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Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Hair? Yes, but You Probably Shouldn’t

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You might have heard about using dish soap to wash your hair on the internet. Or maybe you’re in a situation where you’re out of normal hair shampoo and your hair is a greasy mess. You’re wondering, can you use dish soap to wash your hair? While you can wash your hair with dish soap, it’s not recommended for long term use as it strips your hair of natural oils.

People know that dish soap fights grease, so it should work on banishing greasy hair too, right? Not necessarily.

Dish soap is formulated to effectively remove baked on grease from your dinner dishes and pots and pans. In a nutshell, dish soap is so effective at removing grease, you’re left with dry hair if it’s used as a shampoo replacement. When it comes to healthy hair, a reasonable level of oil is not a bad thing.

And don’t even think about getting dish soap in your eyes! 

While I’m not a scientist, nor a hair expert, I do have a lot of long, thick, dry, hair. And I’m always interested in DIY or alternative solutions to everyday household items. I was curious about using dish soap as a shampoo and did some investigating. We’ll go over the differences between dish soap and regular shampoo, the pH levels of each, and what you need to know if you decide to use dish soap in your hair.

Why blue Dawn dish soap?

Apparently influencers are adamant about using a specific type of dish soap—blue Dawn dishwashing liquid to be exact. This is the brand’s original dishwashing liquid soap. There are many other types of Dawn dish soap in various colors and fragrances, but blue Dawn dish soap is the OG and free of other unnecessary ingredients.

Although if we’re honest, many store-bought shampoos have added fragrances and dyes too. Do you have to use blue Dawn dish soap? No. Over at Bustle, a writer used Green Works Natural Dishwashing Liquid to wash away several days of grease buildup in her hair.

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Credit: BDS / Yay Images

What about the pH level in shampoo vs. dish soap?

If you’re really wondering, can you use dish soap to wash your hair, first consider the pH level. When it comes to haircare, the pH level in shampoo can mean the difference between healthy, luscious locks, or dried and frizzy hair.

It’s also important to note that the pH of a hair shaft is different from the pH of your scalp. According to an article from PubMed Central (PMC), the pH of a hair shaft is 3.67, while the scalp’s pH is 5.5. 

What does this mean? 

If you recall, a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything below pH 7 is considered acidic (low pH), while anything above 7 is alkaline, or basic (high pH). So our hair and scalp are naturally slightly acidic.

The PubMed article (“The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?”) studies 123 different shampoos and their corresponding pH levels. The researchers conclude that:  

“Alkaline pH may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and, therefore, increase friction between the fibers. This may lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage. It is a reality and not a myth that lower pH of shampoos may cause less frizzing for generating less negative static electricity on the fiber surface.”

“The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?”, PubMed central

What does this mean?

Shampoos with lower pH (slightly acidic) cause less frizzing.

What is pH balance in shampoos?

Shampoos all have varying levels of pH with some having lower pH (acidic) and some with higher pH (alkaline).

While everyone has different hair needs, the majority of people would benefit from a pH-balanced shampoo (leaning slightly to the acidic side). 

A pH-balanced shampoo helps with overall hair and scalp care:

  • Closes hair cuticles: The cuticle is the outer layer of hair which opens and closes depending on the products used. Alkaline products (including Dawn dish soap) and some shampoos) cause cuticles to open. A good shampoo keeps hair cuticles closed which is how nature intended.
  • Protects color: If you have color-treated hair, it’s especially important to have a pH-balanced shampoo to preserve hair color for as long as possible.
  • Protects hair from damage: A pH-balanced hair shampoo protects hair from over-dryness by moisturizing the hair from the inside (cortex) to prevent split ends, limp or lackluster hair.
  • Preserves the right amount of oil: Oil when it comes to haircare gets a bad rap, but a healthy amount of oil is necessary on both scalp and hair to keep it healthy and strong. Using alkaline products such as dish soap in your hair actually strips away healthy oils. With long term use of alkaline shampoo, your scalp produces more oil to compensate for the dryness which leads to quicker oil and dirt buildup.

Similar to other liquid dishwashing soaps, blue liquid Dawn dish soap has a pH level ranging from
9.0 – 9.2 (which falls squarely in the alkaline category).

Here are a few popular shampoos with their corresponding pH levels courtesy of the database on Salon Worthy Hair. Interested in looking up the pH level of your shampoo? Check out the database here.

ProductpH TypepH Level
AG BALANCE Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Low pH ShampooLow4 – 5
Pantene Pro-V Curl Perfection Moisturizing ShampooBalanced5.3 – 6.7
Aussie Kids G’day Grape 3N1 ShampooBalanced5.3 – 6.7
Herbal Essences Hello HydrationBalanced5.3 – 6.7
Balea Med Neutral Skin ShampooNeutral5.5 – 7
Biosilk Clarifying ShampooNeutral6.5 – 7.5
Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo Low pH FormulaLow4
Castile Soap Shampoo (liquid, Undiluted, Such As Dr. Bronners)High8.9 – 10
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Original ScentHigh9.0 – 9.2
Source: Salon Worthy Hair

What you need to know if you decide to use dish soap to wash your hair

While dish soap is not an ideal shampoo-substitute for regular use, using it in emergency situations won’t kill you. Just make sure to avoid getting it in your eyes.

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Keep that Dawn away from your eyes!
Credit: RusticWise.com

However, since we’ve already discussed how dish soap can strip away your hair and scalp’s natural oils, some people with sensitive skin should not use dish soap to wash hair. Do not use dish soap on hair if you:

  • Have dry scalp, or sensitive skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis.
  • Have color-treated hair  (unless your end-goal is to remove some color)
  • Have dry hair

Tip: If you’re planning on using Dawn dish soap for your hair, do so at your own risk. Use a small amount, avoid getting in your eyes, and rinse thoroughly. Follow up with a good conditioner to restore moisture.

The takeaway: can you use dish soap to wash your hair?

Yes, you can use dish soap to wash your hair in certain situations, but don’t make a habit of it. Dish soaps are alkaline in nature and strip all oils from your hair and scalp. Avoid getting in your eyes. Don’t use on color-treated hair. Follow up with a good conditioner.

And, why not use regular shampoo?

If you were expecting me to dish soap in my hair and write about it, sorry to disappoint. My hair and scalp are dry enough as is. 

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  1. Mina, Courtney (14 July 2015). “Can You Wash Your Hair With Dish Soap?“, Bustle. Accessed November 2020.
  2. Dias M, Almeida A, Cecato P, Adriano A, Pichler J (Jul-Sep 2014). The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality? 6(3): 95–99. DOI: 10.4103/0974-7753.139078. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158629/
  3. Hill, Stephanie Crumley. “Why Do You Need pH-Balanced Shampoo?” LeafTV. Accessed November 2020.
  4. P & G Safety Data Sheet, Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Original Scent,  http://sds.chemtel.net/webclients/cheneybrothers/540011SDS.pdf. Accessed November 2020.
  5. Smith, Camelia, (17 August 2020). “Shampoo pH Levels Database (257+ products list with popular brands)“. Salon Worthy Hair. 

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