4 Best Waterless Shampoos for Dogs: Dry Washing for Quick Cleans or Pups Who Hate Water

Dry dog shampoos for spot cleaning and quick cleans.

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated: September 29, 2020

If your dog hates bath time, or a proper shampooing isn’t practical, an occasional spruce up with a waterless shampoo can be helpful. Here’s our guide to the best waterless shampoo for dogs.

A guide to the best dry and waterless shampoos
Many dogs hate bathing. Others can’t be bathed because of age, illness or other health issues.

This is why waterless dog shampoos are a popular choice for owners with a bath-averse pup. These shampoos don’t require rinsing, so they are great for a quick clean between baths.

Of course, they aren’t designed to replace a proper bath. Waterless shampoos can loosen dirt for brushing out, but won’t give your pet’s coat the same deep clean as bathing.

This guide will help you understand the pros and cons of waterless shampoos. We’ve also listed four of the best waterless dog shampoos to help you choose the right option for your pet.

Our #1 Pick

Bodhi Dog Oatmeal Waterless

Bodhi Dog Oatmeal Waterless

All natural and soothing

My top pick for a waterless dog shampoo is the Bodhi Dog Oatmeal. It has a minimal formula and all natural ingredients, which is rare for a waterless shampoo. It also contains colloidal oatmeal and apple oil extract.

What is a Waterless or Dry Dog Shampoo?

Waterless shampoos are generally foam-based substances than can be applied to a dog’s coat without the need for washing or rinsing. They are designed to offer a quick freshen up between full baths.

These shampoos don’t clean your dog in the same way as a bath with traditional shampoo. Instead of rinsing the hair, they absorb excess oils, neutralize odors and loosen dirt, so that it’s easier to brush out.

Although they don’t clean as effectively as proper bathing, waterless shampoos are a convenient and quick alternative. The best waterless shampoos also help maintain the natural pH balance of your dog’s skin.

Types of Waterless Shampoo

Foaming or mousse shampoos are the most common type of waterless shampoo.  They create a natural lather that can be worked into the coat and brushed out when dry. A liquid dog spray shampoo has a similar effect, although sprays don’t tend to lather as much.

Both foaming and liquid-based options aren’t truly “waterless,” as they contain fluid, although they don’t need to be rinsed.

In contrast, powder waterless shampoos are completely dry. They are also effective at absorbing the dog’s sebum – an oily substance on their skin. As sebum builds up, it can cause the coat to look dull, unclean and greasy.

Unlike foam or spray, however, powder shampoos aren’t great at loosening dirt. Overusing a powdered shampoo can also dry the skin and destroy the antibacterial benefits of sebum.

Do Dry or No Rinse Shampoos Actually Work?

For tackling dirty or odorous patches, and giving your dog’s coat an occasional freshen up between baths, waterless shampoos can be a useful grooming product.

If your dog is a particularly mucky pup, you could use a waterless shampoo in small areas more frequently, rather than resorting to a full bath. This could prevent the overall coat from becoming dried out and losing its natural oils because of overbathing.

Note: If you’re looking for a puppy waterless shampoo, make sure you check the minimum age of a product before you buy. Not all waterless shampoos are safe for puppies – even if they are listed as “gentle” or “tearless.” You may also want to read our guide to puppy shampoos here.

Which Dogs Benefit Most From Waterless Shampoos?

Not every dog owner needs a waterless shampoo in their grooming arsenal. Here are some dogs that may benefit from this type of shampoo.

Dogs That Don’t Like Baths

If your dog isn’t a fan of bath time, a waterless shampoo can reduce how often he needs to get wet.

Of course, it’s still a good idea to help your dog become more relaxed during bathing. After all, they’ll need a bath at some point.

Spend time working on counterconditioning and desensitization. This involves gradually introducing the dog to a bath, while having them associate it with lots of nice things (like yummy treats!)

Dogs With Injuries or Ailments

If your dog is unwell, has an injury that needs to stay dry, or has mobility issues, a waterless shampoo can be helpful. These dogs may get cold more easily in a bath, or might have healing wounds that shouldn’t get wet.

Dogs with arthritis often find it painful to get into a tub. Also, if they’re not dried off properly, being damp can aggravate the condition. Using the waterless shampoo on certain areas when needed can be more practical and gentle.

Dogs With Skin Sensitivities

If your dog has had an itchy reaction to certain shampoos, a waterless shampoo with different ingredients may not have the same effect. This depends on the individual dog, and you should still patch test before using across your dog’s coat.

Tip: If your dog has sensitive skin, take a look at our full guide to hypoallergenic dog shampoos. Washing your dog’s feed in a paw washer can also prevent allergens from entering the home.

Are There Any Downsides to a Dog Dry Shampoo?

Waterless dog shampoos can be convenient for quick touch-ups, but a proper bath with a good quality shampoo and (optionally) a dog conditioner is the more effective option. Here’s why.

They Don’t REALLY Clean Your Dog

Although dry shampoos can absorb excess oil and loosen dirt, they don’t actually clean the coat. They’re not designed to replace regular shampoos, even if some manufacturers claim they can.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t useful though. Waterless shampoos can be great for making dirt easier to brush out, absorbing excess oils, and freshening up your pup between baths. Just don’t expect it to give your dog a full clean.

Overuse Can Cause a Build-Up

If you use waterless dog shampoos too frequently without washing, a sticky residue may start to build up.

This can cause your dog’s coat to feel greasy. It can even absorb healthy oils and stunt hair growth if it blocks the follicles. To avoid this, use dry bath for dogs sparingly. 

Not Many Natural Options Available

It can be tricky to find waterless shampoos that contain only natural and transparent ingredients. More artificial ingredients tend to be required to get a lather without water – especially for foaming shampoos.

Chemically-derived ingredients are more likely to be harsh or irritating to the skin. Some ingredients to avoid include:

  • Chemically-derived sulfates and parabens. These are potentially irritating artificial cleaners and preservatives. The best dry shampoo for dogs avoid these harsh chemicals. Instead, look for a largely natural formula, including ingredients such as oatmeal, chamomile and aloe vera.
  • Artificial scents. These are usually listed simply as ‘fragrance’ on the label. They can be harsh on the skin and may cause irritation.
  • Formaldehyde. Believe it or not, this carcinogenic ingredient can be found in some shampoos, just hidden under technical names like DMDM Hydantoin.
  • Other unspecified ingredients. When you see a ‘proprietary blend, or ‘cleansing agents’, this could be a way for manufacturers to hide controversial ingredients.

More Likely to Trigger Sensitivities

As waterless dog shampoos aren’t rinsed off like a normal shampoo, this increases the chance of triggering a reaction on your dog’s skin. They can also be licked off and could cause an upset stomach.

Not as Effective for Tangles and Mats

Because of their sticky nature, waterless shampoos can sometimes make hair more likely to mat. Take a look at our guide to the best dog detanglers for a more effective alternative. 

It’s important to be aware of these downsides, but don’t let them completely put you off waterless shampoos. The best waterless options can still be useful for spot cleaning the coat without causing dry skin or irritation.

4 Best Waterless (Dry) Shampoos for Dogs

Below are reviews of four of the best waterless shampoos for dogs. None of these contain any parabens or artificial fragrances, and they are great for sprucing up your dog’s fur.

1. Bodhi Dog Oatmeal Waterless Shampoo

Bodhi Dog Waterless

The Bodhi Dog waterless shampoo is our top pick. Unusually, for a waterless option, it’s made from all-natural ingredients. These are also very minimal, which reduces the chance of a reaction on your dog’s skin.

This shampoo contains colloidal oatmeal, which has a number of proven benefits (see our oatmeal shampoo guide for more information.) It has anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing properties, and can help to strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier.

The apple oil extract provides a light, not overpowering, natural fragrance. It also has natural cleansing, detangling and moisturizing properties.

One of the listed ingredients is ‘detergent free coconut surfactant blend’. Surfactant blends, used for their cleansing properties, sometimes get a bad rap. The chemically derived ones tend to be harsher. Natural blends, such as in the Bodhi Dog, can still sometimes cause irritation to sensitive skin, but this is less common.

Other benefits of this shampoo are that it’s made in the USA, isn’t as heavy as some waterless shampoos, and has a light, spray-on formula. 

It can be a bit difficult to apply to your dog’s undercarriage though, as you have to flip the spray bottle upside down. Spraying upside down also affects the spraying capabilities. This is only a minor drawback to an otherwise excellent shampoo though.

2. Burt’s Bees All Natural Waterless Shampoo Spray for Dogs

Burt's Bees

The Burt’s Bees range of dog shampoos are made with natural and high-quality ingredients, and their waterless spray is no exception. 

The ingredient list includes honey, which has moisturizing and restorative properties. It also features coconut-based surfactant cleaners. These are disodium cocoyl glutamate and coco-betaine, which are known for being mild options.

Like the Bodhi Dog shampoo, Burt’s Bees contains apple extract. It also has grape seed and avocado oil, which have hydrating and detangling benefits.

A downside is that the ingredient list is considerably longer than the Bodhi’s shampoo. So, for dogs with sensitive skin, this increases the chance of something triggering a reaction. It also doesn’t have a great spray function, so it can take a while to apply.

It’s worth noting that Burt’s Bees has a very mild fragrance. This is great for dogs with a sensitive nose. If you’re looking for something to cover up pungent odors, however, then it might not be the best choice.

3. Vet’s Best Waterless No Rinse Dog Shampoo Bath

Vet's Best

This foaming waterless dog bath from Vet’s Best allows you to create more of a lather than liquid sprays. It’s designed to moisturize the coat and skin, while minimising irritation.

Vet’s Best No Rinse contains neem oil, which may have hydrating, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal benefits. While studies are limited for this ingredient, it’s growing in popularity. The neem oil, along with oatmeal and aloe vera, could make this shampoo a good choice for dogs prone to skin irritation.

The Vet’s Best No Rinse also contains allantoin. This is a popular moisturizing ingredient used for various skin conditions. It may help reduce itching and minimize flaking of the skin.

The shampoo doesn’t have an overpowering scent, and mainly contains natural ingredients. It’s just a shame it doesn’t list the specific elements, as the label only states ‘natural fragrance’. For dogs with known allergies, it may not be the best choice.

It also doesn’t have any obvious cleansing properties. While it’s great for dry skin, I recommend one of the other shampoos for cleaning dirty patches of hair.

4. Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Waterless Grooming Foam

Earthbath hypoallergenic

The Earthbath Waterless Grooming Foam is fragrance-free, so your dog won’t be overpowered by a strong scent.

This is another product designed to work for sensitive skin. It contains moisturizing and anti-itch colloidal oatmeal, vitamin E, and shea butter, along with soothing aloe vera.

All Earthbath products contain only naturally derived, cruelty-free, vegan ingredients, and are made in the USA.

We’re generally big fans of Earthbath products, although their waterless shampoo is stickier than alternatives and can leave a heavier residue. Still, if you’re looking for a soothing waterless dog shampoo without harsh soaps, it’s an option to consider.

Summary

The best waterless dog shampoos can be helpful for a quick freshen up between baths. They won’t clean your dog’s coat the way a proper bath will, but are great for spot cleaning or dogs that hate bath time.

Our top pick is the Bodhi Dog Oatmeal Waterless Dog Shampoo. It contains moisturizing colloidal oatmeal, which helps improve your dog’s coat and skin. This shampoo is also an excellent cleanser, has a light apple scent, and isn’t too heavy.

We hope this article has helped you choose the best waterless shampoo for your dog. If you have any further questions, please reach out using our comments form.

Image of Gemma Johnstone

About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.