Baking soda raises you hair's pH and opens your hair's cuticles. Without an acidic rinse, hair will be rougher and more easily tangled. That's why you need an acidic rinse to lower your hair's pH and seal the cuticles. ACV is an acidic rinse but not the only one. Lemon juice, vinegar, and other things that are acidic can lower the hair's pH. Why don't you want to use ACV? If it's the smell, you can use white vinegar or some other vinegar that you like that doesn't have bad ingredients added into it. Lemon juice works, too. I'm not sure about conditioners, but I think I read somewhere that they are usually acidic, but not all of them.