A Homemade and Natural Dog Shampoo Bar Recipe

Homemade Dog Shampoo

A homemade dog shampoo bar perfect for your dog(s). Because their skin and hair pH is more acidic than ours, they need a special recipe; this natural recipe delivers on all counts and is simple enough to make at home.

Although it’s still winter, the temperatures in my area went into the 60s today. Being the cautious sort, I left my plants alone (sigh) and took my dog Sadie for a ride. Five minutes into the ride in a warm car convinced me that she needed a bath!

Homemade Dog Shampoo Basics

Homemade dog shampoo bars are a lot like face & body bars, but your dog’s skin and hair pH is a bit more acidic than ours so a few changes are necessary. And adding some extra moisturizing ingredients and suds never hurts.

This recipe is for a Shampoo Bar that is made using the cold process method. The basic recipe is the same as the others I have written about in the past, but you will have two sets of ingredients.

NOTE: If you have not made cold process soaps before, we highly recommend you read our other (very thorough) posts on making soap before you try this recipe:

Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipe

Ingredients

First additions:

  • ¾ cup distilled water
  • ¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide (find it here or at local hardware stores)
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ⅔ cup coconut oil (find organic coconut oil here)
  • ⅔ cup other oil – I’ve been using a blend of safflower and sunflower

Directions

  1. Mix the lye into the distilled water and set aside.
  2. Blend all of your oils together, and heat slightly if the temperature of the mixture is under 100°F.
  3. Add the lye to the oils, stirring constantly.
  4. After 5 minutes of stirring, you can use a stick blender to mix thoroughly. When the mixture is thick and looks like vanilla pudding (this is called “trace”), add the next set of ingredients.

Second additions:

Blend these ingredients in well and pour mixture into molds. After 24 hours, take out of the molds and cure 3-4 weeks.

Using Your Pet Shampoo Bar

Rinse animal until thoroughly wet. Lather the soap into the hair and let sit for 5-10 minutes…if you can! Rinse well. Repeat if the pet is really dirty. When the weather is good, I use a kiddie swimming pool and keep the hose nearby. My dog loves cold water, but if you want it warm, you can hook the hose up to a faucet (in the laundry room or a kitchen sink) and run it out a window.

Additional Notes

Castor Oil

The castor oil in this recipe creates more lather in the final product than you would normally get from just the base oils. It’s important to add the castor oil at trace because you don’t want this oil used up by the lye, you want it as an additional ingredient.

Lemon Juice and/or Vinegar

The lemon juice or vinegar brings the pH of the soap down from around 9 to about 8. Seven is considered neutral. Your soap will not actually be neutral, but it will be closer than leaving it alone. Allowing it to cure for 6 weeks or more will also help create a milder bar.

Essential Oils

The essential oils listed are used as a bug deterrent. They will not only repel fleas but also ticks and mosquitoes. Since essential oils will evaporate after a while, I also make a spray with the same oils. Add 10 drops of each of the oils to a spray bottle with warm water and a tablespoon of alcohol. Shake each time you use it to disperse the oils. Spray around the ears and top of the head, avoiding the eyes. I don’t usually spray the back since the hair is thicker there.

Make a Liquid Homemade Dog Shampoo

You can also make this homemade dog shampoo into a liquid.

After the soap bars are cured, grate the soap with a box grater, use the large grate. Place a handful of the soap shavings in a quart jar and fill with warm water. Let sit overnight or for a few days. The soap shavings will soften up and eventually liquefy. When all are dissolved, gently shake the jar and then leave it to set up for a week or so. This will let any large pieces to settle to the bottom. Carefully pour the liquid into a bottle (recycled dish soap bottles with the spout tops work great!) and use this to shampoo your pet.

I keep a jar liquefying all the time so I don’t have to wait for it when I need it. It will keep under the sink for a few weeks until needed. You can also use additional essential oils in the liquid shampoo. Use 5 drops of each and shake gently.

Have you ever made homemade dog shampoo bars for your dog or liquid shampoo?  Tell us about it!

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Comments

    • Mot for the purposes of this recipe, Latricia. The coconut oil is used as a base oil while lavender is an essential oil. Essential oils should not be used as a base oil in soap because they react differently with the lye. Some don’t ever become soap. And it would be very expensive to try it. If you don’t want to use coconut oil, you would not get much lather, but it could be done. You can substitute most other vegetable oils, but you would need to add a bit more, like 3/4 cup instead of 2/3 cup. The reason for this is because coconut oil takes more lye to make soap than other oils, so the addition of more would help to balance it out. Depending on the oil you choose, you may need to adjust the amount from there.

      • Sorry, but have you ever heard about a Soapcalculater?
        Or that oils and Lye for soaping have to be messeured EXACTLY out with a scale?
        If that person makes a small batch with just 200g of Coconutoil…and takes just 2 (TWO) Gramms of Lye to much…the soap will be lyeheavy and hurt her self and her dog! :/
        Soaping isn´t cakebaking.
        Otherwise you schould all use Melt & Pour.
        Take care and soap SAFE.

        • That is very true – you don’t mess around with lye quantities as it can become unsafe. Soapcalc has a free online soap calculator that is essential if you want to keep your recipes safe. Weight is the only way to go not volume.

    • It’s not usual to put vinegar in soap Michal, but for this recipe I did. Because dog’s hair and skin is more acidic, it helps to balance the pH. You could also add the vinegar to the water with the lye stage if you find the soap tends to set up too quickly.

    • You could do it one of two ways Sheri. First, you could grind the oatmeal very fine and add it at the trace. Leaving it whole would work too, but finely ground oatmeal softens faster and moisturizes better than whole and then it also rinses out of the hair easier too. Second, you could make an oat slurry and add a small amount of that at the trace. To make the slurry, soak oats in water overnight and in the morning, drain off the liquid. The liquid is the part you’ll use. I add about 1/3 cup to this recipe. If you want to add more, you can, but cut the water in the lye mixture back to 1/2 cup.

  1. For the bug spray, do you include the castor oil as one of the oils to add? I assumed you were referring to the essential oils, but I am not as familiar with castor oil. Thanks!

    • Yes, Leslie, I was referring to essential oils. They break up in water much better than base oils. Castor oil is very thick and heavy and would not disperse well in water.

  2. It would be helpful if quantities were by weight not by volume. Lye comes in two forms, beads and flakes, and 1/4 cup of each will not be the same weight. This variance could affect the outcome of the recipe. Volume measurements are just not that accurate, especially when dealing with chemical reactions, which is how lye/oils make soap. Finally, it would be helpful to indicate how many molds and what size one needs. I like this recipe, however, and I will first convert it to percentages, then to grams. I find, when making soap, the more accurate one is the less likely the batch will fail.

    • Most lye that is sold commercially is beads, Susan, so this is what is referred to in the recipes. This recipe has been converted to measurements rather than weights to make it easier to use. I formulated the recipe over 10 years ago and still use it today and I have not once had a failure batch. The recipe makes about 3 cups, so the amount of molds used would depend on the volume of the molds. You can read my other soap making articles here at DIY Natural to see how the original recipe works.

    • I totally agree, Susan! Most any soap maker will tell new soap makers to ONLY use a scale and weigh out their ingredients. This recipe is one where we’d say no, no, no. Not the way to do it. Some people might fill that measuring cup a little more or a little less, not all measuring cups are the same. Being 10 grams higher for this, 10 grams lower for that, it all determines the amount of lye required. I’d never use a recipe like this on my dogs.

  3. How do you convert the cup measurements to weight measurements? The previous commentor said something about transferring to percentages and then weight?
    This will be my 2nd batch of soap ever and I am still anxious about measuring correctly… The first batch I did was by weight- I just don’t know how to convert… Help?

    • Do an online search for a conversion chart. All you’ll need to do is fill in the amount of the cup measurement in the box and they will do the conversion to weight measurement. The same with any type of conversion. For example, I needed 1 3/4 cups of water, but couldn’t find my 3/4 cup. So I had the 3/4 cup converted in tbsp. And it came out to 12 tbsp. Obviously, math wasn’t my favorite subject. LOL Good Luck !!

    • You don’t need to convert this recipe to weights, Karly. All that has been done for you. I made this recipe especially for people like you that are afraid of getting it right. If you follow the directions, you shouldn’t have any problems.

    • I haven’t done this with hot process yet, Tia, but yes, it could certainly be done. I would add the additional ingredients after it turns translucent, after you add the water to smooth it out. Right before you would put it into a mold would be the best time.

  4. It took me decades to realize that one reason nearly all dogs dislike getting a bath has to do with water in the dogs’ ears.

    I use cotton balls, tear off just enough to stuff gently into my dog’s ears, to prevent any water from seeping into the ears. I say also, just before I pour any water over his face, “Ready? Ready?” This lets him know to hold his breath, so that no water gets into his nostrils either.

    Guess what? Just that small cotton in the ears trick and letting the dog know when the water is coming over his/her face helps a lot in convincing your dog that bath time isn’t such a terrible thing.

    That and the sure reward afterwards: I give my small dog several bits of cheese, after his bath. As I feed him the cheese I say, in a happy happy voice, “Ooh! Did you get a bath? Did you get a BATH?”

    Now the word “bath” means cheesy treats and the bath is a happy time.

    • Great idea miTmite9! I love it! I also found that some dogs don’t like the soap getting in their eyes. I can imagine it stings. I put a drop of mineral oil in each eye before i start the bath. This helps to coat the rim of the eye and doesn’t allow the soapy water in.

  5. How much warm water would you use in your bug deterrent? I have several sizes in water bottles & would not want to use to much & dilute it so it doesn’t work.

    • When I do it, Debbie, I use a quart jar. I grate about a handful and place it in the jar. Then I fill it with warm water. Within an hour you’ll have soapy water and if you let it sit overnight, it will gel and you may need to cut it with more warm water. I take some of the gel and add warm water in an old dish soap bottle and use that. I can squirt it where I want it, like under the dog on the belly. I try to make it a bit more diluted so that I can rinse it out easier but not so much that it doesn’t lather. If you have trouble rinsing it out, you can always use diluted vinegar or lemon juice to counteract the suds. It’s hard to tell how much it will gel the first time because all oils are a bit different and some lather more than others. By sticking to the 2/3 cup coconut oil, you should get a nice soft gel that will break up well in water and lather well, but not too much.

  6. Hello,

    I have recently researched handmade dog shampoos and from what I see, their skin pH is actually more neutral around 7 whereas humans are closer to the 5 acidic region. Has a vet double checked your recipe? Just curious because I want to make my own, but suddenly seeing varying opinions on canine skin vs human skin all over the internet.

    • Yes, Pam, there are varying opinions everywhere you look. I have had a few vets, vet technicians and even the BioBusiness Lab here in Asheville all take a look at it. What I should have said is that soap made for humans tends to be more alkaline while dog shampoo tends to be more acidic. Humans need the alkalinity to take care of the grease that is in most peoples hair whereas dogs don’t have this problem, usually just dirt. Older people and the very young can also benefit from a slightly more acidic shampoo since the stripping of grease isn’t usually necessary. Hope that clears up the confusion!

  7. Wonderful recipe! Our dogs will love this. I don’t think they love being in the tub, but tolerate it for all of the attention while being lathered up. 😉 Thanks for sharing.

  8. I’m getting my supplies together in order to make this soap for my dogs. The one question I have is why are you not using a food grade lye and does it matter which one I use. Thanks so much. I certainly enjoy your newsletters.

    • Hi Marcy,
      It does not matter which type of lye you are using. Food grade lye is normally used when trying to chemically peel fruits or vegetables, but it can also be used in soapmaking. NON-food grade lye can not be used for food, but can be used for soapmaking. It doesn’t matter what type you use for soap because once the lye reacts with the fats, during the chemical reaction process called saponification, no more lye remains in the finished soap. So you don’t have to worry about your pet getting lye on them. Hope that helps!

  9. Just came across this post. I can’t believe you would publish a recipe using lye and give people volume measurements. That is NOT okay! A cold process soap should ALWAYS be by weight only. Lye is not something to play and experiment with if you aren’t familiar with soap making.