What can you bathe a dog with if I don’t have dog shampoo?

You know it’s important to keep your dog clean, but you may not always have dog shampoo on hand. Some owners prefer not to use dog shampoo for various reasons. They may object to the expense, or prefer to use natural ingredients. 

What can you bathe a dog with if I don’t have dog shampoo?

If you don’t have dog shampoo, you still have options. If your pooch needs a bath, you aren’t required to head to the pet store. Instead, you can use some things you probably already have on hand. 

How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog? 

Many owners bathe their dogs too often. How often you bathe your dog will depend on their lifestyle, coat, and your personal preference. 

Short-haired indoor dogs only need to be bathed once every 2 to 3 months. Dogs with medium or long hair should be bathed once every 4-6 weeks. A few short-haired breeds, including the Chinese Crested, actually need a weekly bath, but the average dog can get by with far less bathing. 

If your dog begins smelling like a dog, you can give them a bath up to once a week. Owners who have dog allergies also benefit from giving their pooch a weekly bath. 

When it comes to lifestyle, your dog needs a bath when they get dirty. If they’ve rolled around in dirt at the dog park, or gotten muddy during a walk, they could use a bath. 

However, you don’t always have to give your dog a bath to clean them. You shouldn’t bathe your dog more than once a week. It strips their natural oils, which can damage their skin and coat. 

To keep them looking and smelling fresh between baths, you have a few options. Dog wipes and sprays are great for a quick clean. You can purchase these from your local pet store, or make your own.

A water bath is also an option. It’s the shampoo used in dog bathing that dries the skin. You can bathe your dog with water only every day if you wish. This is a good option if they are particularly dirty a day or two after their last bath. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent cleanser. Simply mix baking soda with water until it forms a paste. You can then use it as you would shampoo. It’s particularly effective at removing odors from your pooch, but it also helps remove excess oil and dirt. 

Oatmeal Shampoo

Oatmeal shampoo is wonderful for dogs that have dry or sensitive skin. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 quart warm water

Grind the oatmeal with a coffee grinder or a food processor. It should be the consistency of flour. Mix the oatmeal with the baking soda and water in a large bowl. 

Wet your dog, and then pour the mixture over their body. Work it into their fur. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse. 

This shampoo will help balance and moisturize your dog’s skin. It also conditions their hair. 

Castille Soap

Catille soap is a natural cleanser, and it’s very gentle. It will allow your dog to maintain the correct ph balance, which is essential for their skin health. Castille soap was originally made from olive oil. Today, it can be made from castor oil, hemp, or coconut oil in addition to olive oil. 

Castille soap is safe for your  dog and the environment. If you want to bathe your pooch outside, you can do so with castille soap. 


Glycerin is actually a by product of the soap making process. It is clear, and it’s a fat derivative. Most glycerin today is made from vegetable oils, similar to Castile soap.  

Glycerin is considered a good option for dogs, but it is more drying than Castile soap. If your dog has sensitive skin, castille soap is a better choice. Glycerin is less drying than human shampoos, and doesn’t strip all your dog’s natural oils.   

Vinegar and Water

Vinegar and water can also make a make shift cleanser. Just mix one part vinegar  two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray it on your dog and wipe with a clean cloth for a touch up between baths. This can also be used as a conditioning rinse after bathing your dog. 

DIY Pet Wipes

You can create your own DIY pet wipes to use between baths. They will cleanse your dog quickly, without drying their skin. 

You’ll need: 

  • 3 Cups Water (distilled or bottled is best if your tap water is hard)
  • 1 Tbsp Castille or Glycerin Soap
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 roll of paper towels, cut in half
  • A round wipes container for storage

 Mix the water, soap, coconut oil, and hydrogen peroxide in a large jar. Place the half roll of paper towels into the jar. Remove the roll from the paper towels. Remove the paper towels, placing them into the wipes container. Pull from the inside of the roll. 

If you have napkins, you can also use them to create the wipes. Place the mixed solution in a bowl or square pan. Place the napkins into the solution. Remove the stack, and place them in a wipes container. For this method, you’ll need the square wipes container. 

 DIY Spray 

You can use the above formula to create a cleansing spray as well. Simply add the mixture to a spray bottle. Spray on your pet, and wipe with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

What human products can I use to wash my dog?

It’s tempting to reach for your shampoo when you are out of dog shampoo. However, it turns out that you shouldn’t use human products on a dog. Put simply, they are designed for humans, which makes them unsuitable for your dog’s needs. 

No Human Shampoo (Almost)

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use human shampoo on your dog. Your skin, and your dog’s have very different ph levels. Both humans and dogs have an acid mantle. This mantle is made of acids, and it protects the top layer of skin. 

Your skin is actually your largest organ. It’s highly porous. This is why some medications are delivered through the skin. It is absorbed and enters the blood stream directly, instead of going through the stomach. 

The acid mantle protects you  from bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. Otherwise, these containments would be absorbed into your skin, and could make you sick. This mantle is very important for you and your dog. 

Because the ph of the mantle is different in humans and dogs, shampoo designed for humans is not good for your pooch.

A human’s ph ranges from 5.2 to 6.2, while your dogs ranges from 5.5 to 7.5. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it is enough to disrupt your pet’s acid mantle. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses. Most dog shampoos have a ph of 7, which is far more alkaline than human shampoo. 

Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo was once recommended by veterinarians, particularly for dogs with sensitive skin. However, things have changed as knowledge has grown. Dog shampoos have evolved significantly over the years, becoming much more gentle and balanced for your dog’s skin.

Baby shampoo is ok for one time use. However, using it repeatedly can damage your dog’s acid mantle, just as adult human shampoo can. It’s best to avoid  baby shampoo, or only use it once. 


You can purchase pet wipes for cleaning your dog between baths. Why not use baby wipes in a pinch? Baby wipes have the same issue as human shampoos. They are formulated for a human’s ph. 

Using them on your dog can disrupt the acid mantle.  As mentioned previously, this can make your dog sick. Avoid any cleansing wipes designed for humans, no matter how gentle they claim to be. They may be gentle on human skin, but it doesn’t make them appropriate for your pooch.

The good news is, you can make your own wipes following the recipe from the previous section. 

What can you bathe a dog with to get rid of fleas?

No matter how meticulously you care for your dog, they can end up with fleas. It’s best to prevent fleas with a preventative medicine. However, if your pooch gets fleas, you have a few options. 

Dog Flea Shampoo 

Dog flea shampoos are a great first line of defense. The flea-killing medication will remain active for 1 to 2 weeks after bathing. You may need to repeat the bath one week after the first, to maintain protection.

During this two-week period, be sure to clean your home to remove any fleas from your house. Consider a flea preventative to keep your dog from getting fleas once the flea medication wears off. 

Homemade Shampoo

You can also make a homemade flea shampoo. This shampoo will only kill fleas while it’s on your pet. It will not keep killing them after the bath is finished. It can give your pet some temporary relief. When combined with a flea preventative, this may be all you need to rid your pooch of their little biters. 

To make homemade flea shampoo, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup castille soap
  • Soap dispenser (old dish soap bottles work well)

Mix all the ingredients together in the bottle. Wet your dog, and then wash them with the shampoo. Allow it to sit for at least five minutes. Rinse, and dry your dog. 

Can you bathe a dog with dawn?

No, you shouldn’t use dawn dish detergent on your dog. It will kill fleas, and was once recommended as a dog shampoo substitute. However, recent research has shown that it is likely to dry or irritate your dog’s sensitive skin. 

The problem with Dawn is that it is designed to cut grease. Human hair gets oily, and needs the grease removed when washing. Dawn is drying, even to our hair, which is naturally oily. 

Your dog’s hair doesn’t get oily the way ours does. They require baths to remove dirt, debris, and dead skin cells. Some oil from the skin gets on the fur, but it doesn’t get nearly as oily as human hair. Dawn can easily dry out your dog’s coat and skin, which can cause damage and skin problems.  

What soap is safe for dogs?

Other than dog shampoo, castille soap is the safest for dogs. It’s gentle, and contains no harsh detergents. Glycerin soap is another natural and gentle option. Avoid human bar soaps, as well as human shampoos. 




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