True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

The 10 deadly sins of ordinary dry cleaners

Sin signThere's over 26,000 dry cleaners in the USA and over 400 in the metro Phoenix area alone. And almost every single one claims to be "best of class" and to offer "exceptional" or "award winning" dry cleaning and shirt laundry services.

Your intuition and experience should tell you that these claims -- even those proffered by the so-called "better cleaners" -- are nothing more than puffery on the part of ordinary cleaners.

More specifically, the vast majority of ordinary dry cleaners commit the 10 Deadly Sins of Ordinary Dry Cleaners. They ...

1.  Skip the stain removal process entirely

They simply load their machines and press the start button.

And if the spots and stains miraculously disappear based on a combination of the dry cleaning solvent (the more aggressive the better), the dry cleaning detergent (if any, and then, the cheaper the better), the addition or injection of moisture into the dry cleaning machine (a reckless undertaking), and the dry cleaning machine's tumbling action, you're in luck; if not, that's your problem and they'll simply hang one of those sorry-we-tried-but-we-couldn't tags on your garment.

2.  Use chlorinated and/or hydrocarbon dry cleaning solvents

97% of all dry cleaners clean your fine garments and household textiles in perchloroethylene aka perc (a chlorinated solvent branded Dowper) or synthetic petroleum (a hydrocarbon solvent branded DF 2000 or EcoSolv).

These solvents are excellent on oil-based stains such as body oil, butter, lotions and creams (about 10% of all stains a dry cleaner sees), but, rather ineffective on water-based stains such as perspiration, soda, coffee and wines (about 90% of the stains a dry cleaner sees). More importantly, chlorinated and hydrocarbon dry cleaning solvents are way too aggressive for fine bespoke, made-to-measure, designer, high fashion, specialty and couture garments in which I specialize. If I operated a uniform rental business specializing in auto repair shops, I'd definitely want to clean in perc. If I operated an ordinary cleaner, I'd definitely want to clean in either perc or synthetic petroleum or both.

3.  Reuse their dry cleaning solvent over and over again

That would be fine if only they continuously purified every single drop of their dry cleaning solvent before and after each and every load. And continuously filtered their solvent during each load.

But ordinary dry cleaners don't do both.

Instead, they either filter with zero purification, filter with inadequate purification, filter with irregular purification, or filter with inadequate and irregular purification.

And the result? Greyish and dingy whites, creams and pastels. Dull and faded colors. And that all-too-familiar " dry cleaning solvent smell."

4.  Use cheap dry cleaning solvent detergents or none at all

Just like you add a detergent to your home wash, a dry cleaner must add a dry cleaning detergent to their dry cleaning solvent.

Many are cheap; some expensive. Many are ineffective; some effective. Most ordinary cleaners opt for cheap.

And, in many cases, where the pressure on costs is great, they don't even use a dry cleaning detergent. Even the cheap ones!

5.  Add fragrance or perfume to their dry cleaning solvent

Ordinary cleaners love fragrance or perfume.

And the reason? A futile attempt to "disguise" or "neutralize" the odor associated with dry cleaning in "dirty dry cleaning solvent" -- dry cleaning solvent that has not been both continuously purified and continuously filtered.

6.  Add sizing to their dry cleaning solvent

Ordinary cleaners also love sizing. So they add or inject sizing into their dry cleaning machines during the wash cycle. In much the same way that you inject detergent or softener into your home washer.

According to one Phoenix, Arizona dry cleaner, it's to "keep your garments feeling new and crisp" and to "retain your garment's original shape, weight and feel" (I kid you not!).

Truth is, the more sizing, the more garments a presser can bang out on a press in an hour. Which you've got to do if your entire business model is geared to quantity and speed. Not quality of product.

7.  Take unacceptable risks in their cleaning process

It's all done in the name of cutting costs and cutting turnaround time.

Typically these risks involve: mixing garments of different colors; mixing regular and fragile garments; overloading their machines; adding or injecting moisture into their loads; reducing their "wash" cycle times; and increasing their "dry" cycle temperatures.

All of which produces the fastest, cheapest -- and worst -- cleaning.

8.  Machine press your garments

Ordinary cleaning is all about pushing the maximum number of garments (quantity) through their system in the shortest possible time (speed).

So they machine press instead of hand iron. Typically, 30 to 40 pants per hour per presser and 20 to 30 non-pant garments per hour per presser. About 1½ to 2 minutes per garment.

This gives true meaning to the term "bang and hang" cleaning. The result? Crimes of fashion such as crushed nap; shine; seam, flap and button impressions; and wrinkled seams and linings.

9.  Fail to inspect your garments

It's the old story: why bother with a careful, thorough inspection -- from top to bottom -- from inside to outside -- when the entire operation is geared towards getting your garments into a machine, onto a press, and into a bag. ASAP. They're in by 9:00 and out by 5:00; or picked up on day 1 and delivered on day 3.

10.  Stuff your garments into a bag, then cram them on a holding rack or conveyor

Just look at the holding racks or the conveyor of any dry cleaner with a reasonable volume of business. The orders are packed like sardines in a tin. So instead of the packaging reflecting and enhancing the "care and attention invested in the cleaning and finishing process," your garments are returned to you -- pressed and on a hanger -- looking only slightly better than the day you turned them over.

There you have it. The 10 Deadly Sins of Ordinary Cleaners.

But I must confess. There are way more than 10. Were you to spend some time on our site ( or on this blog you'd probably come up with at least 100 all on your own. All related to knowledge, expertise, skills, processes, craftsmanship, technologies, equipment and facilities. And all directly related to the cleaner minimizing costs and time and maximizing piece count volume and revenues.

Then again, the 100 Deadly Sins of Ordinary Dry Cleaners just doesn't have the same ring to it.

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