13 Things your dry cleaner won't tell you

These tips will let you take your clothes—but not your wallet—to the cleaners.

 

1. Lots of “dry” cleaning isn't

As much as 24 percent of garments are cleaned in water. Perspiration doesn't come out otherwise.

 

2. It's not your gender, it's your clothes 

Women's clothes—silk, special trims, buttons, slacks without a crease—can take more work and cost more, too.

 

3. Yes, we use perchloroethylene (perc) 

It's a probable carcinogen, but it's the best thing we have right now. If you can smell it on your clothes, they weren't cleaned correctly.

 

4. Don't get too excited about so-called “organic” cleaning 

Among the most common perc replacements is the petroleum-based solvent DF-2000, made by ExxonMobil. Because it's hydrocarbon-based, to a chemist—and almost no one else—it's considered an “organic” compound. The EPA cites risk of neurological damage and skin and eye irritation in workers using it, and since it doesn't clean as well as perc on its own, dry cleaners often end up adding pretreatment chemicals.

 

5. People never remember to pick up their comforters 

That's why this place sometimes looks like a Bed Bath & Beyond.

 

6. You blame us for damage, we blame your clothes 

Instead of court or the Better Business Bureau, we'll suggest the International Textile Analysis Laboratory, run by our trade association. It's independent (honest!), and both sides get a report.

 

7. Certifications aren't everything

The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI) offers certifications for dry cleaners who pass an official examination, including Certified Professional Dry Cleaner (CPD), Certified Professional Wetcleaner (CPW), and Certified Environmental Dry Cleaner (CED). Those who meet even more stringent requirements may also attain DLI's “Award of Excellence.” While some kind of certification is better than none, it's not the ultimate arbiter of skill or knowledge.

 

8. Your lost clothes are probably in someone else's closet 

We'd really prefer not to write you a check. And if we say we have to get in touch with our insurance company, we could be stalling, hoping the clothes will turn up.

 

9. Many of us will reuse your intact hangers

(Thanks.)

 

10. We're not raking it in

The machinery is expensive. The people who press your silk shirt get up to $20 an hour. It's a skill.

 

11. Things happen

We've heard stories about dry cleaners who borrow a customer's dress for a weekend.

 

12. Clean your leather before you need it 

Better to bring it in during the spring or summer. Leather cleaning specialists do about half their business in three months in the fall so jobs brought in then will typically not get the same attention or may take longer to return.

 

13. Quality knows quality 

The best clothing store in town can recommend the best dry cleaner in town.