For the decade that I owned a tack store in Missouri, I received countless odd questions on a regular basis. One of the most common, that I of course couldn’t answer with complete honesty while I was a seller of horse grooming products is this question: “is it okay to use human shampoo on horses?”
I get it! Shampoo made exclusively for horses tends to be expensive! Human shampoo, on the other hand, comes in at all different price points from dollar store brands to high-end shampoos. As a tack store owner, who sold horse shampoo but not human shampoo, I couldn’t answer entirely honestly: I’d assure them that our products were made specifically for horses and were formulated by people who understood the unique pH and microbial environment of horse skin while ensuring the product was strong enough to remove the really stubborn stains from pasture and stable that human shampoo formulations don’t have to consider. While this statement was true, in reality, there’s very little difference between horse shampoo and shampoo that is formulated for humans.
Most shampoos made for humans can be safely used to clean horses including manes, tales, and bodies. The pH level of human skin is not significantly different than horses skin so, generally, general use human shampoos are safe to use on horses.
Reasons to use human shampoo on horses:
1. It significantly more affordable than commercial horse grooming shampoo
2. It tends to rinse cleaner with less residue (by my calculations, this is mostly based on the fact that humans can complain horses cannot, although hair loss is often a result of shampoos that leave a residue that causes itchiness)
Can dish soap work as a horse shampoo?
Believe it or not, dish soap, such as dawn works extremely well on lighter colored horses. Yes, soap made specifically for washing dishes is powerful, but remember it’s also an option that wildlife experts used to clean animals affected by oil spills. I recommend the dish soap that is advertised to keep hands soft while hand washing dishes. This particular dish soap is formulated to break down grease and oils but not naturally occurring skin oils.
Can I dye my horse’s mane, tail, or body with color-depositing shampoo or conditioner?
Yes! Because of the similarity between horse hair and human hair you should be able to safely use modest amounts of color depositing shampoo or conditioner to color your horse’s mane any number of colors. If your horse has a dark mane you can use color depositing shampoo or conditioner to tone and highlight the existing color, and if your horse has a light-colored mane and tail you can make even more dramatic color changes. Occasional use of blue or purple color depositing shampoo can take the yellow out of the white mane or tail at a fraction of the expense of the fancy whitening shampoos sold in tack stores specifically for horses. For a more dramatic color change, use the color depositing shampoo more often.