A Clean Choice

When a groomer's end goal is to get pets thoroughly clean with a minimal amount of cost and effort, it helps to have the right products and equipment for the job.


No matter whether you are grooming in a kennel, salon, mobile unit or a client’s home, getting animals clean as thoroughly and efficiently as possible is vital to the end product. Dogs have to look great, smell wonderful and feel superb to the owner’s touch. Dogs that require clipper and scissor-finish work also need to have their coats prepared correctly according to the coat’s texture. The quality of the prep work dictates the quality of the end product, and that preparation very much includes the bath.

The end result is partly dictated by the shampoos and conditioners used. It is impossible to make across the board recommendations on these products; personal preference is subjective, and water quality can greatly affect how products perform. Shampoo delivery method is also a factor. It has an impact on the end result and also determines product choices. For example, some shampoo suds excessively when used in recirculating machines.

There are many shampoo delivery systems on the market, and all of them work well for someone. I love a recirculating pump system, as they are quick, thorough and easy to use. It took a long while for me to try a bathing system because I couldn’t believe it would be as thorough as hand washing—but it is. The dogs come out clean and sweet smelling despite the use of more diluted product.

Teri DiMarino explains the concept of hyper dilution in her popular Bather Brusher classes, coming up in April at the Pacific NorthWest show in Tacoma, Wash., and in June at Pet Quest in Ohio. Essentially, the idea is that shampoo does work, even without huge batches of foaming bubbles. “Bubbles don’t clean, the product cleans,” says DiMarino. “Bubbles just take extra time to rinse off, wasting both time and water.” 

Prima Bathing Systems is a means of delivering shampoo that works using very dilute shampoo. Gary Falkenberg, the company’s owner, says, “Dogs have natural water-repelling oils in their coats, and shampoo mixes can be delivered too quickly, so that they flood right off the coat wasting shampoo.”

With the Prima system, the shampoo mixture, applied under pressure right down to the skin on a dry dog, goes into the coat and stays in. The active ingredients in shampoo bond with and encapsulate dirt and the body’s natural oils, and when the animal is rinsed, dirt washes right away, delivering a very clean coat. No shampoo is wasted, and less water is used to rinse as less shampoo was used to begin with.

To maximize the Prima Bathing System’s performance, the shampoo mixture should be left on for four minutes—about as long as most bathers take to do a thorough job anyway. Another advantage to the extreme dilution used with this system, according to Falkenberg, is that it reduces the chance of skin irritation, as less detergent is needed. The system also provides a more uniform disbursement of the shampoo and makes it easier to get product on the underside of the dog where it is needed as well.

Few dogs would rank the bath as their favorite part of the grooming, and some experience severe stress there, so reducing the time spent in the tub benefits them directly. As Jeanne Caples, director of operations at Forever Stainless Steel, says, “Spending less time on bath efficiency is a win-win for everyone, including the dog.”

If water use, shampoo use, time needed to bathe and time to prep the tub are all reduced, costs are reduced as well. Using a tub that requires less water makes it easier to get that perfect prep done quickly. Many of Forever Stainless Steel’s tubs have an optional bathing-pump recess—a small well where a recirculating pump system can be housed. Since it is lower than the tub floor, it can be filled using less water than is necessary with an ordinary tub. “Everyone wants more efficiency,” says Caples. “Even housecall groomers often take recirculator systems with them. But in a fixed location, the recess adds tremendous efficiency—saving time, money and water, and reducing stress on dogs.”

Something fairly new to the U.S. market is microbubble technology, originally from Japan. Although the technology has been used in a number of applications ranging from cleaning waterfowl after oil spills to cleaning oyster beds, Thera-Clean has developed it for use in bathing pets. Since the negatively charged microbubble ions attract positively charged molecules of dander, sebum and other organic matter, and the tiny bubbles allow for a deep cleaning, right down to the hair follicles. One hose at the bottom of the tub pulls water into the machine, where it is charged and bubbled, and another hose delivers microbubbles to the pet. Although better results are achieved by immersing the pet, it isn’t necessary. Less water is used than with a traditional bath, as there is no rinsing—no shampoo is used.

According to COO Jeff Wright, dogs love it. “Tiny bubbles increase blood flow to the area causing a warm feeling, like a massage,” he says.

The system is particularly helpful for dogs that are sensitive to shampoos. The deep cleaning also helps reduce shedding, while the bubbles help remove odor-causing bacteria from pores, and pets are left with less dander so anyone with allergies to the pet benefits.

K. Q. Allen, owner of the Kenl Inn, in Lincoln, Neb., discovered Thera-Clean’s micro-bubble technology during Groom Expo, held in Hershey, Pa., last fall. “I’ve been using it for the last month, and I am amazed at how clean the dogs get,” says Allen. “We are using it as a replacement for medicated baths, charging a bit more. Customers seem to really like it, some have returned for two or three treatments. They go home, and the dog is very relaxed, and the skin improved.”

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.

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