Talking Tubs

Grooming salons should avoid buyer’s remorse by researching pet grooming tubs thoroughly before making a commitment to this costly and indispensable piece of equipment.


Whether it is for a new establishment or location, or as a replacement for an older fixture, selecting a tub is a big decision for a pet grooming salon business. When buying salon equipment, it usually makes good business sense to purchase what you can afford right now, with an eye to upgrading later. However, tubs are different, and when purchasing one, salon owners should consider an alternative strategy.

Buy the best tub or sink that you can possibly afford. A piece of equipment that is plumbed into the wall is not an item on which to skimp on quality. If it fails, not only must it be replaced, as with a table or clipper, the old one has to be pulled out and the new one re-plumbed—not always a quick and easy task.  A loss of income due to the need to close shop while this is done is a real possibility. Think of a tub as a permanent installation and make sure the initial choice is the right one for the salon’s needs.

Choosing a tub should be based on both on how it will be used and the individual business’ brand identity. For instance, a self-wash salon with Disney characters on the walls would do well with a brightly colored fiberglass tub or a polypropylene tub such as PetEdge’s PolyPro line. A high-volume salon might prefer stainless steel, as many customers view it as more professional, due to its use in veterinarian clinics, and it looks efficient. 

A mobile grooming business owner, on the other hand, may have space and size constraints to take into consideration, while many smaller salons may have the leeway to select whatever suits both their needs and their business image. For example, Ultra Lift offers a molded fiberglass tub in stationary or lift versions, and in various sizes and configurations. The company also offers financing so salon owners get exactly what they need the first time. Bob Lutz, owner of Ultra Lift, encourages people to call to discuss what their needs are, or visit the company’s website or Facebook page. Equipped with a wealth of information on every aspect of animal bathing, from what plumbing is necessary to how to reduce stress on pets, Lutz is passionate about helping each business get just the right tub for its needs. 

Taking time to research tubs before making a purchase can pay dividends in a lot of ways, points out Debi Domenella, part of the sales team at Petlift. “You need to be a little bit educated to talk to your plumber, especially about licensing requirements,” she says. “You may not know all the key questions to ask, and a manufacturer like Petlift that offers several options can help you with that.” 

For instance, many municipalities or states require some type of backflow protection to prevent non-potable water from contaminating the water supply in case of a drop in local water pressure. Petlift sells several. Another consideration that may not be top of mind is a hair trap—something that is also often required for business licensing. Hair traps, which prevent excess hair from clogging the pipes or the septic system, can be installed into the P trap under the tub or into the drain in the tub. One of Petlift’s in-tub drains, the 660C model, is certified for installations requiring certifications. Petlift has been making quality tubs and providing plumbing accessories to the veterinary and grooming trades since 1968.

Forever Stainless Steel has been providing for groomers’ needs since 1998. Its 14-gauge stainless steel tubs are sturdy and create less noise than other metal tubs. For ease of hair removal, as well as speeding up the bathing process, Jeanne Caples, the company’s director of operations, suggests slightly elevating a tub’s legs on the end opposite of the drain during any installation to improve the flow of water to the drain. 

Forever Stainless offers a patented, built-in hair catching system for its tubs. Many hair traps are designed after those used in the beauty industry, and as anyone who has ever bathed a Samoyed, Newfoundland or even a Golden Retriever knows, dogs can shed a lot more hair than humans. This built-in drainage area holds up to 13 times as much hair as other traps, and since it’s readily visible and accessible, there’s no doubt as to when it should be cleaned out. 

Petlift, Forever Stainless Steel and Ultra Lift all offer something that many businesses are coming to see as a bonus benefit—their products are made in the U.S. 

Wherever you look for a tub, know the pros and cons of each—and there are always both aspects of any material or style. Check with fellow groomers to see what they do and don’t like about the tubs they are using. Think through the options. Do you want it against the wall or freestanding so you can move around it? Do you want a ramp for large dogs or steps? 

Personal preferences come into play in this selection; for example, some metal tubs can make noise when animals move in them, but they may make up for it in other ways, whether it is cost or an appealing design. If people that will be using the tub range in height from 4 ft., 11 in. to over 6 ft., a lift tub is almost a necessity for the shealth and comfort of the groomers—not to mention the increased ease of getting large dogs into it.

If there are any parts that might need replacing at any point in the future, make sure they will be available for purchase. Ramps and steps may have wheels or parts that may break or become fatigued with time and need replacement. Drain inserts, racks to elevate pets or doors may become damaged and need to be replaced. Don’t forget to check the availability of plumbing components, as well; faucet handles, spray heads and hoses are all prey to being chewed or damaged. It’s important to know that they will be able to be repaired or replaced readily. 

Once all the research has been done, the right material, size and variables have been selected, the town has approved whatever backflow protection or other plumbing requirements it may have, the plumber has plumbed it in and everything is in place, what else can be done to make sure your investment lasts as long as possible?

Find out from the manufacturer what maintenance needs to be done, and do it regularly. Notate it in the appointment book or the daily chores list—or wherever is best to ensure it will be done. A quality stainless tub may only need to be rinsed at the end of the day to clean it of hair and shampoo residue. 

According to Bob Lutz at Ultra Lift, “A lift tub should have the area underneath cleaned and hair removed. Since they use flexible drains, they can be easily pulled away from the wall to be vacuumed.” 

If you have a less expensive metal tub with a powder coating on it, cleaning with non-abrasive cleansers and wiping it dry at the end of each day may extend the lifespan, or it may need touching up with rust-resistant paint at some point. 

Spending the time beforehand to research your choice, and afterwards to keep it in optimum condition, should ensure you have just the right tub for your business’ needs for years to come. 

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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