Certified content. This guide has been written and verified by our veterinary advisor. Approved By: Dr. Jennifer Peters.
There are a lot of times that our dogs need a spot cleanup but a full bath just isn’t going to work with time or lack of cooperation from your dog. In the clinics, we use waterless dog shampoo every day. This can be effective for getting dirt and debris out of the coat. To help you find the product you need for your dog we’re going to look into the ingredients, method of action and quality of result to pick the best waterless dog shampoo.
Which waterless dog shampoo is best? Want the answer? Then read on!
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The scent of lavender is known to have a mildly relaxing quality to many individuals. The results are subtle so this isn’t going to stop a hyperactive dog from bouncing around. It could be a nice touch for some dogs that are suspicious about bath time.
Foam formula applications. I really find this easiest to work into a long-haired coat without over applying the product. You can really get it down into the hair to pull away debris and oil. The process with this product is to apply, then dry with a towel and once it’s dry brush the debris from the coat. I feel the brushing is a really important part of the process to get both the debris and the extra product out.
The product is manufactured in the US. This is something to think about in terms of safety as we do have some more stringent safety policies than some importing countries. It also may be a personal choice that you feel good about. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is a great way to use the product and see for yourself. If you don’t feel like it has done what the company professed, then send it back, get your money and try a new one.
This waterless shampoo comes in a foaming mousse delivery. I find this to be the easiest way to get it down into long-coated dog fur, and also it’s easier to control volume than some sprays. To use this work the foam into the coat, air dry or towel dry and brush after dry if needed. If your dog is tolerant of brushing I always recommend a thorough brushing out after applying these products. If not be vigorous with the towel, most dogs will take that as a great massage.
Pomegranate and mango scent could be very pleasant but has to be judged by the noses in the family. A lot of the scent panels of these products are personal preference. We are attracted to and avoid different scents, so sometimes you just have to try it out.
Cruelty-free manufacture is promised by the company. This is certainly something to keep an eye on in personal care products. The shampoo is manufactured in the US which does give us some insight into quality control which is important. The company also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
This product is made by the same company that makes Biosilk products for people but with the pH adjustment for dog skin. If you are familiar with the company that may be a bonus to you, but always remember that products have to be reformulated for dog pH so you may see it working a little different than it does on you.
This is a liquid pump spray bottle. This formulation may be harder to get deep into a thick coat than foam without using a lot, but some of that will be personal preference. I used spray formulations in the clinic for years and have been very happy with it. The cleaning process is to spray it on then massage it into the coat and then brush it through. Remember to start with small amounts.
The company does no animal testing in researching and developing this product. That’s a really important factor to consider for us dog lovers. The company manufactures in the U.S. so we have some assurance of quality control in that feature. The company states a ‘satisfaction guarantee’ but does not clarify any specifics.
This is a liquid spray product that you apply then wipe your dog down with a damp cloth. Following up with a brushing is always a good idea if your dog will let you. For longer coats consider ruffling the fur/hair up and following along behind, spray to the underside of the coat. The shampoo is citrus-scented, which can be really pleasing and a scent we often associate with cleanliness.
A plant-based formula which is the same as the term botanicals. This is often a positive, but remember plants and natural doesn’t always mean safe. There are plenty of natural toxic things in this world that we need to be careful about. Also, there are many products considered safe in the recommended quantity but they would be dangerous if a large amount is ingested. This product may really appeal to your social agenda. It’s biodegradable, manufactured cruelty-free and it’s also Non-GMO, vegan and comes in recyclable packaging. It’s manufactured in the U.S. which gives us some quality assurance.
The company provides a 30-day satisfaction guarantee so you can give it a try but not waste money if you aren’t satisfied.
This shampoo comes in a liquid spray formula. This can be really effective for spot cleaning but may not be as easy as a foam product if you are doing most of the body or dealing with a really thick coat or long hair. The application process is to spray it on, let it sit for one minute, then wipe your dog down with a clean cloth. This product has an apple scent so you can work with your own nose as to whether that appeals to you or not.
This may appeal to your social conscience, the package is made from recycled materials and it’s manufactured in the U.S. The company offers a lifetime money back guarantee which is great if you just don’t have a chance to form your opinion in the first month or if you decide after a few baths that you don’t like it anymore.
This is a spray product that is applied to the coat and finger comb or brush through. Wiping the product off is not required. It has Lavender in it which provided fragrance along with coconut oil. Lavender (essential oils in general) is touted as a flea repellent but they work very poorly for this. They are definitely inadequate to treat an active flea problem.
This product touts all vegan ingredients which may be an important factor in your household decision. The product is made in the U.S., involves no animal testing and is a cruelty-free product. These factors may all be important if you have a social conscience decision-making process for product purchases and companies you support. The company grants a 30-day money-back guarantee for your satisfaction. This should give you the opportunity to use it a few times and get your money back if you find it’s not the one for you.
This is a non-detergent coconut-based product which may be less drying for a lot of skin types. It does contain fragrance which may be irritating to the skin or for the sense of smell for sensitive people. It does have a small ingredient list which makes it easier to avoid allergens.
This product is a foaming mousse with lavender and chamomile scent. It is applied by massaging it in, allowing the pet to air dry or towel dry, then brush as needed. The foam products are often easier to get down into the coat of thick fur dogs. I do recommend the brushing it tends to give the coat a better luster and prevent any feeling of build-up.
This product is made in the U.S. and is labeled as a cruelty-free product. This does help us to have some assurance of quality control. The company offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
This is a plant-based or botanical product. It comes in a foam that is massaged into the coat and then brush as needed. I always recommend brushing because it will help to remove more of the debris from the coat that has been lifted from the oils. It has almond oil which has a scent that would be appealing to many people as well as working as a mild conditioner. Oatmeal can be very soothing to dogs that have allergies as well as dry skin.
This is made by the same company that makes Paul Mitchel brand for humans. It is cruelty-free, not tested on animals and it is made in the U.S. A portion of each sale is donated to animal and wildlife organizations. This has some social consciousness aspects that may be appealing to some households. This product has won a number of awards for quality and excellence.
This shampoo is plant-based and is soap and detergent free. It has a very small ingredient list which helps to avoid allergens. It’s a spray formulation that is applied to the coat, let it stand for one minute then toweled off. If your pet will allow you to follow up with a brushing you will get more debris out of the coat and decrease the chance of feeling any product residue. It has a lavender coconut scent that is not a perfume. The oatmeal formulation has the added benefit of anti-allergy activity and soothing to dry irritated skin.
The product is manufactured cruelty-free, it’s not tested on animals and in recyclable packaging. It’s manufactured in the U.S. and the company has a social mission to use only sustainable products. The company offers a money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with it.
The ingredients contain a lot of extracts so individual dogs may find this to be irritating. This is a very individual issue and it’s definitely fine to try, but I would not repeat use if your dog itched or seemed irritated after being bathed with this product..
This is a spray product that is applied to the coat, massaged into the coat and then towel dry. Brush as needed is the recommendation. I recommend the brushing because it will give more luster and lightness to the coat as well as pull more of the dirt out that has been lifted by the shampoo. In long-haired dogs, it will help to spread the product if you lift the coat (or ruffle it backwards) and spray along the underside. Frequent use can help manage tangles and matting and may make some sensitive dogs more amenable to brushing.
This is a spray product that is applied to the coat then wiped down and I recommend brushing out. The brushing will remove a lot of dirt and debris from the coat that has bonded to the shampoo. This is a Blueberry muffin scented product.
The product is made in the US and is stated to be safe for dogs. There is no guarantee for this product, so you buy it, you’re stuck with it. This product certainly can work, but I am concerned by the lack of warranty and very little information on their site regarding application and use. It’s one of the least expensive products, but if you don’t like it there’s no refund.
This waterless shampoo comes as a spray that is applied to the coat then massaged into the coat and then should be dried with an absorbent towel. Brush as needed. If your dog tolerates brushing I always recommend doing it because it will help to get more of the debris from the coat that the shampoo has pulled from the oils. It also tends to give a good luster to the coat and prevent any feeling of coating on the hair or fur.
The shampoo is soap-free which is good for dry skinned dogs that might get over dry with frequent baths. It’s cruelty-free meaning it doesn’t get tested on animals. The company does not state any warrantee. It does come in gallon sizes which may be more economical for households that have large dogs or multiple dogs.
This is a spray formulation shampoo that is applied to the coat/fur and then brushed into the coat and then you let it dry. The action of this shampoo is a bit different. Instead of surfactant solutions that bonds the shampoo the oil/sebum in the coat to release the dirt, this is an enzyme formulation that breaks down the oil/sebum to release the dirt.
This product is soap-free and may be significantly less drying for some dogs. It also contains aloe to moisturize the skin and coat. If you have found other waterless shampoo did not meet your satisfaction this is a different type of action so it may be worth a try. Unfortunately, the company does not state any type of satisfaction guarantee.
The product does make statements about managing fleas and ticks. This would not be an effective preventative and I would not rely on it at all to manage a flea problem.
What is waterless dog shampoo?
The products come in several forms (spray, foam, powder, etc.) we’ll go over all of them a little later on. It is a cleaning agent that doesn’t require water to clean or need to be rinsed out. This is a benefit if you need a quick or spot treatment and you don’t want the dog to be wet. Also, it’s great for dogs that hate water. One thing that sometimes confuses people is the term waterless. This means that you don’t need water to rinse the product out. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t any water in the product.
How does it work?
The essential function is they remove oils from the coat and this will pull debris out with it, as well as improve odors. This is done with some type of surfactant, which breaks up oils, this can be soap, a synthetic detergent or a plant-based surfactant. Which type of surfactant used affects how some dog’s skin reacts to the product. By breaking up the oil it can be pulled away from the skin and coat. It’s the same principle that is used with any cleaning agent.
When is the best time to use a Waterless Dog Shampoo?
The waterless shampoos are great for times that you don’t want to use water such as cold weather where your dog could get chilled, as well as post-surgery where you need to keep bandages and incisions dry. Additionally, they can be great for traveling if you need a quick cleanup for getting back in the car, or just don’t have access to a bathing area. It can also be a nice grooming aid for dogs that hate water.
Types of Waterless Shampoos
These are the easiest to work into the coat without over-applying product. They spread and massage in smoothly without having to use a large amount.
These liquid products can be more economical than the foams, but a little harder to distribute without getting a lot in one place. For using as spot cleanups they can work great though.
This is powdered to a semi-liquid product that comes out of a can with an accelerant. This is the same style as the spray-on deodorants people use. I find it difficult to deal with the amount of mist it leaves in the air when indoors.
This seems like it wouldn’t work but the powdered products do the same job of lifting oils and therefore debris out of the coat. My dislike for these is simply the mess. You can’t control where the powders fly. I wouldn’t be happy with that in the car or visiting a friend’s house.
This is a gel form that is worked into the coat. It is more common for human hair products and not dogs.
How to choose the best waterless shampoo for my dog?
The application of the product can make a big difference in how well you feel it works. For short-haired dogs the spray can be great because you apply it right where you want it. For long-haired dogs the foam is easier to get down in their coat. The powders will be messy and I don’t find them worth it.
The products are designated if they are safe for use in puppies. There isn’t a big line here because there is no dog that you can be sure won’t lick the product. I’m more comfortable using a product safe for all ages.
Hypoallergenic if needed
This is a really tricky one to interpret. The product may mean it’s not made of any that is known to cause allergies but a lot of time a big factor in the itching is skin dryness and some products could irritate the skin. Not all hypoallergenic products will be good for all dog skin. It’s a really good place to start for sensitive skinned dogs. Oatmeals work really well in the majority of allergic dogs.
This is basically going to be a factor of the oiliness or dryness of a dog’s skin. This should be considered in terms of the cleaning agent and moisturizers the product contains as they will have different effects. We’re going to point out some of these factors in our reviews to help you make this decision.
There are a couple of factors that affect odor. One is the sebum (skin oil layer) which smells if it’s excessive and the layer holds debris into the coat. The other is the fragrance of the product. Some of these products have a strong perfume to them so read carefully before you choose.
This is entirely personal preference and there are differences. Some products use essential oils, we love them or hate those scents usually. Some products use perfumes. There isn’t really a quality difference here, it’s more of a nose thing.
Balanced for pH
This is critical, dogs don’t have the same pH as people. Human skin pH is below 5 on average. Dog skin pH averages around 6.5. This is the reason that veterinarians are so adamant about not using human skincare products on dogs. They can be a serious irritant. Normal everyday human shampoo is a mild acid to a dog.
This doesn’t have a technical meaning. It’s a phrase that companies use to get your attention. We all want mild things for our dog’s welfare. We might want a ‘strong’ product for tough jobs. The best thing to do is look at the actual ingredients. For example, essential oils are not chemicals so people tend to call them mild, but they have and can kill a dog if they ingest a moderate amount.
This is a product that feels just like hair mousse for people. I think for long-coated dogs it is much easier to work into the coat without using an excessive product. It would be fine on short-coated dogs as well.
This is 100% critical. Dogs groom their coats by licking so everything you put on them will be ingested. This is important as well in the quantity of the product you use. You don’t want to cover a dog head to toe with any product and just leave it on (unless directed by your veterinarian.) I think it’s best to always brush the dry shampoos out when you are done, though that part is usually listed as optional. For short-haired dogs a towel to wipe down would also be adequate.
This is another category that causes some huge confusion. The dictionary definition of natural is: having a form or appearance found in nature, existing in or produced by nature: not artificial (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural). What this means in relation to products is that anything made from a product found in nature is natural. Therefore soap made from plants is natural, kerosene is natural.
I think you can see where I’m going. So when a label has chemical names, it can still be natural. What this leads to is that a product listed as all-natural does not clearly define for you if the product is completely safe. Remember kerosene is natural, but you don’t want to bathe your dog in it.
Chemicals to avoid
This is a category this is filled with a lot of hype. Information that is false or not properly substantiated spreads like wildfire. Almost every agent whether natural or synthetic can cause irritation or illness in high quantities. Essential oils are often considered more natural and therefore safe, in large quantities, they are fatal to dogs. This does not mean they are unsafe to use in a shampoo, it means the dog should not drink the bottle of shampoo.
What’s really important here is to store products safely where pets and children can’t get into them. Many of the ‘chemicals’ listed as causing cancer, if it’s even true are associated with excessive or improper use. If you are concerned with this issue look to products that have simple ingredient lists that you can consider each ingredient individually. Be careful of products that list generic statements without the actual ingredient. For example: fragrance. Even hypo-allergenic shampoos are going to irritate the skin of some dogs.
As far as the carcinogen question there is a giant rift between humans and dogs. The two factors are exposure and time. A human will typically apply shampoo to their hair 250 to 365 times a year and live to be 80 to 90 years old. A dog being bathed every single month living to a ripe old age of 15 will be bathed 180 times and only have 15 years to react to the exposure. Most subtle or suspect carcinogens take a very long time to exert their effect. So something that is suspected to be carcinogenic in humans has very little relevance to a dog’s welfare.
Are waterless shampoos safe?
If they are used properly and stored properly, yes they are. This doesn’t mean that some dogs won’t experience skin irritation. Every dog has individual skin chemistry just like people and will react differently to perfectly safe products.
Does waterless shampoo replace showering dogs?
No, it does not. Nothing removes debris from an animal’s coat and skin like water. These really should be used as a spot treatment or post-surgical cleanup or to avoid the cold.
Waterless Shampoo Vs. Dog deodorant
The waterless shampoo actually mixed into the sebum of the coat and removes oil and debris. Deodorants are purely scent cover-ups.
How to make your own DIY waterless dog shampoo?
A powder recipe:
Blend this together and work it into the coat, the brush out.
Is it okay for a dog to lick waterless shampoo?
A small amount is fine, but none of them are safe if the dog ingests a large quantity. A vigorous toweling or brushing will take care of residue and this will not be a problem if your dog licks after you are done. If a dog gets a few licks in while you are bathing it’s okay.
Can I use this with my topical flea/tick products?
Topical products stay in the sebum (oil) layer of the coat to give the 30-day action. If you repeatedly use a product that removes the sebum you are continuously removing the product. I really encourage the oral flea/tick products for this reason. Then it is no longer a factor.
Does dry dog shampoo really work?
This depends on what you want it to do. It’s not a full bath and won’t equal that. It definitely will pull some debris and oil from the coat so it’s great for that purpose.
Is waterless shampoo good for dogs?
It’s good for a spot treatment. It may help to maintain a healthier coat in some dogs that are oily or get dirty often.
Does waterless shampoo clean white paws?
It will help to get dirt and oil from the coat. If you are talking about those red paws from licking, no it will not. Dogs have porphyrins in their saliva and tears (as do people, but lower concentrations) This is literally a red to orange pigment. When you see a white dog with red to orange paws or tear staining the hair is actually dyed that color just like we dye cloth. Nothing can completely remove it.
The final dirt on waterless dog shampoo
Keeping in mind that there are a lot of factors that matter from one dog to the next our top pick for best waterless dog shampoo is John Paul Oatmeal shampoo for sensitive skin. This product has a good natural oat protein that helps fight allergies and itch as well as moisturizers. Dog owners had very high satisfaction with using the product, which is one of the most important factors. The mild almond scent was found to be highly appealing.The company also has a strong positive social mission. As a first time user of these types of products I would start with this one for the highest likelihood of satisfaction.
A recap of our results…
Top 4 Waterless dog shampoos we reviewed
Woof On The Street!
Share your experience with the products mentioned throughout this review in the comments below & Feel free to share your own product recommendations as well.