Can I Use Palmolive to Wash My Dog?

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Have you ever looked at a bottle of your detergent while washing dishes and wondered: “Hmm, can I use Palmolive to wash my dog?”

It could be that you’re trying to save a few bucks since Palmolive is typically cheaper than many pet shampoos. Perhaps you’re out of dog shampoo and your dog is in desperate need of a bath right away.

Or maybe you just prefer to avoid the clutter of multiple cleaning products and want an all-purpose cleaner that works on both pets and dishes.

But is it really safe to use Palmolive to wash your dog? We did some digging to find out.

Why do people use Palmolive to wash their dogs?

Chances are you’ve seen images of people using dish detergent to clean ducks and other animals that were affected by oil spills.

In this case, it makes sense to use dish soap for a one-time wash to cut through heavy, thick oil.

However, most people use dish soap to bathe their dogs simply because it’s convenient. Others use Palmolive or other detergents because they’ve heard it kills fleas.

While it’s true that dish soap destroys the exoskeletons of adult fleas, it’s not effective as an ongoing flea treatment because it does nothing to prevent or repel new fleas and flea eggs1.

Another case where it might be alright to use dish detergent instead of dog shampoo is if your dog was sprayed by a skunk.

Skunk spray is oily and may cling to the dog’s fur, so using a small amount of dish soap followed up by their regular dog shampoo can help cut through the skunk oil and remove the odor.

Hopefully, this is a rare occurrence.

Can I use Palmolive to wash my dog at home?

While it won’t hurt to bathe your dog in dish soap once or twice, regularly using dish detergent instead of dog shampoo isn’t the best idea.

First of all, dish detergent is designed to cut through grease. You may think this makes it ideal for washing oils out of fur, but the chemicals in dish soaps are much too harsh for regular use.

With continued use, or even after just one washing for some dogs, it will dry out their skin and coat. This can lead to uncomfortable itching and flaking, as well as an overproduction of oil that will require more frequent baths.

If you have a dog with allergies, using dish detergent as a dog shampoo can also potentially aggravate their condition.

Recommended reading: Can You Use Honey for Allergies in Dogs?

Second, Palmolive and many other dish soaps contain alcohol, dyes, fragrance, and lots of other chemicals that aren’t good for your dog.

Not only are they damaging to their skin and coat, but when they lick themselves (which they’re more likely to do if they feel itchy from the harsh soap), they ingest traces of these chemicals.

Since we don’t know the long-term effects these ingredients might have on dogs, it’s best to avoid them.

What can I use if I don’t have dog shampoo?

While shampoo formulated for dogs is the best option, there may be times when your pup needs a bath right away and there’s no dog shampoo handy.

Obviously, you can rinse your dog with just plain water, but you’ll need something else to really remove oils and odors that accumulate in their coat.

In this case, there are a few alternatives for dog shampoo that are better than dish soap:

1. Castile soap. Unlike dish soap, castile soap is vegetable-based, all-natural, and won’t dry out your dog’s skin. Look for the unscented version, and be careful not to get it in your dog’s eyes or nose.

2. Baby shampoo. Baby shampoo also works well because it’s gentler than regular shampoo and certainly doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals in dish soap.

Finishing up with coconut oil is also a great option because it soothes and moisturizes your dog’s skin, makes their coat shine, and can even eliminates fleas.

Simply rinse your dog with water, then lather a dollop of coconut oil onto their fur (make sure they’re completely covered) and rinse again.

3. Baking soda. You can even wash your dog without water by giving them a baking soda dry bath. You’ll want to do this outside since the baking soda can get messy.

Use about a cup of baking soda for a larger dog and a half cup for a smaller dog. Sprinkle the baking soda all over your dog’s fur and rub it using your hands.

This should be comfortable and relaxing for your dog, like you’re petting and gently scratching them all over.

Let the baking soda sit for a few minutes to absorb the oils and odors. Your dog doesn’t need to hold still during this time, but again, it’s best to keep them outside as the baking soda shakes off.

After a few minutes, thoroughly brush your dog’s coat to remove the baking soda.

Easy homemade dog shampoo

If you want to whip up a simple alternative to dog shampoo at home, combine:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of baby shampoo
  • and a tablespoon of baking soda

Lather and rinse your dog with the mixture just as you would with dog shampoo, but be sure not to get it in their eyes.

In summary

Technically yes — Palmolive will work in a pinch. However, it’s not advisable to use dish detergent as your regular dog shampoo as it can dry out your dog’s skin and coat and cause irritation.

The good news is that there are a few alternatives to dish detergent that are gentle, effective, and safe to use on pets.

So, put the dish soap down and pick up a good dog shampoo, or at least a box of baking soda. Your pup will thank you for it!


  1. Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Fleas on Pets? — PetMD

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.