Dog Washing with Dr. Bronner’s Soap

Dog Washing with Dr. Bronner's

Tucker totally steals the show here, but before you get enamored with him, let’s talk about dog washing with Dr. Bronner’s.

The simplicity that makes Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap great for our bodies, also makes it great for dogs. You’ve got that blend of saponified plant-based oils—coconut, olive, palm, jojoba, and hemp seed—which is exceedingly nourishing as it cleans thoroughly. And then you’ve got all the benefits of the various essential oils. No junk. No fillers. No irritants or cloying artificial fragrances. Plus, true soaps like Castile Soap kill fleas and other insects. It won’t give long-term protection, but it does clean them up beautifully.

In the video, I mention that I don’t predilute the soap. Tucker’s fur is so thick and holds so much water that once the soap hits it, it’s going to get diluted on the spot. However, you can certainly predilute it if it works better for your pooch based on their size and coat . Cut it in half or more with water, wet your dog, and lather away.

Tucksie, Chucks/Chuckers, Captain Peanut Butter, Tuckermort, Darth Tucker. His nicknames capture altogether his essence: a sweet, bumbling, uncomplicated, nose-less, loud-breathing pup. And that’s why we love him!

Essential oils and pets

Dr. Bronner’s products are scented only with essential oils, and because of this, I frequently get asked about the impact of essential oils on dogs and other pets. I am glad to hear that people are being mindful of essential oils, because when they’re undiluted, essential oils can be quite potent—which of course is why they’re utilized for various forms of relief. But as with all therapies, the dose makes the poison—or the cure.  

With Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, the concentration of essential oils is less than 2%. This then gets further diluted by water either in predilutions or during the use. Lastly, soap is a rinse-off product, which means that there is not a long exposure as you would find with a lotion or other leave-in product. Altogether, the level of exposure to essential oils is minimal. However, tea tree essential oils is not recommended for any animal, and if you have reservations about the interaction of essential oils and pets, opt for the Unscented Castile Soap.

Bathing cats

Cats are the exception. Because cats are such assiduous self-bathers—I have one beside me doing just that as I write—and also lack certain liver enzymes that can break down essential oils, in case there is any accidental unrinsed soap left on the fur, it is recommended to use the Unscented Pure-Castile Soap if you’re going to wash your cat.   

Further reading

This use and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Andrew says:

I’ve somewhat adopted a stray cat that I feed and allow to hang out in my yard. She is very troubled by what seems to be constant itchy skin, probably caused by fleas I would guess. I’ve heard that eucalyptus repels insects such as fleas, so I’m wondering if this is true and if so, if that would be a good choice to use for cleaning her up of both the fleas and the dirt on her skin that she has acquired in her outdoor life. I want to let her hang out inside my house, but not in her current condition. I’m also eager to help her find relief for her skin.

She’s very affectionate and is helping to keep down the abundant rodent population in my yard, so I’m happy to spend the time and money to keep her well fed and feeling comfortable, and to relieve my neighborhood of one of the many stray cats.

Dr. Bronners rocks big-time in my opinion and in my world. It’s been the only cleaning product I trust and have used for decades, and use it for everything including dishes, house, laundry, bathing, etc. Makes life easier that way too. And it’s good to have a company out there with such integrity as does your company. Please keep it up and keep it coming. All hail the late great Dr. Bronner and his kin.

Peace and blessings.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Andrew- Thanks for your kind words and for being a loyal customer! What a lucky can to have been adopted by you! Because cats are both sensitive to essential oils and such fastidious bathers, we recommend Unscented Castile Soap exclusively on cats. The Castile Soap will remove both dirt and fleas, although it’s only effective against fleas when wet and does not kill eggs. It could be that regular bathing will be enough to soothe her skin, but if not, consult with a veterinarian.

Shirley Jean Haney says:

My hair gets really gross from smoke from a campfire when I camp and because it’s cold out I don’t want to wash it. I started using the Castile soap and rinsed with vinegar and guess what! My scalp felt good, my hair actually smelled fine despite full strength vinegar rinse, the Castile soap from this company cleaned my hair fast, but best of all my hair stayed clean longer much longer and was soft and fluffy. I’m very pleased with this. For ppl who don’t know, smoke is very difficult usually to clean. It’s sticky and usually needs a strong base to dissolve it. Like for walls or clothing or hair. But as I said I’m very pleased with my hair.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Shirley- I know exactly what you mean about the lingering scent of campfire smoke. Thanks for this excellent tip!

Devon says:

Being that cats are so sensitive to essential oils. Though much of it is washed away when rinsing myself, is it still better to avoid using anything but unscented Castile oil on myself? I’m worried that just having it on me may be bad for my cats health.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Devon – The soap is quite clean rinsing, and there is very little risk that any essential oil will remain on your skin to transfer to your cats. However, using the Unscented Castile would definitely remove all possibility.

Harvey says:

Can you use the tea tree one on dogs? I read that tea tree is toxic for dogs and cats.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Harvey – The toxicity of any essential oils depends on their concentration and length of exposure. The cautions about tea tree and dogs pertain to using the oil in a concentrated form and leaving it on the dogs skin as with a balm, or even in an application where the dog might ingest it. In our Castile soaps, there is less than 2% concentration of any essential oil, and the product is meant to be thoroughly rinsed off, because leaving soap on dogs skin would be irritating, as it would be to our skin. However, if concern about tea tree remains, consider using one of our other scents, such as Peppermint or Eucalyptus.

Cammy Garrett says:

I’ve heard tea tree is poison ☠ to dogs? So I’m terrified to use it, my 3 yr old staphylococcus, has been getting bad hot spots I hear peppermint or lavender? But now tea tree? Which is best??

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cammy – I do not have the expertise to help treat your pup’s skin infection. However, the poison concern related to tea tree pertains to using a concentrated form on the skin in a leave-on application. This isn’t a factor with soap, which is a wash-off product, so is not in contact with the skin very long. Plus, the concentration of tea tree oil in the soap is less than 2%, and is further diluted by the water in washing. However, I do recommend consulting with a veterinary expert to find the best path to alleviate your pup’s situation.

Shirley Jean Haney says:

Staphylococcus is a bacterium that can infect dogs or humans. Because there’s a lot of it on skin even if you’re not sick or your dog’s not sick, it’s hard to treat. Potentially it can get into the body from the skin and cause life threatening problems. You really should have a veterinarian decide what’s best. Ideally what you want is for this problem to completely resolve so that you aren’t constantly dealing with it. This should be something that’s not too difficult. Ask a vet. Another problem is it’s hard to know it’s staphylococcus for sure because it could be any number of germs or yeasts. And finally if your pet has areas on their skin that feel distinctly hot or cold to the touch this is a sign of bad infection.

Sandie says:

Is this soap good for dogs with Itchy skin.. I have one dog suffering so much… Can’t even blow on him and he shivers and shakes..

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sandie – There can be so many causes for itchy skin on dogs. It could be dietary, there could be a skin infection, or it could be a product you’re using on him. However, I do think that our Castile soap with its simple formultion and mild ingredients is helpful on a dog’s journey to comfortable skin. I would recommend the Unscented, which is very mild, since perhaps the skin might also be sensitive.

Sharon says:

Hi Lisa, I have a 10 lb. Chihuahua she has has yeast,hotspot’s and food sensitivity. I was told to try a anti fungle anti bacterial shampoo that contains tea tree oil or an herbal shampoo with No chemicals. Which soap would you recommend and I can dilute it right? Thank you for any advice and your time.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sharon – I apologize for my delay in responding. While our Tea Tree Castile does not contain any ingredients that are medically antifungal or antibacterial, it is a simple, gentle soap and the Tea Tree essentail oil itself is well document for its antimicrobial properties. This is what I would recommend that you use. You can dilute it ahead of time if you would like, especially since this is a small dog with a thin coat. Perhaps start with a super diluted solution of 1:10, and if that isn’t enough, then add more soap to the solution. My labrador would also get fungal infections because he loved running through any ponds or standing water he could find and his coat would not dry fully. So many baths to get rid of skin issues!! The things we do for our dogs!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Stephanie – With irritated or dry skin, I recommend the Unscented Castile soap. Other mild options are the Almond, Citrus, or Lavender.

Tami says:

One of the complaints I hear about using this for soap is that it dries out some people skin really bad. Has there been an issue with this with any pets with dry skin? And if so, what I just delute it more?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tami – The essential oils can have a big impact on skin dryness. Peppermint, for example, can signal the skin to produce less oil – which is good for people with oily skin, but not good for people with dry skin. I’m not sure if the same is true for dog skin. However, if a dog is prone to dry skin, consider using either the Unscented Castile soap, or one of the milder scents like Almond, Citrus, or Lavender.

Robert says:

I have used and trust Dr. Bronner soaps for fifty plus years. Peppermint has always been used on my dog’s and me. Recently I found that using the eucalyptus does not bother my private parts and I will be taking a bottle with me on Friday to wash my Ziva. Peppermint is really good for parasites. I trust that the eucalyptus will work just as well.

Zenaida Mancha says:

I washed my cat with diluted dr Broner 18 in 1 hemp tree pure castile soap now im concerned because of the liver lack of enzymes should i be concerned will something wrong will happen to my cat i rinsed him well..

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Zenaida- The concern for cats is that ingesting pure tea tree oil is damaging to the liver. However, the concentration of tea tree oil in the Castile soap is less than 2% and is further diluted by the water present in the washing. Plus, it is applied to the skin and washed off. While we recommend using the Unscented Castile on cats for extra caution, the risk of a toxic level of exposure from using the Tea Tree Castile Soap is extremely low. If the cat is not exhibiting any signs of distress – wheezing, disorientation, unusual lethargy – there is no cause for concern. Consult a veterinarian for any concerning symptoms.

Zenaida Mancha says:

Thank you! So much for the quick response!💕very helpful.

Valerie says:

I like the lavender and peppermint too. I love the products thank you.

Emilie says:

My understanding is that dogs need a shampoo specially formulated for their skin, pH, etc. What do vets say about using Dr. Bronner’s on dogs?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Emilie- Dog skin is generally found to be alkaline, as opposed to human skin which has an acidic pH. Castile Soap is also alkaline. However, despite the fact that both dog skin and Castile Soap are mildly alkaline, pH is not the foremost consideration in which soap or shampoo to use on your dog. What is more important is the aggressiveness of the surfactant (or cleaning agent). A surfactant can have the exact same pH as a dog’s skin, yet be far too aggressive and cause irritation by stripping the skin of needed oils. Their skin is not as impacted by pH as by the aggressiveness of the cleaning agent. (This is all true of people skin as well, which you can read more about in my article on the issue: All that to say, the surfactants in the Castile Soap – which are saponified olive/coconut/palm oils – are mild, non-aggressive cleansers that gently remove dirt and grime without stripping the skin of its needed oils.

Althea says:

If you look at the scientific literature, dog skin pH varies, and is more basic than human skin, which is acidic. But even the mild unscented castile soap is way more basic than dog skin, and can strip your dog or cat’s natural skin oils, leading to itchy, dry skin.

It’s probably ok for very occasional use, or for handling stuff like fleas (after all, a dawn soap bath is a common remedy for that), but if you bathe your animals more often or their skin is sensitive you should use something specifically made for animals that is soap free. If you’re adamant about the castile, you should at least follow up with a conditioner (labeled for pets) or some type of pet-safe moisturizer.

Stripping skin oils can also take off topical flea/tick prevention that works with your pet’s skin; soap-free pet shampoo does not do this.

Source: worked as a groomer for 10+ years before going to grad school and earning a PhD in a biology field (i.e. pretty decent at interpreting published research and weeding out dubious claims).

Sherrie says:

Can the bar soap be used for washing dishes? Can the bar soap be used to wash dogs?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sherri- Yes, the Castile Bar Soap can be used for handwashing dishes, dogs, and a whole lot more! For dishes, I prefer to rub a dishcloth or brush on bar soap. Another option is to add 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) grated bar soap to about 1 ½ gallons (6 L) very warm running water. Swish to dissolve.
On dogs, wet your pup thoroughly. Massage bar in fur to create good lather. Rinse thoroughly. As with people, avoid soap in eyes and water in ears.
Check out my Bar Soap Usage Cheat Sheet for some of it’s other uses:

Robin says:

I love the wonderful Bronner soaps and the wonderful Bronner family!!!Shalom!!!🥰

Angus says:

I need to tell you to advise people to dilute soap between 8:1 to 20:1 for dogs. This is essential because the soap added to a dogs coat, even Pre wetted can cause a burn and rash of their skin and strip all of the oils on their skin. I use Bronners on my dog but always dilute as aforementioned. My friends and I all agree.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Angus- I’m sorry to hear of your pup’s experience with our soaps! It’s great to hear that you’ve found a solution in pre-diluting the soap. For dogs (and people!) with sensitive skin, we recommend one of mild scents such as Rose, Almond, or Unscented Castile Soap. The latter is particularly mild and gentle.

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

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