There are many factors to consider when purchasing a pet grooming tub, from what it is made of to its functional features.
Paper or plastic? It used to be the inevitable question asked at the grocery store checkout counter. What is the difference? People have firmly held opinions—some say paper is better because it is sustainable, while others contend that plastic costs less, can be recycled and does not take down forests. People may be similarly impassioned about the materials used to construct professional bathing tubs for grooming salons.
Plastics, fiberglass or metal—which is better? There are benefits and drawbacks to each, just like paper and plastic. Each tub owner must decide which features of the various materials are best for their particular situation. Whatever the choice, groomers should try to get the most affordable option, as tubs are usually installed semi-permanently, unlike tables or dryers that can be upgraded in a year. With a tub, the cost of installation and the risk of ruining the surrounding area with a re-installation means it is often more cost effective to buy the very best one can the first time around.
Bob Lutz, owner at UltraLift, Inc., makes fiberglass tubs. A thick, sturdy material, fiberglass lends itself well to being molded, which provides a couple of benefits. It is twice as easy to clean, as it has no corners and there are no joints to leak. Fiberglass is a sanitary material often used in hospitals; and if a mar of any kind does occur, it can be buffed out easily.
Another benefit, according to Lutz, is that it is dog friendly. “If you look at it from the dogs’ point of view, fiberglass has better associations than stainless steel,” he says. “Every time an animal goes to the vet, they’ve been surrounded by stainless steel. Not only do they see and hear it, but since their sense of smell is astronomically better than ours, they scent it as well. And most dogs don’t have pleasant associations with the veterinarian.”
Poly Pet Tubs uses high-density polyethylene (HDPE)—a very strong, waterproof, lightweight type of plastic—to manufacture their tubs. With the same low noise level and stain-resistant features as fiberglass, this material has a lot to offer as well. According to Dave Grass, the owner of Poly Pet Tubs, HDPE has excellent resistance to most chemicals—including bleach, ammonia and most acids—and it also resists scum and bacteria buildup, as practically nothing sticks well to it. “Design and construction are also important,” says Grass. “A tub design should be well thought out to be as practical, user-friendly for both pets and people, and easy to keep clean and maintain as possible.”
Master Equipment, PetEdge’s equipment brand, offers tubs made of many materials, including polypropylene, another strong, waterproof, lightweight plastic. Katie Moore, merchandising manager for PetEdge, says: “These tubs have a thick plastic wall, which means they don’t bend or bow under pressure, and there are no seams on our PolyPro tubs, which means there is no risk for leaking and no potential for rust.”
A more traditional material for veterinary and grooming use is steel. Fairly inexpensive tubs can be made of carbon steel electrostatically plated with a zinc coating to prevent rust. If cared for and maintained well, these tubs can work well for many budget-minded groomers, but the care instructions must be followed carefully. Although more expensive, stainless steel is a longer-lasting choice. Incorporating more chromium than carbon steel—a minimum of 10.5 percent—stainless steel does not readily corrode, rust or stain, but it is not always fully stain proof, especially in areas with poor air circulation. There are different grades of stainless steel used for tubs, the most common of which is type 304, a blend with 18 percent chromium and eight percent nickel.
Shor-Line corporate account manager David Wratchford points out that it is important to select equipment that not only has exceptional workmanship, finished edges and high-quality material that resists urine and chemicals, but that also has a solid reputation in the industry. Shor-Line manufactures stainless steel tubs for the veterinary, kennel and grooming markets. Protecting your investment is important too. “Developing preventative maintenance and cleaning schedules for your tubs and bathing equipment will increase the longevity and assist with good product performance while reducing labor,” Wratchford says. “Make sure that your staff is adequately trained on your cleaning and maintenance processes. Educate your staff that one of the most important steps in the cleaning process is to thoroughly rinse all cleaning agents from all materials.”
Forever Stainless Steel is a well-known provider of animal bathtubs. The company uses quality 304 steel and works hard to include design features that make groomers’ lives easier. In addition, says Jeanne Caples, director of operations, the gauge of the metal is critically important. “The thickness of metal, including sheet metal such as stainless steel, is indicated by gauge number,” Caples explains. “The lower the number, the thicker the metal. The thicker the material, the stronger the structure is going to be. Fourteen gauge, for example, is 25 percent thicker than 16 gauge, and more than 50 percent thicker than 18 gauge.”
And there is another reason that a thicker gauge metal is desirable. “Welding holds together the pieces of metal that form a tub,” she says. “With thicker material, you not only get a stronger structure, but it is easier to get better quality welds because there is more substance for the weld to hold together. The result will be a better finish and much greater strength than would be found with a thinner gauge metal. Many tubs fabricated from thinner gauges of metal do not have fully welded seams and therefore require application of sealant to prevent leakage.”
Lutz points out that tubs that elevate are popular, and for good reason. “First, look at how you plan on using [the tub], and more importantly, who [will be using it],” says Lutz. He points out that if you have people ranging in height from five-foot, three inches to six feet, it’s more than a convenience to be able to move the tub up and down.
“As a grooming business owner, it’s important to put something in place that is conducive to back health,” he says. “This tub prevents both awkward bending over to bathe dogs, since you can put it at exactly the most comfortable height, promoting better posture; and it saves backs because it goes within 24 inches of the floor, so you don’t have to pick dogs up. The dog only has to step up 14 inches.”
UltraLift understands that business owners want to buy the best, but may not be able to afford it, so they offer a leasing program.
There is a lot to consider in a tub purchase—material, elevating or not, three-sided enclosure or walkaround, price, customer service and warranty. After considering all the factors, and perhaps talking to a plumber and a few business owners, hopefully, you will have made a choice that will last as long as you want to own your business.
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.