Can You Use Dish Soap on Dogs? (Safety)

Dogs are a wonderful part of life. They provide companionship, give us joy, and even reduce stress. But like us two-legged walkers, our four-legged friends also get dirty and need to be bathed.

Sometimes, dogs need a bath at inconvenient times, like when you find out that the dog shampoo just ran out. But if they just went out and rolled around in a putrid mess, you can’t wait to wash it off.

can you use dish soap on dogs
Can you use dish soap on dogs? (Safety)

This problem might cause you to wonder, “Can you use dish soap on dogs?” This article covers everything you need to know about using dish soap on dogs. We’ll discuss expert opinions, provide a homemade dog shampoo recipe, and dive deeper into the question.

After reading, you’ll be able to answer, “Can you use dish soap on dogs?”

Can You Use Dish Soap on Dogs?

It’s nice to have the right tool for the job. And when it comes to washing your dog, the best product to reach for is a shampoo formulated for dogs.

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

Specially-formula dog shampoos are ideal for a dog’s skin and oil. Their pH is higher than humans, and they have different shampoo needs. So, whenever possible, reach for the stuff designed for them.

But life doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes, you must use what’s available while doing your best to avoid harm. So, can you use dish soap on dogs?

The general expert consensus about using dish soap on dogs is that it can be acceptable in a bind but is generally not ideal. If you use it, it’s best to combine it with a couple of other household ingredients to avoid harm.

This opinion might seem confusing as dish soap does an excellent job cleaning our flatware and all sorts of things. Even the major dish soap brand Dawn advertises its use to help with oil-covered wildlife and birds.

But when it comes to household dogs, dish soap can be a little too strong. Dogs have a protective layer of oil on their skin and fur. Some dish soaps, especially when used often or in high concentrations, are too powerful against this all-important layer.

Homemade Dog Shampoo With Dish Soap

One way to avoid the harm caused by dish soap is to create a homemade dog shampoo. You can do this with some ingredients you probably have lying around the home already.

Best Dog Shampoo for Dry Skin

Some experts recommend adding dish soap to a good amount of water, plus a splash of vinegar. Some people use white vinegar, while others opt for apple cider vinegar.

Here is a sample recipe that you could follow to create homemade dog shampoo with dish soap:

  • 1 part dish soap
  • 2 parts white vinegar 
  • 8 parts water

If you want a small batch of this shampoo for dogs, you could use ¼ cup of dish soap, ½ cup of vinegar, and two cups of water. Mix well before applying it to your dog.

Use this mixture in small amounts to scrub your dog, then carefully wash it away. While you don’t want to go overboard with the soap, you want to use a lot of water to get all the soap out.

Just remember, while you can make this homemade dog shampoo, it’s best to use actual dog shampoo. Some oatmeal dog shampoo can even help relieve dry skin.

Problems From Using Dish Soap on Dogs

There are quite a few problems that can be caused by using dish soap on dogs. As we’ve mentioned, the biggest one is drying out their skin.

Schnauzer scratches his ear
Dog’s excessive scratching can cause more shedding.

You might not think that dry skin is such a big deal, but it can be.

The oils on your dog’s skin and fur provide a protective layer. Dish soap is strong enough to remove most of these oils, particularly if used in a fully-condensed form. You want to avoid that.

Dog’s skin typically ranges in pH from around 5.5 to 7.5. Using a lot of dish soap can disrupt this pH balance.

When the pH is off and the oil is removed, the dog’s skin is open to many harmful things. The number one problem is dryness, which happens to humans and dogs alike. 

Extremely dry skin can be uncomfortable, leading your dog to scratch itself. This scratching can create small cuts, which allow for easy entry into the bloodstream.

The result of this can be an infection. Sometimes, it’s a mild skin infection that doesn’t last too long. But some dogs are more susceptible to serious skin infections, which can be long-lasting and cause loss of hair, extreme irritation, and other serious consequences.

Thankfully, there are dog shampoos with antibacterial properties to help with skin infections.

The bottom line is to use dog shampoo whenever possible. Can you use dish soap on dogs? Yes, but you want to be careful to avoid stripping their essential oils.

Dish Soap on Dogs: Overall Breakdown

When it comes down to it, many things in life are about weighing the pros and cons. While we’ve already established that it’s ideal to use dog shampoo, let’s compare that with dish soap.

dish soap or dog shampoo bathing
Dish soap diluted with vinegar and water can be an alternative dog shampoo but not ideal.

First, you can find some dish soap for incredibly cheap. And if you mix that with water and vinegar, the result can be even more affordable. 

But dog shampoos don’t have to be overly expensive. While the small cost might seem like a lot in comparison to dish soap, most dog shampoos are quite concentrated and can last many baths.

Since we don’t want to wash dogs too often, their shampoo can last a long time. One bottle might even last a full year. At that rate, a $10 bottle of dog shampoo costs less than $1 per month.

Pretty worthwhile for our four-legged friends.

Another consideration is convenience. Almost everyone has dish soap around the house unless you just ran out. Because it’s always there, it’s incredibly convenient.

Yet dog shampoo is pretty convenient too. Since it can last so long, you only need to make one trip to the supply store or do one quick online order when the bottle runs out, not each time you want to bathe your dog.

Other considerations are related to your dog’s health. Can you use dish soap on dogs? Yes, but it can remove too many oils and harm your dog.

While there are times when you are stuck in a bind and might have no choice but to use dish soap, using so regularly is not ideal.

Here is an overall breakdown of the pros and cons of using dish soap on dogs in comparison to using a shampoo formulated for dogs:

ConsiderationDish SoapDog Shampoo
CostGenerally cheaperCan be more expensive, but also lasts a long time if used properly
ConvenienceUsually have some around homeMight have to make a special trip or online order
Potential for harmHigh due to the ability to strip important oilsLow due to specific formulation for dogs
Cause dry skin?Yes, likely to do so, especially if used in a concentrated form regularlyUnlikely because it is made to clean dogs without removing too much oil

Can You Use Dish Soap on Dogs? Wrap Up

If you have a dirty dog and need to wash it off, the best thing to use is a shampoo formulated for dogs. But if you are in a bind and are wondering, “Can you use dish soap on dogs?” the answer is yes.

It’s best to dilute the dish soap with water and add a bit of vinegar. Use it sparingly and rinse thoroughly. If you follow these steps, you can likely avoid stripping too much oil from your dog.

But the chance for dry skin and infection is higher with dish soap than with dog shampoo.