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Your shirt laundry bill of rights: Exercise those rights!
By: Stu Bloom
You pride yourself on your appearance. So you’ve invested time and money in a range of fine shirts.
You may even have a personal clothier who tailors your shirts to your specific measurements.
Of course, you want those shirts to look, feel and smell great. And last much longer.
Like most, you’ll probably turn to a “professional cleaner” for help.
And what happens there?
The world of “professional shirt laundry”
They take 50 to 60 “laundry” shirts. Scrub the collars and cuffs with a hard-bristled brush. Sort them into two loads: “lights” and “darks”. Subdivide each load into “starch” and “no starch”. Stuff a load into a shirt washer, adding hot (even boiling) water, harsh caustic industrial grade detergents and bleach. Starch with cheap synthetic glue.
Next, they remove the damp shirts from the washer and run them through a series of pressing machines that have all the subtlety and precision of a sledgehammer. At a rate of 40 to 50 shirts (or more) per hour per presser.
Then, using a hand iron, touch up the underarms (maybe) and crease the sleeves from shoulder to cuff in an attempt to conceal any evidence of machine pressing.
Finally, they cram the finished shirts into thin, narrow poly bags so that they’re returned looking only slightly better than the day they were sent in or dropped off. Or machine fold them for that desired “slept in” look.
The results you should expect
So what are your shirt laundry rights?
- The right to shirts that are exceptionally clean and free of both oil-based stains (such as food oil, food fats, body oil, creams and lotions) and water-based stains (such as perspiration, soda, juice, wine, etc.).
- The right to spectacularly bright whites, creams and pastels.
- The right to colors that are bright, without that “washed out”, faded look.
- The right to collars and cuffs, including french cuffs, that are pristine clean.
- The right to fabrics that don’t have a crusty, cardboard feel.
- The right to shirts that are meticulously ironed. By hand. Not by machine.
- The right to sleeves without a sharp crease along the entire sleeve length.
- The right to seams that aren’t puckered or wrinkled.
- The right to front and sleeve plackets that aren’t puckered or wrinkled.
- The right to collars and cuffs that are fully rounded. Not flat, creased or triangular.
- The right to collars that are perfectly turned down at the back.
- The right to shirts that are carefully inspected.
- The right to a shirt with no missing or cracked buttons.
- The right to shirts on hangers that are individually bagged. Or folded by hand, not by machine.
The actions required to produce those results
And how can your shirt laundry achieve the results?
- By soaking your shirts in a gentle dry cleaning fluid (to dissolve oil-based stains) and then in water-based solutions (to eliminate water-based stains) instead of scrubbing your collars and cuffs with hard-bristled brushes and “collar/cuff solution” in an (often futile) attempt to get them reasonably clean.
- By gently wet cleaning your shirts for about 5 minutes in cold or cool water instead of tumbling your shirts for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes in hot water in an (often futile) attempt to dissolve the oil-based stains.
- By using a premium, gentle enzyme detergent instead of a harsh, caustic, industrial grade detergent in an attempt to eliminate the water-based stains and remove any soil.
- By using no bleaches instead of adding fabric-destroying bleach in an attempt to get your whites really white.
- By using a premium, natural wheat starch instead of starching your shirts with cheap synthetic glue that adheres to your shirt’s fibers like multiple coats of paint.
- By hand ironing your shirts instead of machine pressing them at a rate of 40 to 50 per hour, which leaves your shirts with puckered seams, wrinkled collars, cuffs, underarms, sleeve pleats, sleeve plackets and front plackets, and wrinkled cuff/sleeve and sleeve/body joins.
- By rolling the sleeves of your long sleeve shirts instead of creasing them for that distinctive “I pressed this shirt myself at home while watching TV” look.
- By individually packaging each shirt in an extra-wide poly bag instead of stuffing multiple shirts into a single, thin, narrow poly bag – like sardines in a tin.
- By hand folding your shirts in a heavy duty poly bag with a built-in cushion of air instead of machine folding them in an ultra thin poly bag for that “slept-in” look.
- By taking the time to do the job right (3 to 5 days in most cases) instead of routinely offering same and next day service or 3 day pickup and delivery service.
By now you’ve probably come to the realization that
- your cleaner doesn’t come close to delivering on these rights
- your cleaner has never told you – in detail and in writing – what results you should expect from their cleaning (other than in meaningless generalities)
- your cleaner has never told you – in detail and in writing – what they do to achieve those results (other than in meaningless generalities)
- your cleaner has consciously and intentionally withheld that information from you in order to ensure that you don’t ask too many awkward questions.
Unfortunately, true quality cleaning requires more than just a knowledge of loading and unloading a dry clean machine or a shirt washer and banging those garments out on a press. And more than just an assembly-line cleaning and pressing operation where every garment is barcoded and treated as interchangeable irrespective of brand and/or original cost.
The philosophy required to produce those results
Truth is, true quality cleaning requires
- an extensive knowledge of and commitment to the art and science of textiles, garment construction, cleaning and hand ironing,
- a never-ending commitment to process improvement (no matter how marginal),
- a stubbornness to reject labor saving technologies that negatively impacts true quality,
- an unyielding commitment to invest in true quality rather than extract every last penny out of the cleaning, pressing and packaging process,
- a sense of pride in one’s work; a passion for perfection (to the extent that perfection is achievable),
- the time necessary to “do the job right;” and most importantly,
- a personal philosophy that says that true quality has inherent meaning and value – for the cleaner, his employees and his clients.
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