Don’t use dish detergent on your horses!


This essay discusses baby ducks, dish detergent, and horse health.  There is only ONE reason to use detergent on your horse, and that is an actual crude oil disaster.  Otherwise, you are stripping away some natural protection! 


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  • There are a lot of things that I will do for my horse to keep him healthy. I take his temperature, I groom him daily, I inspect his legs and hooves all the time. What I won’t ever do is use dishwashing detergent on him.


  • Yes, I am fully aware that dishwashing detergents are “safe” enough to use on baby ducks and wildlife that has been involved in an oil spill.


  • But let’s analyze this – that’s an emergency situation where the oil must be removed. If you were to use that dishwashing detergent on your horse and he hasn’t been in an oil spill, you are using an ultra-powerful detergent designed for your pots and pans on his skin.


Save your horse’s sebum


  • You will strip away all of his natural oils (sebum) when you use dish detergent on your horse.  


warning label on dish detergent

Nothing that suggests calling Poison Control will ever touch a horse that I groom.


What the heck is sebum?


  • Natural oil, called sebum, is wonderful stuff that your horse makes. Sebum makes him shine. His own body produces it. Sebum naturally wards off stains and keeps your horse waterproof. Sure, you will still get some stains, but removing them is as easy as a curry then followed by a damp towel. Maybe some horse-friendly dry shampoo. If you let your horse stay as oily as he makes himself, stains are a non-issue.


  • Looking deeper into your horse’s skin, it has layers and layers of cells. The inner layers eventually grow and migrate upwards to form the outer layers of cells. This outer layer, the epidermis, keeps electrolytes, fluids, and nutrients in your horse and keeps infections things like bacteria out of your horse. His skin is the first layer of immune system defense!


shiny chestnut horse in the sun

A lot of curry combs died as I gained unbelievable upper body strength creating this shine. Why would I strip it all away?


  • Your horse’s skin also has sweat glands, which help him stay cool. He’s also covered in hair follicles, each with its hair and sebaceous gland attached. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum – which is the natural oil.

Sebum in a nutshell


  • Think about super dry skin that can crack when a joint moves – sebum prevents this.


  • Sebum also prevents bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. from entering the hair follicle.


  • The hair follicle goes through all layers of skin, and if the sebum is absent, infectious agents can reach deep into the skin. Sebum also has it’s own anti-microbial properties, enhancing the skin’s immune system functions.


dish detergent warning label

No thank you!


Detergents will strip away all of the sebum


  • So – why would you put a dishwashing detergent powerful enough to remove crude oil on your horse? It will strip away all of your horse’s sebum – his shine, parts of his immune system, his skin’s protection.


  • Your horse will be left with dry skin, unprotected skin, and his hair will be brittle and more apt to stain.


  • A good shampoo designed for horses is mild enough to leave the sebum and just work on the dirt and dust that your horse accumulates.


Try oil buffing your horse instead.


  • Oil buffing is when you vigorously rub grooming oil into your horse’s coat to create shine, condition the coat, and protect the hair from future stains.


  • Start with a clean horse, and in the winter, use a rag with a few glugs of oil. Buff your horse to a shine!


  • In the summer, after a bath in which you did not use dish soap, make a rinse for your horse. Combine a few gallons of warm water with a few glugs of grooming oil, and use this as a final rinse.


More on the different ways to oil buff your horse here!


Just say no to dish soap on your horse’s legs. PUHLEEZE



Click these links to shop for horse supplies. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support! You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.

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Thank you!