Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar are Not Effective Natural Hair Cleansers!? Microscope Photos Show Surprising Results!

This is a compilation of some continuing mini experiments on hair washing using different types of commonly recommended cleansers for natural hair. The results are quite fascinating!

The Experiment

I used my own (natural African) shed hair and imaged it:References/Controls

– oily reference – on its own without any washing (sheacoco regular use)
– clean reference – washed with shampoo only (2 minute water rinse, 2 minute shampoo wash, 2 minute water rinse and air dried for 4 hours)

Test Cleansers
– washed with a single test cleanser only ( 2 minute water rinse, 2 minute cleanser wash, 2 minute water rinse and air dried for 4 hours)
– The test cleansers were water only, conditioner (cowash) , bentonite clay, rhassoul clay, baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV)

1. Controls – Oily and Clean Hair References


I regularly use coconut oil and shea butter and after previously imaging my own hair, I knew it was going to be super oily. Shampoo is able to completely remove the oil from the hair leaving no trace of oil and therefore is a perfect clean reference sample.

2. Water only washing and Co-washing Results


Water only washing seems to be able to just spread the oil over the hair and there is still a large amount of oil left on the hair. To my surprise, hair conditioner/co-washing  really cleaned hair quite well and there were just tiny traces of oil left behind.

3.  Rhassoul and Bentonite Clay washing results


Clay washing with both rhassoul and bentonite clay gave a very similar result to co-washing. The oil was mostly removed and there were just a few tiny spots here and there where remnants could be seen but overally, a very good level of cleaning was achieved.

4. Baking Soda and ACV Results


Baking soda and ACV are both generally touted as having cleansing properties but really did not do any better than a water wash only. I also had to extend the wash time to 10 minutes to achieve a better result. It could be possible that the oil layer was too thick for both to work well, but the other cleansers (shampoo, co-washing and clay washing) did all manage to clean to a good level under similar conditions.

Additional notes:
Running warm water was used for all washes. In each wash or rinse, hair was rubbed gently to simulate normal hair washing. Shampoo – Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Shampoo. Hair conditioner – L’oreal Eversleek Smoothing Conditioner, Shampoo – Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Shampoo. Rhassoul and Bentonite Clay – Sheabutter Cottage. ACV – Sainsbury’s own brand. Baking soda – Dr. Oetker..


Please do note that under the microscope we can see oil layers but we do not see small deposits such as build up or hair conditioner deposits (well you actually could see them with specialised instruments but not with my microscope!). Strictly speaking this experiment will answer the question, how well will washing method X remove an oil layer from hair.