Bone Dry: Dryer Basics for the Pet Grooming Salon

By Lynne Allen

Today’s dryers are very diverse and there are many options to choose from, making it easy to find the perfect fit for your grooming needs.

There are three basic drying systems; cage drying, force drying and stand drying. Today’s manufacturers offer a variety of dryers and accessories to help groomers work more productively. Dryers are not a “one–size–fits–all” type of product. Picking the best dryer for your business takes time and effort.

Cage Dryers

Cage dryers come in heated and non–heated options. Heated cage dryers are the more dangerous option and they should be monitored very closely or not used at all. They can quickly overheat the pet, especially short–nosed breeds, and this can result in a disastrous situation. Heated dryers don’t fluff dry well and tend to produce a stringy coat that needs to be fluffed before finishing, which is time consuming. A statically–charged coat may also be a result of heated drying, making it difficult to finish a pet without using an anti–static spray.

If you use a heated cage drying option, always dry in open cages to sufficiently ventilate hot air. Also, make sure your equipment is in perfect condition, especially the timers, and keep hair off the heating elements. Check pets being dried often during the drying process to ensure they are not overheated.

Natural air, non–heated cage dryers use room temperature air with strong airflow to dry and fluff the coats quickly and safely. Usually there is no need for re–fluffing the coat before finishing. If you have a cooler environment you can use a separate portable heat source, such as a radiator heater, in the vicinity of the dryer to warm the air and produce a faster drying time.

Non–heated dryers are most efficient with a 1 horsepower motor operating at 3500 plus CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute). CFM is a measurement of air volume. Utilizing a powerful, non–heated cage drying system can save you time and help your salon be more productive.

My first experience with a non–heated cage drying system was amazing! Every month we bathed Brutus, a very large Newfoundland. It usually took us 2+ hours to dry him. We had received our new non–heated dryer for salon testing. The dryer was used without hoses, and after 45 minutes, Brutus was completely dry—feathers, rear, tail, feet, everything! Brush, bandana, cologne, out the door in 45 minutes for $150/groom—now that’s efficient!

High Velocity/Force Dryers

With a variety of features, power, accessories and colors, there are many force dryers to choose from in today’s marketplace. They dry, fluff and blow out shedding hair. Some dryers function with more power than others at 2HP, 4HP or 8HP. When comparing specs, you will notice FPM (Feet Per Minute), a measurement of air speed. You will also note CFM air volume. The easiest way to compare dryers is to find out what the CFM is at the mouth of the dryer and what the FPM is at the nozzle. The higher these readings are, the better the blowing power.

Another area of concern is noise levels. Dryers are the number one cause of hearing loss for the grooming professional. The reason for this is high dBA, or decibel levels. For a complete breakdown of proper dBA levels and the time staff is allowed in a noisy workplace, visit OSHA Safety Standards: www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation. Dryers are now available with noise dampening technology which decreases dBA. High noise levels can cause hearing issues for pets as well, and produce a stressful environment resulting in agitated pets and people. Wear hearing protection and put cotton balls in the ears of the pets being dried, or use a Happy Hoodie. Keep in mind, the noise bounces off metal tubs and cages and can increase the dBA levels in the salon considerably. Noise dampening ceiling panels can be installed which help with whole salon noise.

Force dryer motors automatically run warm due to the nature of the motor. The more powerful the motor is, the hotter the dryer gets. There is no need for an additional heating element in a quality force dryer. Too much heat from a high velocity airflow can injure delicate skin on pets. Typically, force dryer motors are the same basic motor used in vacuum cleaners, just turned around to blow outward. Vacuum cleaner motors are meant to be used at short intervals. Some force dryers will wear out quickly when used at longer intervals such as cage drying. I recommend using a force dryer without nozzles around a pet’s face or ears. Eye injuries frequently happen due to the powerful air speed generated from the use of a nozzle.

Stand Dryers

Stand dryers generate gentle, quiet, warm airflow with heat and power easily controlled and adjusted. They are a hands–free alternative to using a force dryer at the table. They do a great job of straightening and fluffing a coat and can be used while brushing. Stand dryers are considered a finishing dryer and do not have the power like a force dryer to blow out undercoat or water. They are essential when you need both hands on a fidgety pet. Some pets are afraid of the noise and feel of a force dryer but are fine with a stand dryer.

Stand dryers are not great cage dryers as they can also get too hot and need to be monitored closely. The thing I dislike the most about stand dryers are the legs. Falling over these legs too many times got me the name of “Big Foot” around my salons. In this groomer’s opinion, stand dryers have a place in our industry and the current manufacturers are not addressing this need and improving an old design that has needed updating for years. Finally, be aware—the arm of a stand dryer is heavy and if it falls on the pet, it can cause injury.

Always be cautious when using dryers. Keep them in good condition, use ear protection and always use the proper outlets for your dryer type or a fire could be the result. Also remember that hot dryers will make skin conditions worse and heat will increase toxic fumes from flea treatments. And be sure to purchase from a reputable manufacturer and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Happy drying!✂