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How does whitening shampoo work?  We use them every day in our salons on the “little white fluffies” but what is actually in a whitener to make a dog whiter?  To answer that question, I have to break down the different types of whiteners on the market.


There are 3 main types in the dog grooming world:

1. Bluing

2. Enzymatic

3. Clarifying


Although bluing shampoos tend to be excellent cleaners, this product does not actually remove all of the stain.  Instead, it performs a magic trick on our eyes.  Optical brighteners attach to the hair shaft and absorb and reflect the light in all the right places to ‘hide’ the yellow stains and draw your eyes to the white coat.  

Who knew there were so much science in dog shampoo?  Love it!  How our eyes perceive color is what makes this product work so well.  The blue tricks our minds to avoid seeing the yellow tints – that’s it.

Bluing shampoos are not as harsh as the other products and have either no chemicals or few.  This product can also be used on other colored coats as well, particularly black coats, to help give extra pop and shine.


Enzymatic shampoos use specific enzymes that attach to the stains and dissolve the proteins that have collected on the hair shaft which causes the discoloration.  This type of shampoo uses heavy surfactants and can be harmful to the skin on some pets.  The best way to use this product is undiluted and heated (not too hot that you burn the pet or your hands) on the stained area.  Let it sit for a few minutes then rinse it out.

Some enzymatic shampoos cannot be used on multi-colored pets because it can fade and dull areas with colors.


A good clarifying shampoo strips the coat of any build up that occurs through product use and staining.  It opens the hair cuticle up which removes the dirt.  This product can be very drying on a dogs coat so a conditioner is needed afterwards. However, ever hear about the dog that turned blue?


You probably have heard about this from other groomers or it may have happened in your business, turning a dog blue is a very real thing.  As I mentioned above, when the hair cuticle opens up it allows for color to attach itself.  Once the follicle closes, whatever is left in it will change the natural color of the hair.  That is how I miraculously cover up my grey hair!  Love it!  BUT I don’t like it if my Bichon is tinted blue!  Because whiteners tend to make a coat feel brittle and coarse, conditioners are needed to help soften the hair.  Conditioners will close the hair cuticle thus trapping any of the blue color shampoo to the hair shaft if it was not rinsed thoroughly.  Lesson learned?  Make sure you thoroughly rinse out all shampoo.


Really removing stains from a client’s dog is based solely on their commitment to visiting your salon frequently.  For the pet owner that gets groomed every 6-8 weeks, you will not see amazing results and unfortunately, it will not carry over time. There will be small improvements the day of the groom but nothing dramatic.  However, for the client that comes more frequently, every 1-2 weeks, you will see results in just a few visits.

There are some breeds that you will have better results with because of their hair texture.

Dogs with coats like Poodles or Bichons will absorb the product easier because their hair is more porous.  Coarser coats such as Westies and other terriers will have a tougher time.

This is good to know because you do not want to make any promises you cannot deliver on….especially to the Westie owner that comes in every 16 weeks with pee stains on the front legs that wants him to look like the Cesar Dog Food Westie.


Always stay away from the eyes – whiteners can be dangerous. If the stains are dingy yellow in color a blue shampoo is better.  If the stain is a brighter yellow, like a crayon color, a violet-based or purple shampoo should be your choice. Because these tend to be harsher products that can dry out a coat quicker, some dogs are too sensitive to whitening shampoos.

Google advice from the dog show world on removing the toughest of stains.  When I worked in that part of our industry, there were so many tips and tricks of homemade whiteners that it will be worth your time to pick up a few for your shops. Set a timer if you are going to let any product sit on the dog.  If a bluing shampoo sits too long, you could have a fluffy smurf on your hands.  It’s best to have a timer for proper soak time just in case you get distracted.


So glad you asked!  We have 2 products that help whiten and brighten:

Color Fixation 50:1 optical color enhancer

Great White 32:1 whitening shampoo

I would love to hear what you think.  Any great success with our products?  Have you made any homemade products?  Leave some comments below.

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