Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Lisa Melillo
Hands-on Bissell BarkBath Review
The Bissell BarkBath sets out to revolutionize the way you wash your dog, and it delivers on that promise. While the cost might seem high for such a specific device, the alternatives are so dated by comparison that the BarkBath seems like a wise investment.
How do you feel about bathing your dog? Odds are, it’s not the most pleasant or easy experience! Our Bissell BarkBath review is going to show how Bissell can completely revolutionizing the way you wash your dog!
First, let’s take a look at the traditional way you have washed your dog in the past –
- Wrestle your dog into a slippery bathtub they don’t like
- Get the water going and find a decent temperature while keeping your dog in the tub
- Soak your dog, enduring those “shakes” that soak you and the rest of your bathroom
- Manage between keeping your dog in the tub while you get shampoo lathered into them and keep the shower hose from spraying all over
- Rinse your dog for quite some time, or else the left-behind shampoo will irritate their skin
Not a fun time, at all! Others may be able to wash their dog outside at some times of the year which might keep most of the mess outside, but it’s still a lengthy process that might be using extremely cold water.
Another option is taking your dog to a groomer, but that can become quite expensive quickly. For the cost of just 2 or 3 groomer visits, you could buy the Bissell BarkBath instead.
How the Bissell BarkBath is Different
What if we told you that you could wash your dog in any room in your home without soaking everything? It sounds unbelievable, but this is exactly how the BarkBath works.
You can check out the video below for a pretty good explanation and overview from Bissell –
How It Works
First, you fill up the water reservoir of the base unit. The nice thing about the BarkBath is you can easily set the temperature of the water, fill the water tank, and not have to worry about monitoring the water temperature again.
Another huge benefit is the the BarkBath uses just a fraction of the water that a normal bath does. The BarkBath’s 40 oz water tank can wash an entire 80 lb dog – something that would take up to 19 gallon of water using a traditional bathing method!
Once your water is setup, you can pour your special No-Rinse Barkbath shampoo into the “bathing tool” white box. This shampoo is very gentle and doesn’t require a heavy rinse. On the bathing tool, there’s a switch that allows you to choose between “Shampoo” or “Rinse” modes, which allows you to choose if the shampoo is being fed to the bathing wand or not.
After you’re all set up, bathing your dog is simple. Simply turn the unit on, and run the bathing wand down your dog’s coat while pulling the trigger.
What’s happening in the wand?
At the bottom of the wand, there are four jet nozzles that squirt out the water and shampoo mixture down under your dog’s coat, directly on to their skin. Then the metal screen area above the water jets sucks up the water, shampoo, and dirt back into the hose and stores the water in the dirty water tank for you to dispose of later.
Much of the magic of the BarkBath is in that it works from the bottom up rather than from top-down. Since it’s getting the water directly to your dog’s skin, it doesn’t have to completely soak your dog’s fur in order to get it clean.
You can also release the trigger to stop squirting water, and the wand will continue to suck water up if you find you need to dry some spots more on your dog.
Let’s dive into unboxing the BarkBath dog washer and go over each component and how they work to clean your pooch!
Bissell BarkBath Unboxing and Usage Review
I ordered my BarkBath from Amazon and it comes in a plain cardboard box, but it’s very simple to open and get started which is all that really matters.
Once we get everything taken out, here’s what’s in the box –
BarkBath washing system
The BarkBath comes almost entirely assembled already. All you have to do is hook the hose from the base unit into the bathing tool (smaller white box), and screw in a hook to the back of the unit that you can rest the spraying wand on.
BarkBath Base Unit
The Base of the BarkBath is something you’re going to set up initially, and then mostly ignore until you’re done. On the left side of the unit is clear, “Clean Water Tank”. The other side (with the green column inside of it) is the “Dirty Water Tank”. Water that is sucked back into the hose comes here, and you’ll want to carefully remove it from the unit and empty the tank after each wash.
Next up, let’s talk about the bathing tool and bathing wand. In the white box above, you’ll see a green circular plug on the left of the box – you can unscrew this in order to load your special Bissell shampoo into the Shampoo Reservoir. It’s important to note that you can’t use regular dog shampoo in the BarkBath – only use official Bissell No-Rinse shampoo!
We talked about the bathing wand earlier, but this is what you will use to actually bath your dog and control the flow of shampoo and water to your dog.
Another important part of the BarkBath is the switch on the bathing tool that allows you to control the flow of shampoo. You’ll of course want to start with the shampoo flowing, and then switch it to Rinse mode after to only use water.
Does the Bissell BarkBath Really Work?
Let’s get down to what really matters here – does this contraption even work? We put it to the test with the help of our good boy, Kartoffel!
Setting up the unit was really simple. We added water, shampoo, turned on the unit, and began to wash!
Wash we did – the BarkBath performed exactly as described. We were actually amazed to see it work so well.
Despite Kartoffel’s long fur, the water was able to get down to his skin and clean his fur really well. The wand also did a very good job at sucking water back up, leaving his fur minimally wet.
One thing that will certainly take some getting used to is the speed at which you move the wand. If you do it too slow, the water will start to run all over before the wand moves to vacuum it up. If you go to fast, you don’t really get anything clean.
It took a few minutes, but we were able to get a decent grasp on it.
The no-rinse shampoo was quite different from other dog shampoos I’ve used in the past. It’s not thick, it’s very watery instead.
The shampoo that comes with the unit is “Mulberry” scented. It really smells great and left Kartoffel smelling good as well.
One concern we had coming in was about the fur possibly clogging the unit, as Kartoffel is peak-shedding. The fur ended up not being an issue. While there was some shedding, the metal screen didn’t allow any clogging to happen.
At the end of the wash, Kartoffel wasn’t very wet. Still damp in some places, but overall he was much drier than if you were to give him a regular bath and then try to towel dry him. This is a pretty big advantage over normal baths, as dogs like him with a lot of fur can take a long time to dry off.
One downside of the BarkBath is that we found the nozzles seemed to leak water after the trigger is released. Not much water, but just a few drops here and there which adds a little bit to the cleanup. Overall this isn’t a big deal, but added a little bit of time to the cleanup.
Do Dog’s Enjoy the BarkBath?
In our experience, we find it unlikely that many dogs would like the BarkBath, but we think most dogs will tolerate it.
It its core, the BarkBath does have a vacuum in it so if your dog is deathly afraid of vacuum cleaners, it would take some acclimating to get them used to this.
It only took Kartoffel a couple of minutes to start to feel comfortable with the bathing wand being used on him, but he is a very confident dog overall. You can tell from his facial expression above, he didn’t exactly love his first experience but he wasn’t running away either!
Would We Recommend It?
Yes, we definitely think that the BarkBath delivers enough value to be worth the price tag. In the long run this will save you a lot of time compared to traditional methods of washing your pooch. It’s hard to imagine forcing our dogs into the bathtub or spraying them with a garden hose outside after using the gentle washing system of the BarkBath.
If you deal with muddy paws often, check out our best dog paw washers article.
Cleaning the BarkBath
You may want to clean your BarkBath after every few uses to keep everything clean and working in top shape. There’s a few key steps you can do to make this happen –
- Completely rinse the dirty water tank to clean out any leftover grime.
- Disconnect the flex hose from the cleaning tool, and run clean water through the port where the hose connects.
- Once the tool is full of water, let it all drain out into the sink while holding the bathing wand up higher and pull the trigger.
- Clean any hair or debris from the spray nozzle. You can also disassemble the faceplate by removing the screw and cleaning underneath.
Storing the BarkBath
One great thing about the BarkBath is how neatly it packs up to store. You might have reservations about getting yet another device to keep in your home, but the BarkBath folds down quite nicely.
As you can see, most of the components fit into a provided mesh bag with a drawstring top.
Meanwhile, the base of the unit has a storage system for both the electrical cord and the hose. Here’s a look at it from behind –
BarkBath Frequently Asked Questions
Will this work for nervous dogs?
It’s possible, but it will take some time for your dog to get used to the process. There are a few scary things your dog will have to overcome-
- When the BarkBath is on, it runs like a weak vacuum and sounds like one.
- The BarkBath is going to be spraying some water, getting wet might frighten your dog especially the first time.
- You’ll be pressing a foreign object on your dog which might frighten it.
Does the BarkBath vacuum up fur? Will it get clogged?
The BarkBath will not vacuum up fur. It might “de-shed” your dog a little bit, but that’s not its primary function. The loose hair will get moved around and some will get stuck to the wand which you can throw away when you’re done. The metal screen prevents hairs from being sucked into the unit, so it shouldn’t get clogged.
If you need a vacuum to suck up pet hair, check out our guide to the best pet hair vacuums.
Does the BarkBath heat water put in the Clean Water Tank?
The BarkBath does not have any kind of water heater built into it, so whatever temperature water you pour into the Clean Water Tank is the temperature that will be sprayed out.
Will the BarkBath work with all fur types, including wooly Poodle coats?
Yes, the BarkBath is compatible with any type of dog fur.
Does the BarkBath dry a dog?
While the BarkBath will suck water up as it’s used, it won’t leave your dog completely dry. You might want to dry your dog off with a towel once you’re done.
Is BarkBath portable?
The BarkBath is relatively lightweight and easy to move around, however, it does require an AC outlet to plug into in order to run. Also, keep in mind if you need to store water to take with you, that will significantly add to the weight of the unit.