How to Clean a Dog Without a Bath

5 - 10 Minutes
1 Week


Your pooch stinks but you can't give him a bath!  There are several circumstances where giving your dog a regular bath may be impossible or impractical. After a dog has had surgery and has an incision you should avoid bathing, which can contaminate incisions and loosen stitches. A dog that is very pregnant or has just had puppies may be uncomfortable being bathed or cannot be moved from her puppies. Sometimes you come across a dog that just hates baths so much that avoiding them at all costs and finding an alternate way to clean the dog is more practical than traditional bathing.  

Fortunately, there are several alternatives for cleaning your dog without resorting to the traditional bath with water and shampoo. So whether your dog is just temporarily not batheable, or whether you are looking for a permanent non-bathing solution, good news! You have lots of options available.

Dog's Perspective

Most dogs don't mind baths, but they also don't mind being dirty so maybe they just are not too picky. Some dogs, however, hate baths and water and an alternative cleaning method may be a viable solution. There are also some circumstances where your dog may not be feeling much like having a bath. If your dog is sick or injured, very pregnant, or has just had surgery or puppies, your mucky mutt may not feel up to having a bath, or it may be uncomfortable or even dangerous for him. Cleaning your dog without a bath will keep your pampered pooch feeling clean, without compromising incisions or causing pain or discomfort from handling when your dog is not up to a usual bath.

The Dry Cleaning Method

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Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Brush regularly
Brush your dog thoroughly using a pin brush or slicker brush. Use a de-shedder tool to really remove excess hair if necessary and follow up with a thorough combing to remove tangles and dirt and debris.
Use dry shampoo
Use a commercially purchased dry shampoo. Spread on your dog's coat and then brush out.
Homemade dry shampoo
Use homemade dry shampoo made with cornstarch, baking soda or oatmeal. You can combine ingredients or use individually. Try a mixture of 1 cup cornstarch with ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup non-iodized salt. Mix well and brush dry shampoo through your dog's hair. Let it sit for about five minutes to absorb body oils and dirt, then brush and comb it out. You can also add rosemary, eucalyptus or lavender oil to dry shampoo to ward off parasites. Make sure you use essential oils sparingly and do not leave significant residue on your dog as essential plant oils can harm your dog if ingested or absorbed.
Pet wipes
Use commercially purchased pet wipes available at a pet supply store or use baby wipes. Baby wipes or pet wipes can be soaked in a plastic container or bag with natural flea or tick repellents. You can also make wipes by soaking cloths in diluted apple cider vinegar and using as wipes.
Keep it short
Give your dog a short clip all over to make him easier to keep clean and wipe. Brush or dry shampoo him as needed.
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The Alternative Cleaning Method

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Spray clean
Spray your dog with a homemade spray made with vinegar or a commercial waterless shampoo available at a pet supply store. Commercial options come in a variety of sprays and foams. The vinegar or cleaner solution can be applied to a specific area and then rubbed on and cleaned off with a damp cloth.
Spot clean
Get a bucket or bowl of warm soapy water and a container with clean water, as well as a few clean cloths. Dampen the cloth in the soapy water, spot clean soiled areas on your dog and then wipe off soap residue with the cloth soaked in the clean water.
Towel dry and allow your dog to air dry.
Oatmeal cleaner
Cook oatmeal until soupy then cool the mixture and smear over your dog or in specific soiled areas. Rub the mixture down to the skin. Let the oatmeal mixture dry, keep your dog from eating it. Then brush it out.
Keep ears and teeth clean
Clean teeth and ears thoroughly to reduce the presence of fungus and bacteria on your dog.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Be careful with essential plant oils. Certain oils can be toxic to dogs even in small amounts, and many are harmful if used in large amounts and absorbed through the skin, or if your dog licks them off. Consult with a veterinarian or holistic veterinarian on appropriate oils and amounts before using for cleaning.
  • If spot cleaning your dog, make sure you remove detergent residue with a damp cloth to prevent your dog from licking it off afterward.
  • Be sure to examine your dog when cleaning, to look for signs of parasitic, bacterial or fungal infections or other health conditions.


If your dog can not have a regular bath, leaving him dirty is still not an option. You will need to come up with an alternative way to keep him clean. If injuries, illness or severe water aversion make bathing impractical, there are a number of options to keep your canine companion clean. Spot cleaning, brushing, clipping and dry bathing can all be employed to remove dirt debris and clean soiled areas on your dog.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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