Can I Use Human Shampoo on My Dog? (2024)

Is it dog shower time? Yaaaay! But wait, you seem to have run out of dog shampoo.

The first thought to cross your mind is, ‘can I use human shampoo on my dog?’ After all, if it’s good for you, it must be safe for your dog too. Right? Wrong!

can I use human shampoo on my dog
Can I use human shampoo on my dog?

Unbeknownst to many, human shampoo causes more harm than good to your furry friend. This article delves deep into how safe or unsafe it is for you to use human shampoo for your dog, plus ideas on better dog cleaning alternatives.

Is It Safe To Use Human Shampoo on My Dog?

Using human shampoo on your dog is like opening a can of worms that exposes him to numerous hazards and vulnerabilities. Dogs, too, suffer allergies and skin irritation from using the wrong shampoo.

choosing flea shampoo
A young girl choosing a dog flea shampoo for humans.

Finding the right shampoo for your dog requires effort. Note that not all shampoos labeled dog-safe are ideal for your pooch. Consulting a specialist about the general health of your dog sets you up for a smooth journey for you and your canine friend.

The best dog shampoo cleans and refreshes your dog’s coat and replenishes its skin underneath. Medicated dog shampoo, alternatively, targets skin problems, corrects them, and leaves your dog feeling fresh.

Why Can’t You Use Human Shampoo on a Dog?

Both human and dog skin has a thin layer of skin known as the acid mantle. This thin layer protects another layer, the stratum corneum, from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. The stratum corneum keeps the body hydrated because it limits evaporation and absorbs water.

shampoo bottle
Getting shampoo in an orange bottle.

Showering for both humans and dogs is excellent for removing all the odor and impurities from the surface of your skin and hair. The only difference is, dog shampoo has the correct alkalinity and acidity necessary to support the stability of the acid mantle. Additionally, dog shampoo has different supportive and moisturizing ingredients that hydrate and protect the skin allowing the eroded acid mantle barrier to renew and reconstruct.

Dog skin has a normal pH balance of 6.2 to 7.4, while human skin has a pH balance of 5.5 to 5.6. Therefore, dog skin is less acidic than human skin.

Human shampoo is built to support human skin needs and can therefore be too acidic to use on dogs. It leaves your dog’s skin flaky and dry, causing immense irritation that triggers excess scratching, leading to skin cracks and bleeding. If you use human shampoo on your dog, you leave your dog vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

What Kind of Human Shampoo Is Safe To Use on Your Dog?

When you don’t have any dog shampoo at home, the safest option you can use is baby shampoo. While it’s better to avoid using human shampoo on your dog, baby shampoo has a gentle formula that won’t be too harsh on your dog’s skin.

baby shampoo for dogs
A baby shampoo can be used for dogs as a one-time alternative option.

Your vet may also suggest diluting normal shampoo and doing a patch test on your dog first to see if your dog reacts. Any scratching, inflammation, or redness on the testing skin patch means you should avoid using the shampoo (even when diluted) on your dog.

Patch testing isn’t always reliable because your dog may go for days, weeks, or even months without exhibiting issues caused by showering with human shampoo. Therefore, avoiding using human shampoo on your dog is advisable. Baby shampoo should be a one-time thing and not something you regularly use to bathe your dog.

Safe Dog Shampoo Alternatives

You’d be surprised that most of the safe dog shampoo alternatives are probably something you already have at home. Other than reaching for human shampoo when you run out of dog cleaning supplies, how about opting for a quick, easy DIY solution from the supplies you already have at home?

Read on for safe dog shampoo alternatives.

1. Pet Wipes

Pet wipes are similar to human/baby wet wipes. If your dog doesn’t like baths, pet wipes are a safe and fuss-free option to clean your dog’s ears, paws, face, coat, and other body parts. Pet wipes are a must-have because they are handy when you only need to clean parts of the dog that seem dirty.

dog wipes gray background
A dog wipe is a useful tool to thoroughly clean you pet’s coat.

Pet wipes shouldn’t replace deep cleansing baths for your pet. They instead help buy you time before you can replace your dog shampoos.

2. Dish Soap

Most people steer clear from other soap alternatives they already have at home because they assume they’d be too harsh on your dog’s skin. But did you know that dish soap is far better than human shampoo?

dish soap and sponge
A dish soap can help remove dog smell on your couch.

It all narrows down to a formula that has the right pH balance. Many pet owners highly recommend Dawn dish soap for dog cleaning. I do not and many veterinarians will encourage you to avoid it. Some dish soap formulas may be too harsh to use on your pets owing to their harsh chemical composition.

However, diluting Dawn dish soap makes an excellent cleanser that’s safe and instantly refreshing for your dog. To make the perfect dish soap dog cleanser, mix a quarter cup of dawn dish soap with half a cup of white vinegar and two cups of water.  

3. Oatmeal Deodorizer

You mix oatmeal with your fruit salad, yogurt, or other meal during the day. Oatmeal is surprisingly also an ingredient most people use for making DIY treatments for skin irritation and managing conditions like skin rashes and eczema.

scoop of an oatmeal
Dogs love the taste of oatmeal, and an excellent healthy addition to their meals!

To make a DIY oatmeal cleanser, mix rolled oats or oatmeal with baking soda and four cups of water.

And voila! There you have a natural deodorizer that kills germs hiding under your dog’s coat, removes dirt and bacteria, and eliminates bad odor.

4. Castile Soap

Castile Soap has a great pH balance and is chemical-free; hence excellent for your dog’s skin. It has no fragrances and does a great job of removing and killing bacteria on your pet’s skin, especially when they are super sensitive to most dog treatments and shampoos.

bar of Castile soap
A handmade bar of Castile soap can be used as a dog cleanser.

You can make DIY dog shampoo using Castile soap and other additional ingredients you probably already have at home.

5. Cornstarch

Do you seem to have run out of dry dog shampoo? No worries, cornstarch is here to save the day! It’s an ever-present product you can find in almost any kitchen.

a bowl of cornstarch with corn kernels
Cornstarch can be used to clean a dog’s coat instead of a regular shampoo!

Cornstarch is perfect for cleaning your dog, especially if your pet doesn’t like water.

Sprinkle cornstarch all over your pet’s coat and rub the powder deep into the fur and skin for a refreshing dry bath.

6. Baking Soda

Baking soda alone can be applied directly on your dog’s coat for a dry powder bath. However, most people prefer to mix it with other ingredients like oatmeal to make DIY dog shampoo.

baking soda
Does baking soda helps remove dog urine odor?

7. Water and Vinegar

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and pour into a spray bottle to make a hand spritz to clean your dog. This solution works great on a hot summer day or when you want to clean dirt off your dog’s claws after their routine dog walk or playtime outside.

8. Nuclear Deodorizer

A nuclear deodorizer is one of the best solutions for cleaning your dog and eliminating strong odors.

If your dog had a fight with a skunk or went for an adventure down the sewerage trench, there’s a good chance they look and smell terrible. Without dog shampoo at home, most other safe dog shampoo options on this list will help eliminate the dirt but not the foul skunk smell.

A nuclear deodorizer is available over the counter and is an excellent dog shampoo alternative that will get your dog smelling fresh and looking clean and shiny.

Can I Use Human Shampoo on My Dog? Final Say

The temptation to use human shampoo on your dog is hard to resist. But when you imagine how much havoc human shampoo can wreak on your dog’s delicate skin, you’d rather have some of the suggestions highlighted here on standby to be safe.