Dog Shampoo Alternatives You can Use When You’re Out of Dog Shampoo

Last Updated: October 16, 2023

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Dog washed with an alternative to regular shampoo

No matter how much your furry friend hates it, bathing your dog is an essential grooming duty. It keeps their skin and fur in good shape, helping them avoid mats and tangles. Plus, it helps keep awful odors from taking over. No one wants to deal with stinky dog smells in their home!

There are tons of great shampoo products on the market today, and you likely have a few favorites that get the job done. But what do you do when you suddenly run out?

Picture this: Instead of taking care of business and coming back inside after you let your dog out, it decides to let those intrusive thoughts win. They unexpectedly roll around in a mud pit or get into some garbage. Even the most well-trained dog will get a little impulsive sometimes.

Your only choice when that happens is to bathe your dog. But you realize that you're out of shampoo. You can't just let your dog in to spread its filth throughout your home, and you can't leave it outside while you run to the store. So what do you do?

I Have No Dog Shampoo, What Can I Use?

The good news is that safe dog shampoo alternatives are available, and you likely have some of them lying around your home. These DIY shampoos can get your dog squeaky clean when you're in a pickle. 

While they're not ideal for long-term use, they can take care of those unexpected messes and hold you over until you can buy more dog-safe shampoo.

Here are several safe dog shampoo alternatives you can use to bathe your dog.

Dish Soap

Believe it or not, dish soap is a great last-minute choice when you have no dog shampoo on hand. But before you grab the bottle sitting next to your kitchen sink, there are some caveats.

First, you shouldn't use dish soap regularly. Even gentle formulas can be harsh on your dog's skin if used repeatedly.

Think about what dish soap does. It removes oil and grease from your plates and cookware. That's beneficial for removing grime from your dog's skin, but it can also strip away the natural oils they need to maintain healthy and hydrated skin.

Dish soap is fine for one-off baths, but you should definitely avoid long-term usage.

Another thing to consider is the specific type of formula you choose. Stroll through your local grocery store, and you'll find soaps with everything from bleach to strong fragrances. Some "extreme" soap formulas contain powerful chemicals to remove the toughest stains.

Now picture what they'd do to your dog's skin!

If you need to use dish soap, stick to the plain-jane formulas. One good option is the original Dawn dish soap. This formula is perfectly safe for dogs. In fact, it's safe for most animals. Many wildlife rescue teams use it to save animals after an oil spill.

We've all seen those commercials of the cute ducks. The formula doesn't contain dangerous chemicals, but it's powerful enough to eliminate whatever mess your dog gets into!

Baby Shampoo

If you're the doting parent of a human baby, you might have a product available you can use on your fur baby. Typically, using human products on your dog is a big no-no. More on that later. But baby shampoo is the exception.

Baby shampoos are significantly milder than grooming products made for adults. They're for delicate skin and hair. As a result, these shampoos lack harsh ingredients that could cause irritation. Plus, they're safe for sensitive eyes.

That's all the makings of a safe dog shampoo alternative.

Like dish soap, you shouldn't use baby shampoo regularly to bathe your dog. It's fine for one-off uses when you don't have dog-specific products. However, it's not wise to use them long-term.

If you use baby shampoo, spend some extra time rinsing your dog's fur. Use your fingers to get in there and ensure every shampoo drop is gone before drying your dog.

Castille Soap

Here's another fantastic option if you find yourself saying, "I have no dog shampoo. What can I use?" Castile soap is not as widespread as other products, but it's quickly becoming more popular as people move away from chemical-laden cleaners.

What is Castile soap? Essentially, it's an eco-friendly and vegan soap. The soap is nothing new; it's been around for centuries. However, it fell out of favor when chemicals and more affordable manufacturing processes emerged. 

Now that more people are trying to be conscious about their environmental impact, Castile soap is getting a second round in the spotlight.

Several years ago, the only way to get your hands on Castile soap was to buy it from a specialty retailer. However, they're now available at many grocery stores around the world.

Castile soap is unique because it uses natural vegetable oils instead of animal fat or petroleum products. Most formulas use avocado, hemp, coconut, or olive oil as a base. You can get the soap plain or find formulas with essential oils for fragrance. For bathing your dog, we recommend the basic stuff!

Because Castile soap doesn't contain harsh chemicals, it's a fantastic all-purpose cleaner. People use it to wash their hair, cars, homes, and more. It's gentle enough for most cleaning jobs, and the runoff won't affect local water supplies!

Your dog's skin will love Castile soap. The lack of chemicals makes it a safe dog shampoo alternative. Some vets even recommend it for long-term use for pups with sensitive skin. Of course, consult with your vet before you do that.


Before you pull back in disgust, hear us out!

Vinegar has a strong and pungent smell but is a fantastic all-natural cleaner. Ask anyone who uses it to clean their home instead of chemical-based products. Many rely on white vinegar for everything from mopping to cleaning mirrors! 

Despite how odorous vinegar is when you open the bottle, it usually doesn't linger. Therefore, you can use it on your dog without worrying about smelling vinegar for the next several days!

Vinegar is beneficial for a couple of reasons.

First, it's all-natural. There are no chemicals or irritating surfactants. As a result, it's safe to use on your dog's skin. Secondly, the acidic nature of vinegar makes it a fine cleanser for tough messes. It can cut through grease, cancel out odors, and freshen your dog's coat.

There are a couple of ways to use vinegar. The easiest is to mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, saturate your dog's fur, and rinse. It's as easy as that. You should not have any lingering smells if you rinse all the vinegar out.

If your pup has sensitive skin, you can replace white vinegar with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar soothes irritation, treats dandruff, and can address problems like hotspots.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is more of a conditioner than a shampoo. While we don't recommend slathering your dog in coconut oil to clean up messes, you can use it after trying one of the other safe dog shampoo alternatives.

For example, many pet parents follow up with this oil after using vinegar or dish soap to condition the fur and prevent dryness.

The biggest benefit of coconut oil is that it helps retain moisture. It's also all-natural with no unnecessary additives. In many cases, it can also repel fleas, ticks, and other bugs! 

To use coconut oil, rub a small amount into your hands and run your fingers through your dog's coat. Follow up with a brush to evenly disperse the oil, and your dog is good to go.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice can freshen up your dog's coat whenever they're getting a bit smelly. Using lemon juice as a full-on shampoo when bathing is not a good idea. However, you can use it as a freshening-up spray.

Mix equal parts water and lemon juice. Put the solution into a spray bottle, shake it well, and spritz your dog's fur. The acidic lemon juice will neutralize odors, leaving your dog smelling fresh until you can get real shampoo!

Baking Soda or Corn Starch

Baking soda is another all-natural product you can get pretty much anywhere. It's popular in cleaning products because it's a mild alkali that dissolves dirt and grease.

You can use baking soda one of two ways. The first is to treat it like a dry shampoo. Sprinkle it on your dog's fur, work it in, and use a brush to disperse it evenly.

The baking soda will absorb dirt and oil to make cleanup a breeze. Here's a pro tip: Use the baking soda outside! It'll get everywhere!

Another option is to mix it with some water to create a fine paste. As a paste, you can use it like a more traditional shampoo. It won't produce a lather, but you can work it into the fur. Rinse it out thoroughly, and your dog will be fresh and clean.


Oatmeal is an excellent deodorizer with impressive soothing qualities. Many products aimed at sensitive skin use oatmeal because of its ability to soothe irritation, reduce itchiness, and improve hydration. Even commercial dog shampoos contain oatmeal!

When you have no shampoo, you can use rolled oats or plain oatmeal as a cleansing soak. Draw a bath with warm water and add a good amount of oatmeal. Allow the oats to soak in the water as it cools to room temperature. When ready, allow your dog to soak in the water for about 10 minutes. Then, rinse them off to get rid of any stray oats.

Another option is to create an oatmeal shampoo with baking soda. To do this, mix a cup of oatmeal with half a cup of baking soda. Add about four cups of water to create a paste, and bathe your dog like you normally would.

No Dog Shampoo, What Can I Use: DIY Recipes

Dog Washed with a homemade dog shampoo recipe

Want to try making a quick DIY shampoo? We've already gone over one basic recipe using oatmeal and baking soda. Still, there are plenty of other ways to use natural ingredients that cleanse your dog's coat without irritating the skin.

Here are a couple of alternatives to take care of filth.

Gentle DIY Dog Shampoo

This gentle cleanser will work if you don't need an ultra-powerful shampoo.

All you need is the following:

  • 2 cups of warm water
  • Half a cup of white vinegar (Apple cider vinegar if your dog has sensitive skin)
  • 1 quarter-cup of baking soda

Put the ingredients into a clean bottle and shake to combine. Voila! You have a simple DIY shampoo. Soak your dog's fur and apply the shampoo.

Use your fingers to work it into a light lather before rinsing. Make sure to rinse off every bit of this DIY shampoo to avoid any lingering vinegar smells.

Powerful DIY Dog Shampoo

When you need something more powerful, you can try this shampoo recipe. It's safe and uses all-natural ingredients. However, it's strong enough to tackle the strongest odors.

Originally, dog owners and shelters used this shampoo recipe to neutralize skunk smells. It does a fine job of deodorizing your dog's coat while eliminating any grime in its fur.

You'll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 quart of three-percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 quarter-cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (Dawn original)

Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle to create a powerful cleanser. Be careful with this one! Hydrogen peroxide does a fantastic job of breaking down organic odor-causing compounds. Meanwhile, the baking soda serves as a deodorizer.

However, it can be irritating if you leave it on too long. Avoid the eyes and be quick. Once the mixture saturates the fur, rinse it off immediately. Take time to ensure that all bits of hydrogen peroxide are gone.

Toss out any leftover mix you have. The hydrogen peroxide and baking soda will cause pressure to build up in the bottle, resulting in a nasty explosion! This powerful cleanser should not be your regular go-to shampoo.

It's OK when you have nothing else and must eliminate strong odors. But it should be your last-ditch solution.

What Not to Use: Unsafe Dog Shampoo Alternatives

Any shampoo alternatives mentioned above work great when you're out of dog shampoo. But there's one thing you should avoid using: Human shampoo made for adults.

Baby shampoo is fine, but that's the only exception to human products. Never use the shampoo you have in your shower to cleanse your dog!

Human shampoos contain many ingredients that could irritate your dog's skin. We're talking about harsh surfactants, fragrances, preservatives, etc. But even all-natural shampoos can be problematic. Why? Because of the pH balancing.

Human skin has a pH balance of around 5 to 6. It's on the acidic side of the pH scale. Meanwhile, dogs have a near-neutral pH of about 7.

Canine skin is more alkaline, so acidic human shampoo will lead to many problems. Human shampoos can throw off your dog's skin pH, resulting in dryness, irritation, and other uncomfortable issues.

Avoid that nightmare and reserve your human shampoos for your scalp!

A Final Word

What do you think of our safe dog shampoo alternatives? If you're in a pinch and need to bathe your dog, they will all do a fine job tying you over until you can buy real dog shampoo.

We always recommend buying dog-friendly shampoos when necessary. But when you suddenly run out and need to bathe your pooch, these alternatives will get the job done.

They're safe, all-natural, and can get rid of odors. While it's wise to have a couple of shampoo bottles on hand, you never know when your pup will get into a mess! Having these alternatives in your back pocket can be a lifesaver!

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.