Anyone with an active dog will tell you that homemade dog shampoo can be a real money saver. While many commercial dog shampoos do a good job, some of them are packed with dubious chemicals. A DIY dog shampoo is one way you can avoid these nasty ingredients and make organic, safe, and wholesome shampoos.
Of course, you can buy eco-friendly dog shampoos, which are often great for doggy skin, but these can be expensive, especially if you have large dogs, longhaired breeds, or Labs that simply can’t resist getting dirty!
Your dog shampoo bill for the year soon builds up, that’s for sure. Luckily, it is possible to make a dog shampoo recipe yourself from low cost, readily available ingredients that are healthy and leave your doggy friends with soft, brushable fur.
Not only are you making your pooch a real posh paws, but some of these shampoos smell absolutely gorgeous. Better than many human shampoos!
In this guide we will show you how to make your own homemade dog shampoo. We might have to go into a bit of chemistry, but don’t panic – it’s nothing too difficult and will make sure that the shampoo you make is perfect for delicate doggy skin.
So, with no further delay, let’s show you some of the problems with commercial dog shampoos and why you might want to avoid them.
Dog Shampoo – The Chemicals Within
Why don’t we start with a list of names:
- Polyethylene glycol
What a rogue’s gallery of chemicals. Formaldehyde was used to preserve dead bodies, and the others have been linked with health issues such as allergies. Yet, we often find these in pet shampoos.
Even worse, they are just a few of the many mysterious (not to mention un-pronounceable) ingredients included in many commercially available dog shampoo brands today.
What do these terms even mean?
Does it matter? You already know you wouldn’t want to use them on your own skin, let alone wash your dog in them.
Accordingly, more and more dog owners are making their own homemade shampoo for dogs for precisely this reason.
Why Should I Use Homemade Dog Shampoo?
There are many more reasons other than scary ingredients to consider making your dog’s shampoo at home.
For instance, your dog may have sensitive skin and needs the most mild, non-irritating shampoo possible. Or, maybe your dog has had a bout with fleas lately and you’d like to get rid of those darned parasites without harsh chemicals.
Perhaps, you just love your dog so much you want everything about her life to be as pure, clean, and healthy as possible.
Another great reason is the environment. You can make sure that you use only organic ingredients and avoid environmentally damaging additives like palm oil or nano-particles.
Whatever your personal reasons, we hope you enjoy these suggestions for healthy, homemade dog shampoo recipes that you and your dog will love!
Of course, for many of us, saving some money is another great reason for mixing up your own batch of dog shampoo.
Save Money With DIY Dog Shampoo
After reading the previous section, you might be thinking, “Why shouldn’t I?” After all, at least if you make your dog’s shampoo personally, you will be able to identify what’s in it!
For many of us, that is enough of a reason.
However, there is another reason that many dog owners really love. Quite simply, making your own dog shampoo homemade is often cheaper than buying it!
Why is this, exactly?
Why Is Homemade Shampoo For Dogs Cheaper?
Let’s look at a few of the reasons:
- Homemade shampoo means you are not paying for the bottle, the packaging, the label, or the marketing
- You don’t pay a percentage of the manufacturer’s overheads such as shipping, distribution, bills, and staff costs
- Going DIY avoids the retailer’s mark up
- You usually need fewer ingredients
- You can buy ingredients in bulk to save money
We found that buying ingredients in bulk really can save even more valuable pennies. If, like some of us, you have a big old Labrador that loves mud, you can never have too much dog shampoo!
Even if you don’t need as much, there is nothing to stop you getting together with friends and placing a big order!
Think about it this way – your dog doesn’t care about the brand name, the fancy label, the eco-friendly bottle, the marketing hype or the celebrity endorsements.
He just wants the treats and the pats you are going to give him when bath time is over!
Before we go any further and start giving you some recipes, we do have to go through a short science lesson. Nothing too frightening, but knowing the acidity of dog skin and the acidity of your shampoo is important or you can cause skin irritation.
Alkaline Versus Acidic Dog Shampoos
You know how some types of soap or lotion make your skin sting or dry out, while others feel so soothing and healing?
This has to do with your skin’s natural pH balance. Every person’s skin pH is a little bit different, although typically most people will fall within a skin pH range from 4.5 to 6.5.
Dogs each have their own unique skin pH too. For dogs, however, the natural skin pH range is between 6 and 8.5.
That’s one of the reasons why you should never use human shampoo for dogs. Our skin differs from their skin quite a lot.
If you remember you school chemistry lessons, the pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 neutral. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity while, conversely, the higher the pH number, the higher the alkalinity.
The Problem With Acidity
While using a dog shampoo (or a people shampoo, for that matter) that is highly alkaline may not necessarily produce any unpleasant side effects, using a shampoo that is too acidic usually will.
Look for a number of signs that tell you the dog shampoo you are using is too acidic, including skin itching, irritation, flaking, burning, or even a skin rash.
For this reason, the first time you use any new homemade shampoo for dogs – no matter how carefully you have assembled the ingredients – always watch your dog closely afterwards to make sure the pH balance is a good fit for his natural skin pH level.
You can always test a small area first before giving your dog a complete shampoo.
This is important because you probably won’t know in advance where your dog’s individual pH falls within the normal range of 6 to 8.5.
As well, in some cases you may discover that your dog’s skin is particularly sensitive, so you will need to adjust your homemade dog shampoo blend for her individual comfort.
That’s a reason why it is sometimes good to mix smaller batches of shampoo first so that you can test your recipe. If it works, then you can start making it in bulk.
Anyway, with the lesson in acidity over (see, it wasn’t too painful!), we can look at the various ingredients and learn how to blend them into a shampoo of the right pH.
Choosing Your Dog Shampoo Ingredients
When you have bought commercial dog shampoo in the past, you may have noticed how the label usually indicated the pH of that shampoo.
Of course, when you are making your own dog shampoo, you are on your own.
So, the goal when making dog shampoo homemade is to balance out alkaline and acidic ingredients. With this, the shampoo pH will do its job without causing harm. Don’t forget, as mentioned in the previous section, a bit too alkaline is okay, but too acidic is not.
Your goal should be to arrive at a near-neutral pH to ensure there won’t be any pH “surprises” in store for you and your dog on bath day.
Here are some examples of acidic, neutral and alkaline dog shampoo ingredients:
- Lemon juice: Acidic, pH of 2.2.
- Aloe vera: Acidic, pH of 5.
- Apple cider vinegar: Acidic, pH of 2.8.
- White vinegar: Acidic, pH of 2.4.
- Oatmeal: Acidic, pH of 5.
- Baking soda: Alkaline, pH of 8.3.
- Liquid castile soap (unscented): Alkaline, pH of 8.9.
- Vegetable glycerine: Neutral/alkaline, pH of 7.0 or higher.
- Plain water: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
- Corn starch: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
- Coconut oil: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
One thing you can do is buy some pH test strips. A few dollars will buy you enough for a couple of hundred tests. They are used by cooks making jam and preserves, home brewers, aquarium enthusiasts, and gardeners testing soil. Hardware and homeware stores, and even some major supermarkets sell them.
Getting the pH balance is crucial. However, that gives you a base shampoo that doesn’t really do much and doesn’t have much scent.
That’s where essential oils come into their own, readily available from chemists, health stores, and many other places.
Using Essential Oils in Homemade Dog Shampoo
Essential oils are fast replacing commercial scents among chemical-conscious consumers.
Unlike most perfumes, often created with potent concoctions of unknown chemicals, essential oils are simple and pure. Most are extracted from natural sources, but be careful because some can be very potent.
They may cause allergy or skin irritation for people and dogs alike. Never put undiluted essential oils onto your dog.
You can add some essential oil into your homemade dog shampoo if you would like, but research that oil first to be sure it is safe for dogs.
Again, if you make a small batch of shampoo with an essential oil, you can always do a small ‘patch’ test first.
Essential Oils For Dogs: Some Suggestions
Here is a starter list of safe essential oils you can try out in your homemade dog shampoo:
- Lemongrass: This oil is a natural anti-septic that repels insects!
- Lavender: This oil is naturally calming and repels fleas!
- Rosemary: This oil repels fleas and moisturizes!
- Chamomile: This oil soothes allergies and skin irritation!
- Sweet Marjoram: This oil is a natural anti-bacterial skin healer!
- Peppermint: This oil is a natural skin healer and cooler and repels insects!
- Eucalyptus: This oil is a natural skin soother and odor fighter!
This essential oils dog shampoo recipe from Dogs Naturally will give you an idea of how to combine essential oils with a neutral base (water) and alkaline soap (liquid castile, unscented) to meet your pooch’s specific needs.
Essential oils are also a great way to make a best smelling dog shampoo. They are rich, fragrant, and wholesome!
You will also need some jars to store your recipe in.
Kilner jars are a great choice as the seal at the top, are easy to open and look pretty too!
So, we’ve given you a few suggestions about adding a few essential oils to refine your shampoo. Of course, you want to read a few dog shampoo recipes to set you on your way.
Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipe
There are many possible recipes for making effective dog shampoos. For example, as a good starter recipe, this basic, no-frills dog shampoo recipe from PetCareRX will give you a pH-neutral base to work with.
All you will need for this recipe is unscented liquid soap, hot water, vinegar (white or apple cider – you choose) and an empty bottle to store it in!
Just one important note: use caution when shampooing your dog to avoid contact with his eyes – the vinegar can sting!
Handily, we have more than just wet doggie shampoo recipes. Dry dog shampoo can be a great way to freshen up your pooch without the hassle of getting wet.
Homemade Dry Dog Shampoo
Dry shampoo has become very popular for people who simply don’t have the time to wash their hair every morning. If you wake up late one morning, you can skip the hair wash, sprinkle on some dry shampoo, fluff your locks, and head out the door with your colleagues none the wiser.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was such a thing as dry shampoo for dogs?
As luck would have it, you can make your own homemade dry dog shampoo. You don’t have to find an extra hour to wash, dry, and brush pooch before your dinner guests arrive!
With this best smelling dog shampoo, you will have no more smelly dog worries while your guests are trying to eat!
This easy recipe from Modern Dog Magazine requires only two main ingredients – and you can use any one of your new dog-safe essential oils for a touch of safe fragrance.
Storing Dry Dog Shampoo
You know what works great for storing and using dry dog shampoo? A clean, empty salt or pepper shaker! Store the dry dog shampoo there and, when you need to use it, just sprinkle some on your dog’s coat and rub it in. Voila: you now have a fresh, clean, sweet-smelling pooch!
Many people swear by coconut oil as great for skin and hair. It is certainly flying off the shelves in pharmacies and beauty stores, with plenty of medical evidence to suggest that it has a number of great benefits.
Well, it is just as beneficial to dogs. You can certainly use it in your homemade dog shampoo, that’s for sure!
Homemade Dog Shampoo With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is incredibly soothing to the skin. It is also a natural moisturizer, conditioner, and healer with a neutral pH that combines well with most other dog shampoo ingredients.
Best of all, coconut oil smells great, which makes it a slam-dunk choice for when your smelly pooch walks by and you know it without even having to look up.
Thanks to the Bark Post for this easy homemade dog shampoo recipe with coconut oil.
Another simple ingredient with some well-documented benefits for skin is oatmeal. It is a common additive to human body scrubs, shampoos, and face washes.
Guess what? It is great for your dog, too.
Homemade Dog Oatmeal Shampoo
Oatmeal is a natural healer. It is so healing, in fact, that it is one of the few foods the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates for use in non-food items.
When added to shampoos and skin lotions, oatmeal can act as a pH buffer to balance out overly acidic skin. This is in spite of the fact that it is moderately acidic itself in its raw form. Just as for people, oatmeal shampoo for dogs can be just as beneficial as a pH buffer.
Colloidal Oatmeal and Dog Shampoo
The reason for this buffer effect is due to the way that oatmeal interacts with water. When it is finely ground and suspended in water, simple oatmeal becomes “colloidal oatmeal.” This type of oatmeal is frequently found in products designed for sensitive scalp and skin.
Many shampoos and lotions for people contain colloidal oatmeal for these reasons and for many others. The same is true for dogs, and many vets advocate oatmeal for its ‘antipruritic’ qualities, meaning that it reduces the urge to scratch.
Once your pup has experienced his first oatmeal shampoo, he will likely be a convert as well.
You can make your own colloidal oatmeal by grinding regular oats very finely until they are like a powder. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to add them to water to make your dog shampoo recipe.
Many thanks to Life Made Full for this great homemade dog oatmeal shampoo for dogs recipe that only requires three ingredients and soothes dry, itchy canine skin like a charm.
So far, we have focused on simply getting your dog clean to give her a silky coat and a lovely fragrance. However, did you know that some DIY dog shampoos can have medicinal benefits?
For example, you can make an antifungal dog shampoo that helps to tackle persistent infections.
Homemade Anti Fungal Dog Shampoo
If your dog seems to regularly struggle with itchy skin or a persistent odor, it may be due to an organism that goes by the scientific name of Malassezia pachydermatis (otherwise known as yeast).
It is easy to think of a yeast infection as something only people get. However, the truth is that dogs frequently suffer from yeast infections too. Dog yeast infections usually occur on their ears, on their feet, near their tail, and on their skin.
Some veterinarians describe the distinctive scent of an emerging yeast infection as similar to molding bread or old corn chips. Other signs and symptoms that your dog has a yeast infection can include red or inflamed skin patches, oily coat, or hair falling out.
Thanks to First Home Love Life for this rosemary antifungal dog shampoo that they use with great success on their own black Labs!
Mercola also recommends using this antifungal post-bath rinse for further relief from fungal and yeast issues. The recipe is a simple blend of either lemon juice, vinegar, or an essential oil of your choice diluted in water.
All you need to do is pour this DIY dog shampoo over your dog’s coat after bathing. Another essential oil shown to alleviate yeast infections is tea tree oil, although you should test it first to make sure that it doesn’t irritate your puppy’s skin.
Homemade dog shampoo can also help dogs suffering from allergies. These hypoallergenic shampoos don’t activate allergies and can actually reduce the symptoms.
Homemade Dog Shampoo For Allergies
Dog allergies can be as varied and just as uncomfortable as people allergies. Some dogs have naturally sensitive skin that reacts to the slightest allergen.
Other dogs are allergic to certain foods, seasonal pollen, or particular pests. As most dog owners know, fleas are a common culprit here.
If your dog suffers from allergies, these easy homemade dog allergy shampoo recipes from All About Dog Shampoo can offer quick relief. Several recipe options address different types of allergies, including recipes using oatmeal, essential oils, and even honey.
Of course, as a word of warning, don’t forget to check with your vet before using home remedies, especially if your dog suffers particularly bad symptoms, is pregnant, or is on any other type of medication.
It’s really important to talk to your vet before trying the recipe that uses Neem oil, which must be diluted properly or it can cause skin irritation. Seeking advice is essential if your dog is pregnant or you are planning to breed her.
Some dogs have dry skin, so do we have any recipes that can help to relieve the uncomfortable itching that can make your dog very unhappy? Luckily, we have a recipe for a dry dog shampoo that can help to tackle this condition.
Homemade Dog Shampoo for Dry Skin or Itchy Skin
Some dogs, for whatever reason, seem to be plagued with dry skin. Indeed, sometimes simply bathing your dog too frequently can give rise to dry, itchy skin.
For this reason, unless your veterinarian specifically advises otherwise, it is typically best to limit baths to once per week at the most. Bathing can strip away the natural oils in your dog’s skin and fur that keep the skin moist and healthy.
Oatmeal shampoo for dogs is a great way to moisturize dry skin. The oatmeal homemade dog shampoo for dry skin recipe described earlier is effective for easing both dry skin and itchy skin.
Another helpful homemade dog shampoo recipe offered by Dogster incorporates soothing glycerin and aloe vera to heal your dog’s skin while treating itching and dryness.
Fleas are the bane of many dogs and their owners, making life uncomfortable for your dog and causing him to scratch incessantly.
Again, DIY dog shampoo might just provide the answer for those pesky fleas.
Homemade Flea Shampoo for Dogs
With people medicine, sometimes the cure can actually seem worse than the disease.
For many dog owners, the same often holds true, especially when your beloved pet gets fleas and you realize how dangerous many of the commercial flea treatments can be.
The good news is, you can make your own homemade dog flea shampoo. It will have few of the terrifying side effects, while remaining potent and effective.
Vet Info recommends a simple three-ingredient flea shampoo recipe you can mix up right away. The site has several other homemade anti-flea dog shampoo recipes that can ease itching and repel future flea invasions.
As we said earlier, bathing your dog can strip away the natural oils in their hairs, leaving their fur dry and unmanageable, especially if you like to brush their coat. Luckily, as it happens, you can make conditioners that replenish the oils and leave the coat glossy and smooth.
Homemade Dog Conditioner
At this point, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that many of the same treatments that nourish and condition human hair can have the same beneficial results with dogs.
For instance, the natural antiseptic and antiparasitic properties of lemon juice can add shine and body to your dog’s coat while repelling pests naturally. Rinsing with apple cider vinegar diluted in water can leave the coat shiny.
A rosemary rinse is not only a natural antifungal (so it is great for dogs with yeast issues) but it sends fleas packing and leaves your dog smelling as good as dinner!
Apple cider vinegar is another well-known antibacterial and antifungal agent that will strip your dog’s coat of any toxins, dander, pollen and other irritants while leaving her coat smooth and soft. Best of all, fleas and other insects hate the scent!
The recipes for each of these homemade dog conditioner rinses can be found at Pets (The Nest). All you need to do is shampoo your dog and then pour the rinse of your choice over her coat.
We have given you a few recipes to help you make your own dog shampoo, but there are many, many more, and with a little trial and error, you will soon find one that keeps your dog clean, healthy, and fragrant. Here are a few more dog shampoo alternatives.
Dog Shampoo Alternatives
The American Kennel club has some great recipes that are simple, cheap, and designed to do the job.
These include a basic shampoo for general use, with only water, dish soap, and glycerin. If you want a dry shampoo, they also cover that with a simple glycerin and aloe vera dog shampoo.
Their treatment for dry skin uses nothing but oatmeal, water, and baking soda, while they have a nice anti-flea shampoo with aloe vera and rosemary oil.
Check them out here:
Finally, some of you may want to make sure that you use only organic ingredients in dog shampoo to protect your puppy and the environment.
Organic Dog Shampoo
Many of us prefer to use organic dog shampoo, to avoid putting chemicals onto our dogs, but also to protect the environment from restrictive farming practices.
We’ll show you a couple of recipes but, if you prefer to buy something off the shelf, we have a few suggestions.
Otherwise, if you want to make your own, don’t forget that most of the recipes we shared can be organic. Simply make sure that the ingredients and essential oils you buy are from organic sources.
If you are not sure, ask your local pharmacist or health store and they will be able to tell you if the ingredients you buy are certified organic.
Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipes
After reading all of these different homemade dog shampoo recipes, you are probably chomping at the bit to get to your kitchen and try them out.
Before you just start mixing, however, stop and take a few minutes to review your dog’s skin and coat history.
In particular, if your pup has had any past or ongoing skin issues, talk with your vet before changing her existing bath and skin care routine. Usually there are few major problems, but it is always worth setting your mind at rest.
This may indicate which of these recipes might be the best choice to start with. As with anything new, do a skin patch test first. Simply shampooing and rinse just a small patch of your dog’s skin and coat with the new shampoo recipe. This can rule out any special sensitivities you may not yet know about.
Once your vet has signed off on your new shampoo recipe and your patch test has come back clean, you can switch from commercial shampoos to homemade all-natural dog shampoo!
So, we have given you some homemade dog shampoo recipes that are easy, relatively low cost, and effective.
If your dog has a skin allergy, fleas, dry skin, or you just want him to smell nice, you can find a recipe that will suit him down to the ground.
We recently added a few new shampoos in June 2019, but we are always on the lookout for great new recipes. If you have any then lets us know in the comments and we will look at them during the next article update.
Kurtz, E.S., et al, “Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties,” National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2007.
Becker, K., DVM, “Is Your Dog Chronically Itchy or Smelly? Could Be This,” Mercola’s Healthy Pets, 2017.
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