Safe Alternatives to Dog Shampoo

Dog Health Dog Shampoo October 5, 2023
Safe Alternatives to Dog Shampoo

Safe Alternatives to Dog Shampoo

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Safe Alternatives to Dog Shampoo

If you are looking for a safe alternative to dog shampoo, it’s probably because you’ve run out of his normal products! This could be a bit of a problem if your dog has rolled in something smelly and you need to bathe him immediately

However all is not lost, there may be some things at home you can use instead! Let’s explore this a bit further.

Normal Dog Grooming

Dogs should not be bathed too regularly, they generally only need washing if they get smelly or dirty. Dogs certainly shouldn’t have their fur washed as often as we wash our own hair!

If your dog has a skin issues then your vet may advise a specific medicated washing regime, but otherwise, the longer you can leave it between baths the better.

Safe Alternatives to Dog Shampoo

Dawn Dish Soap

Dish soap is often used when cleaning oil off wild birds and other animals in emergency situations, so we know that it is relatively safe to use if applied carefully. If you are going to use dish soap on your dog then make sure that it is free of fragrances and additional chemicals. It would be safest to stick to the original Dawn dish soap, though other similar dish soaps might be ok.

Make sure the dish soap is well diluted in warm water before lathering it into your dog, as too much dish soap could dry your dog’s skin out and make it irritated. Keep it away from his face, especially his eyes, and make sure you rinse your dog thoroughly in plenty of clean water afterward too. It wouldn’t be recommended to use this regularly, but it should be okay as a one-off.

Baby Shampoo

If you have a baby in the family, then you are very likely to have baby shampoo at home! If you need to use human shampoo to clean your dog then make sure it’s definitely a baby one. Regular shampoos can contain lots of chemicals and fragrances and may strip your dog’s fur of its normal protective layers.

Baby shampoo is a good choice for bathing dogs as it is mild and gentle. It’s still only advisable to only use it on an occasional basis in dogs though, making sure you rinse it well.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats can help make a nice soothing bath for dogs. Pour a cup of rolled oats into an old nylon stocking and tie a knot in the end. Run a warm bath over the netted oats and then leave the water to cool down to body temperature or lower. Introduce your dog to the water allowing him to soak in it for 5-10 minutes.

Rolled oats can also be used with other ingredients to make a safe alternative to dog shampoo. Pour a cup of oats into a blender and grind them up to a flour-like consistency. Add half a cup of baking soda into the bowl and mix.

Add a quart of warm water and stir together. Apply the oatmeal mix to your dog’s wet fur and lather it in like shampoo. Leave to soak for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly with warm water.

Wet Wipes

Baby wet wipes are usually your safest option again, but facial wipes should also be okay if you are stuck. Wipes can be a great way of mopping up small areas of mud or dirt without giving your dog an all-over bath.

Avoid any wipes that are heavily fragranced or contain a lot of chemicals. There are also dog-specific wet wipes available, so it may be worth keeping some of these in stock for small clean-ups.

Dog Deodorants

Another thing that might be a good idea to keep in your cupboard is a dog deodorant. These products work in a similar way to human body sprays, by helping to mask any odors until you can wash your dog properly. It’s important to use dog-specific products rather than human sprays though as these may irritate your pet.

Baking Soda

As mentioned in an earlier section about rolled oats, baking powder can be a useful ingredient in a homemade shampoo. However, it can also be used by itself to help neutralize odors.

Just sprinkle it over your dog and rub or brush it into his coat. Then just leave it in place to fall out naturally, making your dog smell a bit fresher than he did before.

What if My Dog Has Been Skunked?

There is a homemade recipe that can be very helpful to know about if your dog has been skunked! The spray of a skunk defending itself is extremely strong and can be very unpleasant.

After dabbing any excess skunk spray off with paper towels, mix up the following ingredients to use as a wash –

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap (such as Dawn dish soap)

(Use this solution immediately – it’s important not to store it, as it could explode if left unsupervised in a closed container)

Rub the solution into his coat whilst wearing rubber gloves. Make sure you rinse it off again, fairly quickly, as leaving it on could potentially bleach his fur changing his coat color. Use plenty of clean water to rinse it thoroughly.

To get rid of the skunk smell you may have to repeat this process more than once. It’s important to never use hydrogen peroxide that is stronger than 3% as it could irritate your dog’s skin.

If you don’t have those ingredients then white wine vinegar could be a useful alternative, when used diluted in water. Lemon or tomato juice may also help but is not as effective as the hydrogen peroxide recipe.

Final Thoughts

It’s always best to use dog-specific shampoo wherever possible, but hopefully, some of these suggestive alternatives may help if you ever get caught short. It might be worth keeping some extra grooming items in stock such as wipes and dog deodorant to tide you over until you can give your dog a proper bath.

If you live in an area with a large number of skunks it’s worth keeping the ingredients for the homemade wash in stock. 

One final point, don’t be tempted to use anything other than what your veterinarian has prescribed if your dog suffers from a specific medical skin complaint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use to bathe my dog if I don't have dog shampoo?

If you don’t have dog shampoo and you desperately need to bathe your dog, you could try using baby shampoo or very diluted dish soap. Failing that, you could make your own shampoo from rolled oats and bicarbonate of soda. Also, consider wiping off any visible dirt with wet wipes and covering any odor with dog deodorant until you can get hold of some dog shampoo.

What human shampoo can I use on my dog?

Baby shampoo is the best type of human shampoo to use on dogs. It is mild and less likely to strip your dog’s coat of its protective layers. It is still important to only use baby shampoo on a very occasional basis and stick to dog shampoo wherever possible.

Can you wash dogs with human shampoo?

You can wash dogs with human shampoo, but it’s not advised as many human shampoos contain fragrances and other chemicals that might irritate your dog’s skin. Stick to baby products if you have run out of dog shampoo, and make sure you rinse his coat thoroughly afterward.

What dish soap is safe for dogs?

Original dawn dish soap is known to be safe for dogs, but other brands may be available too. Whatever you use make sure it is fragrance-free and contains no added chemicals. Always use very diluted dish soap, keeping it away from his eyes and rinsing thoroughly afterward.


Rebecca is a companion animal vet who has always had a passion for writing and client communication. Since her graduation from the Royal Veterinary college in 2009 she has gained a wealth of experience in first opinion small animal practice, in both clinical and managerial roles. She currently works in the South West and deals with a variety of routine and emergency appointments, but particularly enjoys medicine cases. Outside of work and writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her bouncy flat coated retriever George!
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