Which Is The Best Cleaning Shampoo

We are testing if price, foam, and Ph level affect the quality and cleaning capabilities of shampoo.
Armaan Gill Namraj Dhillon
Grade 9


We think that Paul Mitchell will be the best shampoo because of two factors. Firstly, it is the most expensive shampoo out of the ones we are testing and its a very well-known brand. Secondly it has high concentrations of (SLS ) or sodium lauryl sulfate which is one of the most effective surfactants for cleaning oil and dirt in human hair.


Shampoo is usually made with a surfactant. Surfactants are molecules that quickly bond with other molecules to produce little sealed bubbles. They are compounds that lower the surface tension between 2 liquids, a liquid and a solid or a liquid and a gas. Most of the time sodium lauryl sulfate or it is sodium laureth sulfate. Both chemicals are surfactant which are substances that reduce the surface tension of water when the chemical is dissolved. 


Both sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate have advantages and disadvantages, sodium lauryl sulfate is an excellent and efficient surfactant capable of removing oily stains. With its ability to clean oily stains effectively it is used in very many industrial and household products. But with such an effective product there has to be some flaws. 


These flaws include skin irritation and damage to people with skin conditions and products that have it inside have reportedly been linked with hair loss and damage. While sodium laureth sulfate this chemical is a different form of sodium lauryl sulfate, it's made through the process of ethoxylation where ethylene oxide is added to the chemical compound changing its structure. Some benefits include removal of oily stains, not irritant on sensitive skin, does not damage hair and does not induce hair loss. But some of the flaws are it can irritate the eyes and lungs, and with long term use of the product has shown signs of cancer indicated by use of the chemical/ product on lab animals.

The micelle structure surrounds and traps the dirt, oil and other unwanted substances that are in your hair. After, we can use water to rinse this entire structure out. This will bring the unwanted substances with it. 

Shampoo foams because inside of the chemical compound there are foaming agents. When these foaming agents have contact with air and water at the same time a reaction is created, and foam is created. These foaming agents are also sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate

The first liquid shampoo was created in the year 1927 in berlin by a German inventor by the name of Hans Schwarzkopf who marketed and sold it in Europe. Before they made it shampoo was not a thing people mostly used soap for shampoo as both were used for cleaning and had surfactants. Before the main surfactant was sodium lauryl sulfate but nowadays companies are trying to strive away from this chemical because of its serious health impacts, they are now going towards sodium laureth sulfate as it possesses less of the cons. 

The word shampoo came from India where the Hindi word champu meaning to massage soon evolved into the word shampoo in modern day English. The reason for cleaning your hair in the first place is to clean oily substances that accumulate in your hair called sebum. Sebum is an oily and waxy substance produced by your glands that protects and moisturizes your skin. Although it does these things too much of it can start to develop an odor. Some people tend to use soap as a means of washing their hair. Also, they think it cleans everything but they're wrong. Shampoo that will work efficiently have the pH level between 4-6. This level is ideal but having 1 level less or more, will not be a big issue. This is the natural pH of hair. This way it can efficiently clean the hair without damaging any of the hair cells. While on the other hand soap has a higher pH level with stronger detergents that are inside of the chemical compound in order to clean more amounts of dirt and oil as your body because it can become dirty more easily.

Last year, in 2020, the top three selling brands of shampoo were #1 Moroccan Oil, #2 Bumble And Bumble, #3 Matrix Biolage.

After researching and inquiring with hair salon stylists and experts, we discovered that 100% cotton or wool was the best substitutes to use to test shampoo in place of real hair. This is because this material is fibrous like real hair and these materials both come from living organisms. This material is not synthetic or artificial like polyester or acrylic.

What is the purpose of the conditioner? Conditioner seals up/counter acts shampoo. Shampoo opens up your hair fibers so it can deeply clean your hair fibers and get rid of the excess sebum. Conditioner seals the hair fibres back up so no damage can be dealt to the hair cells.

Human shampoo is different from dog shampoo because dogs have a higher normal pH than humans. Their normal pH balance is between 6.2-7.4. This means that their shampoos have a higher pH as well. If we were to use human shampoo on dogs, their pH balance would be disrupted and changed. This will make them more prone to infections and other issues that can make them sick.






  • How long the product were sitting on the shelves

  • If the product was tampered with after production

  • Factory defects that occurred during manufacturing

  • Duration it took to deliver (what conditions it was kept in during delivery)

  • Location of Manufacturing facility


  • Room temperature
  • How much of the dirt/other substance were applied
  • The length and  the weight of cotton yarn to simulate for hair
  • Size of jars
  • The amount of cotton was shaken and cleaned for
  • Water Temperature
  • Water (Control Test)


  • How much foam was created in the blender (Foam Test)
  • The weight, color, and texture of cotton yarn before/after cleaning
  • If the cotton yarn was damaged at all after cleaning
  • The pH paper result after checking the shampoo pH


  • Type of Shampoo
  • Type of Stain


Procedure (Foam Test):

  1. Make a 5% shampoo solution with water for each shampoo (190 ml of Kirkland water at room temperature with 10 ml of shampoo). Also make a controlled solution with just 200 ml of water.
  2. Pour solution into hand blender and mix for 10 secs
  3. After 10 seconds stop blender and pour solution into measuring cup, take note of the amount of water at the base and total volume of solution with foam. 
  4. Take another measurement every minute for 4 mins
  5. Then repeat steps until all shampoos are measured including control variable water
  6. After all solutions have been completed and recorded, take the measurement for each recording and minus the water volume from the entire volume

Procedure (pH Test):

  1. Open each of the shampoo bottles
  2. Get one strip of PH paper for each shampoo
  3. Get a separate container or a spoon for each of the shampoo
  4. Pour the shampoo onto the spoon/container 
  5. Dip the PH paper into the each of the shampoos
  6. Record the results 
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for each trial

Procedure (Main Test):

  1. Measured the same length of yarn (Yarn was used as I spoke to three different hair salons – Mastercuts, Tommy Gun, and Chatters, and spoke with stylists regarding my project and all of them recommend using 100% cotton yarn or second choice 100% wool yarn. They indicated not to use a mixture of cotton and acrylic yarn). For each shampoo including water we needed 33 pieces of yarn per stain.
  2. Then on a large table placed all the shampoo across the table
  3. Then rolled out tin foil under each shampoo 
  4. Weighed each yarn piece and placed it under each shampoo and water on tin foil and recorded the weight
  5. Then in 11 exact same mason jars we added 200 ml of water and 1 tablespoon of potting soil 
  6. Place each dirt solution by the yarn (one under each testing shampoos and control variable water)
  7. Dropped 1 yarn pieced into its corresponding dirt solution jar and shook the jar for 30 seconds. Left yarn in the solution for 1 hour.  Repeat step for each testing agent
  8. Drain the water out and placed back under each testing shampoo/water
  9. I waited 4 hours and then recorded each yarns weight
  10. Repeat steps 1-9 for second trial 
  11. Repeat steps 1-9 again for third trial
  12. With clean and dry mason jars, make 5% shampoo solution in each mason jar for each shampoo and water (250ml water 42 degrees Celsius with 12.5 ml of shampoo)
  13. Place each yarn in the mason jar corresponding to its shampoo and shake each sample for 3 mins
  14. Drain out solution and wash with 500 ml of warm water (42 degrees Celsius) for 30sec
  15. Place each yarn back under its corresponding shampoo 
  16. Wait 4 hours to let cotton dry and then record the weight of each yarn piece
  17. Repeat steps 12-16 for trial 2
  18. Repeat steps 12-16 for trial 3
  19. Repeat steps 1-18 but changing the dirt solution to coconut solution with same ratio solution
  20. Repeat steps 1-19 but changing the dirt solution to tea solution with the same ratio solution


Overall Observations:

Overall, we noticed that the more expensive brands would do excel in the cleaning capabilities compared to the cheaper and lower end shampoos. 


Visual Observations: 

Dirt Trials: 

  • Paul Mitchell: 
    • Smells clean
    • Many dirt particles still left in the cotton
  • Bio silk: 
    • Smells the best out of all of the other shampoos
    • Dirt particles have floated up to the surface of the mixture
    • Cotton feels soft when touching
    • Cotton has almost returned to its original colour
  • Chi:
    • Smells floral
    • The dirt particles are at the bottom 
    • Really soft on the Hands
    • No dirt particles left on cotton after rinsed
  • Joico
    • Particles of dirt are in foam
    • Smell is hard to describe (mixed reactions)
    • Soft on hands
    • Bubbles/foam left in cotton even after rinsing
    • Low quantity of particles left in cotton
  • Matrix
    • Foam is brown
    • Dirt particles are left on the top
    • Fruity smell
    • Bubbles/foam left in cotton even after rinsing
    • Rough feeling; not soft on hands
  • Rusk
    • Foam is very airy
    • Dirt particles are left on the top and bottom
    • Smells like body soap
    • Colour of cotton is light
    • Soft feeling
    • Many suds
  • Panteene
    • Many bubbles
    • Strong smell
    • Light in colour
  • Garnier
    • Has a smell similar to one you would find in a hospital
    • Dark in colour
    • No suds
  • Tresemme
    • Lots of bubbles
    • Smells like dish soap
    • Foam is dark in colour
  • Aussie
    • Dark
    • Lots of particles visible
    • Not a lot of foam
    • Fruity smell
    • Very rough texture
  • Water
    • No foam
    • No smell
    • All particles are at the bottom
    • Lighter in colour

Tea Trials:

  • Paul Mitchell
    • Light in colour
    • Overflowing with bubbles
    • Smell is neutral but does not smell unpleasant
    • Cotton still had suds after rinse
  • BioSilk
    • Smells like a hair salon
    • It is very soft on hands and light in colour
    • It is overflowing with bubbles after rinse
  • Chi
    • Bubbles are bright white
    • Bubbles are overflowing
    • Sweet smell
    • Light in colour
    • Suds still left in cotton after wash
    • Soft
  • Joico
    • Lots of bubbles
    • Cotton is light in colour
    • Odd/different smell
    • There are no suds left in cotton after rinse
    • Soft 
  • Matrix
    • Yellow tint to the bubbles
    • Very airy bubbles
    • Soft in some areas, rough in others. Very inconsistent texture
  • Rusk
    • White bubbles
    • Many particles in foam
    • Very airy bubbles
    • Particles start settling in the bottom
    • Smells floral
    • Rough texture
  • Panteene
    • Dense bubbles, they are not airy
    • Light in colour
    • Smells like dish soap
    • Suds left in cotton after wash
  • Garnier
    • Average bubbles
    • Smells like a hospital and sanitizer
    • Suds left in cotton after rinse
  • Tressemme
    • Very bubbly
    • All particles settled at the bottom
    • Has an acidic fruit/lemon smell
    • Many suds in cotton after rinse
  • Aussie
    • Very little bubbles
    • Foam is very airy
    • Particles are still left in cotton
    • Has a candy/sweet smell
  • Water
    • No foam
    • Smells like tea
    • Particles are near the bottom
    • Lighter in colour
    • Rough to touch


Coconut Trials:

  • Paul Mitchell
    • Overflowing foam
    • Very tight bubbles, no air bubbles visible
    • Bubbles are bright white
    • Feels luxurious
    • Yarn is vibrant
    • Hands are slightly oily
  • Bio Silk
    • Overflowing foam
    • Very tight bubbles, no air bubbles visible
    • Bubbles are bright white
    • Also smells luxurious 
  • Chi
    • Airy bubbles
    • Smells fruity
    • Very rough and feels waxy
  • Joico
    • Water is cloudy
    • Very greasy texture
    • Has an odd/weird smell
  • Matrix
    • Cloudy water
    • Bubbles are airy
    • Fruity smell
    • Waxy and soft texture
  • Rusk
    • Water has a beige tint
    • Very airy bubbles
  • Panteene
    • Water has a yellow tint
    • Smells like lysol/sanitizer wipes
  • Garnier
    • Water has a pastel yellow tint
    • Bubbles are very airy
  • Tressemme
    • Water is cloudy
    • Very waxy
    • Smells like dish soap
  • Aussie
    • Very transparent and airy bubbles
    • Feels very waxy
    • Has a floral smell`
  • Water
    • Cloudy water
    • Smells like coconut
    • Lighter in colour
    • Very greasy feeling on hands
    • Oil formation is visible


Graphs and Data


( Please click on the link above to view the graphs and observation data )


The purpose of this experiment was to investigate which shampoo is the best for washing your hair with. To conduct this experiment, the following steps were taken. Firstly, we needed to conduct and gather background research to get a greater understanding of shampoos and what make them good. We learned about surfactants and how they work in shampoos. We discovered that PH levels are key to having a good shampoo. 

We hypothesized that the result of this experiment would be that the shampoo brand Paul Mitchell would be the best performing shampoo. This proved to be correct because it had the best overall performance compared to the other shampoos. 

This shampoo had the closest PH level to our hair which makes sure that it doesn’t damage our hair, but it gets out all the dirt, debris and unwanted particles in our hair. Also, Paul Mitchell was one of the foamiest shampoos out of all. Some people believe that good shampoos produce more foam. Lastly, this shampoo was the most expensive out of the rest and we would expect to receive an amazing product for the price they pay. This shampoo is expensive because it has high volume of very effective surfactants that clean efficiently.



The results of this experiment would be useful to everyone who wash their hair. Everyone can benefit from these results and implement them into their everyday lives. 

People now know that they should look at the price, the ingredients (specifically for surfactants) and check the PH levels to make sure the shampoo is fitted for their type of hair. The PH level that is similar to your hair will make sure not to damage it.


Sources Of Error

This experiment could be improved by having making sure that we get all of the cotton yarn pieces out of their solutions at the same time. Some pieces may have sat longer than others because we were not able to work fast enough to get to them at the same time. Also, variables like the water temperature could have been better controlled because the water temperature may have changed while it was being poured. Also, the temperature may have decreased by the time we got to the last shampoo.




We would like to acknowledge our parents for taking us to get and pay for our supplies, and lettting us use some areas of our home. We would also like to thank the informative hair stylists and barbers at hair salons across Calgary that helped us get a better understanding of our hair. Lastly, we would also like to thank our science teacher for guiding us and giving helpful tips during our project.