Some TikTokers Are Swapping Shampoo for Dish Soap — But Is That a Good Idea?

Here's what experts have to say about washing your hair with dish soap instead of shampoo.

Tiktok True or False Dish Soap Shampoo
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TikTok True or False is the answer to your burning questions about the health, beauty, and fitness fads taking over your social feeds. Each story breaks down a buzzy wellness trend with the help of experts and scientific research to uncover the truth and safety behind the viral "advice" you see online. You'll never have to wonder what's actually legit — or what to skip — again.

When it comes to unorthodox hacks for some of your pressing beauty-related issues, TikTok is a goldmine. The latest questionable act to hit many users' For You Page is a video of someone using Dawn dish soap to shampoo their natural hair. It's from creator @DannyDoesHair, and it has more than one million views. (

After deciding to wash their hair in the shower, the TikTok user realized their shampoo was packed away in boxes from a recent move, they explained in a follow-up video to the now-viral clip. So, they grabbed a bottle of Dawn Powerwash and sprayed a generous amount of the formula to their hair without diluting it with water. The simple reason they turned to dish soap was that it was all they had readily available. Naturally, people who viewed the original video had thoughts, and some worried that shampooing with dish soap could go as far as to cause hair to fall out, they wrote in the comments.

But the original poster made it clear that washing their hair with dish soap definitely didn't cause their hair to fall out. Other app users have also shared videos of them using dish soap for hair and recommending the practice. One hair stylist swears by using it as a clarifying treatment twice a month, while another user recommends using dish soap for tackling smelly, oily, or dandruff-ridden hair. Another TikToker even tried it after mistaking hair oil for shampoo, to which the beauty hack provided some help but ultimately left the excess oil problem unresolved. (

The Dawn brand of dish soap has long boasted in advertisements that its soap is gentle enough to clean ducks that have fallen victim to oil spills, but how safe is it to wash your hair with dish soap, really? Experts agree that while it's technically safe, dish soap should be used sparingly and in small amounts as a shampoo alternative if you are in a pinch or dealing with major buildup. Ahead, learn more about if and how you can use dish soap as shampoo, according to experts.

The difference between dish soap and shampoo

Generally, dish soap and traditional shampoos actually contain many of the same ingredients. They typically include phenoxyethanol (a common preservative), sodium laureth sulfate (a foaming, cleansing agent), tetrasodium glutamate diacetate (a plant-based preservative), and alcohol, according to cosmetic chemist Javon Ford, who shared his thoughts on the trend in a TikTok video of his own.

The main difference between the two cleansers is their pH levels, he says. ICYDK, the pH scale measures levels of acidity in all liquids. Dawn Powerwash, which @DannyDoesHair uses in their popular TikTok video, has a pH level of 11, while the Original Dawn Liquid Dish Soap has a pH level of nine to 9.2, according to their respective Safety Data Sheets. On the other hand, the average shampoo has a pH level of three to nine. Because of their high pH levels, both types of Dawn dish soaps (and similar formulas from other brands) can cause the hair cuticle to lift and open, which you don't want, explains Ford in the clip. It's the main reason why chemicals, such as hair bleach and hair dye, cause damage to the hair shaft, he adds.

Unlike shampoo, dish soap also lacks conditioning agents that keep hair from getting dry and brittle, which ultimately results in damage in the form of breakage, says stylist and beauty consultant Ghanima Abdullah of The Right Hairstyles. While sulfates in both shampoo and dish detergent are responsible for breaking up buildup, dirt, and oil and are generally safe at appropriate concentration levels, there isn't anything in dish soap to combat the stripping of natural hair oils, which can be particularly concerning for those with extremely damaged, color-treated, and curly or coily hair, she adds. (

Does using dish soap as shampoo work?

The short answer is yes — dish soap does work as a shampoo, but you shouldn't make cleaning your hair with it a habit, according to Abdullah. As mentioned above, dish soaps essentially act as clarifying treatments for the scalp and hair in the presence of buildup that's too stubborn for standard shampoo. However, dish soap may be a bit too harsh to use as often as you would regularly shampoohair, says Abdullah.

Generally speaking, you should only use dish soap as a shampoo if you have extreme buildup on the scalp or strands that regular shampoo can't get rid of (aka when even a double shampoo leaves your hair oily or smelly). Additionally, if you have locs, dish soap may help get a deeper cleanse than a regular shampoo, says Abdullah. Before trying dish soap as shampoo, you'll want to patch test an area to determine if it will cause any possible irritation to your hair or scalp, she recommends. Unlike what the viral TikTok video displays, you should always dilute dish soap when using it as shampoo. Try about one teaspoon of soap to one quart of water, rather than a typical glob of shampoo, advises Abdullah.

Is using dish soap as a shampoo replacement safe?

While it may technically be safe to use dish soap as a shampoo replacement when diluted and done sparingly, experts generally advise against it unless it's absolutely necessary.

"[Dish detergent] is formulated to simply cleanse by using the harshest sulfates and preservatives which will strip your hair and scalp of moisture and throw off their pH balances, causing irritation and dry-looking hair over time," says trichologist and hair health expert Shab Reslan. Instead of using dish soap, you can thoroughly cleanse the scalp with an exfoliating serum containing salicylic acid, which can regulate sebum production and combat flakes, next-day oiliness, and itchiness, she says.

"It can cause severe dryness, brittleness, and breakage," agrees Abdullah. "It's really not meant for the hair, so it's going to strip your hair down to the very core." Dish soap also contains sulfates, "which most people nowadays are trying to avoid, because shampoos with sulfates can erode the outer cuticle layer of the hair with repeated use," she adds. However, if you do use it as a shampoo replacement, you should follow this type of wash with a moisturizing deep-conditioning treatment and a leave-in treatment to ensure you restore moisture and balance the pH of your hair, says Abdullah.

You can use replace your shampoo with dish soap: true or false?

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While washing your hair with a small amount of diluted dish soap can suffice if you're in a pinch or are suffering from buildup that regular shampoo can't tackle, the safest bet is to limit your use, or better yet, skip it altogether. As with any trendy hack that you may see across your timeline, it's always best to consult with a professional before changing up your routine or addressing a more serious issue.

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