Gigi the cat posing next to a bottle of waterless pet shampoo

We tried it: What is waterless pet shampoo and does it work?

Last Updated: March 29, 2022

Waterless pet shampoo is a godsend for animals — and their owners — who want to get clean without the claw marks and anxiety associated with bathtime. But what is waterless shampoo, and does it really work? Grove writer Mackenzie investigates.

“I’m a cat person,” she said, to no one’s surprise. But somehow, even though I’ve always lived with cats, I haven’t actually bathed one before. I suppose it’s because I’ve never had a long-haired cat — until Gigi. Gigi, short for Gorgeous Girl, is a super fluffy, super squishy tortoiseshell cat, and before you ask — yes, she is perfection personified, and yes, she definitely has tortitude.

Despite being the crowning staple of her feisty attitude, her luscious, immaculate coat, gets a lot of stuff in it — small sticks, wet cat food, dirt — and really holds smells (I even made a list of all the weird things she’s smelled like, including Hot Topic and cold sweat). So I decided to give the kin+kind waterless shampoo a shot to see if it would get the scent of the day — dust? Chicharrones? Nag champa? — out of her fur. Here’s how it went.

But first, what is waterless pet shampoo?

Gigi the cat next to a bottle of kin+kind’s Calming Lavender Waterless Bath for pets

Waterless pet shampoo – also called a dry bath or waterless bath – is a spray or foam that’s rubbed or brushed into a cat’s or dog’s fur. kin+kind’s Calming Lavender Waterless Bath is a foam shampoo that’s made from USDA certified organic ingredients like cleansing witch hazel, soothing coconut and olive oils, lavender essential oil, vegetable glycerin for moisture, and soapbark for gentle cleaning power.

The beauty of dry baths is that you don’t need water, towels, or loud blow dryers to get the job done. kin+kind’s shampoo dissolves dirt and refreshes your pet’s fur for an easy, scare-free clean.

Is waterless shampoo safe?

I chose kin+kind’s Waterless Bath because it’s vet-approved, BPA-free, non-GMO, and vegan. Each ingredient is formulated in safe concentrations for animals, while being gentle enough to use on cats and dogs of all ages. Gigi isn’t quite a year old yet, so this point is what really sold me on it.

How often should you bathe your cat or dog?

Waterless baths are ideal for keeping animals clean between regular baths – or for cats who, like Gigi, tend to draw dust and dirt into their fur like a magnet. Dry baths are also a great way to clean your dog after a particularly messy walk.

How often you should bathe a dog with water and soap depends on the breed and type of coat your pup has. The American Kennel Club says four to six weeks for dogs with medium to thick coats, but less often for dogs with shorter fur.

Cats are a different story. They do a pretty good job of bathing themselves, and only need water and soap baths if they get really dirty, have fleas, or your vet recommends it.

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Grove Tip

Can you use human shampoo on dogs and cats?

Human shampoo — and dish soap, for that matter — shouldn’t be used on dogs and cats because they can dry out and irritate your animal’s skin. Only use pet shampoo and conditioner that’s been formulated for animals or recommended to you by your vet.

How to use waterless pet shampoo

Gigi captured for pet shampooing to commence

Step 1: Capture

Corner the beast at hand. Treats work well for this. I picked the bathroom, but you can use any room (preferably with a door). Since you don’t need water or even a towel to use waterless shampoo, you can bathe your pet in the car if you’re so inclined.

kin+kind Waterless Bath pet shampoo

Step 2: Pump

kin+kind Waterless Bath has a large nozzle that neatly dispenses clouds of lavender-scented foam into your hand. I started off with a dollop of foam about the size of a satsuma orange, which I rubbed between my palms before moving on to step three.

Step 3: Apply

Gently run your hands down your pet’s fur, working the shampoo in as you go. I had to go back for around five more pumps of foam in order to get all of Gigi’s luxuriously silky back, her gorgeous plume of a tail, her sweet little dainty paws, and her super-soft, curly-fur belly that you can’t help but bury your whole entire face in every time you see her. Depending on how big, small, or fluffy your pet is, you might need more or less foam.

Gigi the cat clean after her pet shampooing

Step 4: Air dry

She’s clean! Now you can release your creature and let ‘em air dry. Gigi was pretty saturated in the shampoo, but even so, it only took about ten minutes for her fur to dry completely.

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So, do waterless shampoos work?

Gigi the cat being glam outside in a dry bird bath

Absolutely they do! This was the easiest bath ever. Of course, part of that could be Gigi’s temperament — she’s a chill cat and likes pretty much everything except cold weather and the Fancy Feast that comes in the green cans.

I’m really happy with this experience. Instead of smelling like corn tortillas, she smells like real, sweet lavender from the garden, and her fur is sleek and silky with no residue. She doesn’t seem to mind the lavender scent, either, which was my biggest worry. I didn’t want her walking around the rest of the day overwhelmed by her own scent, but she’s staring through my soul right now and meowing for coconut oil, as per usual.

photo of the author Mackenzie Sanford

About the author: Mackenzie Sanford is a writer and musician devoting her life to the happiness of her cat in the Midwest.