and now i'm here to tell you that they can work equally miraculously on...your hair.
i've fought a long fight with shampoo/conditioner. the day i washed my hair, no matter how well i conditioned, my hair looked and felt like straw. it would be okay the next day, good the next, perfect the next, then all of the sudden super greasy and gross the next, and i'd start the dance all over again. then i read about the natural method of cleaning your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. possibly better hair plus better for the planet? sign me up.
the process is fairly simple. wet your hair thoroughly, then take about a tablespoon or so of baking soda and plop it into your palm and splash in some water to make a fairly watery paste. get the paste onto your fingers and work it all over your scalp, starting at the crown of your head and working outward. massage your scalp with the paste for about 1 minute (for extra green points, turn off the shower while you're massaging:), then rinse. do another rinse using a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in about a cup of water (i keep a large chinese take-out soup container in the shower for this purpose...), then rinse that out thoroughly. that's it!
it does take a little perserverance to make the switchover from shampoo to this method. everything i read about it warned that you'd have "yucky" hair for the first couple of weeks, because your scalp would continue to overproduce oil, as it had been doing to compensate for all the oils that the shampoo stripped away. i could never get a more precise description than "yucky", but now that i've lived through it i can give you one: my hair felt like it was coated in a mixture of wax and motor oil. by day 13, i was getting a little cranky, and tired of bandanas. but then like magic, on day 14, my hair was perfect and soft and glossy.
you may have to fiddle with the proportions of baking soda and vinegar a bit—everyone's hair and scalp are different. if you use too much baking soda and your hair turns out dry, you can use a little bit of natural oil to even it out; just smooth a tiny bit over your hair, avoiding your scalp, once your hair is dry.
and no, you won't smell like a big pickle. :)