Basic care

Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: December 14, 2023
Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap?

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If you have been walking your dog and it started raining, you may be in a situation when they will need a wash when you return home. Even on a sunny day, your dog can easily find ways to get a little grubby and in need of a bath. Unfortunately, there may be instances when we reach for the dog shampoo and find we have run out. In these cases, we might think to ourselves that Dawn dish soap could be a good alternative. It is liquid, creates a good lather and it is certainly good at getting our plates clean.

At AnimalWised, we ask can I wash my dog with dish soap? We look at the suitability of using products like Dawn dish soap and other brands to bathe our dog. We also explain alternatives and the best way to ensure our dog is clean and healthy.

You may also be interested in: Can I Bathe My Cat After Vaccination?


  1. Washing a dog with dish soap
  2. When is it OK to wash a dog with dish soap?
  3. Can I bathe a dog with human shampoo?
  4. What do I bathe my dog with if I don't have dog shampoo?
  5. Bathing a dog with other detergents

Washing a dog with dish soap

Dishwashing liquid, commonly known as dish soap, is a detergent used to clean plates, cutlery, saucepans and various other items in the kitchen. One of the key differences between this type of detergent and other types of soap is that they are a degreaser. When cooking, baked-on food and hard-to-remove stains often develop on our dishes. Using a dish soap like Dawn can break down the molecules more easily and wash away greasy stains.

While dish soaps like Dawn and other brands are great for cleaning kitchen utensils, their strengths in this area make them unsuitable for washing dogs. With such strong cleaning power, they can be very rough on a dog's skin.

A dog's skin has a delicate balance of natural oils which are needed to protect them. In nature, wild dogs can wash themselves in water, but they will spend their entire lives never seeing a bar of soap or shampoo. Their skin protects itself with these natural oils. This is why we should not bathe dogs too often as it will upset their natural balance and can cause skin issues.

Not all dogs will react the ame way to being washed with Dawn dish soap. Some dogs have particularly sensitive skin, so using something as abrasive as dishwashing detergent can lead to them to have serious problems. Not only can their skin dry out, but they can develop skin lesions and other problems.

Another issue with the harshness of washing a dog with dish soap is their eyes. Since a dog's coat covers their entire body, we will want to wash their head and face. This can lead to Dawn getting into their eyes which can be very painful.

While it is true that some dogs will not have a serious reaction if we use dish soap to bathe them, others can. Any dog that is regularly washed with dish soap will have the pH balance of their skin upset and will likely face dermatological issues. It is best avoided.

In some cases, your dog may not be particularly dirty. If this is the case, you may want to learn how to wash your dog without a bath.

Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap? - Washing a dog with dish soap

When is it OK to wash a dog with dish soap?

As stated above, we should generally avoid bathing our dog with Dawn or other types of dish soap. However, there is one instance when its use can be helpful.

Since dish soap is a degreaser, there may be times when our dog has come in contact with a hard-to-remove substance. Perhaps they have accidentally rolled in a patch of car oil or knocked over a can of something greasy. In these cases, using dish soap can help break down the stain.

In these cases, it is best to limit the use of Dawn and other dish soaps to only the affected areas. Wet the area with some water and rub only enough of the dish soap to work out the greasy stain. If there is enough of their coat covered in the greasy substance, make sure you bathe them with a more appropriate product afterwards.

Learn more about how to appropriately attend to your dog's hygiene with our article on whether you can bathe a dog in heat.

Can I bathe a dog with human shampoo?

Personal hygiene products for humans have been specifically formulated for their skin type. They are dermatologically tested not only to clean our bodies, but also factor in repairing and protecting skin through moisturizing agents. Some personal hygiene products have specific additives which are designed to have additional properties such as benefiting certain skin types or having medicated properties.

For this reason, we should not use them on a dog's skin. Not only may they be too harsh for a dog, but the additional properties can cause reactions since they are not designed for canines. Even gentle soaps which have a neutral pH level can be inappropriate for dogs since their skin is more alkaline than our own[1].

Another issue for dogs is whether you have recently used a deworming treatment. Find out what to do in these situations with our article on how long after flea treatment can I bathe my dog?

What do I bathe my dog with if I don't have dog shampoo?

Now we know not to use dish soap or human personal hygiene products on a dog, we may be wondering the best way to wash our pets. Ideally, this is the job for a specially formulated dog shampoo. All of the issues regarding skin oils, pH levels and other skincare issues for dogs should be met with these shampoos.

Some dog shampoos may be better than others since there is not always the same level of regulation with animal products. For this reason, we recommend asking the advice of your veterinarian or even the clerk at your local pet store. If you are at all unsure, look up product reviews online to ensure the quality of the product.

If you are unable to get to a store or otherwise are unable to buy a dog shampoo, you may still be looking for alternatives. In these cases, you can use human shampoo in extenuating circumstances. If you do, you will need to ensure the following:

  • You cannot wait until you are able to purchase a more suitable product (e.g. if they are very dirty after a walk and pos a hygiene issue to the home).
  • The shampoo does not contain any additives which are toxic for dogs.
  • You test a small patch of skin first to ensure the dog does not have an allergy or sensitivity to the shampoo.
  • You wash the dog very carefully and rinse well, avoiding sensitive areas such as the eyes and genitals.

Another option is to choose a homemade shampoo using natural products to bathe your dog. An example would be to use oatmeal mixed with bicarbonate of soda and water. This will help to remove dirt and won't cause harm to your dog's skin. This is unless the dog has very sensitive skin, in which case it may be best to try to wash their coat with water alone until you can purchase a suitable bathing product.

Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap? - What do I bathe my dog with if I don't have dog shampoo?

Bathing a dog with other detergents

Although we should not use dish soap or human shampoo on a dog, we have seen there are extenuating circumstances when this might be OK for a solitary use. However, while Dawn and other dish soaps are not for regular use, there are some products you should never use on a dog.

One important one is laundry detergent. This product is used to wash clothes which are diluted in a lot of water. Even then, they can be quite strong detergents. When used directly on the dog's skin they are corrosive and can cause serious skin damage. They should never be anywhere near a dog's skin or your own.

Similarly, window cleaner, carpet cleaner and other home detergents should never be used on your dog's coat. They are very harsh chemicals which can poison your dog. Never wash your dog with laundry detergent or other household cleaners.

If you want to read similar articles to Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap?, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.


1. Matousek, J. L., Campbell, K. L., Kakoma, I., Solter, P. F., & Schaeffer, D. J. (2003). Evaluation of the effect of pH on in vitro growth of Malassezia pachydermatis. Canadian journal of veterinary research = Revue canadienne de recherche veterinaire, 67(1), 56–59.

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Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap?