So you think all Drycleaners are the same?

A new customer asked why he should pay me more than his usual dry-cleaner to have his $2,400 hand-made suits serviced; a good question in these times. While I don’t like to answer a question with a question, I asked him why he had this wonderful suit on my counter and not on that of his normal dry-cleaners. His reply was “Well, the suit has lost it's shape, feel and body”, so I answered his question:

"The difference you pay for is experience and investment in equipment, materials and staff, and the overall quality that produces. We always make sure we are up-to-date with developments within the textile industry – manufacturing and materials, and cleaning techniques and products. When it’s worthwhile we invest in new equipment and ensure our staff know how to maximize its capabilities."

I find that this is a common thought. You grab your dirty suit or dress and run to where ever the nearest drycleaner is located. Its just a drycleaner, right? They all do the same thing, right?
Here are 6 reasons I could think of why All Drycleaners Are Not the Same!

1) Did you know that there are no requirements (other than a business license) to become a drycleaner? You can pretty much just put up a sign and be open for business, with zero knowledge or experience! Drycleaning is one of the few businesses I can think of with NO requirements. There are many trade associations that help drycleaners educate themselves - I would never choose a cleaner that was not affiliated with at least the DLI (Drycleaning and Laundry Institute).

2) Textile care is complicated. The drycleaner has no control over how a garment was made, how it has been cared for in the past, or what sort of stains and soils are on the garment. We often don't recal spilling that 7up on our favorite blouse when we are dropping the blouse at the cleaners a week later. Or perhaps all those shirts have been sitting in the back of a car baking for a week while on route to the cleaners.
And care labels are notoriously inaccurate - you can imagine the trouble an inexperienced cleaner could have.

3) Experience, training and on going education is crucial! Drycleaning machines come with “factory standard” computer templates. A good drycleaner will have those programs customized for they types of clothes (sweaters vs cushions) and the weather (hot dry weather verses rain). It takes experience and training to customize key aspects of the cleaning process: rotation of the drum, spin speed, solvent temperature, drying temperature etc. A good operator will also distill 80% of the solvent with each load; this is more expensive but it makes sure the solvent is perfectly clean and pure each time we process clothes.

4) The kinds of equipment available to drycleaners is as varied as the drycleaner operators. There are high tech wetcleaning, drycleaning, tensioning, the list goes on and on. Some of this equipment is very complicated and expensive. Knowing how to use the basic equipment properly is one thing, but investing in the best equipment shows the quality of the operator.

5) Then there is the soap! The soap we add to the dry-cleaning process is the best you can buy in Europe, not the cheapest. This affects the “feel” of the garments, improves their antistatic properties, enhances the brightness of the colors and also offers better stain removal properties. Without getting too technical, it aids dirt particle suspension properties - the soap helps to suspend the dirt particles in the solvent and stops them being re-deposited on to other garments, causing “greying”.

6) Tracking software: A cheap drycleaner can use a regular cash register and staple tags to each garment, then manually assemble and bag an order after cleaning. A better cleaner will use a high end technology that prevents human error (and mis-assembly's), allows you to sign up, pay and check orders on the internet, and use less resources for the packaging process.

So the next time you are considering using a discount cleaners - think about all the things they must be neglecting in order to keep that price low. And try asking a few questions.

1 comment:

John Kenly said...

I have never taken into consideration all these factors. My dry cleaners is not doing well at all. Recently he destroyed my custom dress shirt :(