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If I Have No Dog Shampoo, What Can I Use? 6 Vet-Approved Options

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog taking a bath

If I Have No Dog Shampoo, What Can I Use? 6 Vet-Approved Options


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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It can be stressful to find yourself with a dirty dog and no dog shampoo. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives that you can use to clean that pup of yours so they’re as fresh as a daisy once again!

Some of these shampoo alternatives are simple, while others take a bit of preparation. Still, you might not even have to fill the bathtub, as a few of these canine shampoo substitutes are directly applied to your dog’s fur without needing any water.

divider-dog paw

The 6 Alternative Options to Dog Shampoo

1. Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo in clear bottle
Image By: Karolina Grabowska, Pexels
Supplies: Baby shampoo
Difficulty level: Easy
Effectiveness: Good

If you have baby shampoo on hand, you can use it to bathe your dog. Baby shampoo is gentler than adult shampoo because it contains fewer ingredients and perfumes. However, it’s still intended for human skin, which is different from dog skin.

Baby shampoo is safe to use for a one-time bath when you’re out of dog shampoo and need to get your pup cleaned up fast. Just don’t get into the habit of using it all the time because it’s made for humans and not canines! Overusing any human shampoo on a dog, including one made for babies, can easily dry out the animal’s skin.

To use baby shampoo, simply dampen your dog’s fur, then apply the shampoo and lather it up. Then just rinse away the soap bubbles with clear warm water, and you’re good to go! This method may not work great if your dog is extremely dirty or muddy, as baby shampoo is not very powerful.

  • Simple
  • Budget-friendly
  • Limited ingredients
  • Can dry out a dog’s skin if overused
  • Not that effective on very dirty dogs

2. Homemade Shampoo

Homemade shampoo in a bottle
Image By: Mareefe, Pixabay
Supplies: Dish soap, apple cider vinegar, water
Difficulty level: Easy
Effectiveness: Great

You can whip up a quick batch of homemade shampoo for bathing your dog. All you need is dish soap, apple cider vinegar, and water. Mix 1 quart of water with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of dish soap. Then lather the soap on your dog’s fur, let it soak for a few minutes, and rinse it off. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can just use dish soap.

It will take a few minutes to rinse all the dish soap off your dog’s fur, especially if they have a long, thick coat. However, once you finish, your dog’s coat should be quite fresh, as this simple shampoo works great! Your dog may smell a bit like dish soap and vinegar when you’re done, but at least they’ll be clean!

  • Uses common household items
  • Effective on dogs with long coats
  • Inexpensive
  • Can leave dog smelling like dish soap and vinegar

3. Baking Soda

a bowl of baking soda
Image Credit: NatureFriend, Pixabay
Supplies: Baking soda
Difficulty level: Moderate
Effectiveness: Fair to good

Baking soda is a natural cleanser and deodorizer that you probably have on hand. You can use baking soda as a dry dog shampoo, and it doesn’t take any mixing at all! If you decide to use baking soda to clean your dog, do it outdoors because it can be messy.

Start by brushing your dog to remove loose hair and dirt. Then rub the baking soda into your dog’s fur while massaging it into their skin. Leave the baking soda on your dog’s fur for a few minutes, then brush it out. This method works best on a dog that’s not overly dirty. It simply won’t cut through heavy dirt and grime, so don’t use this method if your pup is filthy.

  • Inexpensive
  • No mixing required
  • Messy
  • Not effective on very dirty dogs

4. Cornstarch

Cornstarch on a table
Image By: Michelle Lee Photography, Shutterstock
Supplies: Cornstarch
Difficulty level: Moderate
Effectiveness: Fair to good

If you find yourself in a real pickle and your dog isn’t overly dirty, you can use cornstarch as a dry dog shampoo. This is another job that should be done outdoors if possible because it can be messy like the baking soda method.

To use this alternative to dog shampoo, shake cornstarch over your dog’s body, then work the powder into the fur. Let it sit for a few minutes, then remove the cornstarch using a grooming comb or dog brush. Cornstarch absorbs foul odors, so it will freshen up your pup if they smelled terrible before you started. Like the baking soda method, using cornstarch isn’t your best choice if your dog is terribly dirty, as it simply won’t cut through heavy dirt and grime.

  • Inexpensive
  • Absorbs foul odors
  • No mixing required
  • Messy
  • Not super effective for very dirty dogs

5. Baby Wipes

Supplies: Baby wipes
Difficulty level: Easy
Effectiveness: Fair

If your dog isn’t overly dirty and just needs freshening up, you can use baby wipes to clean their fur. Baby wipes are gentle, and they leave behind a fresh, pleasant smell. To use this method, simply rub your dog’s fur with a baby wipe, making sure to avoid the areas around the eyes.

A downside to this method is that you may have to use multiple baby wipes to get your dog clean from head to tail. Plus, it will take quite a bit of time to clean your dog’s entire body. Just be patient and prepared to go through many wipes while getting your dog clean and smelling fresh!

  • Inexpensive
  • Gentle on dog’s skin
  • Easy to do
  • Leaves behind a fresh, clean scent
  • Not effective for overly dirty dogs
  • Time-consuming
  • Can sting the eyes

6. Castile Soap

Castile Bar Soap by Kirk’s

Supplies: Castile bar soap
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Effectiveness: Great

Castile soap is a skin-friendly gentle soap containing all-natural ingredients like coconut oil. It makes a great substitute for dog shampoo if you’re in a pinch. Maybe you have a bar or two of this popular soap tucked away in your bathroom cabinet. If so, that’s great!

To use this dog shampoo alternative, you’ll need to put your dog in the tub or shower and get their fur wet. Then, lather up their coat with the Castile soap, work it in well, and rinse thoroughly. The coconut oil in the soap will leave your dog’s fur silky smooth and moisturized.

This soap works great on even the dirtiest dog, but it can’t be used regularly because it’s not made for canines. If you were to use this soap every time you bathed your pet, their skin would likely dry out and itch, so you should only use this method if you’re in a real bind!

  • Cuts through dirt and grime
  • Can be used on very dirty dogs
  • Coconut oil helps smooth and soften fur
  • Can’t be used regularly
  • Can cause skin dryness


Choosing the Right Dog Shampoo

To ensure that you don’t run out of dog shampoo in the future, buy yourself a couple of bottles for your four-legged friend. To navigate through the myriad options on the market today, consider these factors when choosing one.

  • Your dog’s age: If your dog is a puppy, look for a shampoo designed for younger dogs. Puppy shampoo is much gentler on the skin.
  • Any skin conditions your dog has: A moisturizing dog shampoo is perfect if your dog has skin issues such as dryness, flakiness, or itchiness.
  • Whether your dog has fleas or ticks: There are special flea and tick dog shampoos on the market that fend off these tiny pests.
  • Odor: If your dog’s fur doesn’t smell good, look for a deodorizing dog shampoo that eliminates unpleasant odors.
  • Your dog’s fur type: If your dog has fur that tangles, a dog shampoo-conditioner will help you tame your dog’s mane.


In Summary

Discovering you’re out of dog shampoo can be stressful, especially if your dog is a dirty, sloppy mess. Use one of these smart alternatives to dog shampoo if you find yourself in such a pickle. Just remember to then buy a bottle or two of dog shampoo that’s suitable for your pup, so you always have something on hand to clean your pet from head to tail.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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