Bathing Beauty

Bath time may be a breeze for a skilled salon bather, but don’t underestimate the beauty of having the right bathing system.


Time is money. This cliché is true for any business, but especially for a grooming salon that is paid depending upon how many “units” go out the door each day. There are only so many hours in the day, so in order make more money, one can either cut expenses, groom more dogs or charge more per animal, whether by raising prices or increasing add-ons per dog.

Many small business owners are already spending as little as possible, and most groomers, at hearing the suggestion to do more dogs per day, would shriek in frustration, “More dogs! I’m already working as hard and as fast as I can!” As for raising prices, many have already done that, and others fear that if they did, customers would revolt.

But what if less time could be spent on each dog without sacrificing quality? Then, more dogs could be done without increasing the workload. One of the ways groomers can decrease the time spent on each dog is to closely examine the bathing process. Some people are naturally quick at it and others can train to be better at it, but salon owners should also take time to evaluate the tools and equipment they are using. A bathing system can be key to reducing the amount of time groomers spend on each pet.

Shampoo Delivery
The earliest shampoo delivery system amounted to a staff member hand-filling 16-ounce squeeze bottles with diluted shampoo. Many small salons still do this, diluting shampoo in gallons and using that to fill smaller bottles. Using these bottles requires the washer to wet the dog first (otherwise the shampoo just runs off the dog) and then hand-rub the shampoo solution into the coat.

The Cosmos Bathing System, launched by Tropiclean in 1980, seems to have pioneered the concept of using technology to aid groomers in bathing animals. Diluted shampoo in pressurized stainless steel tanks (four-, five-, or 10-gallon sizes) delivers perfectly mixed shampoo through a convenient sprayer. The tanks save on space and cut back the mess.

Matthew Adam, of Bowling Green, Mo., the current owner of the system, still provides the same customer service the company became noted for; installation is provided by the company, and the cost is a surprisingly inexpensive rental fee, averaging $17 a month.

Prima Bathing Systems is another system in which diluted shampoo is in a container and delivered to a dry pet. Positive displacement is used to force the mixture through the nozzle at 60 pounds of pressure, which will penetrate to the skin of even a heavy-coated dog immediately. It costs $1,195.

Gary Falkenberg, owner of Prima Bathing Systems of Hubbard, Ore., says the system holds enough diluted shampoo for about 20 baths. The company’s new system, the Encore, is smaller than the original and is wall mounted to accommodate the needs of mobile groomers and small salons, and is less costly, at $695.

The first recirculating system marketed for groomers was the popular Hydrosurge. Diluted shampoo is applied directly to a dry dog, which is a huge timesaver. Since the shampoo is very dilute, it’s also quicker to rinse. An inch of water in the bottom of the tub has shampoo concentrate added to it and the water/shampoo combination is sucked into a pump and out a short hose with a sprayer head on it. The water and soap rinses off the dog and is pulled through the pump again.

Dogs love it, and the sprayer provides very thorough cleaning. Some groomers complain that the system just recirculates dirty water back on to the dog, but in reality it works just like your dishwasher does—washing then rinsing. These systems range from a few hundred dollars to several hundred.

Still another type of shampoo delivery system is one in which water pressure is used to deliver the shampoo. Intake tubes run from up to four gallons of shampoo concentrate into the wall-mounted unit, where it is mixed with water. The diluted, sudsy shampoo wets and cleans right to the skin, and rinsing is quick, as the shampoo is very dilute.

This type of unit must be attached to an incoming water source and does require at least 3.5 gallons per minute of water flow to create the suction needed in the gallon bottles (if you can fill a five-gallon pail in 90 to 100 seconds, it should work). A simple dial selects which shampoo to use, or clear water for rinsing.

PetEdge’s Master Equipment Pro Bather and Hydrosurge’s BathPro 5.1 are both popular examples, at $599 and $995 respectively. The BathPro can be leased for only the cost of fou gallons of Hydrosurge shampoo a month (which is the only shampoo that can be used with the BathPro). PetEdge offers shampoos that are more concentrated, but thinner, so that they provide both the needed vacuum and the right amount of suds—but they are not required for the Pro Bather to work.

If none of those options suit, but refilling bottles every day doesn’t appeal, follow Teri DiMarino’s lead. She has used most of the systems available, and liked many. But her salon only does small dogs, and she would rather conserve even more water. The water to fill the tub even an inch is more than she uses with her economical solution.

“The basis of most systems, including the recirculating ones, is what I call hyper-dilution of shampoo” she says. “Most shampoos will still do the job at high-dilution rates of about one ounce per gallon. when properly applied.”

DiMarino, who has been teaching well-attended bathing seminars for many years, says she takes a two-quart bucket, puts a splash of shampoo in, and uses the nylon net scrubbers sold for human body washes (she calls them “scruffies”) to mix the shampoo and apply it to the dog. Use one scruffie per customer, and they can be washed and bleached (but not put in the dryer), so they are sanitary.

“Try using it on one of those cats that hates the sound of water” suggests DiMarino.

Sometimes it’s the low-tech solution that serves best, but however a business goes about it, streamlining the bathing portion of the grooming process can only increase its income.

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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