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

Whenever I’m doing the dirty dishes at the sink, my cat loves sitting close by and observing the dish soap bubbles.

On a few occasions, he felt adventurous enough to take a swipe at them and even chomped down on a few big bubbles.

He ran away when the bubbles popped in his face though.

Should you be concerned if your cat comes into contact with dish soap?

Dish soap can be harmful to cats if ingested or if they come into prolonged contact with the solution. Always ensure that any residue is rinsed off thoroughly and keep soapy water out of your cat’s reach.

Ever wondered what’s actually in that bottle of dish soap and why some of its ingredients can be harmful to your cat?

Let’s break it down

What Does Dish Soap Contain?

dish soap

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 works as a ‘penetrator enhancer’ which can cause your cat’s skin to absorb more of the chemical compounds found in dish soap.


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.

Should I Be Worried If My Cat Licked Dish Soap?

cat licking

If you notice that your feline friend has licked a bit of soapy water or dish soap, there’s usually no immediate cause for alarm.

But you should definitely keep a close eye on your cat.

A small amount may not be immediately toxic for most cats.

But if your cat is starting to show symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Soft stools
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy

These can be warning signs of poisoning or an adverse reaction to some ingredients in the soap.

Rush your cat to the vet and remember to bring the dish soap bottle along.

This will help the veterinarian quickly understand the potential risks and ingredients, allowing them to administer the most effective treatment.

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.

Most cat owners won’t be comfortable using dish soap to shower their cats even if their cats smell like rotten eggs.

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?

It’s All About The pH Level

ph level scale

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 and 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 I Use My Shampoo On My Cat?

shower your cat

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.

But it’s not the pH level but the ingredients and chemicals in human products that can harm cats.

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.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe For My 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 temporary 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 Dish Soap Safe For Cat Bowls?

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.

Another method that I personally prefer is to use white vinegar to sanitize my cat’s bowls.

After washing them, pour some vinegar into the bowls and let it sit for a few minutes.

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

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.

It can cause your cat to just stare at its bowls without eating or drinking due to the discomfort.

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


While some dish soaps may be safe for washing cats, it’s always best to use cat-friendly products.

Err on the side of caution to ensure their safety.

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

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