The list of potential horrors that can befall your favorite garments at the dry cleaner is long. Clothing coming back with cracked buttons, new stains or smelling of chemicals show that not all dry cleaners are equal. So, how do you find one that you can trust? The best place to start is with the owner.
If the owner wears unkempt, worn out or very dated clothing, then he or she may not understand what treatment you expect for the care of your garments. The best way to appreciate the value of good clothes is to wear them.
It is also important to ask if the owner actually works on-site of if he or she is absentee. A small number of dry cleaners are run remotely, and few dry-cleaning establishments are large enough to afford a good quality production manager. Dry cleaning is a hands-on business, and the owner needs to be around the production area every day to make it a successful operation.
The owner should be enthusiastic about their job. Are they passionate or are they just trying to make a living? In men’s fashion and clothing, there are people who own stores and then there are merchants. Merchants take pride in their work and are always looking to improve themselves, their staff and their business. The same should go for dry cleaners.
Is the person you interact with behind the counter different almost every time you go? High turnover means the staff working with your clothes will not have the experience to take care of them properly. The average dry cleaner turnover rate per year is 100–200%… but the good ones have a 12–15% annual turnover. Note how the owner treats his employees. The employees are, after all, the ones taking care of your clothes. The respect they are given is the same amount of respect they will give to your clothes.
Aside from looking to the owner, pay attention to what they’re using to care for your clothes. Cleaners that use hydrocarbon solvent, liquid C02 or K4 solvent are usually better dry cleaners. These solvents are gentler on your clothes but involve more work for the cleaners. Also, be sure to avoid a discount dry cleaner. They cut corners and will ruin your clothes. These are the “bang-em and hang-em” cleaners. They bang the press head down on the clothes and then hang the clothes up! Because they need volume to make a profit their focus is on quantity, not quality. There’s a basic cost to doing quality work and if you’re not paying it, you’re not getting it.
The best clothing store in town inevitably knows the best dry cleaners. If you need a recommendation for a new dry cleaner, ask any associate at Mr. Sid—they’ll be happy to tell you what they think and where to go!