8 Steps to Kill Fleas with Dawn Dish Soap and Vinegar

By Kevin Myers | 2020 Update

Flea control is crucial for both you and your pet. These itchy fleas can nest on your pets fur, but luckily there are several ways to kill them.

Have you watched ads where Dawn dish soap is used to clean wild birds impacted by oil spills?

You must be wondering:

If Dawn dish soap (Buy Dawn Dish Soap on Amazon) is effective and gentle for wildlife, can it also kill fleas on your dog or cat? While Dawn dish soap can remove fleas, it’s not the most efficient method as it won’t prevent flea infestations.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to use simple ingredients at home to create a miracle flea-killer!

Can Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

Dawn’s ability to remove grime, oil and grease from wild birds can be attributed to a simple chemical reaction.

When soapy water is mixed with oil or grease, it forms tiny micelles (clusters of soap molecules) that trap the dirt. To kill fleas, an entirely different process occurs.

Exoskeletons allow fleas to float in water. Dawn (and any other soap like it) creates surface tension that weakens the exoskeleton and makes fleas sink. In other words, the soap drowns the adult fleas.

Can Dawn Dish Soap Control Flea Infestations?

Dawn was not made to be a flea repellent, let alone one control fleas for extended periods. It can kill adult fleas, but veterinarians suggest it doesn’t repel or prevent infestations.  Therefore, consider it as more of a temporary fix than a permanent solution.

Pets only have a small percentage of fleas that are easy to remove. Although, once you kill these itchy pests, other fleas from the environment will quickly restart the infestation cycle.

Don’t forget:

Flea populations can spread fast and require frequent removal. An adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day and majority of these hatching fleas will be female.

Dawn Soap kills Fleas, What about the Offspring?

While Dawn dish soap and vinegar primarily kill adult fleas, there are other flea life stages to consider. Adult fleas lay eggs in the environment. Over time, these eggs hatch, and a centipede-like larval form emerges—finally, the pupa (or cocoon) forms itself.

The problem with killing adult fleas is that you’re not eradicating all the other stages. As a result, every time you bathe your cat or dog with soap and vinegar, the flea population continues to grow. In other words, you can’t reduce the flea population just by using Dawn dish soap.  

Can Dawn Soap Irritate a Pet’s Skin?

Veterinarians don’t recommend using Dawn dish soap for fleas if your pet suffers from skin-related diseases. For instance, if the pet has itchiness from flea infestations on the skin, Dawn soap may worsen it. Therefore, be aware of what you’re putting on the skin that’s irritated.

Dawn isn’t the best soap product for pets with bacterial skin infections. Moreover, it’s not labeled for feline or canine use. Consider choosing a product designed specifically for animals.

Should You Ever Use Dawn Dish Soap on Pets?

Prefer to use Dawn soap and vinegar in rare situations. For example, use this home-remedy when you have to remove fleas from a severely infested pet quickly. It will bring immediate relief to your kitten or puppy. These young pets can’t use flea preventatives as recommended by vets.

Consider using a small amount and diluting it with Luke-warm water if you use it on young puppies and kittens. Afterward, use a flea comb to remove the remaining dead fleas.

Here’s the thing:

Pet owners might want to use Dawn soap if there is severe flea-infestation on their adult pet. They can use soap and vinegar to remove the fleas directly from hair coat and skin. However, use this treatment only when your pet gains exposure to fleas from boarding facilities and pet daycare. You should keep your kitten or puppy on year-round tick and flea prevention. That way, they won’t get infested in the first place.

Be prepared for this scenario by stocking up on over-the-counter medicine like Capstar. It can rapidly kill adult fleas on your pet. Prescription topical and oral preventatives kill adult fleas and prevent infestations effectively and efficiently. However, Capstar can only be useful for 24 hours for fleas in cases of severe infestation.

Consult your veterinarian to recommend a safe and effective flea control treatment based on your pet’s health and lifestyle.

Using Dawn Dish Soap & Vinegar for Fleas – Dogs

Can you bathe a dog with dish soap? Yes, dogs can be soaked and washed in dawn dish soap and vinegar water until all the fleas are removed and dead.

Step 1. Choose a Suitable Dawn Dish Soap

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You can use dawn soaps and vinegar for fleas on puppies. Although different dish soap brands can work in removing fleas, dawn dish soap comes recommended since it has ample surfactants compared to other dish soaps. Furthermore, our experts suggest dawn soap causes minimal irritation after proper rising.  

Step 2 – Use Luke-warm Bathing Water

Your puppy will enjoy the bath if you give them a warm water treatment. Above all, you need your dog to be comfortable during the flea-removal process, and thus warm water is suitable. After adding warm water in a tub, clean your pet’s coat thoroughly to remove dirt and debris. Using a clear container, ensure to bathe the pet in the water but avoid affecting their eyes and nose.

Additionally, you can pout ½ cup vinegar in the Dawn soap solution. The smell will wear off, but you can also add scented water in the tub to cover it. Several essential oils can prevent fleas without repelling your family. Be cautious and test before using them as pets react differently to oils.

Step 3. Lather the Dawn Dish Soap

Rub the dish soap on the pet’s coat to lather and clean any dirt. You can also use a hair comb to brush or scrub the dish soap on the dog’s fur.

However, the amount of soap you apply relies on the intensity of flea infestation.

Step 4. Rinse the Soap

After 5 to 10 minutes of brushing and combing your pet’s coat, you will observe some noticeably dead pests. Then, you can rinse the soap from the dog’s fur. This will also remove the fleas that are dead. Make sure to rinse repeatedly to clean all the fleas from the dog’s skin.

Step 5. Continue to Scrub

You must scrub the dog’s coat until there are no more fleas in the bathtub water. After that, check critical areas such as the head, and under the belly to avoid leaving any fleas.

Using Dawn Dish Soap for Fleas – Cats

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For the felines, you can use dawn dish soap and vinegar to remove fleas.

Step 1 – Mix Dawn Soap with Warm Water

Since cats and their kittens despise water and bathing in general, you can use a fool-proof method to remove the fleas. Therefore, pour an appropriate amount of dawn dish soap and vinegar in a tub and stir. However, use one container of the detergent for each pet to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Step 2 – Flea Comb Using the Detergent Water

You need to buy flea combs to curb flea infestations on your pet – dog or cat. Next, you’ll dip a suitable flea comb in dish-soap-vinegar water before combing the cat.

This process effectively removes fleas from the cats’ coat and deposits them in the tub. The itchy pests will thus sink in the detergent-laced water and drown.

Step 3 – Brush your Cat

Further, the dawn soap water will remove the flea’s waxy layer, causing the bugs to suffocate to death.

Brush your cat with the soap water until you can see no more fleas on your pet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

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1: Can I use Dawn detergent for killing fleas on my carpet?

Yes, it is possible. But we recommend using borax powder or food-grade DE (diatomaceous earth) as it works better than Dawn.

2: What type of Dawn Soap is best for fleas?

Buy the cheapest. Any Dawn detergent will work perfectly fine; therefore, grab the inexpensive option and begin with the flea extermination process.

Protip: Don’t overthink it. 

3: Can I use dawn soap for bugs in the yard? –

Yes. But you need to know where the fleas are hiding. By applying it everywhere, you’ll turn your yard into a bubbly mess. Moreover, you will kill several useful bugs at the same time, and that’s quite tragic! We recommend using nematodes instead, and scattering an appropriate amount of cedar wood chips around your garden.

4: Can dawn detergent be used as a flea trap?

Yes. Pour a couple of drops in a low rimmed bowl of clean water (or a small saucer) and place a tea light in the middle to attract fleas. The Dawn detergent lowers the surface tension of the water, leading to the fleas’ demise. If you leave a few of these ‘do-it-yourself’ flea traps in every room at night, and you will catch all the fleas! Assuming you have a problem with bugs in your home.  

5: Will any Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

Yes, any detergent will kill fleas. They lower the surface tension by acting as a surfactant and thus damage the flea’s exoskeleton. A foul-proof method to drown the bugs in the water!

However, allow roughly 5-10 minutes after applying the dish soap and then rinse the pet.

6: Can I use the flea-treatment two days in a row?


Frequent use of dawn dish soap and vinegar will dry your pet’s fur and skin – leading to skin-related diseases. Dogs can also catch bacterial skin infections. Therefore, avoid bathing your pet with dawn detergent within 24 hours after using any flea treatment.

7: Is Dawn detergent safe for dogs?

Yes, dawn detergent has a pH 7 (neutral), making it safe to use on your pet’s skin. It is also safe for human skin. However, don’t use dawn dish soap frequently as it’ll damage the pet’s fur.