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Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas on Dogs? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Nicole Cosgrove

Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas on Dogs? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

You may have heard people talking recently about a useful-sounding life hack. Giving your dog a bath with dawn dish soap is indeed a way to kill adult fleas, but it isn’t the most effective way that is available. With that being said, there are some circumstances where a gentle temporary flea treatment like dish soap might be a desirable option.


When to Use Dawn Dish Soap on Fleas

When your dog has fleas, their discomfort can lead to scratching and open wounds—even skin infections. With most flea medications being topical, it’s not always feasible to put that kind of medication on your dog when their skin is so raw. It could be painful, and most topical flea treatments like Advantage say that they should only be applied to intact skin.

The obvious problem here is that the dog is going to be unable to heal while they are still being ravaged by fleas. So we still need to remove the fleas, and oral flea medications such as Bravecto, Credilio, Nexgard, Simparica and Trifexis are well suited for this use. If you have been caught out and the vet shop is closed, this is when Dawn dish soap can become a solution. Using something you already have at home like dish soap can be an appealing idea. It’s a temporary solution to help you out in a pinch—the dog needs proper flea medication as soon as possible. But we’ll just break to you plain and simple. This is a stopgap measure.

If your dog has fleas, washing them off with Dawn can provide some temporary relief and give your pup a chance to start healing while you get proper medication. That’s because when it comes to a parasite like a flea, the little bloodsuckers themselves are only half of the problem.

removing mite and flea from dog paw
Image By: Naurora, Shutterstock

Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Flea Eggs?

Herein this question lies the reason that Dawn dish soap isn’t an effective remedy for killing fleas. Fleas don’t just come along, live their lives, and die. They reproduce, and they do so by laying eggs. These eggs don’t stay on the dog—they fall off into the environment, including your carpet, upholstery, and more.

While Dawn dish soap is quite effective for killing adult fleas, it doesn’t eradicate an infestation the way that a proper medication does. Fleas will continue to hatch out of eggs and progress from larvae to adults, continuing the cycle.

How Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

You may notice that a bad flea season typically occurs when you have a combination of warm or mild temperatures and a lot of moisture. Fleas love water. They don’t drown in it, because they have exoskeletons that allow them to float on the water. When you add Dawn dish soap—or any detergent for that matter—to the mix, it acts as a surfactant. In other words, it changes the surface tension of the water, and the fleas are unable to float. It causes them to sink and ultimately to drown.

While this may sound great, and does have its uses as a temporary solution, the fact is that like the fleas, your dog was not designed to be washed in this manmade substance either.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Bad for Dog Skin?

In moderation—like, once in a blue moon—if your dog has a bad flea infestation and has scratched themselves raw, it’s generally fine, but that isn’t always the case. Different dogs have different skin sensitivities, and they can react differently to dish soap. While most dogs will do fine after a wash and rinse, some can find their skin even more irritated, which is not what you want if your pup is already suffering on that front.

While flea meds are great for destroying infestations through the generations, you can also find products that help eliminate them from your space which is equally as important.

dog taking a bath
Image By: Masarik, Shutterstock

How to Get Fleas Out of the Carpet

If you’ve gone through the process of removing fleas from your dog with Dawn dish soap and then finally applied a proper treatment, you likely don’t want to repeat this. We get that. It will help speed things along if you treat your carpets as well.

There are several products on the market that kill fleas, offspring, and eggs in your carpet. These typically come in powder or spray form and are quite easy to use. They can be harmful to pets and children, so use caution and perform your due diligence when choosing a product. Once you’ve found something reasonably safe and removed all small beings from the premises, it’s a matter of vacuuming thoroughly, spraying by following directions closely, and waiting so many minutes before entering again.

If you’re so inclined, it can be helpful to steam clean the carpets before you spray. It certainly helps the home to feel less infested. The more fleas that you can remove from your dog’s environment, the fewer fleas there will be to try and reinhabit their world, which just happens to be your home and dog! Don’t forget to hot wash any dog bedding and blankets that you can.  It is important to treat all pets in the house with appropriate flea medications (be aware many dog flea treatments are not safe for cats).

Cleaning Carpet
Image By: Syda Productions, Shutterstock




When you come home from work or wake up in the middle of the night and find your dog has scratched themselves raw with fleas, this can provide some relief. With that said, it must be understood that fleas only spend a portion of their time on the dog, and actually infest the environment—your home. The only way to properly give your dog lasting relief is to treat the fleas with proper medication and remove them from your home.

Featured Image Credit: Dawn, Amazon

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