Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe For Birds?

Well, that depends on how and how much soap you are gonna apply.

Say, if you are looking at Dawn Dish Soap to cleanse a Birdcage or Accessories, then you may have my Blessing.

But if you are planning to dip a bird in a Warm Bubbly Bath of Soap, then – Absolutely Not. 

Now, you may be wondering:

Is Dawn Toxic To Animals?

Though it normally isn’t, it does depend on the context. 

You see, the safety of any chemical for animals is influenced by their skin type, habitats, regular exposure levels to that substance as well as their metabolic activities.

Now, Dawn Dishwash is considered appropriate for dishwashing without wearing gloves by FDA standards, even at concentrated 3X grease cleansing power. 

This means that Dawn is safe for Human Skin.

Dawn Dishwash is frequently recommended for washing baby bottles, suggesting that accidental ingestion of Dawn soapy residues has no hazardous consequences. 

Obviously, Dawn claims it leaves no residues but any Biologist will tell you otherwise.


It seems that Dawn should be safe and non-toxic for most animals’ skins.

But then, the absence of any evidence against a product seems too good to be true. 

While Dawn’s recipe is secret, its ingredients are known.

The best way to determine if Dawn is harmful to animals is by studying its individual ingredients and checking if any of them is toxic.

However, this method is too crude as we don’t know how these ingredients may be mingling.

But, let’s try this anyway.

Dawn Soap Ingredient Typical Purpose in Soap Remarks/Issues
Sodium Chloride

(Common Table Salt)

Stabilizes soap, reduces its pH and prevents drying out the skin. Excessive sodium is never recommended for animals.
Sodium Laureth 3- Sulfate Surfactant. Safe food additive.

May cause irritation or extra drying.

Phenoxyethanol Solvent, Antiseptic, Preservative, and Insect repellent. Safe at 1% concentration. Not recommended for pregnant women.
Methylisothiazolinone Prevents unwanted microbial growth. May cause irritation or acute aquatic toxicity.


Antibacterial. FDA limits its use after studies hinting at possible hormonal changes.
Lauramine Oxide Zwitterionic Surfactant, Emulsifier, Viscosity Enhancer, Conditioner, Antistatic Agent Considered safe at 3.7% residues.
Sodium Hydroxide Saponify oils to form lather and foam. Also, gives the soap uniform properties. Corrosive agent.
Propylene Glycol Enhances soap penetration.
PEI-14 PEG-10/PPG-7 Copolymer Stability and Irritation reduction.
Water Dissolves Soap Ingredients.

(Few Dawn products)

Artificial Fragrance is never recommended for animals.

e.g. Yellow 5 or Tartrazine Lemon Yellow Azo Dye.

Despite being mostly harmless, never recommended.
So, What do all these Ingredients tell us?

Well, these show that Dawn Dishwash has nothing particularly toxic for animals.

Now, I am gonna say something obnoxious.

Well, Dawn Dishwash is considered the safest Soap for any animal’s skin. 

For the last time, they are not paying me to say that! (Just kidding!) 

It’s more like how we don’t know the precise functioning of Aspirin.

However, we are still using it as an OTC drug because it has shown us no severe side effects over centuries.


Dawn Soap is safe as it has never disappointed us whenever an animal was subjected to it.

Now, if you are asking:

What Soap Is Safe For Birds?

Technically, any soap gentle enough for human skin should be alright for birds.

But, Dawn Dish Soap without artificial fragrances is considered the safest.

It’s like you are not supposed to apply any soap to your bird.

But if it ever comes to that, then, Dawn Dish Soap is your go-to-Soap.

Here’s the thing

It wasn’t always like this. 

Traditionally, several soaps were used for animals.

But, Dawn had its break in the 1980s when it became a savior for Marine life including aquatic birds, affected by Petroleum spills. 

The grease on such animals tends to interfere with their waterproofing and thermoregulation.

Some died while preening as they end up ingesting toxic oils. 

It is essential to cleanse such petroleum-dipped animals as fast as possible.

The problem is so severe that many Rescue organizations were built solely to help such animals including International Bird Rescue (IBR) and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research (TSBRR). 

The rehabilitation process typically involves the following order:

  1. First, the animal is rubbed with cooking oil to loosen the petroleum grease.
  2. The animals are then sprayed with dish liquid, typically Dawn Dishwash. Then, wildlife workers carefully rub fur or feathers with their fingertips, turning the bird frothy.
  3. Then, the animal is rinsed in water to remove all the oils and foam.
  4. After this, the animal is allowed to dry and stay in the facility until it naturally preens itself to replenish its body oils.

Eventually, the survivors are released back to their habitats. 

Since Dawn Dishwash has been used in over 200 such incidents including the British Petroleum (BP) spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th, 2010, that is still considered the biggest Petroleum Industrial Disaster and Spill to date.

The picture of oil-soaked victims being bathed in Dawn Soap captured the entire World’s Attention.

However, Dawn cleverly oriented its advertising campaigns to show how it single-handedly saved so many Cute Ducks and Helpless Pelicans.

The idea was so well received that Dawn became the Exclusive Ruler of all Bird Rescue Expeditions that even most of its competitors stopped trying to unseat it.

Still, competitors like BioSolve who helped save Turtles and Birds from the crude oil spill in Puerto Rico have shown significant results. 

“So, Is It Just Dawn’s Monopoly?”

Well, not really.

You see, the workers at IBR claim that they have learned through hit-and-trial that Dawn is the most effective soap for degreasing animals with 50-80% survival, the highest rates for any soap. 

Meanwhile, TSBRR researchers have done extensive studies on bird feathers with more than 200 soapy solutions.

In one such Blind Study, Dr. Erica Miller & her peers tested at least 86 products and unanimously agreed on Dawn’s superiority. 

Trouble starts when one asks:

Why Is Dawn Dishwash Soap Superior For Birds? 

Well, Dawn was designed with several surfactants to not damage human hands.

It’s recipe is built to optimize that one feature, making it safe for birds.

But, Dawn seems to work best for Grease, as if they are a match made in Heavens. And yet, a little more digging and we come to realize they are indeed made for each other.


“Like Dissolves Like.”

You see, Dawn contains petroleum substances and so, it will dissolve components similar to itself.

Thereby, making it the most effective soap against petroleum spills.

Ironically, we must choose petroleum to remove petroleum, creating even more environmental disruption.

Green soapy solutions like Dishmate are effective but these may require more quantity than Dawn.

Saving a marine bird with Dawn means at least one life will be spared, even if the cost is collective.

Now, you may be confused, wondering:

Can I Use Dawn Soap On My Parakeet?

You can, but that doesn’t mean you should.


Well, you must understand that exposing any bird to Dawn soap is like the last resort.

A bird engulfed in a petroleum spill will die if it’s not cleaned fast enough.  

A Parakeet is way smaller than an average Pelican.

So exposing a parakeet to the soapy solution will be not only difficult to handle, and it may also pose more harm with soapy residues in cere or eyes. 

Furthermore, birds are wild creatures that regularly cleanse and preen themselves. 

Therefore, putting soap on your parakeet will not only strip the bird of its natural body oils but is also an entirely unnecessary exercise.

But if your parakeet is not cleansing itself, this could mean he may be experiencing some health issue.

In such a case, I recommend you rush to your vet.

However, if it’s not any health concern, then maybe your bird needs certain bathing materials or encouragement.

You can do so by:

  1. Placing a shallow water container with ½ inch deep water inside the cage as a birdbath.
  2. Putting in a bowl of clean but moist kale leaves. ( It works like a bird spa).
  3. Slightly spraying your birds with water will encourage bathing. (Some suggest adding fresh aloe vera in a water sprinkler but I personally find the idea a bit repelling).

Perhaps, you have a special case at hand and are still wishing to use soap on your Bird. 

So, let’s deal with a few oddities that I have heard:

Query Solution
My bird fell in a jar of oil. What should I do? Take a kitchen towel and remove oil as much as you can. Then, take the bird to an Avian vet ASAP. 
My Bird looks greasy because of the coconut oil in my hair. Can I cleanse it with Dawn Soap? Don’t. Instead, blot out oil with paper towels and try to not do this again.
I moisturized my Parakeet’s feet and now, it looks uncomfortable?  Their feet are supposed to look dry and scaly. Don’t wash him. Again, soak out oil.
My parakeet just stepped in its fresh poop. Can I wash it now? No. Take a wet tissue and wipe it off. Also, cleanse the cages as appropriate to avoid such scenarios.

I recommend cage flooring that has a tray underneath to collect droppings.

My Parakeet smells, can I shampoo him a little? Honey, birds are supposed to smell. 

You can keep them in a place with good ventilation, but no fragrances or shampoos.

However, if it’s smelling more than usual see a vet.

But perhaps, you wanted to know,

Is Dawn Soap Safe To Cleanse My Birdcage Or Accessories?

It is, as long as you make sure to rinse out soapy residues thoroughly.

I recommend mixing two spoons of Dawn Soap in lukewarm water.

Then, cleanse the cage and rinse it out with running water.

If you can expose the cage to sunlight afterward then that’s even better. 

But if you wish to be environmentally friendly and use something else here are a few alternatives that work the same:

  1. Handheld Steam cleaners.
  2. Lemon or vinegar in water.
  3. Orange peels dipped in apple cider.
  4. Baking soda in water.

But even after cleansing with these solutions, you need to rinse the cage with water.

Wrapping Up

Soap is not a natural part of a bird’s life and no soap is truly safe for a bird’s health.

If it ever comes to the point that you must expose a bird to detergent, then Dawn Dish Soap is the ideal choice.

It seems to have no toxicity.

I wouldn’t recommend using it on your parakeet.

The good new is, you can always use this soap to cleanse a birdcage or your bird’s accessories! 

We at write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on is for educational purposes only. At we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.