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Curly hair is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. It could be super-defined one day and a frizzy concoction the next day – and it's never exactly the same from one head to another. Our mission is to equip you with the necessary tools for restoring and maintaining healthy locks and celebrating the hair you were born with! 

The Curly Hair Survival Guide To Chelating Shampoo

November 20, 2018


Verna Meachum

Using a chelating shampoo will give your hair a clean slate to start from if you've experienced hard water build up, etc.

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Curl care

I am highly experienced in the beauty industry and specialize in writing for brands and websites that focus on curly hair care. Moreover, I actually have curly hair and have curly-haired children with varying hair textures. I am also surrounded by curly-haired friends, including curly hairstylists and curly-haired family members. You get the point :) I’m well-versed in the language and nuances of curly hair care, styling tips, and product recommendations.

Furthermore, I collaborate with my friend who has a Ph.D. in organic and inorganic chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist to help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. He advises us on Hair Care Science to ensure we are well-informed.

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Last Updated on April 9, 2023 by Verna Meachum

If you’ve been experiencing breakage and frizziness and just can’t seem to pinpoint the cause, it might be time to invest in a good old fashioned chelating shampoo.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Chelating shampoo, really? Do I really need that?” And my answer to that is: probably not. But it’s nice to have around just in case!

You see, chelating shampoo is one of those products that you don’t really need until you need it, but it’s nice to have around just in case. Just like duct tape or WD-40.

But like all things in life, there is a time and place for them! So if your hair has been feeling a little bit lackluster lately, and you just can’t seem to put your finger on the problem, a chelating shampoo might be the answer you’re looking for.

What is a Chelating Shampoo?

A chelating shampoo accomplishes more heavy lifting than your regular shampoo or clarifying shampoo.

It helps to remove minerals from hard water, such as calcium and magnesium, from the hair. These minerals can build up over time and cause the hair to become dry, brittle, and difficult to manage.

A chelating shampoo has active molecules called chelating agents that do the bulk of the work. These agents latch on to “impurities” and remove them from the hair.

In other words, they form a cage around the “gunk”, so the shampoo can rinse the entire complex from your hair.

Hair chelating products are often packed with powerful antioxidants and remove the filthy minerals and fight free radicals from attacking your hair.

A Chelating Shampoo Will Also Help To Remove:

  • Gunk
  • Slime
  • Product residue
  • Hard water
  • Minerals from well water
  • Chemical treatments
  • Copper residues from water pipes
  • Skin shedding
  • Color depositing shampoos
  • Oral medications
  • Chlorine
  • Salt build up (i.e. the sea or ocean)

A chelating shampoo can also be beneficial for people with normal water, as it can help remove any product build-up or residues that may have been left on the hair.

In the end, a chelating shampoo is definitely something that you should consider adding to your hair care routine if you have hard water, or if you simply want to give your hair a deep clean.

Chelating Shampoo Infographic

Did you know that minerals can raise the pH level of tap water to around 8.5?

“Alkaline pH may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and, therefore, increase friction between the fibers. This may lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage. It is a reality and not a myth that lower pH of shampoos may cause less frizzing for generating less negative static electricity on the fiber surface.”

Source: The National Center for Biotechnology Information

Ingredients with EDTA:

EDTA is an abbreviation for Ethylamine Diamine Tetraacetic Acid, which is a color-less water-soluble solid that dissolves limescale and ions. It is a type of man-made synthetic amino acid.

EDTA has to be in the ingredient list for the shampoo to be considered a chelating shampoo. Chelating shampoos can come in both drugstore and salon products.

The higher the percentage of EDTA in the product, the stronger the removal of minerals and impurities.


There is a lot of confusion about chelating and EDTA-containing products. Just because a product contains EDTA doesn’t mean it is a chelating product.

Some shampoos use EDTA at a very low level as a preservative. So, look for shampoos that are specifically designed as a chelating shampoo.

When citric acid is used in a shampoo, it’s used to adjust pH and may have no impact on minerals in your hair. It’s less gentle because it’s acidic.

  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Disodium EDTA
  • Sodium Citrate or Trisodium Citrate
  • Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine
  • Diisopropyl oxalate
  • Disodium EDTA-copper
  • Oxalic acid
  • Potassium
  • Sodium oxalate
  • Pentasoidum Pentetate
  • Trisodium EDTA
  • Trisodium HEDTA

Natural Chelators:

  • Phytic acid
  • Sodium gluconate
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium phytate

Benefits of a Chelating Shampoo

  1. Restores healthy hair – Removes minerals from hard water
  2. Prevents future build up of minerals
  3. De-yellows gray hair
  4. Great to use before a color or chemical treatment
  5. Helps to protect hair from future damage caused by hard water
  6. Neutralizes your hair and scalp to restore its natural pH balance
  7. Help to remove chlorine, salt water, and hard water minerals from the hair
  8. Help to repair damage caused by these elements
  9. Cleanses your scalp
  10. Balances the pH in your scalp and hair
  11. Works for well water
  12. Keeps your hair color vibrant and bright
  13. Lessens the effects of chlorine and saltwater exposure on hair
  14. Great for all hair types, including color-treated or chemically straightened

Is a Chelating Shampoo the Same as a Clarifying Shampoo?

Chelating shampoos are much more potent than clarifiers because they work below the surface of the hair shaft.

Clarifying shampoos are meant to remove build-up on the surface of the hair.

Chelating shampoos are also great for removing chlorine and salt build up from the hair. If you spend a lot of time swimming, using a chelating shampoo is the best way to get your hair back to feeling like you just stepped out of the salon.

Both shampoos are relatively strong and can compromise your hair with repeated use. So, make sure to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner or deep conditioner.

If you find these shampoos to be drying and continue to have chronic issues with hard water, purchase a water-softener or water-filtration system which may benefit your hair in the long run.

If you live in an apartment, obviously you will not be able to install a water softener or filtration system, but here’s a mineral filter shower head that I swear by. I own two of them (one for each bathroom) and absolutely love them.

It softens hard water, which benefits not only the health of your hair and scalp but also your skin.

It will boost your water pressure like no one’s business. It’s like taking a shower at the spa! It’s so invigorating.

The Ionic Shower Head

Signs You May Have Hard Water Build up

  • Dryness
  • Itchy scalp
  • Limp hair
  • Frizzy hair that seems to be unmanageable
  • Hair that is breaking easily
  • Your shampoo doesn’t lather. The surfactants in the lather remove dirt and grime from your hair and scalp. So, without the lather, nothing or very little is removed, and you’re left with double the build up – product reside and shampoo.
  • Your conditioners are no longer conditioning your hair.

Signs of hard water build up

How to Use a Chelating Shampoo

– Wet your hair and apply the chelating shampoo, massaging it into your scalp and hair.

– Leave the shampoo on for about three minutes before rinsing it out.

– Repeat this process until you see improvement.

-Use chelating shampoo approximately once a month (or as needed) to keep the minerals at bay.

When Should You Use a Chelating Shampoo?

You should use a chelating shampoo if you have any of the following issues:

  • Chronic dryness
  • Itchy scalp
  • Limp hair
  • Frizzy hair
  • Excessive shedding or breakage 
  • If you ever experienced unexplained hair breakage that does not respond to your regular protein or moisturizing treatments, you may need to chelate your hair to remove stubborn mineral buildup.
  • You live with hard water
  • Your hair noticeably changes when you travel between cities or state lines (i.e. your hair is super dry because of hard water in one place, but once you travel to another location with soft water it looks completely different)
  • You’ve recently switched to a well water source
  • You swim a lot in chlorinated pools or salt water
  • You use a no-lye relaxer formula

Chelating shampoos are not meant for everyday use and should only be used when needed.

To avoid drying out your hair, you should limit chelating shampoos to no more than two times per month.

Once your chelating shampoo has removed the minerals from your hair you will want to switch back to a regular shampoo so as not to strip your hair of all of its natural oils.

Chelating Shampoos for Curly Hair

Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo

This is a popular choice among many salons. It’s also very gentle, making it a good choice for those with sensitive scalps.

Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo 8.5 oz.
$24.82 $21.59 ($2.70 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/10/2023 02:43 am GMT

Ion Hard Water Shampoo

This shampoo is specifically designed to remove minerals and chlorine from hair.

Ion Hard Water Shampoo, 33.8oz
$20.69 $13.39 ($0.40 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/10/2023 09:08 pm GMT

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo

This shampoo is designed to remove build-up, including hard water minerals. It also brightens highlights, bleached, or gray hair.

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo

This is another popular choice among those with hard water issues. This is a vegan formula and my favorite! It helps to remove minerals, chlorine, and salt from the hair.

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo
$17.00 ($1.89 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/09/2023 06:53 pm GMT

Hairprint – Natural Plant-Based Chelating Shampoo

This shampoo uses plant extracts to help remove minerals and chlorine from the hair.

OUAI Detox Shampoo

This shampoo is designed to remove all traces of chlorine, salt water, and hard water from the hair. It also contains keratin to help strengthen the hair.

Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo

This shampoo helps remove chlorine, minerals, hard water deposits, and chlorine from hair. Its non-stripping citrus extracts break down and remove build-up without depleting curls’ essential moisture.

Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo, 8.5 Fl Oz
$24.00 ($2.82 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/10/2023 02:53 am GMT

Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three

This shampoo helps keep hair from turning “chlorine green” and helps removes chlorine, minerals and build up.

Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three
$15.50 ($1.53 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/10/2023 09:38 pm GMT

TRISWIM Chlorine Removal Swimmers Shampoo Moisturizing Repairing Hair

This is a popular choice among swimmers. It helps to remove chlorine and other chemicals from the hair.


Are chelating shampoos good for hair?

Yes, they are good for your hair, however, chelating shampoos are not meant for everyday use and should only be used when needed.

Will chelating shampoo damage my hair?

No, not if you are using it as directed. Chelating shampoos are very strong and should only be used when your hair needs the extra cleaning power.

Can I use a chelating shampoo every time I wash my hair?

No, you should only use a chelating shampoo once or twice a month.

Can I use chelating shampoos on color-treated hair?

Yes, you can safely use chelating shampoo on color-treated hair. Read and follow the directions carefully.

Will chelating shampoos strip my hair of its natural oils?

No, chelating shampoos will not strip your hair of its natural oils. In fact, they will help to remove any unwanted build-up, which can actually make your hair look and feel healthier.

Can I use a chelating shampoo on extensions?

Yes, you can use a chelating shampoo on both your natural hair and extensions. Follow the directions carefully to ensure the best results.

Is apple cider vinegar a chelating agent?

Vinegar may chelate minerals somewhat differently than citric acid or EDTA, but I would not rely on it alone.

Does chelating hair remove toner?

Chelating shampoos will not remove toner from your hair. They are designed to remove minerals and other build-up.

How long does it take to chelate hair?

It varies depending on the chelating shampoo. However, you should not expect immediate results. Most products recommend leaving them in for at least five minutes.


You may be thinking, “That’s it?” Well, the answer is yes! That was a short and sweet blog post about chelating shampoos.

We hope that this article has helped you figure out what a chelating shampoo is, when to use it, and what the benefits are.

If this article helped you, please share with it your friends who also may need to hear this!

Thanks again and see ya next time!

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