Green Household Challenge: Hair

The hair too will want to get washed this month. And that is actually quite the challenge with my hair. Most of the shampoos at the store don’t really work for me – I often feel like I can’t properly wash them out of my hair again. These last few months I was very happy with the shampoo I was using so I was a bit unsure about trying something new. Was I right being unsure?

Version 1: Chestnut Shampoo

This one I had already tried out before the challenge month. Since I had already collected, cut and dried a lot of chestnuts last autumn for my laundry detergent. These I could now use as the basis for my chestnut shampoo. If chestnuts work as a detergent, why not as a shampoo.


  • 280g dried chestnut powder (or fresh ones cut into slices)
  • 700ml water
  • 1 apple, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons starch flower/ 2-3 tablespoons psyllium husks

Put the chestnuts and the apple into a pot with the water and let it boil for 25 min. Afterwards I put the mixture through a dish towel in order to separate out the liquid. Then the liquid needs to be thickened either with starch flower or psyllium husks. Stir those in and let it boil down until the mixture has a consistency like shampoo.

The first time I used the psyllium husks. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to stir them in without having any lumps left. For that reason I gave it another try and used starch instead. With that I managed to get a good consistency.

So let’s get in the shower and give it a try. The shampoo was easy to apply and felt good in the hair. Nonetheless I had the same problem I have with many other Shampoos, I couldn’t get it out of my hair completely. I think I just used too much starch and the shampoo is too sticky because of that. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough chestnuts left to give it another try, as I still want to use it for my laundry. I will try again this autumn with fresh chestnuts and a different thickening agent (e.g. apple pectin).

Version 2: Baking soda and apple vinegar

The first experiment in this challenge month was to wash my hair with baking soda and apple vinegar.


  • 4 teaspoons baking soda (natron)
  • 400ml warm water
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 5 drops essential rosemary or tea tree oil
  • 1l cold water


In this version baking soda mixed with water used as shampoo replacement, and apple vinegar and essential oil with water as conditioner. Both are mixed right before you use them. The amounts above are for my long hair. For shorter hair smaller amounts will be enough. Stir the baking soda into 400ml warm water. The apple vinegar and essential oil are mixed with 1l of cold water.

Under the shower first spread the sodamixture in your hair and then rinse it. Afterwards the same with the apple vinegar. Watch out for your eyes – I’m speaking from experience.

Using this shampoo and conditioner replacement is a bit unusual at first, as it feels like your just pouring large amounts of water over your head. However the result is convincing. After the first try I figured out the best way to spread it in my hair and avoid burning eyes. After this treatment my hair was wonderfully soft and easy to comb.

Version 3: Rye Flour

When I heard about the rye flour shampoo I was sceptical. From baking I know how sticky flour is when mixing it with water. I was thinking it would stick to the hair, too. On the other hand rye flour apparently has a lot less gluten than spelt or wheat does. Ok, so its worth a try.


  • 4 tablespoons rye flour (preferably wholemeal)
  • 300ml lukewarm water


Again these are the amounts you need for long hair. Just try it out to see how much you need for  your hair. Stir in the rye flour into the water using a wire wisk.  Even if it seems to watery at first, it will thicken after a while and get ’shampooy‘. If wholemeal flour is used the mixture should stand for 1-2 hours so that the hard bits soften and the active components become free.

The ryeshampoo can be applied to the hair like every other shampoo and should be left to do its job for about 5 minutes. Rinse carefully and your done. The hair feels like after a good conditioner. The rest of the shampoo can be used as shower gel – it’s great for the skin, too! The shampoo can be kept for a short time (max 1 day) in the fridge, but generally should be made fresh.

All of those possibilities can be ‚upgraded‘ with certain ingredients dependent on your needs. Furthermore coffee grounds are also great as a conditioner and peeling. I guess I will now use baking soda and apple vinegar if it has to be quick and the rye shampoo on  regular basis for some extra care. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Photo: Andy Happel Photography

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