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The 10 deadly sins of ordinary, bang and hang dry cleaners
By: Stu Bloom
There’s over 26,000 dry cleaners in the USA and over 400 in the metro Phoenix area alone.
And almost every single one claims to be “best of class” and to offer “exceptional”, “exquisite” or “award winning” dry cleaning and shirt laundry services.
Your intuition and experience should tell you that these claims – even those proffered by so-called “better cleaners” and self-styled “couture care specialists” – are nothing more than puffery.
More specifically, the vast majority of ordinary cleaners commit the 10 Deadly Sins of Dry Cleaning.
1. Skip the stain removal process entirely
True quality cleaning takes time. Lots of time.
At the very least, garments must be pre-spotted/flushed with steam and completely hang dried – prior to placing them into a dry cleaning machine.
However, when you offer same or next day service and/or pickup and delivery service that promises pickup on day 1 and delivery on day 3, the focus of all employees is diverted to getting the work out ASAP.
There simply isn’t the time to do the job right.
So ordinary cleaners simply sort their garments into lights and darks, load their machines and press the start button.
And if the spots and stains miraculously disappear based on a combination of the dry cleaning solvent (the more aggressive the better), the dry cleaning detergent (if any), the addition or injection of moisture into the dry cleaning machine (a reckless undertaking), and the dry cleaning machine’s tumbling action (the faster the better), you’re in luck.
If not, well, that’s your problem and they’ll simply hang one of those sorry-we-tried-but-we-couldn’t tags on your garment.
2. Use chlorinated, hydrocarbon and/or formaldehyde solvents
95% of all dry cleaners clean your fine garments and household textiles in perchloroethylene aka “perc” (a chlorinated solvent branded “Dowper”), synthetic petroleum (a hydrocarbon solvent branded “DF 2000” or “EcoSolv”), or formaldehyde dibutyl acetal (a formaldehyde solvent branded K4 or Solvon).
These solvents are excellent on oil-based stains (about 10% of all stains a dry cleaner sees), but, rather ineffective on water-based stains (about 90% of the stains a dry cleaner sees).
More importantly, chlorinated, hydrocarbon and formaldehyde dry cleaning solvents are way too aggressive for fine designer, high fashion, specialty and couture garments.
If you operated a uniform rental business specializing in auto repair shops, you’d definitely want to clean in perc, the solvent used by about 80% of all dry cleaners.
3. Reuse their dry cleaning solvent over and over again
That would be fine if they continuously purified every single drop of their dry cleaning solvent before and after each and every load. And continuously filtered their solvent during each load.
But they don’t do both.
Instead, they either filter with zero purification, filter with inadequate purification, filter with irregular purification, or filter with inadequate and irregular purification.
And the result?
Grayish and dingy whites, creams and pastels. Dull and faded colors. And that all-too-familiar “dry cleaning solvent smell.”
4. Use the cheapest dry cleaning solvent detergents or none at all
Just like you add a detergent to your home wash, a dry cleaner must add or inject a dry cleaning detergent into their dry cleaning solvent to boost the effectiveness of the cleaning solvent.
Many are cheap; some expensive. Many are ineffective; some effective. Most ordinary cleaners opt for cheap.
And, in many cases, where the pressure on costs is great, they don’t even use a dry cleaning detergent. Even the cheap ones!
5. Add or inject fragrance or perfume into their dry cleaning solvent
Ordinary cleaners love fragrance or perfume.
And the reason?
A futile attempt to “disguise” or “neutralize” the odor associated with dry cleaning in “dirty dry cleaning solvent” – dry cleaning solvent that has not been both continuously purified and continuously filtered.
6. Add or inject sizing into their dry cleaning solvent
Sizing is to dry cleaning what starch is to laundry.
Ordinary cleaners love sizing.
So they add or inject sizing into their dry cleaning machines during the wash cycle. In much the same way that you might add detergent or softener to your home wash.
Purportedly, to quote one Arizona cleaner, it’s to “keep your garments feeling new and crisp.” And even to “retain your garment’s original shape, weight and feel”, an irrational, meaningless statement.
Truth is, the more sizing, the more garments a presser can bang out in an hour. Which you’ve got to do if your entire business model is geared to quantity and speed. Not quality of product.
7. Take unacceptable risks in their dry cleaning process
It’s all done in the name of cutting costs and cutting turnaround time.
Typically these risks involve: mixing garments of different colors; mixing regular and fragile garments; overloading their dry machines; adding or injecting moisture into their dry cleaning machines; reducing their “wash” cycle times; and increasing their “dry” cycle temperatures.
All of which produces the fastest, cheapest – and worst – cleaning.
8. Machine press your garments
This gives true meaning to the term “bang and hang” cleaning.
Crimes of fashion such as crushed nap; shine; seam, flap and button impressions; and wrinkled seams and linings.
Garments should be hand ironed. Never machine pressed.
9. Fail to inspect your garments
It’s the old story: why bother with a careful, thorough inspection – from top to bottom – from inside to outside – when the entire operation is geared towards getting your garments into a machine, onto a press, and into a bag. ASAP. They’re in by 9:00 and out by 5:00; or picked up on day 1 and delivered on day 3.
10. Stuff your garments into a bag, then cram them on a holding rack or conveyor
Just look at the holding racks or the conveyor of any dry cleaner with a reasonable volume of business. The orders are packed like sardines in a tin.
So instead of the packaging reflecting and enhancing the “care and attention invested in the cleaning and finishing process,” your garments are returned to you – “pressed” and on a hanger – looking only slightly better than the day you turned them over.
There you have it. The 10 Deadly Sins of Ordinary Cleaners.
But we must confess. There are many more than 10. Were you to spend some time on our website studying our position papers, white papers and ebooks, you’d probably come up with at least 150.
All related to knowledge, expertise, skills, processes, procedures, technologies, craftsmanship, equipment and facilities.
And all directly related to minimizing costs and speeding throughput.
Then again, the 150 Deadly Sins of Ordinary Cleaners just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
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