Is Dish Soap Safe For Cats? (Dishing Out The Facts)

Cats are generally clean creatures that can spend hours each day grooming themselves. They are also less likely to get themselves dirty by playing in the mud or water like dogs.

However, there are times when our feline friends can get themselves rather dirty and need a good wash. Or it might have soiled itself and that requires something stronger to remove.

Under such circumstances, is it safe to use dish soap to shower or bathe your cat instead of regular cat shampoo?

Read this before using dish soap on your cat.

Should You Use Dish Soap On Your Cat?

Non-toxic dish soap is ok to use for cleaning off stains like grease, oil and contaminants from small areas of your cat’s skin or fur. It should not be used as a substitute for regular cat shampoo when it comes to showering or bathing your cat.

I would think that most cat owners won’ be using dish soap to shower their kitties. But what if there comes a time when you are totally out of pet shampoo?

Can you just use dish soap for just that one time?

What Does Dish Soap Contain?

Dish soaps are made differently from your shampoo and body wash as their primary role is to remove oil, food stains and grease from plates and cooking utensils.

It isn’t very common for humans to be covered in such contaminants on a daily basis.

Therefore, the ingredients used in dish soap have to be stronger and harsher than normal soap for it to effectively do its job.

Here are some of the common ingredients that are found in most dish soaps.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

This chemical is found in many cleaning agents including toothpaste.

The role of sodium laureth sulfate is to create a foamy solution that helps to remove dirt and grime from the surface.

It can also be absorbed by the skin which can cause irritation for any human or animal with sensitive skin.

Disodium EDTA

This cleaning agent helps dish soap to be more effective by allowing better penetration of other cleaning chemicals in the dish soap. It can also be absorbed by the skin.


Phosphates are added to dish soaps as a cleaning agent to remove grease and stains. There’s a possibility of this ingredient being absorbed via your cat’s skin which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in your cat.


Most dish soaps come in fragrances that are citrusy in nature like lemon, lime and orange.

This is to give a clean and refreshing smell after washing. The thing is cats are very sensitive to anything citrus-based.

Such scents can irritate their sensitive noses and skin.

There are more ingredients and cleaning agents that I’ve yet to mention but from these few alone, it is obvious to see that using dish soap on your cat regularly isn’t the best option for them.

Why Regular Use Of Dish Soap Is Bad For Your Cat?

As mentioned earlier, the use of dish soap on your cat to remove small stubborn stains is fine if the situation calls for it or for emergencies.

But it should not be used when you want to give your cat a proper bath in place of pet shampoos.

It’s All About The pH Level

Do you know that our skin is the biggest organ in our body?

The same goes for our cats. Our skin acts as a protective barrier and needs to be at a certain pH level to eliminate bacteria and infections.

The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14. With 1 being very acidic, 7 being neutral and 14 being very alkaline.

The pH level of natural and healthy human skin is about 5.5-5.7 on average.

Cats on the other hand have a pH level of about 7.0-9.0, depending on the breed.

In order for dish soap to be effective in removing grease and stains, it has to be very alkaline in nature. We are talking about a pH level of 10-11.

Using a cleaning solution with a pH level that is so much different from your pet’s skin can cause a lot of irritation and skin problems.

Gets Rid Of Your Cat’s Natural Skin Oils

A certain amount of sebum or skin oil is needed to keep your cat’s skin and fur well-nourished and protected.

The same goes for humans with the hairs on our bodies and heads.

With dish soap being so alkaline, it will strip off too much of your cat’s natural oils thus resulting in issues like:

  • drying out your cat’s skin and fur
  • making your cat more prone to infections allergens

Might Leave A Residue

Regardless of how well you wash off the dish soap after using it on your cat, there will be some trace residual amounts left on your cat’s fur.

Cats will normally groom and lick the spot that you just washed. It should not be a problem if it is just a small spot.

But if you used dish soap to shower your entire cat’s body, that is a lot of residual stuff that your cat will be licking up and ingesting after you’re done.

Not good for your cat at all.

Can Dish Soap Get Rid Of Cat Fleas?

There are a couple of flea medications and collars in the market that are commonly used for cats. However, these products can be very toxic and harsh on cats and even more so on kittens due to the chemicals used.

This is because fleas are hard to eradicate and require harsh chemicals to do the job well.

Dish soaps can be a better alternative to these products as it is safer and can still get rid of fleas and their eggs on your cat.

Dawn dishwashing detergent has been a household brand when it comes to removing fleas from pets and animals.

Dawn dish soap is safe to use and can be an effective temporal solution in removing fleas or parasites from your cat.

It largely depends on how your cat happened to get fleas on itself.

If it is a one-time situation where your cat got infected by fleas when it went out in your garden, then using dawn dish soap to help remove the fleas can be good.

But if there’s a flea infestation in your home and it has been affecting your cat or cats for a while, using dawn dish soap as a permanent solution isn’t safe.

It is after all still a dishwashing detergent.

You will need to get rid of all the fleas at home and bring your cat to the vet for a check. The vet might have to prescribe a proper anti-flea shampoo to use.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas Using Dawn Dish Soap?

What you need is a bucket of warm water with a small amount of dish soap mixed into it. Get yourself a flea comb that can remove fleas properly from your cat’s fur.

Dip the flea comb in the soap solution and then gently brush it along your cat’s fur. After each brush, make sure to dip the flea comb into the mix before combing your cat.

After you are done, use a wet towel to thoroughly remove the dead fleas and soap solution from your cat’s body.

You might need to do this process a few times to remove the entire flea population on your cat.

Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash A Kitten?

Kittens have very sensitive skin and can be very vulnerable to skin irritation.

Furthermore, their immune system isn’t as robust as an adult cat which can make them susceptible to infections and illness.

Using something as harsh as dish soap to wash a kitten can be bad for their skin and health. If necessary, use a gentler wash like those meant for babies.

There are also pet shampoos that are also formulated for kittens to help protect their sensitive skin.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe For Cat Bowls?

Dawn dish soap has been known to be non-toxic to cats and can be used to wash their food and water bowls.

Just make sure that you rinse off any soapy remains in the bowls. It is also better to use bowls made out of stainless steel.

Materials like plastic and ceramic can have small scratches in them that can trap more soapy residuals.

A good way to sanitize your cat food and water bowls is to use white vinegar.

After washing them, pour a bit of vinegar in them and let it sit for a few minutes.

Rinse off the vinegar properly before using it for your cat.

Useful Tip: When choosing a food or water bowl for your cat, make sure it is wide enough for your cat’s whiskers. Bowls that are too narrow can cause whisker fatigue when your cat’s whiskers keep rubbing against the edges of the bowl.

What Kind Of Soap Is Safe For Cats?

There have been a couple of tests carried out on the pH levels of human shampoos and soaps vs pet shampoos.

Pet shampoos in general have a pH level of about 6.0-6.5, making them more acidic in nature.

This puts it on par with many brands that we humans use as well when we shower.

Given that human products have about the same pH levels as pet shampoos, it is no longer the pH level in these products that can be harmful to cats but the ingredients and chemicals that are found in them.

Human bath products generally contain more powerful and harsher ingredients and cleaning agents to effectively clean human skin.

This is because we have a thicker skin layer as compared to animals like cats and dogs which have a thicker layer of fur that acts as a protective layer.

Therefore ingredients in human products can be harmless to us but can irritate our cat’s sensitive skin.

My Cat Licked Dish Soap

If your cat has licked off some soapy water on its fur while you are cleaning it, that should not cause much of an issue.

But do look out for symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and tummy upsets which can signal some form of poisoning.

In the event that your cat has licked concentrated dish soap, please bring it to the vet immediately along with that dish soap bottle.

There’s no telling how the ingredients in the dish soap can affect your cat.


Even though it can be relatively ‘safe’ to use certain types and brands of dish soap to clean and wash your cat, it is always better to err on the side of caution and use a product that is cat friendly.

You can easily get cleaning solutions and bath products that are meant for cats and can be used for any circumstance.