“I wanted my shirt laundered. Why did you dryclean it? I don’t want to pay 3 or 4 times what you charge for the laundered shirt!”
Even worse – the public often get the impression that their cleaner charges more for women’s clothing than men’s. That is illegal! Unfortunately, the clerks working at many cleaners don’t understand why the prices are what they are. Poorly trained Customer service reps re-enforce this common misconception.
Before I address the WHY, here are my tips for buying shirts so that you won't experience this:
First: Buy 100% cotton! Rayon, spandex blend, silk, etc. CANNOT BE Machine Finished! The machine has 400F plates that close on the WET material. These materials melt, tear or otherwise cannot withstand the process!
Shirts can be finished by 3 methods: Machine Only (Least costly), Touch up - Machine and then touched up with an iron (More Labor intensive), Hand Finish - Ironed the old fashioned way (If you have ironed your own shirts, you know what I'm saying when I say this is the most labor intensive. A skilled finisher with the best equipment can still take up to 15 minutes to properly iron a linen or cotton blouse!)
The reason drycleaning is expensive is because of the time, supplies, labor and utilities involved.
So the natural question would be "Why don't they make machines for other types of clothing?" Well there is no garment as uniform and frequently used as a man's dress shirt.
I hope this photo of the shirts as they come off of the machine (no touch-up) make my point. Every one is a different brand. Some are short sleeve, some are button down. But they are notably all alike.
Try this with women's blouses and you will begin to understand your drycleaners dilemma!
So let's review why these shirts are so inexpensive: First off, shirts are not dried. There are no utilities necessary to dry the shirts, because they are pressed wet. The shirt machine is “dressed” with a wet shirt, and then 2 400 degree hot metal plates close on the shirt drying and pressing it at the same time.
So besides the savings in natural gas (which is huge, by the way!) one person can press over 50 shirts an hour!!!! Try that on your ironing board at home. Even with all the fancy technology, pressing a rayon, silk or even (I should say especially) a cotton or linen blouse takes up to 10 minutes. Cotton and Linen hand pressed shirts are even more time consuming.
That being said, shirt pressed by machine feel different. They are a little stiffer than hand finished shirts – That is the your preference.
Also, shirt that are machine finished only last (according to the Laundry & Drycleaning Institute) 52 washings. That is a life of one year if you wash your shirt weekly. Hand finished shirts will not wear out that quickly.
The key to avoiding this:Communication!