Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times – Chapter 72

#72 – “Use Palmolive dish soap to shampoo your hair.  It is less expensive than shampoo, and makes your hair really shine.”

Apparently Palmolive dish soap was pretty cheap when I was growing up as we always had it around. The only reason we didn't use Tide, which was even cheaper, for washing our hair and dishes in addition to our clothing, was because it burned your skin!

Mom was frugal, but not just because she grew up in the Great Depression, or because that was the way she was raised. After my dad died and we sold everything to pay off the loans on the road construction equipment (dad owned a fairly lucrative construction company), we were left with no home, an old car, mom’s $300 a month teaching salary, and her undeterred desire to groom me for marriage to someone who could give me a “better” life - or at least to become a strong independent woman capable of giving myself a better life. If washing our hair with dishwashing soap could save a few pennies to buy me a prettier dress, dance lessons, or books to “expand my horizons,” then that’s the way it would be.

When you are a kid you are oblivious to the sacrifices made by your parents, their motives, the what’s and why’s. I recall a child psychologist telling me one time that my kids were more concerned about what time their favorite cartoon was coming on then whether or not I was with them 24-7 - which I had a great deal of difficulty accepting.  

I recall agonizing for three days about having to tell my 8-year-old daughter she couldn’t go swimming because of an ear infection, but that her brothers could. When I told an old friend that I thought I shouldn’t let the boys swim either, he said to me, “You must teach your children to accept disappointment. If you fix everything for them, and they go out into the world and you’re not there to fix things, they are at a disadvantage.” I took his advice. My daughter cried for 5 minutes and got over it.

So back to washing your hair with Palmolive - I also think mom justified washing our hair with Palmolive dish soap because it was the same color as Prell shampoo, which was the most popular shampoo of my youth, and which Jerry Seinfeld refers to as “the hard stuff,” because of its notorious color-striping qualities. Of course we all wanted to be “Breck Girls,” Cheryl Tiegs, Cybill Shepherd, Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, but that was so fancy we really didn’t see much Breck in our house.

Mom’s comment about “shiny” hair is important. Before the 60’s, it was all about shine. In fact mom insisted that I rinse my hair with diluted vinegar to get all the soap out because the soap residue made the hair dull. Of course getting Palmolive or Prell out of your hair was no small feat with or without the help of other kitchen products.

I did a little research just to see what was out there about Prell and Palmolive, and although there weren’t any references to washing your hair with Palmolive (imagine that!), there were tons about Prell, mostly having to do with removing unwanted color from your hair, for which Prell is particularly suited. I was not too surprised to find that the ingredients of Palmolive and Prell are very similar.

So, essentially mom was right. You can use Palmolive dishwashing soap to shampoo your hair – that is if you don’t use hair color (that eliminates 80% of us), and if you are sure to rinse with vinegar. But with apologies to mom, I have to admit that I won’t be using Palmolive on my hair because “fancy” shampoo is a status symbol thing for me, and I’d rather my hair smell like cucumber/melon than dill pickle.


  1. I love the pic of your mom! And back when we were kids and she was teaching I had no idea that her salary was $300 bucks!!! Linda Sue

  2. I love this photo too!

    I remember looking at her paycheck one day and thinking, "Wow, $300!" Seemed like a lot back then, but now, ha!

  3. I have oily hair. Prell does a great job of cleansing my hair without leaving the residue that many other shampoos do, but I hate the smell of it. I just bought a bottle of Apple Orchard Palmolive dish soap (the smell of which I love) to try instead. Incidentally, they are the exact same color green.

  4. Wow! Another Prell user. Thanks for your comment!

  5. can you get to the point of this article? Palmolive dish soap good or bad for hair

    1. Dear Anonymous - I have no idea whether Palmolive dish soap is good or bad for hair. My writings about my mom's 100 things are about my mom really, not products. Although based upon your question, I apparently didn't do a very good job of achieving that purpose! Sorry. I’m really trying to be a better writer!