4 types of dry cleaners: Which profile fits your local dry cleaner?

Dry cleaners can generally be divided into four categories:

  • Value cleaners (discount cleaners) – poor quality at a discount price
  • Ordinary cleaners (middle market cleaners) – mediocre quality at a moderate price
  • Wannabe cleaners (illusion cleaners) – slightly better-than-average quality at an inflated price
  • Extraordinary cleaners (true quality cleaners) – extraordinary quality at a high price.

Value (discount) cleaners

At the low end of the spectrum are the value cleaners.

Value cleaners (or discount cleaners) know that they have to extract every penny of cost from their operations, primarily by minimizing their investment in skilled labor, processes and equipment. They know that their business is based on the volume of pieces that flow through their facility and that saving a few nickels per garment can mean the difference between failure and survival.

Extraordinary (true quality) cleaners

At the high end of the spectrum are the extraordinary cleaners.

Extraordinary cleaners know that they have to invest significant resources in skilled labor, processes and equipment over many years in order to develop the institutional capability necessary to produce extraordinary cleaning on a consistent basis. On every garment. On every order.

Both value cleaners and extraordinary cleaners know exactly who their clients are and focus solely on serving the needs of those clients.

It’s really quite simple. And quite complicated. All at the same time.

Ordinary (middle market) cleaners 

That leaves the ordinary cleaners who are figuratively and literally “stuck in the middle” (between the value cleaners and the extraordinary cleaners).

Just like Kmart and Sears and even Macy's and J.C. Penney, ordinary cleaners have no idea who their customers are, what their needs are and how to serve them.

All they know is that they must somehow survive and, in order to survive, they must become “all things to all people”.

They believe that they can simultaneously care for garments that you’re really fussy about, garments that you’re less fussy about, and garments that you're least fussy about. And that they can do all this using the exact same personnel, procedures, processes, technologies, equipment and facilities and the exact same pricing structure.

In these days of limited resources, growing competition and increasing specialization, that’s a rather quaint and possibly doomed notion.

Just ask Kmart and Sears and even Macy's and J.C. Penney how they’re doing!

Wannabe (illusion) cleaners 

This brings us to our favorite category of dry cleaner – the wannabe cleaners.

Wannabe cleaners are ordinary cleaners who have convinced themselves that they are extraordinary cleaners.

They talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.

Typically, wannabe cleaners deliver a quality of product that is only marginally above average but at an inflated price.

Then use glitz and the illusion of quality to convince their clients that their above average cleaning is somehow “exceptional” or “exquisite” and, therefore, worth that inflated price.

As these wannabe cleaners work to transform themselves into extraordinary cleaners, they, nonetheless, don’t want to alienate their existing clients who just want ordinary, bang and hang cleaning. They know that they need to retain those clients in order to survive financially.

So they purport to offer 3 different "levels of quality" at 3 different price levels.

They’ll typically refer to these three quality-price levels as their “everyday" service, their “expert" service and their “couture” service. Or their "diamond", "platinum" and "gold" service. Or their "classic", "deluxe" and "artisan" service.

The notion is, of course, absurd.

Their employees get confused about the quality of the product they need to deliver. Their clients get confused about the quality of the product they’re paying for. And their management has no idea how to allocate their limited resources to serve three very different types of clients with very different needs.

By contrast, a true quality cleaner would never offer three levels of care.

A true quality cleaner only offers one level of quality..... extraordinary care.


At RAVE FabriCARE, we know who our clients are and we understand their needs.

There’s no confusion.

And, as a result, there are no compromises, no short cuts, no half measures and no trade offs.

Management knows where we stand. Our craftspeople know where we stand. And our clients know where we stand.

We do it right or we won’t do it at all. Even if it means "loosing" clients and revenues.

It’s a philosophy that’s served us well for almost 35 years.

How would you classify your dry cleaner?

BTW: To help you distinguish between these different types of dry cleaners, we've developed a simple checklist. Please refer to the Quick Link (Grade Your Cleaner) at the footer of this page.