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

You have shirt laundry rights. Exercise those rights.

Full yellow shirtYou pride yourself on your appearance. So you've invested time and money in a range of fine shirts. You may even have a personal clothier who tailors your shirts to your specific measurements. Of course, you want those shirts to look, feel and smell great. And last much longer.

Like most, you'll probably turn to a "professional shirt laundry" for help.

And what happens there?

They take 50 to 60 "laundry" shirts. Scrub the collars and cuffs with a hard-bristled brush. Sort them into two loads: "lights" and "darks". Then subdivide each load into "starch" and "no starch". Next, stuff a load into a 60 lb. shirt washer, adding hot (even boiling) water, harsh caustic industrial grade detergents and bleach. Starch with cheap synthetic glue. Remove the damp shirts from the washer and run them through a series of pressing machines that have all the subtlety and precision of a sledgehammer. At a rate of 40 to 50 shirts (or more) per hour. Then, using a hand iron, touch up the underarms (maybe) and crease the sleeves in an attempt to conceal any evidence of machine pressing and pass them off as a "hand finished" or "hand ironed" shirt. Finally, cram the finished shirts into narrow poly bags so that they're returned looking only slightly better than the day they were sent in or dropped off. Or machine fold them for that desired "slept in" look.

So what are your shirt laundry rights? And what should you expect from a shirt laundry?

  1. Yellow shirt white cuffsThe right to shirts that are exceptionally clean and free of both oil-based stains (such as body oil, creams, lotions, salad dressing, steak sauce, etc.) and water-based stains (such as perspiration, soda, juice, wind, etc.).
  2. The right to spectacularly bright whites, creams and pastels.
  3. The right to colors that are bright, without that "washed out", faded look.
  4. The right to collars and cuffs, including french cuffs, that are pristine clean.
  5. The right to fabrics that don't have a crusty, cardboard feel.
  6. The right to shirts that are meticulously ironed. By hand. Not by machine.
  7. The right to sleeves without a sharp crease along the entire sleeve length.
  8. The right to seams that aren't puckered or wrinkled.
  9. The right to front and sleeve plackets that aren't puckered or wrinkled.
  10. The right to collars and cuffs that are fully rounded. Not flat or creased.
  11. The right to collars that are perfectly turned down at the back.
  12. The right to shirts that are carefully inspected.
  13. The right to shirts with a complete set of matching buttons.
  14. The right to shirts on hangers that are individually bagged. Or folded by hand, not by machine.

And how can your shirt laundry achieve the results?

  • Yellow shirt white collarBy first soaking your shirts in a gentle dry cleaning fluid (to dissolve oil-based stains) and then in a water-based solution (to eliminate water-based stains) instead of scrubbing your collars and cuffs with hard-bristled brushes and "collar/cuff solution" in an attempt to get them reasonably clean.
  • By gently wet cleaning your shirts in cool or warm water instead of washing your shirts in hot water in an attempt to dissolve the oil-based stains.
  • By using a gentle enzyme detergent instead of a harsh, caustic, industrial grade detergent in an attempt to eliminate the water-based stains.
  • By using no bleach instead of adding fabric-destroying bleach in an attempt to get your whites really white.
  • By using a premium, natural wheat starch instead of starching your shirts with cheap synthetic glue (that adheres to your shirt's fibers like multiple coats of paint) in an attempt to save a few pennies per shirt.
  • By hand ironing your shirts instead of machine pressing them at a rate of 40 to 50 per hour, which leaves your shirts with puckered seams, wrinkled collars, cuffs, underarms, sleeve pleats, sleeve plackets and front plackets, and wrinkled cuff/sleeve and sleeve/body joins.
  • By taking the time to do the job right (3 to 5 days in most cases) instead of routinely offering same and next day service or 3 day pickup and delivery service.

Unfortunately, fine garment care - true quality cleaning - requires more than just a knowledge of loading and unloading a shirt washer or dry clean machine, and banging those garments out on a press. And more than just an assembly-line cleaning and pressing operation where every garment is barcoded and treated as interchangeable irrespective of original cost. Based on this definition, I could teach any Hallmark Card store employee to be a dry cleaner/presser in 2 weeks. (Sorry, I take that back. In 1 week.)

Truth is, fine garment care - true quality cleaning - requires an extensive knowledge of and commitment to the art and science of textiles, garment construction, cleaning and hand ironing; a never-ending commitment to process improvement (no matter how marginal); a stubbornness to reject labor saving technologies that negatively impacts true quality; an unyielding commitment to invest in true quality rather than extract every last penny out of the cleaning, hand ironing and packaging process; a sense of pride in one's work; a passion for perfection (to the extent that perfection is achievable); the time necessary to "do the job right;" and most importantly, a personal philosophy that says that true quality has inherent meaning and value - for the cleaner, his employees and his clients.

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