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Homemade dog shampoo: 5 recipes for a naturally clean pup

Homemade dog shampoo can be just as effective as store-bought shampoos. Here are five natural recipes to get you started.

Homemade dog shampoo: 5 recipes for a naturally clean pup

After a long day at the dog park or an afternoon spent running around the backyard, why not reach for a homemade dog shampoo to get your pup smelling fresh and clean? Homemade dog shampoos are a cheap and easy way to pamper your pet whether you’re a dog parent who prefers natural, DIY products to store-bought ones or you just want to save a little money.

Most DIY dog shampoos require low cost ingredients you probably already have around the house. But, there are a few things you should know before you whip up your first batch. Here’s what veterinarians say you should keep in mind when making homemade shampoo for dogs and five easy recipes to help you get started.

What ingredients are safe to use in homemade dog shampoo?

“When it comes to creating homemade dog shampoos, it’s essential to choose ingredients that are free of pesticides, fragrances, dyes and preservatives,” says Dr. Paula Simons, a veterinarian and the staff veterinary consultant at K9 of Mine

“It’s essential to choose ingredients that are free of pesticides, fragrances, dyes and preservatives.”


Instead, she recommends opting for organic and natural products, as well as avoiding harsh detergents and soaps, as they can be too abrasive for your dog’s delicate skin. Some safe ingredients to use in dog shampoos include:

  • Shea butter
  • Oatmeal 
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Coconut oil
  • White or apple cider vinegar

Castile soap is another ingredient commonly used in DIY dog shampoos. While castile soap is safe for use on pets, Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinarian and the veterinary consultant for Dog As Pet, cautions that it could be drying to skin and fur. “Castile soap has a pH of 8.9,” she explains. “This is very alkaline and can strip a dog’s natural oils away.”

If you want to use castile soap in a dog shampoo, the experts say mixing it with other ingredients like baking soda, water, and white vinegar can help you achieve a more neutral pH and protect your pet’s skin.

Is it OK to use human shampoo on dogs?

Some DIY shampoo recipes call for things like unscented body wash or baby shampoo, claiming these products are gentle enough for use on animals, but Simon warns that human soaps and shower gels shouldn’t be used on animals.

“These products are designed for our skin, which is thinner and has a different pH level to that of our canine companions,” she explains. “Using human cleaners can lead to red and sore skin.”

Is it safe to use essential oils in shampoo for dogs?

“Essential oils can be safe when diluted properly,” says Dr. Angie Krause, a holistic veterinarian with Boulder Holistic Vet in Colorado. “For example, tea tree oil can be an effective anti-fungal for skin but is quite toxic when undiluted.”

In many recipes, a few drops of essential oils will be thoroughly diluted by the other ingredients. If you aren’t certain the oils are properly diluted, Krouse advises leaving them out. Additionally, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) advises not applying pure essential oils directly to pets’ skin or coat due to the variability in their formulations and concentrations.

How to protect dogs’ skin when using homemade shampoo

Using an improperly formulated shampoo can have a big impact on the health of your dog’s coat and skin. Sticking to commercially available and specially formulated pet shampoos is one way to ensure you’re making the safest choice for your pet. If you prefer to make your own dog shampoo, here are a few tips to do it safely:

Make sure the pH is just right.

To ensure your homemade shampoo is safe for your furry friend, Simons suggests using a pH strip to test the acidity level. “Generally speaking, a pH range of 6.5- to 7.5 is considered safe for most dogs,” she says. “Consult with a veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist for the best pH range for your pet.”

Do a patch test to check for skin issues.

Before using any new products or ingredients on your pet, Simons recommends testing it out on a small patch of their skin first to check for allergies and irritation. Apply the product to a small area, rinse and then observe for 24 hours.

Don’t bathe your pup too often.

“Dogs can be bathed either as needed or once every one to three months,” Krause says. “Many dogs, depending on their lifestyle, can even be bathed less often.”

Talk with your pet’s veterinarian first.

Few people know your pet’s unique health needs better than their regular veterinarian. Before trying a homemade shampoo for your dog, check with them to make sure the ingredients are safe and well-suited to your dog’s unique needs.

5 homemade shampoo recipes for dogs

1. Easy 3-ingredient oatmeal shampoo

When you need to soothe your dog’s itchy skin, this simple oatmeal dog shampoo recipe from American Kennel Club will do the trick. As Dr. Simons explains, oatmeal can help alleviate and soothe skin irritation, making it perfect for use in shampoos.


  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 quart warm water


  • Using a food processor or coffee grinder, grind oatmeal into a flour.
  • Combine oatmeal, baking soda and water until fully incorporated.
  • Apply shampoo to dog’s coat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
  • Rinse fully.

2. DIY dog shampoo bars for sensitive skin

For easy storage, a shampoo bar works even better than a liquid mixture. These nourishing oatmeal shampoo bars from In My Soap Pot combine shea butter and oatmeal with a small amount of citric acid to lower the pH of the soap base and ensure it’s not too harsh on dogs’ delicate skin. The recipe yields six bars with just a few ingredients.


  • 240g shea butter melt-and-pour soap base
  • 2 tsp. colloidal oatmeal
  • 1 tsp. castor oil
  • ¼ tsp. citric acid
  • soap mold of choice


  • Cut the shea butter soap base into cubes and melt.
  • Mix in other ingredients until fully combined.
  • Pour into soap mold and leave to harden for several hours.
  • Use a single bar during bath time to create a lather and clean dog’s coat.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Store remaining bars tightly secured in plastic wrap to prevent moisture.

“Dogs can be bathed either as needed or once every one to three months.”


3. Moisturizing rosemary dog shampoo

Liz, the blogger behind The Cape Coop, keeps her dog’s coat shiny and moisturized with this natural rosemary dog shampoo. In this recipe, rosemary provides a fresh scent and adds moisturizing natural oils. According to Dr. Simons, coconut oil can help clean and nourish your pup’s skin and coat.


  • 3 cups water
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1-3 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup shaved castile soap (or 5 tbsp. liquid castile soap)
  • 3-4 drops pet safe lavender essential oil (optional)


  • In a small pot, bring water and rosemary to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled slightly, pour into mason jar or airtight container, straining out the rosemary.
  • Mix coconut oil with rosemary water and add castile soap and essential oils, if desired.
  • Pour shampoo along dog’s back and rub to work up a lather.
  • Rinse thoroughly and store remaining shampoo in sealed container for 3 to 4 weeks. Shake well before next use.

4. Gentle aloe vera shampoo

Dr. Simons says aloe vera is one ingredient that can be used in dog shampoos to add moisture to dogs’ skin. This aloe dog shampoo recipe from herbalist Savannah Marie combines the nurturing powers of aloe vera with gentle cleansers for a natural clean.


  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup aloe vera gel
  • 1 tsp. vitamin E oil
  • ½ cup liquid castile soap (or more if preferred)
  • distilled water


  • In a pan, lightly toast rosemary sprigs until warm and aromatic. Remove leaves from stems.
  • Combine rosemary leaves, aloe vera gel, apple cider vinegar and vitamin E drops in a blender. Blend until combined.
  • Strain the rosemary mixture into an airtight container and dispose of leaves and clumps.
  • Add castile soap to the rosemary mixture, then pour in distilled water. If you like a thicker lather, add more castile soap to your preference.
  • Lather a small amount of shampoo along dog’s back and into fur. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Store remaining shampoo in a sealed container for up to several weeks.

5. Olive oil and vinegar shampoo for dry skin

Just like coconut oil, Dr. Simons says olive oil is another moisturizing ingredient that can help prevent dry, itchy skin. This olive oil dog shampoo recipe from natural living blog Going Evergreen combines the oil with cleansing vinegar and a gentle soap 


  • ½ cup warm distilled water
  • ½ tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. pure castile soap
  • 1 tbsp. organic apple cider vinegar
  • A few drops of pet safe essential oil for scent (optional)


  • Combine all ingredients in an airtight container.
  • Shake well to mix.
  • Apply a small amount to dog’s coat as needed and brush through.
  • Mixture will stay good in a sealed container for several months.