How often have we all heard the words “Reduce, reuse, recycle?” In our “throw-away” society, there is now a steadily growing movement to thwart wastefulness by getting as much use as possible from the things we use.
We groomers are faced with bag after bag of clipped pet hair, and most of us pay to have it hauled away with the trash. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make something useful from it? What if that discarded hair could be turned into a resource instead of a waste product? Repurposing that endless supply of pet hair could benefit your business, our industry and the environment in the long run.
You may already know some of the uses for the hair that you clip every day, but I’m pretty sure you don’t know all of them…
- A common use is to put some of the excess hair outside on bushes or near birdfeeders for the birds to use as nesting material.
- Pet hair can be added to your compost pile or garden soil. The hair is biodegradable, but it takes about two years to degrade. However, it helps the soil retain moisture even before it decomposes. Hair is rich in nitrogen and it is slowly released into the soil as it breaks down.
- Many people use unwashed pet hair as a deer and rabbit repellant. They stuff it into pantyhose and place it all around the plants they want to protect.
- People who hand-tie fishing flies have found that pet hair is ideal for their craft. It’s not only a fascinating hobby, but they make extra income from their sales as well.
- Hair can be used for waterway cleanup. It absorbs oil and pollutants, and can be made into absorbent mats by a process called “felting.” These hair mats can be used to cover storm drains or help clean up oil spills from waterways.
- Experiments are underway to see if small pads of “potting felt,” a product for house plants made from waste pet hair, will save water, deter pests and release nitrogen into the soil.
- Chiengora (“chien” is the French word for dog) is yarn or wool made from dog hair. It can be spun into beautiful, warm yarn and made into scarves and other items. There are books available that tell you how to collect, spin and use the hair for knitting projects. Artisans who master this craft can make a substantial amount of money from owners who collect hair from their own pets and commission them to create specialty products from that hair.
- Pet hair can now be used in the construction industry. At a London-based regenerative biomanufacturer, pet hair is being combined with a unique organic binding material called “orb” to create particle board-like sheets.
- They are also using mycelium, the branching root-like structure of fungi, to grow around hair to create insulation panels and other 3D objects.
- A search of the internet revealed that pet hair is also being used to make crafts, the brush tip on paintbrushes and wigs for humans.
- It was even suggested that pet hair can be used as a substitute for toilet paper. Eww! I checked with a master plumber and he said emphatically, “I would not recommend it for many reasons, but if you do use it, you better be prepared to call a plumber. Pet hair does not break down like toilet paper does. It can cause serious problems in your pipes, sewer lines, or your septic system.” File this suggestion under “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet!” and “Don’t try this at home!”
One often-used phrase in our industry is, “I’m a groomer, not a magician.” While that is true, I found out that some groomers have learned how to turn dirty cat hair into money. Amanda McGrath, CFMG (Certified Feline Master Groomer) sells her dirty cat hair to ALK.net/us, a company that makes human allergy vaccines.
“When I signed up to be in their program years ago, I had to pass an in-person inspection of my salon, a written test pertaining to animal health, and a phone interview with one of their doctors,” Amanda says. “The hair needs to be kept frozen in large ziplock bags, and there is a minimum of pounds you need before it can be shipped.
“The only downside is that it needs to be dirty hair, so all hair has to be clipped prior to the bath,” Amanda continues. “The upside is helping to provide a use for something that would normally be thrown in the garbage and getting some money from it. We use the extra money made from dirty hair for staff group activities, and over the years have done fun things such as paint and sips, ax throwing, escape rooms, and hibachi dinners!”
Stallergenesgreer.com also has a program for groomers to purchase their dirty cat hair. Previously known as Greer Laboratories, they provide allergenic extracts to the human and veterinary market. Their products help treat millions of allergy sufferers worldwide, as well as their pets.
Many groomers who supply the cat hair to these companies have commented that they love being able to help so many people live normal lives with their cats, keep the hair out of the trash and make money at the same time.
Greengroomerscollective.com, based in the United Kingdom, has launched the Green Salon Collective program. Groomers who enroll in their pet hair recycling program collect their clipped pet hair in bags and place the bags in the return box provided by Green Salon Collective. The hair each salon sends in is totaled to let them and their clients know the amount of waste hair that has been recycled.
The groomers do not make money by recycling the hair, but they and their clients have the satisfaction of knowing that the pet hair is being repurposed and will benefit the industry, community and the environment. To cover the costs associated with recycling the hair, many of the groomers in the Green Salon Collective program are charging a “Green Fee” to their clients.
Think of the possibilities! New and better ways to recycle and repurpose the hair you see as trash today may turn it into a profitable treasure tomorrow. ✂️