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Home > Birds > Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Birds? Effectiveness & FAQ

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Birds? Effectiveness & FAQ

blue tit taking a bath

Birds preen themselves and keep their feathers in tip-top condition without any human assistance as a rule, but, in severe cases, they may need a hand. If Polly isn’t looking so pretty due to getting something funky in her feathers, you may be wondering if it’s true that it’s safe to use Dawn dish soap to bathe your bird. In short, it’s true, but Dawn dish soap shouldn’t be used too often.


Can I Wash My Bird with Dawn Dish Soap?

First of all, you should only use Dawn dish soap if absolutely necessary, for example, if your bird has somehow gotten covered in oil or something a plain water bath can’t fix. Birds clean themselves quite effectively, but sometimes, accidents happen, and they simply can’t bathe themselves.

Dawn dish soap mixed with water is considered gentle enough not to cause irritation if you bathe your bird correctly. This means rinsing it thoroughly from your bird’s feathers and skin after use to make sure no soap remnants remain. It may take a while to complete the process, depending on the substance your bird is covered in.

If it’s something that washes off more easily, you could try putting some plain water in a bowl or the sink and let your bird clean itself. If need be, you can help them out by scooping the water up over their feathers and gently rubbing them.

The best thing to do, if you find yourself in a situation where your bird needs to be bathed by you, is to get on the phone with a vet. They’ll be able to best advise you on how to clean your bird up and which products would be appropriate for doing so.

Dawn Free & Clear Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap

Do Rescue Organizations Really Use Dawn Dish Soap on Wildlife?

Yes, they do. Procter and Gamble—the company that produces Dawn dish soap—claims to have donated more than 50,000 bottles to rescue centers, including International Bird Rescue and The Marine Mammal Center. It is frequently used to bathe animals that have fallen victim to oil spills, and many rescue centers have bottles of Dawn dish soap permanently on standby.

According to veterinarian Heather Nevill, Dawn dish soap effectively removes grease, dirt, and grime without causing harm to the bird’s skin. It’s not an easy process, though. Rescue workers often need to use a fair amount of Dawn dish soap to get rid of sticky substances like crude oil, which they manage by scrubbing the bird over the course of approximately one hour. This depends on the size of the bird, but it certainly doesn’t sound like much fun.

sparrow bird bathing
Image By: 1010889, Pixabay

Dawn Dish Soap to Clean Birds: Controversy

The practice of using Dawn dish soap to clean up victims of oil spills is somewhat controversial. Ecologists argue that, as Dawn dish soap is petroleum-based, the more it’s used, the higher the demand for the oil to make it becomes. For that reason, the use of Dawn to help wildlife affected by oil spills has certainly raised a few eyebrows over the years.



To summarize, Dawn dish soap is largely considered safe for washing birds. That said, it should only be used in emergencies—not every time you bathe your bird.

It’s pretty uncommon for humans to have to bathe their birds at all as, like many other animals, they’re so adept at cleaning themselves. A bowl of plain water should be sufficient for helping your birds to bathe themselves in most cases.

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Featured Image Credit: Oldiefan, Pixabay

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