We provide extraordinary care for fine
garments & household textiles
Jeffrey Diduch, bespoke tailor, is author of the
blog, tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com, a blog devoted to the art and
construction of handmade garments (tutto fatto a mano is Italian
for made entirely by hand).
Last Thursday, tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com published a guest
post by me entitled, Stu Bloom on Garment Maintenance.
In that post, I focus on 3 critical issues that owners of
bespoke and made-to-measure garments should understand before they
drop off their fine garments at their local dry cleaner:
Here is that post in it's entirety ...
I've almost finished packing my boxes and will be moving in the
next few days so things will be quiet for a bit. In the meantime, a
guest posting from Stu Bloom from Rave FabriCare on garment
maintenance. If you ever had questions about maintenance, garment
shine, or those nasty double-creases down your trousers, this may
I'll be back once I've unpacked in the U.S.
There are 26,000 dry cleaners in the USA and almost
every single one will tell you that they "focus on the details" and
"deliver top quality cleaning".
This is, of course, utter nonsense.
Regarding the claim that they "focus on the details", here's the
problem: true quality cleaning is not about a few details. It's
about hundreds of details. And more specifically, it's the
combination of those hundreds of details that produces true quality
dry cleaning and true quality shirt laundry.
What I want to know is how can a cleaner claim that he "focuses
on the details" when his entire operation is geared to same or next
day service? How can a cleaner claim that he "focuses on the
details" when your garments are picked up on day 1 and delivered on
day 3? And how can a cleaner claim that he "focuses on the details"
when he charges $12.50 or $20.00 for a two piece suit and $2.25 or
$3.00 for a laundered shirt?
Regarding the claim that they "deliver top quality cleaning",
how is that possible when their entire focus is on pushing more
and more garments (quantity) faster and faster
(speed) through their "production system"? And how is that possible
when they have "production standards" that dictate that each of
their pressers produce a targeted number of pieces per hour and
when their pressers are paid by the piece?
True quality cleaning involves the right combination of skills,
equipment and specialization, and pricing and turnaround that's
correspondingly appropriate. Dry cleaning consultant Kenny Slatten
said it best in a 2002 article in the Western Cleaner &
Launderer: Every cleaner thinks that he produces quality
work. But most don't have a clue what true quality
cleaning is all about.
That having been said, what are some of the hallmarks of true
Technical skills, equipment and
True quality cleaning is a highly skilled endeavor. Most of my
cleaners and pressers (aka finishers) have been with me for 10+
years and were hired for their TECHNIQUE, not for their EXPERIENCE.
One of my best pressers, for example, had less than a year's
experience when she joined RAVE FabriCARE.
Jeffery, that's where most cleaners fail: They believe (and
they're encouraged by equipment manufacturers to believe) that
fancy equipment will compensate for the lack of skill (by the way,
we have plenty of that fancy equipment in our 7,500 square foot,
state of the art facility). This problem is particularly acute when
it comes to pressing. The overwhelming majority of pressers have
many years of experience doing the wrong things over and over
again. It's almost impossible to retrain an "experienced presser."
Bad habits die hard.
On the other hand, when you have someone with great technique
you can guide that individual into producing "near perfect" work
over a period of years. I'm sure it's much like guiding a tailoring
apprentice over the years to the point that you can trust their
skills. Tedious but worth it over the long run.
But skilled technicians alone without the right tools and
equipment won't be able to get the job done.
At RAVE FabriCARE, we have different finishing stations,
equipped with different types of finishing pads, adjusted to
different pressures, equipped with hand irons set at different
temperatures, and staffed by pressers with different skills, to
accommodate different categories of garments and even different
types of fabrics within a specific category of garments.
To understand this departure from the industry norm, you must
first recognize that ordinary cleaners typically employ only two
types of presses in their dry clean operations: pant presses
(slacks, trousers and shorts) and utility presses (blouses, shirts,
blazers, sport coats, dresses, skirts, sweaters, etc.).
Finally, the right technical skills coupled with the right
equipment permits you to specialize. At RAVE FabriCARE, for
example, we follow a specialization regimen that's rare in the dry
At the vast majority of ordinary cleaners almost everyone is a
"jack of all trades". The "dry cleaner" presses pants when he's not
loading/unloading the dry clean machine. Other pressers interchange
constantly between trousers/slacks, sweaters, jackets/blazers,
shirts/blouses, ties, formal dresses, etc. etc. The battlecry is
loud and constant: get the stuff out the door and pitch in to get
the work done, even if you have no idea what you're doing.
By contrast, a true quality cleaner would NEVER permit such
At RAVE FabriCARE, for example, a garment finisher who
specializes in slacks, trousers and shorts would never be assigned
a sport coat or a dress.
Because skilled finishing is all about technique. And few
finishers -- even highly skilled finishers -- have developed their
technique to the point that would allow them to move seamlessly
between different categories of garments. (As I've said before:
"technique" does not equate to "experience". Most pressers with
many years of experience have zero technique.)
Not only that, but a true quality cleaner has different
finishing stations to accommodate different fabrics within a
specific category of garments. For example, a garment finisher who
specializes in cotton/linen slacks, trousers and shorts would never
be assigned a wool, silk, poly, acetate or rayon slacks, trousers
Because cotton/linen pant presses are equipped with a "harder"
pad, are adjusted to a higher pressure, are equipped with hand
irons set at higher temperatures, and requires a hand finisher with
a "stronger arm". By contrast, wool, silk, poly, acetate and rayon
pant presses are equipped with a "soft" pad, are adjusted to a
negligible pressure, are equipped with hand irons set at lower
temperatures, and requires a hand finisher with a "delicate
At a true quality cleaner anything less is simply
Here are some more examples of specialization at RAVE
At a true quality cleaner, you won't find those common "bang and
hang" machine pressing practices typically found at ordinary
cleaners: shine; seam, flap and button impressions; moire-like
press pad impressions; double creases; wrinkled seams and linings;
and other "crimes of fashion".
Instead, your fine garments will be delicately finished. By a
skilled garment finisher. The old-fashioned way. By hand. Using a
hand iron. Both inside and out. No matter how long it might
"Pressing", as practiced by ordinary cleaners, is such a poor
descriptor of the art of finishing. Of course, a skilled finisher
must know how to apply pressure to achieve a smooth finish on a
linen or cotton. But a smooth, soft, hand-finish, that minimizes
the possibility of shine or seam, flap or button impressions, best
defines the finest professional finishing.
When you consider the difficulty involved in aligning technical
skills, equipment and specialization, I know why your blood
pressure rises every time you think "dry cleaner"!
Dry cleaning machine operations
I'll go out on a limb here: you probably wouldn't operate your
home washer the way ordinary cleaners operate their dry cleaning
That statement may sound harsh but it's not. Especially when you
consider that the vast majority of ordinary cleaners
This produces the fastest and cheapest -- and worst -- dry
cleaning. What I call "ordinary cleaning." And what ordinary
cleaners call "exceptional" or "award winning" cleaning.
A true quality cleaner will run their dry cleaning machines
quite differently from ordinary cleaners.
At RAVE FabriCARE, for example, we always scrupulously sort our
garments into at least 5 like-color classifications, and at least 2
fragility classifications. We never add moisture to our dry
cleaning fluid to control any possibility of shrinkage. We always
under load our machines to ensure maximum soil removal and reduce
pilling. We always extend the length of our wash cycles for maximum
soil removal. And we always dry at lower temperatures to further
control any possibility of shrinkage.
What's more our dry cleaning machines even have completely
separate filter systems for light/intermediate colored loads and
dark colored loads.
By contrast, the dry cleaning machines at many ordinary cleaners
have a single filter system. This means that the dry cleaning
solvent or fluid from both their light/intermediate colored loads
and their dark colored loads flows through the same set of filters.
As a result, some of the dye residue from their dark garments that
accumulates in their filters will eventually find its way onto your
Whites, creams and pastels that are grey and dingy.
Pricing and turnaround
Is there's a strong correlation between the quality of the
product your cleaner delivers and the price they charge for that
You bet there is.
So if your competitively priced cleaner that tells you that they
consistently "focus on the details" and deliver "top quality
cleaning" they're being disingenuous. I would call it lying.
RAVE FabriCARE, for example, is not a "competitively priced" or
"value-priced" cleaner. We do not offer discounts, specials,
coupons or deals. Nor do we offer a two tier pricing system, one
price for your "regular" garments and one price for your "fancier"
At RAVE FabriCARE, we deliver extraordinary care for fine
garments and household textiles. And we price our services
accordingly. This means that we set our prices at a level which
affords us the opportunity to concentrate solely on the quality of
As you can probably appreciate from my prior comments about
skills, equipment and specialization, setting prices is the easy
part. Consistently delivering on our commitment to extraordinary
care -- every item, every order -- now that's the complicated part.
And that's the difference between true quality cleaning and
Turnaround is one of those topics that really gets my blood
While every other cleaner is proud -- yes, proud -- of their
same and next day service and three day pickup and delivery
service, we offer one week service. It's been that way ever since
we opened our doors in April 1988.
Why? Because we don't -- and won't -- produce "bang and hang" or
Bang and hang cleaning or ordinary cleaning essentially involves
tossing your garments into a machine, banging them out on a press,
hanging them on a wire or wood hanger, stuffing them in a bag with
or without tissue, and cramming them on a holding rack or shuttling
them out the back door. Believe it or not, this is standard
operating procedure at the vast majority of ordinary cleaners,
including many who profess to be high-end cleaners.
Every cleaner is faced with the same strategic dilemma: They can
either focus all their resources on consistently producing the
finest garment care possible or they can deliver the same bang and
hang work offered by 26,000 other cleaners in the U.S.A.
A quick turnaround means that they've made a strategic decision
to focus on the latter. I'd go out on another limb here: no true
quality cleaner would offer same or next day service or three day
pickup and delivery service.
That, Jeffery, is my quick attempt to convey our philosophy on
Caring for bespoke garments (part one)
Caring for bespoke garments (part two)
Your dry cleaning bill of rights
A true quality cleaner's dry cleaning standards.
How can I help you?
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