The Ultimate Maltese Clippers & Grooming Guide
The Maltese coat type is one we get asked a lot about, so we created this Ultimate Grooming Guide to help answer your questions about coat type, coat care, clippers, blades, comb attachments, brushes, shampoo and more, all for the Maltese coat. If your dog is a Maltese or a Maltese cross with a Maltese type coat, this guide is for you!
What type of coat does the Maltese have?
The Maltese coat is quite different from many other breeds. They have hair, not fur, and no undercoat. Their extra fine fur makes them very prone to knotting, so their high maintenance coat will need frequent brushing to avoid knots, whether you wish to keep it short or long (but keeping it short will certainly help).
Maltese don’t shed like other breeds. In fact no breed is truly non-shed. The coat does fall out but with the Maltese having a long hair coat, the growth cycle is much longer, so hair falls out less often - plus dead hair tends to get trapped in the coat or come out only when brushed, rather than drop out around the house.
The texture of the Maltese coat varies. Some have a soft, cottony coat, some have a curly coat, others have the more traditional, lay-flat, straight, silky Maltese coat you see in a show dog. Some are mixed, such as a straight silky coat at the front and curly at the back!
A ‘pet’ Maltese, or Maltese cross, may not necessarily develop the same coat as you see in the show ring, even if they are purebred. Maltese are a popular cross with the Bichon, so can end up with a wavy or curly coat as an adult, even if the coat started out straight as a puppy.
The change! The Maltese puppy coat versus the adult coat
A Maltese puppy will start with a softer, shorter, very easy maintenance coat that may curl a little at the tips. From around 10 to 14 months of age, the coat will start to change into the adult coat. At this age the coat can suddenly become extra high maintenance as the adult coat comes through.
That’s why it’s very important to regularly brush a Maltese puppy from a young age even though it won’t be needed until they’re older, so they adjust to the much more frequent brushing needed as an adult to maintain a knot-free coat.
When that coat starts to change, their easy-care coat can become extremely tangle and knot-prone, and can form mats if knots are not quickly found and removed. This is why the Maltese has what’s known as a high maintenance coat. Clipped short, brushing about every 3 days is ideal. The longer the coat, the more frequent you’ll need to brush to avoid tangles becoming knots, ideally daily.
Maltese coat colour and staining
Maltese are typically pure white but can show touches of lemon or tan, most commonly on the ears. The Maltese coat is more prone to saliva and tear staining and to coat yellowing. They are also prone to ear problems due to having excess hair down their ear canal compared to other breeds, so if you don’t regularly visit a groomer those areas will need extra attention at home also. Use an ear cleaner like Fidos Ear Drops to regularly wipe the visible areas of the ear canal and ear folds clean. Whitening shampoo is also very popular for the Maltese, with Bio Groom Super White being our current best seller. Fidos Tear Stain Remover can be safely used on the eyes, around the mouth, and on the paws for tear and saliva staining.
TIP: Avoid the shampoo mistake! Don’t skip conditioner
Whether it’s a traditional rinse off conditioner or a spray-on or leave in conditioner, using conditioner after shampoo is highly recommended for the Maltese coat. It helps close and smooth the cuticle after shampoo use, reduces knots forming, and makes brushing easier.
The Maltese coat doesn’t need heavy conditioning though, so look for something lighter weight, or a conditioner you can dilute. Bio-Groom’s Silk formula is a top seller and a great match for the Maltese coat. If you prefer a leave-in formula, Pet Head High Maintenance is our best-selling leave-in formula. For coat sprays, look for an anti-stat spray or brushing aid. These are a big help to reduce static and knots and can be used every time you brush.
How often should a Maltese be brushed, washed and clipped?
Bathing about every 3 to 4 weeks is about right for the adult Maltese coat but you’re best to bath only when needed. The face can be wiped as often as daily to avoid build-up on tear and saliva stains, and ears cleaned every 4 weeks or so. Fidos Tear Stain Remover is great for the face, and the Fidos Ear Drops for the ears. Nails should be trimmed about every 6 weeks or so depending on the surfaces the dog walks on (some will wear nails down faster than others). Nail grinders are an option if less confident using nail clippers, like the Codos Nail Grinder. Frequency for clipping depends on what length you want the coat maintained.
What brushes are best for the Maltese coat?
A bristle brush is a good everyday brush if the coat is kept short, and for puppies before their adult coat comes through. If you need to maintain a longer or fluffier length and keep it knot-free, you’ll a pin brush is a better choice than a bristle brush (you can still use a bristle brush to finish, but it won’t help with knot removal).
Using a pin brush, work through the coat section by section (line brushing). If you find any tangles or knots the pin brush can’t remove, use a slicker brush to ‘pat’ out the knot. Use detangler spray to make knots faster and less painful to remove. Once the coat is free of knots, you can finish with a bristle brush to condition the coat and help keep the ends from getting dry or brittle (a boar bristle brush does a great job for finishing). You can also get soft bristle brushes but they are best only for very thin coats, very sensitive skin, or a puppy’s much finer coat. They won’t help with tangles and knots.
How can you tell if clippers are rated for the Maltese coat?
Clippers generally come in 4 levels: light use, medium duty, heavy duty and super duty. Whether the coat tends more towards the thinner, straighter, silkier Maltese coat, or soft, curly or cottony, the wrong clipper can end up ‘chewing’ (grabbing or pulling the coat), instead of cutting, even with a new, sharp blade, if the motor is underpowered for the coat. Look for a clipper rated heavy duty or super duty (upgrade to super duty if the coat gets badly matted, or if your Maltese tends towards the denser, more knot-prone cottony coat).
If a clipper doesn’t say if it’s heavy duty or super duty, it might say it’s rated for ‘full body clipping’ for ‘all coat types’ or may mention it’s for ‘difficult, thick, double or matted’ coats. That’s the level you’re looking for. If it says it’s ‘light use’ or ‘medium duty’ or that it’s for ‘trimming and touch-ups only’ that tells you it’s likely to be underpowered for full body clipping for an adult Maltese coat.
Most heavy duty and super duty clippers will be multi-speed. Either 2 speed or the newer 5 speed models. Use the lower speed in general to keep blades cooler for longer, and save the high speeds for thicker, difficult or knotted areas.
For puppies: Lighter use clippers WILL do the job for full body clipping while your Maltese has their thin puppy coat. You can then use them for trimming and touch-ups when the adult coat comes through (such as paw pads and touch-ups between going to the groomer).
Clippers for the Maltese coat
TIP Before you buy any clippers, know what A5 means
If the clipper description says it's an A5 model (or A5 style or A5 type), that tells you the clipper is compatible with the most blades and accessories possible, and that you can mix and match different brands. Most professional clippers are A5 models. For example, you could use a Wahl universal comb attachment, on a Heiniger blade, on your Andis clippers! Most trimmers however are not A5 models. They normally have their own blades and combs that fit only that model trimmer.
The clippers below are ALL current best sellers, ALL rated for the Maltese coat, and ALL universal A5 models. This is not a complete list though. Just a starting point so you're not overwhelmed with options. Don't rule out other clippers just because they are not listed here. Use this guide to help you compare any model. Note that these are all super duty level clippers, so if your Maltese has the lighter, thinner coat type and isn’t prone to knots and mats (or you keep the coat knot free) you can get a heavy duty clipper instead (like the Andis AGC Brushless in Black), which tend to cost less.
* 5 speed or 2 speed? Most clippers are 2 speeds, however some newer models are now available in 5 speeds. 5 speed clippers have the same top 2 speeds as a standard clippers but with 3 extra, lower speeds. Lower speeds are used to reduce speed, heat and noise, for delicate areas, very noise-sensitive or touch-sensitive dogs, and to help blades run cooler for longer. You still have the same top speeds in reserve for very thick or difficult areas.
Andis Pulse ZR II 5 Speed
Heiniger Saphir** (single speed)
Wahl KM Cordless 2 Speed
Andis Excel Cordless 2 Speed
You can shop all these (and more) cordless clipper models here >
** Although the Heiniger Saphir is a single speed, it has the torque and power needed to handle the Maltese coat no problem.
What else do I need to buy when getting clippers?
All clippers listed above come with a blade included free. You'll normally get given a standard size 10 blade with your clippers. However they do not come with shorter or longer blades, or comb attachments, so you order those separately to match the length/s you want the coat to be. With most clippers you'll also need oil and coolant. You'll also typically want at least one comb attachment or one longer blade. See more below about blades, comb attachments and coat lengths to help you decide. You can use Wahl oil with Andis clippers, Andis blade care (a coolant and cleaner in one) with Heiniger clippers and so on, so feel free to mix and match to suit your budget and needs.
How long will a blade stay sharp?
There are so many factors that there isn't an easy answer to that question. However you can get standard steel blades sharpened when they become dull or blunt, rather than having to buy new blades every time. Ceramic blades stay sharper up to 5 times longer than full steel blades, but when ceramic blades eventually become dull or blunt, you can't get that blade type sharpened. You can choose either ceramic or steel blades for all the A5 model clippers listed above. A ceramic blade will always say ceramic in the name and description, and you’ll see it has one white (ceramic) blade and one steel blade. Whatever blade type you choose, always take care with your coat prep. Poor prep will dull a blade very fast (sometimes within minutes instead of weeks or months). Read more about coat prep below to avoid causing your blade to become blunt earlier than it should.
Trimmers for the Maltese coat
Maltese owners often get a little cordless trimmer as well to use on the feet, between paw pads, around the face, ears and eyes, and around the rectum, genitals, armpits and abdomen. You can use full-size clipper for these areas if you prefer, however factors to consider are: how sensitive your dog is, whether you want to go cordless, and if you want a smaller blade to get to those difficult areas more easily. There’s quite a size difference between a clipper rated for full body clipping, and a little mini size trimmer.
If the dog is extra noise sensitive or vibration sensitive, or anxious about being groomed or touched in certain places, a trimmer can help as it's a lot lighter, smaller, lower vibration and quieter than a clipper. Trimmers are rated for trimming areas with shorter, thinner fur. Being cordless, and having a much smaller blade width, means they can get in to tricky or delicate areas more easily and the blade reduces the risk of injury, ideal if you're a beginner. For the Maltese a mini size trimmer is the more popular size. Mini trimmers have the smallest blade width, around 3cm. A midi is around 4cm. A full size clipper’s blade is about 5cm wide.
MINI Trimmers are the smaller size, ideal for the Maltese, for paws, faces, ears, genitals, armpits, and trimming delicate, tricky or injury-prone areas.
Higher quality models:
Budget option > Shernbao Mini
MIDI Trimmers have a medium width blade around 4cm. This size is popular as a first clipper for all-over use for a Maltese puppy before they get their adult coat (while their coat is still thin and easy to clip).
Budget option > Codos CP-9800
What blades are best for the Maltese coat?
Check what model your clipper is first. If you have an A5 model clipper of any brand, almost every blade we sell will fit on your clipper, no matter what brand your clipper is, or what brand the blade is. You can then mix and match to suit your needs, so an Andis blade can go on a Wahl clipper, a Geib blade on an Andis clipper, a Wahl comb attachment on an Andis blade and so on.
Standard / universal blades come in sizes from 50 (under 1mm) to 3 (over 1cm). It’s easier to buy blades and comb attachments based on coat length. The most popular blade sizes for the Maltese depend on the look you want to achieve.
Maltese Blade Guide
If you are a beginner groomer, we recommend further education first, such as the book Theory of 5, lessons from your groomer or breeder, attending a short course with one of the grooming schools in NZ, or watching tutorials on YouTube.
#10 blade > Also called the ‘standard blade’. A 10 blade is included free with most clippers. It leaves the coat around 1.5mm when used by itself (different brands do vary slightly, some brand of 10’s are 1.6mm, some are 1.8mm). Also fits all universal comb attachments for longer lengths up to 3cm.
All universal comb attachments fit on 10 blades of any brand. For finer coats some prefer to use combs clipped on a 30 blade for a smoother finish. Comb attachments are a type of comb that clips on to the clipper blade. They give you coat lengths from 3mm to over 3cm.
Depending on your Maltese’s coat type and the look you prefer, you may want to go longer or shorter. 3, 4 and 5 blades are all popular. Of those, the 5 gives the closest / shortest cut. See more about each blade below these tips.
Important blade & comb tips before you buy:
If you only get one blade and use it for every groom, such as the 10 your clippers came with, keep in mind it’ll need sharpening more often to avoid it ‘chewing’ instead of cutting the coat when it becomes dull. The Maltese coat is less forgiving of a dull or blunt blade due to being so fine.
Check the blade regularly (touch it every 10 mins or so) to avoid blade burn irritating or burning the dog’s skin. If a blade is too hot, either stop clipping and wait till it cools down, replace it with a different blade of the same length, or spray coolant and keep clipping. Some coolants also clean and disinfect the blade, so look for a 2-in-1 that does both to save money.
We recommend stainless steel comb attachments for the Maltese coat. In general, the thinner any coat is, the better finish a blade will give you if used by itself, compared to a comb attachment used with a blade. If you do use a comb attachment, you may want to tidy up afterwards with thinning scissors. Using a shampoo that adds volume, or a lighter weight conditioner that won’t weigh down the coat, also assists with getting a better result as they help ‘fluff’ up the coat before clipping.
Before you buy any longer blade > Unless you are experienced or trained using them, only get the finish cut version in any blade longer than a #10. Longer blades - such as 3, 4, 5 or 7 - come in two versions, skip tooth (ST) where every other tooth is shorter, or finish cut (F or FC depending on the brand) where all the teeth are the same length. All blades 10 or shorter - such as 10, 15 or 30 - are always finish cut. When buying longer blades, get the F or FC version. If you are a beginner groomer, we recommend further education first before you start using clippers, such as the book Theory of 5, advice or lessons from your groomer or your breeder. You can also look up tutorials on YouTube.
Blades for coat lengths under 1cm
#7 blade > Longer than a 10 blade. Leaves the coat very short, around 3mm. Used when the coat is knotted or matted. Thin coated Maltese may find this too short to give skin the required protection from the sun. Get the FC version of this blade unless experienced.
#5 blade > The shortest of the more popular blades for the Maltese. Still a short finish for easy maintenance, but with more sun protection. Leaves the coat around 6mm. Get the FC version unless experienced.
#4 blade > A popular slightly longer length for a Maltese pet clip, especially for summer. Leaves the coat around 1cm (9mm). Get the FC version unless experienced.
#3 blade > The next size up for a longer, slightly fluffier finish than a 4. Leaves the coat around 13mm however important to note is the coat needs to be knot and tangle free when using longer blades and of all blades, the 3 is the trickier to get used to using so may require changing your technique such as the angle you have your clippers on in order to get best results with this length.
Note: There is a longer 3 blade also available - called a 3/4 - that leaves the coat 19mm, however a blade with teeth that long is not recommended unless experienced. It’s better to use a comb attachment on a 10 blade if you want longer than 13mm.
For coat lengths longer than 1cm
Comb attachments offer a range of coat lengths from under 3mm to over 3cm. You can choose one comb to have the whole body the same length, or a set to have some areas (like the legs, head and ears), longer than others to keep a more balanced look. Comb attachments fit on all brands of 10 blade, and many fit on a 30 blade also for when the coat is super fine.
In Wahl, comb attachments in sizes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are popular lengths for a fluffier, longer finish up to 25mm. In Andis comb attachments, sizes 1, 0, A, B, C, D, E and F are popular for longer lengths right up to 32mm. Note that comb sizes do not match blade sizes. A 7 comb and a 7 blade are very different lengths. To avoid confusion, buy based on coat length instead, gives in mm’s.
For achieving longer coat lengths, you must have a tangle and knot free coat. If a standard grooming comb cannot get through the coat, a blade with a comb attachment on, or a longer blade, will have trouble also. The longer the blade or comb attachment, the more important a knot-free coat becomes. Shorter blades such as the 7F and 10 can go under knots so are the better choice when you can’t remove knots before you clip, but will result in a much shorter length.
After you clip: For a smooth finish after using any blade, especially after using comb attachments, use thinning scissors (also called blenders), to go over the coat and remove any track lines or uneven areas, blend shorter into longer areas, and get a natural, fluffy, softer more even finish. For beginners (as thinners can be more difficult to get used to compared to solid blade scissors), get shorter thinners with a higher teeth count. The Geib Gator 6.5” with 40 teeth are very popular.
What Maltese coat prep is needed before clipping?
Even with a brand new, sharp blade, and a powerful clipper, poor coat prep can cause a lot of (avoidable) problems when clipping. Before you clip read What to do before you clip any dog >
The Shampoo Mistake
Skipping conditioner is common when bathing dogs, but is not recommended when it comes to the Maltese coat. Always condition after shampoo. Use a rinse-out formula like Bui-Groom Silk or a leave-in formula like Pet Head High Maintenance. Shampoo opens the cuticle in order to clean it. That leaves it more rough and lightly to tangle. Conditioner then closes the cuticle, smoothing it back down, making it less likely to tangle and knot, and easier to brush. Conditioner also helps reduce static during brushing, combing and clipping.
Drying the Maltese coat
Getting the coat 100% dry is an important step after you wash, before you clip. You can use towels but it can take a long time and leave the dog shivering in the meantime, plus if you ‘rub’ the coat it can cause tangles and knots to form. We recommend using a pet chamois to soak up excess water fast, which you can then wring out to soak up more. Once the excess is out of the coat, finish drying quickly using a low to mid-level pet dryer, such as a Shernbao Cyclone or Super Cyclone. You can turn them down and use them hands-free for line brushing also (where you remove tangles and brush the coat as it dries).
Maltese ear care
With Maltese having more hair packed inside those little ears, some are very prone to wax and dirt build-up in their ears. At least once a month, put a few drops of ear cleaner on a cotton wool ball or body wipe, and gently rub the inside areas and folds of the ears to clean and remove any visible wax and dirt - but remember: don’t clean what you can’t see! This helps prevent worse ear problems from developing. We like the soothing Fidos Ear Drops for this.
Tear stains or saliva stains on the Maltese
Any white or light coated breed is more prone to eye, mouth and ear staining from tears and saliva. Regular use of a product like Fidos Tear Stain Remover is recommended for the Maltese coat. Ideally used daily as a preventative by regularly cleaning the eye area to help prevent build-up and staining in the first place.
So keep watch for longer eyebrows, eyelashes or hair that’s getting into the mouth or irritating the eyes. If they touch the eye or get in the mouth, they can cause excessive tearing and saliva to wet the coat, leading to tear and saliva staining. However if a dog has constant eye discharge, and trimming eyebrows and eyelashes makes no difference, it’s time for a visit to the Vet.