homemade dog shampoo

How To DIY Homemade Dog Shampoo - The Guide

If your dog loves playing in the dirt, you know how expensive dog shampoos are. They come in tiny bottles yet cost a fortune. And if you’re looking for an organic product, you better be ready to pay a premium price.

But, dog care doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make a dog shampoo at home, for way less - and you will know exactly what the ingredients are.

In this article, read how you can use a few simple ingredients you already have at home to make a DIY dog shampoo.

Golden retriever having a bath with homemade dog shampoo

What You Will Need

Tools For The Job

  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon
  • Shampoo bottle

Shampoo Ingredients

Dish Soap

This ingredient is confusing to a lot of pet parents when making homemade dog wash. But the thing is, dish soaps are great for cleaning a dog’s coat. They are designed specifically to eliminate oils. With just a single soap drop, you’re able to clean your pots and plates. The same goes for your pooch’s coat and skin. Thanks to the grease-eliminating ability, soap helps you wash away all the oil.

When choosing the right dish soap for your DIY project, always go for a mild, unscented one. Your pooch might have an allergic reaction to different artificial fragrances found in scented dish soaps, which you’d want to avoid. Besides, other oils we use in this recipe will give the shampoo a specific scent anyway.

Another reason why you’d want to pick a mild dish soap is the pH level. In case you don’t know, dogs have more alkaline skin than us, ranging from 6 to 8. Gentle dish soaps have a pH level of around 7, which makes them an ideal ingredient for dog shampoo. You can get pH test strips to make sure you’re using a safe product.

Coconut Oil

In recent years, coconut oil gained in popularity not only as a superfood, but also as an important part of a beauty routine. Thanks to fatty acids this oil is rich in, it has a nourishing ability that improves both our skin and hair. But this is not true just for us humans. Coconut oil is beneficial to dogs, too.

The main fatty acid in coconut oil, lauric acid, can pierce inside the hair shaft. This makes the dog's hair stronger and shinier. What’s more, it helps with untangling the coat.

This oil is even more beneficial to a dog’s skin. It hydrates and nourishes dry, flaky skin and repairs its barrier. Coconut oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it soothes hot spots, stings or bites(1).

When buying coconut oil, go for unrefined, or otherwise called virgin coconut oil. These can be either cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. The reason why you should always use virgin oil is that it’s minimally processed, meaning it preserves all the nutrients and active compounds.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a well-known topical remedy for centuries now. Not only for us, but our canine friends, too. It contains vitamins A, C and E, amino acids and minerals like iron and calcium, all beneficial to our pooches. It works similarly to coconut oil. It nourishes the skin and coat and soothes itchy and dry skin. Plus, thanks to the anti-fungal properties, it can help with dandruff.

One thing you should keep in mind when using aloe vera is that some parts of the plant are toxic to our canine companions. An aloe vera leaf consists of three things: the protective green outer layer, yellow juice called the latex and the clear gel. The middle part, aloe latex, is unsafe if eaten, for both us and our pets. It contains saponins, which can have laxative effects and cause vomiting.

So, when you’re cutting aloe leaves, make sure to only use the clear gel from the centre. That way, you don’t have to worry about your pooch licking off shampoo during bath time.

Distilled Water

The reason you should use distilled instead of regular tap water is the pH level. Tap water differs from one area to another, depending on the water source. Depending on where you live, it can go to as low as 4.3. Distilled water, on the other hand, has a neutral pH level. However, when in contact with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it becomes slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.8. Since coconut oil is slightly alkaline, this balances out. 

Essential Oils (optional)

Artificial fragrances might as well be a thing of the past, since they can be replaced by oils from natural sources. Nowadays, lots of brands use them in their shampoos. Essential oils are simple, yet very potent. Undiluted, they may cause allergic reactions and even burns. But, when diluted, they can have different beneficial properties to both skin and coat. Adding some oils, like lemongrass or neem allows you to make a homemade flea shampoo. Not to mention the beautiful scent that will make your pooch smell like heaven. Whichever essential oil you choose, a few drops will do the trick.

Here’s a list of some essential oils dogs can benefit from:

  • Lavender - reduces redness and itchiness of the skin
  • Cedarwood - repels pests and soothes allergic reactions
  • Lemongrass - puts off fleas and ticks
  • Citronella - also repels insects
  • Chamomile - supports skin health and soothes inflammation
  • Helichrysum - has antifungal and antibacterial properties
  • Jojoba - maintains a soft skin and coat and works as a humectant
  • Neem - repels insects and soothes dry and irritated skin
  • CBD - moisturises skin and coat, calms itchy skin and fights microbes

Most essential oils are potent and need to be mixed with a carrier oil before applied to the skin. In this case, we’re already using coconut oil in large amounts, meaning there’s no need to further dilute other oils.

Avoid peppermint and tea tree oils. They are too harsh for a dog’s skin and may cause serious irritation and dryness (2).

When buying essential oils, there are a few tricks you should know (3). First, always buy essential oils in dark, glass bottles. These oils are sensitive to UV rays, and exposure to the sun through a transparent bottle would make them acidic. Second, make sure it says something like “100% pure essential oil” along with listed net contents. Finally, the label should say Latin name too. If any of these stats are missing, it’s not an essential oil.


How To Make Dog Shampoo At Home

Measuring The Ingredients

First, let’s see how much of each ingredient goes into the shampoo. In general, this is the proportion that works well for most dogs:

  • ¼ cup dish soap
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1.5 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of aloe vera
  • 3-5 drops of essential oils

This shampoo is suitable for dogs of all life stages, but you can adjust it if necessary. If, for instance, your pup is restless while in the tub, there’s a good chance shampoo can get in the eyes. If you’re making a homemade puppy shampoo, it’s better you put only a few drops of essential oils or avoid them altogether. This doesn’t mean essential oils are harmful, but they can cause your pooch’s eyes to tear up quite a bit.

Related: Best Dog Shampoo Australia.

Making A Mixture

Take your mixing bowl and combine dish soap, distilled water, coconut oil and aloe vera. Coconut oil is solid at normal room temperature, so you’ll have to warm it up. Its melting point is at 24°C. You don’t need to make it hot to the touch, just liquid enough to be mixed well with other ingredients.

Take your mixing spoon and stir gently, preventing large bubbles from forming.

Add Essential Oils Of Your Choice

After your mixture starts looking homogeneous, it’s time to pour it into the bottle. But before you do that, you should put a couple of drops of essential oils first. As the shampoo sits, they will come to the top.

PRO TIP: Always shake the bottle before using shampoo on your pooch. Since its ingredients have different densities, they’ll separate every time shampoo sits for a long time.

PRO TIP: In case your bathroom’s room temperature is low, shampoo might harden, making it hard for you to squeeze it out. In that case, put the closed bottle under the warm stream of tap water for a minute.


Final Thoughts

DIY dog shampoos are great for several reasons. They’re free of dubious chemicals, fairly cheap, and last but not least, they’re fun to make.

With only a few ingredients usually found in most homes, you can create dog shampoo alternatives both you and your pooch will love. And just by choosing different essential oils, you can make a different one each time.

Not happy with your current dog bathing setup? Check our dog bathtub guide for some suggestions.

FAQ

How do I prepare my dog for a bath?

Always brush and detangle your dog before bathing. That way, you’re getting rid of all the loose hair and dirt particles inside their coat. Furthermore, detangling is much easier when done on a dry coat.

How often should I bathe my pet?

Since this DIY shampoo is free from chemicals that dry out their skin and coat, they could be bathed more than once a week. However, if your dog’s skin is oily, washing at such short intervals is not recommended.

What is the best temperature for bath water?

The optimum temperature for a dog bath is around 37°C. Water warmer than that can be upsetting to your dog, causing an increased heart rate. Besides, their skin is way thinner than humans, so hot water might cause skin burns. The temperature can be even lower for puppies and elderly dogs, as they’re less tolerant. However, don’t go too low, either.

References

Reisen, J. Aug 04, 2017 “Coconut Oil for Dogs: Is it Really Good for Them?” American Kennel Klub. Retrieved May 8, 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/is-coconut-oil-good-for-dogs/

Alt, K. December 9, 2020 “Doggy Day Spa: Essential Oils For Dogs'' Canine Journal. Retrieved May 8, 2021.

https://www.caninejournal.com/essential-oils-for-dogs/

Farr, N. March 23, 2020 “Buying Essential Oils Is Like Shopping for Diamonds — Here’s How to Spot a Fake”. Greatist. Retrieved May 8, 2021.

https://greatist.com/health/best-essential-oils-how-to-buy-essential-oils

Olivia De Santos

Olivia is a professional writer and animal lover. She loves spending time with her Podengo and Flat Coated Retriever, and writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners

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