How to select a quality dry cleaner: The old standards don't cut it anymore

Lists Of Questions

Google the term "how to select a quality dry cleaner" and you'll get tens of thousands of hits.

As a general rule, these websites -- operated by dry cleaners and non-dry cleaners alike -- will suggest a series of questions to be asked.

Theoretically, the answers to those questions will help you identity the "quality cleaner you've been looking for."

If you're looking at a dry cleaner's website, the rationale behind the dry cleaner posing these questions is simple: They're suggesting that they wouldn't be posing those questions in the first place if they weren't the "quality cleaner you've been looking for."

It shouldn't surprise you that the overwhelming majority of these dry cleaner websites are operated by value (discount), ordinary (middle market) and wannabe (illusion) dry cleaners -- cleaners for whom the word "quality" is a mere marketing buzzword -- cleaners who wouldn't recognize an extraordinarily cleaned, hand ironed, inspected and packaged garment if it hit them over the head with a 2 x 4.

If you're looking at a non-dry cleaning website, the rationale behind the non-dry cleaner posing these questions is also simple: They're suggesting that they're there to help. That they're independent and objective. So you can trust them to guide you through the selection process.

An example of a non-dry cleaning website's questions is This website suggests that you can choose the "quality cleaner you've been looking for" by asking these questions:

  • When you drop off garments, do clerks inquire about stains and note information you provide?
  • Do staffers provide coherent answers to your questions about whether a stain will come out?
  • Are your clothes ready when promised?
  • Do garments look and smell clean?
  • Were the clothes pressed properly?
  • Does the cleaner have an efficient system for locating your garments when you pick them up?

These Lists Are A Ruse

Truth is, these lists of 5 or 6 questions are, most often, nothing more than a ruse designed to reassure consumers that the mere existence of a list of questions is evidence that the website can be trusted to offer technically accurate information.

In the case of dry cleaners, it's a ruse because the dry cleaner is counting on the fact that their gobbledygook-infused responses will confuse you and that you'll eventually succumb to their "superior knowledge." And, even if you understood their answer, you'll be afraid to ask any follow up questions.

In the case of non-dry cleaners (such as, it's a ruse because the organization's membership is substantially comprised of consumers for whom low price is, typically, the most important criteria.

Non-dry cleaners (such as understand that their membership doesn't care about quality of product or quality of service.  That they only care about price. They also understand that listing these 5 or 6 questions provides their membership with a nice, fuzzy feeling that they've selected  a "quality dry cleaner" -- even if that cleaner  is a value (discount), ordinary (middle market) and wannabe (illusion) dry cleaner.

The Problem With Lists

Here's the problem with all these questions is that the writers assume that:

There's A Better Way

There's a better way to identify a true quality dry cleaner, particularly if you have a substantial investment in a quality wardrobe.

Before delving into the numerous factors that, in sum, constitute true quality, there are 7 over-arching concepts you need to understand about dry cleaners:

  • There are no "secrets" or "secret processes" in garment care.
  • Talk is cheap. Execution is time consuming and challenging.
  • Educating the client and answering questions is the price paid for your custom.
  • True quality is a combination of hundreds of details.
  • True quality cannot be delivered in a day or two (or even three).
  • True quality is not inexpensive.
  • Myths, misrepresentations and distortions are common.

Each of these concepts is discussed in our Position Paper titled "7 Considerations Before Choosing A True Quality Cleaner."

Armed with those broad concepts, you're now in a position to evaluate the differences between a true quality cleaner and an ordinary cleaner.

To that end, we've produced a handy checklist entitled"Grade Your Cleaner" that you can use to systematically compare true quality cleaning versus ordinary cleaning. That checklist covers approximately 100 specific practices that separates true quality cleaning from ordinary cleaning.

This checklist is a must read for any individual with a significant investment in a quality wardrobe and who is looking for a true quality dry cleaner. You'll find that the checklist is a worthwhile investment of 10 minutes of your valuable time.


The old standard for selecting a quality dry cleaner suggests that you ask 5 or 6 broad questions and then rely on the verbal responses from a dry cleaner.

The new standard for selecting a quality dry cleaner asks you to

  • review a checklist of approximately 100 specific, written practices -- practices that, when viewed as a cohesive whole, constitutes true quality cleaning,
  • compare those specific, written practices to the practices of any other dry cleaner you're considering, and
  • hold the dry cleaner accountable for meeting your expectations based on those specific, written practices.

And, by the way...

If your dry cleaner claims to be a true quality cleaner and they cannot provide you with a checklist of their very specific, written practices, the likelihood is strong that they're too afraid to put their dry cleaning and shirt laundry standards in writing.

In other words, their verbal responses to the old standard of asking 5 or 6 broad questions is nothing more than hot air.