How I Stopped Hard Water From Making My Hair Wig Out

Vinegar will henceforth be known as the Gunk Ninja.
Publish date:
April 30, 2013
DIY, hair oils, rinses, water, white vinegar, hard water, l' oreal, vinegar

Hard water is no fun. You’ll notice hard water if you have lots of mineral build up in your tap and showerhead fixtures. The bits in between the tiles in your shower might be a yellowish colour.

Also, your hair might be disgusting.

I’m talking lank, clumpy hair at the roots and dry and frizzy at the ends. The only volume your hard-water hair can get close to is on your TV remote.

I can only speak of this with any sense of authority because I live in London, where the water is so hard you could make a porno with it. For the first few months of my time in London, I was too busy to really notice what was happening to my hair. But when I stopped wearing it in those donut buns (so Adele) I realized it had become limp and greasy, to the point where I was washing it twice daily.

I don’t mean to get the brag out, but I used to have the kind of hair that strangers awkwardly stroke in public. It’s straight, smooth and will usually do what it’s told with the right amount of product and heat styling.

But London and its Shakespearean-era pipes changed all of that, and with every month the problem has gotten worse. For the first year, I couldn’t work it out; I changed shampoos, used serums, got more haircuts. Nothing.

Then I read Alison’s article over on xoJane and I had a lightbulb moment.

I manically read the internet and discovered that hard water affects your hair because minerals combine with your natural oils to cause that greasy, sticky feeling at the scalp. Then, this mineral buildup doesn’t allow conditioner to penetrate the hair (hence why it’s dry at the ends). Oh, and if you have coloured hair, hard water is likely to turn it brassy.

Basically, hard water is a jerk.

The most obvious way to combat it is to simply get a water softener, which uses ions to remove the minerals in the water. But here in London those babies can cost upwards of £500 (about $775). The cheaper but less effective approach is a simple showerhead water filter, but apparently these are often badly made and not effective for the cost.

So what to do?

I could use Alison’s method of refilling a large drinking bottle with purified water and using that water to do the final rinse, but I’m lazy.

So I went back to the trusty internet and discovered the magic of the vinegar rinse. There’s an overwhelming amount of forums online documenting the effectiveness of the humble vinegar rinse in combating hard-water build up in your hair.


I mixed two cups of distilled water with two tablespoons of white vinegar. (Side note: the internet told me to use apple cider vinegar, but I only had white vinegar, and the shops were closed and vinegar is vinegar right? I don’t know. If you think it does make a difference, holler at me in the comments.)

I put the water and vinegar in an old bottle and showered as normal. Then, instead of conditioning, I squirted the vinegar mixture over my head and combed it in. I also got some in my eyes, which wasn’t pleasant.

Then I left it for about 10 minutes while I shaved. (Some people do a quick rinse-off afterwards, but I didn’t.) Let your hair dry naturally.

I’m going to warn you: as it dries, your hair will stink like a salad, so I wouldn’t recommend doing a vinegar rinse on date night. But the smell does dissipate when it’s dry, which is a relief. And funnily enough, when you wash your hair again the vinegar smell will come back with less force.


It was amazing at getting rid of the gunk buildup at my roots. It was like a gunk ninja. I had volume and fluffiness at my roots, which was something I’d never thought I’d see again.

However this is the point where I tell you it will dry the hell out of your ends. The vinegar rinse is no delicate flower in hair care; it will purge the build up at your roots, but it might need to split an end or two to get there.

So to combat this, I simply put some L’Oreal EverSleek Precious Oil Treatment at the ends to moisturize them, which worked a treat. Boom.

Do you live in a hard-water area? Have you ever used vinegar on your hair? What do you do to make the hard-water ickiness go away?