical at first as it seemed like such an unusual idea. I mean, using something that looked like a dried nut to wash my clothes? Really? Yes, really.

I asked myself the following four critical questions:

  1. Can these berries really clean my clothes? i.e. will they remove odours, sweat, stains, etc.?
  2. Is it an affordable way for me to do my laundry? i.e. does it cost less per wash versus standard laundry detergents?
  3. Will using soap berries be a healthy alternative for my skin? i.e. must not have any adverse skin reactions.
  4. Does this product align with my values for a sustainable environment? i.e. no plastic packaging, no added fragrances/chemicals, eco-friendly/natural, biodegradable/compostable.

The answers I found to these questions (all in the affirmative) led me to try organic soap berries, and I haven’t looked back. ^_^”

So, why soap berries?

Green creds: I bought the soap berries in bulk in a one kilogram bag from an Australian company called That Red House. They also come in 250 gram and 500 gram sizes. That Red House are the supplier of Australia’s first Certified Organic Soap berries. Not only are they organic, but soap berries are vegan, biodegradable, eco-friendly, fragrance-free and chemical-free.

Bulk benefits equals cost benefits: The one kilogram bag I bought will apparently last me for over 365 washes! I’ve done the figures and this certainly works out to be much more economical than making my own laundry detergent or continuing to buy standard laundry powders.

Zero waste and plastic-free: The soap berries came in a large cotton drawstring bag with two additional small cotton bags for your actual laundry loads. There was absolutely no plastic packaging whatsoever, which is always a bonus.

A little goes a long way: According to That Red House, to use the soap berries, place approximately five berries in one of the little cotton bags provided, tie the top so they don’t go all over the place, and just pop it in the wash along with your dirty clothes. Run your load. It’s as easy as that. And, those same five berries can go on to wash another five loads of laundry before being placed in your compost bin i.e. five soap berries equals five full loads of laundry. Isn’t that amazing?

Biodegradable and Compostable: Once your five soap berries have washed five loads of laundry for you, you can pop them straight into the compost bin. No need to recycle anything or add to landfill. Zero waste!

Less chemicals for better health: I had to get used to my clothes coming out of the washing machine without the added scents or perfumes that are typically present in the standard laundry detergents I was used to. My clothes just smelled like, well, clean clothes. Over time, I’ve found that this is actually what I prefer. Weirdly, I’ve noticed these days that traditional laundry scents actually overwhelm my sense of smell! <_<“

Conscious choice: I highly recommend you try this method of washing your laundry, especially if you live in a soft water area like Sydney, Australia. It definitely saved me money and not only decreased the chemicals in my life and improved my health, but also simplified a routine chore that we all have to do on the regular.

Overall, I love the simplicity and value that such a simple change has brought into my life. By just going on this simple adventure and making this simple change, I feel I live more sustainably, produce less waste, and am more conscious of the choices I make as a consumer not just with laundry, but on the whole. By making sure that where I spend my dollars align with my values for a greener and more sustainable world, I allow myself to support the companies that do good in both an ethical and environment sense. 

But, how do I keep count?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and compost!

The one issue I had during my soap berry adventure was keeping count of how many wash loads I had used for each bag of five berries. I initially kept count using numbered pieces of paper, but decided to get creative with this problem by making my own do-it-yourself counter using materials I already had on hand.
Being thrifty, creative and harnessing that do-it-yourself self-reliance is for-the-win!

DIY Ribbon counter for Soap berries

You will need:

  • A length of ribbon/twine ~ 50 cm or so (it doesn’t have to be accurate)
  • Five or six spare buttons (mine all match as they were from a leftover project, but yours don’t have to!)

How to make your ribbon counter:

  • Simply thread the spare buttons through your length of ribbon so that they are able to slide up and down the length. This means you need room for the buttons themselves and maybe 10 cm extra sliding room on the ribbon.
  • Tie the end of the ribbon in a knot.
  • Find a home in your laundry area to hang your lovely new creation.

How to use your ribbon counter:

I hang my ribbon counter off a shelf just above my washing machine. Every time I put a load of laundry on, I slide one button halfway down the length of the ribbon. When the washing load has finished, I slide that same button the rest of the way down. That way, once all five or so buttons are at the bottom end of the ribbon, I know it is time to change the soap berries.  After I pop in five new ones and compost the used berries, I can reset the ribbon counter by sliding the buttons back to the top, ready to go again. Simple, but super effective. ^_^”

So far, the soap berries and ribbon counter have been working like a charm (other than with one or two incidents where I forgot to tie up the drawstring bag and had to have a bit of a berry hunt through my clean wet clothes) ~_~”

I write this blog post in the hope of sharing what I’ve learnt and hopefully inspiring you to find value in simplifying your everyday life too.

While it may not seem like it, simplifying our lives through making conscious choices of even the smallest-seeming parts in life like doing laundry, is definitely a worthwhile endeavour. It is simply about taking a small step back to consider the variables that make up our everyday actions and just thinking about what the different consequences of those actions can be. I think you inevitably force yourself to expand your mind and consider what alternatives your actions can take. This is huge because you will have opened your mind to the possibility that you can live simply and intentionally.

By simply asking myself how I could do my laundry in a more sustainable, more eco-friendly, more cost-effective, and more health-conscious way, I was able to change my actions to match my values (with some research and motivation sprinkled in there too).

My Laundry Essentials

  • Buy organic soap berries in bulkOne kilogram equals 365+ laundry loads, which for me, equates to one full years’ worth of laundry for the price of $41.00 AUD (free shipping). That is a huge saving from using store-bought powders and detergents.
  • Always wash with full loads – Doing less loads means less energy wasted. Check out what the maximum load is for your particular washing machine and make sure to hit close to the mark to make the most of your energy and water use.
  • Wash clothes only when dirty! This sounds like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how often you’d wash something out of habit just because it’s been worn once. A good example would be a pair of jeans. Some people wash their jeans once a year and just air out or spot clean when needed! 😮 Your clothes will last longer, colours won’t fade as quickly, and you will get a lot more wear out of those items you own.
  • Always wash laundry in cold water – Preserves fabrics and colours; saves energy otherwise required to heat water (unless you specifically need to sanitise items such as reusable diapers).
  • Always hang clothes out to line dry when possible – Ditch the dryer! Dryers are an ongoing waste of money and energy. Our sun naturally dries, whitens and sanitises using UV light. It is a completely free, sustainable and eco-friendly resource we can all utilise! Just remember to dry some items inside-out to preserve colours.
  • Side note: For those of us who live in apartments that are ruled by archaic by-laws that restrict the hanging of laundry on balconies, you may have to be creative and use an indoor clothes airer to dry your clothes rather than using the sun. My partner recently made a clothes airer that has a pulley system to make the most of our limited apartment space.
  • Aim to do laundry during off-peak electricity times (10 pm-7 am in Sydney) to save that little bit more on energy usage. Check with your local electricity provider or your most recent energy bill. Many washing machines these days also have a time delay setting so you can set it to run while you sleep and then just hang your laundry out when you wake.
  • Keep a bucket in the laundry room sink to catch greywater and use it to water your thirsty houseplants. This water can also be saved for any clothing items that need gentle hand washing or to flush your toilet.
  • It also helps to have a water and energy-efficient washing machine in the first place so if you’re in the market for one, try to buy one with as many energy efficiency stars as you can. It definitely pays off in the long run. Also, utilise the eco-wash function if your machine has one to save even more power, water and money! Don’t forget to turn off your washing machine at the point when not in use to prevent wasted standby power.
  • Random tip: Hang out clean clothes with a good snap to straighten them before hanging to minimise wrinkles. Or simply minimise the clothes you have that require ironing or special care.
Zero waste laundry using soap berries, line-drying and the sun!

Oh, and also, I encourage you to support a 100% Australian-owned company that is doing the right thing by sustainability and the environment. I think companies that go to that extra effort to be certified organic and actually incorporate sustainable practices as a core initiative need to be recognised and praised. So shoot That Red House an email and congratulate them on their plastic-free packaging, organic certification or their stance on sustainability. Hopefully, they can inspire other companies to do the same ^_^”