How to Make Homemade Dog Shampoo

You might be thinking, “Why try to DIY dog shampoo when there are tons of ready-made options out there?” Well, think of it like cooking at home. You save money and control the ingredients by doing it yourself. It’s also a much greener practice (smaller batches and fewer plastic containers!). Plus, if your dog rolls in something truly foul on a late night walk and stores have already closed, there’s no way you’re waiting until morning for a bath. Desperate times, desperate measures.

The good news is homemade dog shampoo is much easier than it sounds. The ingredients are often household staples and the recipes are short and sweet. We did some research on various concoctions to find both a healthy base recipe and a few formulas that target common issues.

Two important notes: Never use human shampoo and always patch test your homemade dog shampoo. The first note has to do with the pH levels in human skin versus dog skin. The American Kennel Club, an organization many top breeders and Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show hopefuls turn to for guidance on their pup’s looks, states the average pH of canine skin falls between 6.2 to 7.4. This is less acidic (more basic) than human skin. So, using human shampoo meant for more acidic skin can irritate your dog’s skin.

The second note has to do with trial and error. If you whip up a batch of homemade dog shampoo and the ratio doesn’t gel with your pup’s skin, you’ll be glad you didn’t slather it all over him. Always do a patch test!

How to Make Homemade Dog Shampoo

Base recipe

Ingredients: The three primary ingredients you’ll want on hand for dog shampoo are water, vinegar and soap. Vinegar has antibacterial properties that will get rid of nasty smells while keeping coats shiny. Unscented Castile or oil-based, soap is recommended as a gentle cleanser. Dr. Bronner’s is a favorite and has incredible versatility. Dawn dish soap is a common ingredient, though it can really dry out a dog’s skin. Avoid any dish soap with added scents or artificial ingredients.

  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup Castile soap


  1. Combine all ingredients in an empty, clean bottle or old shampoo bottle.
  2. Shake well!
  3. Run warm water over your dog’s coat.
  4. Spray or squirt small amounts of the mixture, avoiding the eyes, working your way from the neck down to the hind legs.
  5. Lather as you go, massaging the mix into your dog’s coat and skin.
  6. Rinse well!
  7. Rinse again—dog fur may take longer than expected to rinse completely.
  8. Towel dry (and be prepared for a nice big dog shake).

Fragrant Dog Shampoo

Essential oils are an awesome addition to doggy shampoo. However, be sure the oils you choose are safe for dogs. Some oils can cause illness or dizziness in animals. Never use 100 percent essential oil directly on skin and make sure your dog doesn’t ingest the oil. Jess Rona, a dog groomer in charge of keeping Katy Perry’s pups looking like stars, sells peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender organic essential oils on her website.

  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup Castile soap
  • 2-3 drops of organic essential oil

Follow the same directions listed above.

Flea-Killing Dog Shampoo

Dogs with fleas are no fun. Fleas cause super itchy skin and can even lead to infections or other parasitic infestations. A good, sudsy bath should get rid of most fleas, but just to be sure, it’s wise to use some specific ingredients that will knock those suckers out. Be sure to use lavender or rosemary essential oils, as these are known to repel fleas and other bugs.


Apple Cider Vinegar Spray:

  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Dash of sea salt

  1. Combine shampoo ingredients in an empty, clean spray bottle or old shampoo bottle.
  2. Shake well!
  3. Run warm water over your dog’s coat.
  4. Spray or squirt small amounts of the mixture, avoiding the eyes, working your way from the neck down to the hind legs.
  5. Lather as you go, massaging the mix into your dog’s coat and skin.
  6. Leave on for a few minutes (try for three if your dog allows for it).
  7. Rinse well!
  8. Towel dry.
  9. Follow up with a few spritzes of the diluted apple cider vinegar spray.

Dry Skin or Coat Dog Shampoo

Dogs who have had fleas and are now left with irritated, reddened skin will love this shampoo. It’s designed for sensitive skin and meant to help heal broken or rough patches. The addition of glycerine, a clear, thick liquid made from coconut, soybean or palm oil and aloe vera make this formula incredibly soothing and restorative.

Follow the same shampoo directions from the base shampoo recipe. Be sure to lather very gently. Do not use Dawn or any type of dish soap here.

If you don’t have aloe vera or glycerine on hand, dry, uncooked oatmeal also works. Simply grind one cup of oatmeal in a blender or coffee grinder and add it to the mixture in lieu of the aloe vera and glycerine.

Dry Shampoo for Stinky Dogs

If there’s truly no time for a full bath and your dog stinks to high heaven, it may be time for a little dry shampoo action. Baking soda is the magic—and only—ingredient.

  • ½ cup baking soda
  1. Sprinkle a very light dusting along your dog’s back, avoiding the face, eyes, ears and mouth.
  2. Gently rub it into the fur towards the skin, spreading it evenly as you go.
  3. Adjust the amount for a large dog (aka, add more if you need to, but not too much).
  4. Brush through the entire coat several times.

Keeping your dog clean and healthy does not have to cost your entire paycheck. There are also ways to trim your pup’s fur and expel his anal glands if you’re into that type of thing. As always, check in with your vet if you have concerns or want to make sure you’re doing the right thing for your pup’s particular coat and health needs.

Homemade Dog Food Recipes That Are Easier Than You Think

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Sarah Ashley

Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...
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