Does Dawn Dish Soap Really Kill Fleas on Dogs?

Does Dawn Dish Soap Really Kill Fleas on dogs

So I told you all a while back about my little sister adopting a goldendoodle puppy. Like any new mom, she quickly began freaking out about everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING.

I have literally gotten a text at 2:00 a.m. with a picture of a puppy turd asking me if it looked “normal.” I contemplated texting her back and telling her the only way to really be sure was to taste it. Instead I told her it was perfect, just like her puppy, and to go back to bed.

Who am I to complain about the steady stream of texts though? It makes coming up with my next post a breeze.  Thanks, sis!

My sister’s most recent panic stricken string of texts were the result of finding three (THREE!!!) fleas on her puppy. She tried to Google, but got mixed results causing her to spiral further.

Here are the highlights. I omitted some of her texts with more “colorful” language. You’re welcome, Grandma. Just try to remember who the good one is come this Christmas.

Puppy’s First Flea

Flea comb helps check for and remove fleas “I don’t know what to do. I found a flea. I started really inspecting and found two more. They could be all over the house by now. And the yard.  Good Lord!  You have to help me!!!”

I decided to tackle her panic attack one question at a time.

My first text instructed her to quit looking at random stuff on the internet and check out posts I have already done about this very topic.  I had a great one on eliminating fleas from your yard and a separate post about how to treat your house for fleas.  I even have one about using natural methods to get rid of fleas.

Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

Blue Dawn Dish Soap Kills FleasI’ll do my level best to answer her questions in the hopes it will help give answers to someone else, possibly sparing their siblings 23 texts.

“Is washing a dog with Dawn dish soap bad to do? Didn’t mom use it on our dogs when they got fleas when we were kids?”

While it is not best to wash your dog every day with Dawn, there are times that you may need to if something happens such as a huge flea infestation, your dog rolls around on a dead animal (yeah, that is a thing that happens), or maybe they have gotten into some kind of oil.

You may need to immediately wash the dog and you don’t have shampoo.  You can use Dawn to bathe your dog instead in a pinch.

Will Dawn Dish Soap Kill Flea Eggs?

flea bomb flea fogger“Will Dawn kill flea eggs? How do I know if I have those? How do I get rid of those?”

I had to look this one up myself.  According to an article I found on a site called fleascience.com, it works by penetrating the eggs, interfering with metabolism or by suffocating the embryo. So yeah, Dawn dish soap kills flea eggs.

But if things get too bad, you’ll likely need to use a flea bomb or other methods of controlling a flea infestation.

Freaking Out

Apparently I took too long looking up the answer to her last question for her liking.

“Why are you ignoring me? You seriously picked the worst possible time ever to abandon me. I need help!  I can’t remember the last time I was this freaked out!?!”

I do.  It happened last Tuesday.

How Does Dish Soap Work Against Fleas?

“I don’t understand how dish soap kills fleas. Is this stupid? Is it even going to work?”

Dawn dish soap kills fleas in two ways.  The first way is that it strips the fleas of their wax coat making their exoskeletons vulnerable.

The second way dish soap is effective at killing fleas is that it changes the surface tension of water.  With these two changes taking place during bath time, it allows the fleas to no longer repel the water and to instead sink down into it thus killing them by suffocation.

Without the Dawn dish soap, other forms of dog shampoo would not have this same effect on the fleas.  They may take the fleas off of the dog but they would just float on top of the water and eventually land on you or back on your dog.

Does Only Blue Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

unscented dish soap without harsh chemicals“Which Dawn dish soap should I use on fleas? Does only the blue Dawn kill fleas? It doesn’t say. Please help me!”

Any dish washing soap will work for killing fleas.  You want to look for dish soap with the simplest ingredients so that you do not cover your dog in harsh chemicals.

Also be careful of different scents especially if you have a dog with skin sensitivities or allergies.

Is it Safe to use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Fleas on a Puppy?

puppy bedding“Is it okay to use Dawn dish soap to bathe a puppy?  Will he be safe or will it hurt him?”

It is not safe to use flea shampoos or medications on a puppy until they are around six weeks of age. Some even require waiting until the pup is as old as 12 weeks.

Since you can’t use that, is Dawn safe for puppies?

It will dry the heck out of their skin and fur because it works by stripping oils, but it’s not toxic to wash your pet with it.  If you’re dealing with a flea infestation on a pup younger than six weeks, Dawn is a safer alternative for treating fleas.

How to Give a Flea Bath with Dawn Dish Soap

waterpik for bathing dogs“So how do I go about doing this? Is it just like using regular shampoo?”

Pretty much except you’ll need to be extra diligent during the rinsing process.

  1. You want to start by preparing everything you will need before getting the dog to the bathing location. Gather necessary items such as Dawn (or another type of dish soap), flea comb, towel, and collar and leash (if your dog likes to jump out of their bath like mine).
  2. It does not matter where you bathe your dog at. It could be the sink, outside with the hose, bathtub, kiddie pool, etc.  It just needs to be in an area that your dog will stay put while the bath is going on.
  3. You want the water to be around 70 degrees or lukewarm. If you are not using just the hose, you’ll want to go ahead and fill up the bath with water before attempting to put your dog in it.
  4. Once the dog is in, make sure to wet their fur as much as possible before putting the soap on. Avoid getting water and dish soap into the dog’s ears and eyes.  If the water does not drain out, this could cause ear infections.  Some have suggested putting cotton wool into your dog’s ears to help protect them from water during bath time.
  5. When you start to apply the soap, you want to start around the dog’s neck and the top part of their head. Fleas will start running once you start and you want to build a blockade around the dog’s face with a line of dish soap. Your dog’s facet is most likely where fleas will attempt to run to and it is hard to wash that part of the dog.  Be careful to not get soap into the dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth.
  6. Cover the rest of the dog’s body with lather from the Dawn, paying extra close attention to spots that fleas like to hide in, like their armpits, in between toes, belly area, etc.
  7. Once you have covered the dog’s body other than the face, you can add some extra water to help later the soap up more.
  8. Leave the dish soap on the dog for two minutes. If your dog has a really bad infestation, it can be helpful to use a flea comb while they still have Dawn on them to begin to comb out some of the fleas that may be hiding deep into the fur.
  9. pet grooming system for bathing dogsRinse your dog off after the two minutes and make sure that you rinse all of the soap off as best that you can. If you see a large amount of fleas floating around in the water you may want to let the water out and start over fresh before rinsing your dog off.
  10. Once you are sure that there is no more dish soap on your dog’s fur, you can begin to dry the dog off. You can use a towel, dryer, or allow your dog to run outside if it is warm outside and they won’t roll around in the dirt (like my dogs seem to enjoy doing).
  11. Once the dog is dry, you can use the flea comb again and brush your dog for any fleas that may have missed the soap. I like to have a bowl with hot water and dish soap beside me to drop the fleas into.

How to Mix Dawn to Repel Fleas

Other items you could include to make a DIY flea spray with Dawn are vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon, or salt. These items help repel new fleas from coming back once you have washed your dog. You would wash your dog the same way as with the regular Dawn mixture but would have an added ingredient to help your dog stay rid of fleas.

Dawn Dish Soap and White Vinegar

  • 2 Tbs. Dawn Dish Soap
  • 2 Tbs. White Vinegar
  • ½ Cup of Water

For this method, simply combine ingredients into an empty spray bottle.

Dawn Dish Soap with Salt

In this method, you will mix the ingredients together and then massage them onto your dog. The salt is to get into the skin and help dehydrate the fleas.  The peppermint essential oil helps repel fleas, plus it can help your dog against skin irritation.

Dawn Dish Soap with Apple Cider Vinegar

  • 1 Tbs. Dawn Dish Soap
  • 1 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup of Water

Combine ingredients to make a homemade flea spray.  Add the ingredients to a spray bottle to apply directly on your pet and on other surfaces.

Dawn Dish Soap with Lemon Juice

  • 1 Tbs. Dawn Dish Soap
  • 1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbs. Water

Ingredients should be combined in a spray bottle for application.

Can You Use Dawn to Kill Fleas Around the House?

“Will any of those recipes work on fleas around the house?”

You can certainly use the DIY flea spray recipes on areas like bedding, but your best bet is a trap.

tea candles for homemade flea trapHow to Make a Flea Trap with Dawn Dish Soap

One way that you could use Dawn around your house to kill fleas is to make a flea trap.  If you have children or dogs around you will want to place these on cabinets and high areas that the kids and dogs cannot reach.

You can set these up at night to kill any fleas that may be left in your house.  Take a saucer, plate, or low rimmed bowl and fill with water.  Place a few drops of Dawn dish washing liquid.  Add a tea candle in the middle to lure fleas to their death.

A Word of Caution

I would recommend using extreme caution when it comes to using Dawn or any other brand of dish soap for a flea bath.

While it has certainly been proven that Dawn is effective against fleas, it’s a terrible idea to use it excessively due to the dryness and irritation it causes to your dog’s skin and fur when it strips the oils. If your dog already suffers from skin conditions, do not use Dawn for a flea bath.

If your dog does not have sensitive skin, dish soap will work in a pinch.  Sometimes it needs to be done if they have been bombarded by fleas or have gotten into something so smelly that they have left you with no choice.

Don’t forget to treat their beds! If you neglect to wash the dog’s bedding, you will end up with a reinfestation.

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About the author

Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer is the proud pet parent of three plucky pound puppy pals. She also loves alliteration. When she's not cheering on her beloved Vikings, you can usually find her at the dog park or on the back porch unsuccessfully playing fetch with her mutts. You can follow her on Pinterest