Just What Is Drycleaning, Anyway

We’re friends, I can be honest with you. I am completely un-handy. I can hammer in a nail, drive in a screw, but that’s about it. Yes, I can flip a switch and change a room from dark to lit, but I really have no idea, except knowing it involves wires, exactly how that miracle takes place.

I mention this not as a means of self-embarrassment, but to say that there are a lot of things I don’t know. And among them, at least when we started The Green Garmento, was drycleaning.

Yes, I knew I could get my clothes drycleaned, but I really had no idea what happened between the moment I turned away from that counter with my clothes ticket and the time I gave back that ticket in return for my processed clothes. But what was the process? What was drycleaning, was it really dry? How do you get something clean without adding water orsome other liquid? And what about those spots – what kind of magic did drycleaners have that got my white wine, red sauce and blueberries out of my fancy Zegna shirts.

I was reminded of all this recently, when we had the honor of participating in the SPOT Conference for the customers of the SPOT POS System. At the start of the conference, Mark Jones and his staff (who continually put on a terrific program for their customers) talked about how when the company first ventured into drycleaning, they thought it would be a one to two year project. They’d get all the systems in place and then move on to another industry. Now, almost 25 years later, they find there are more questions and options they need to work on than ever.

I can relate…when we first made the decision to market a ‘reusable drycleaning garment bag,’ we thought the name of the category might be the most confounding part of the process. We thought we were just offering a simple alternative to single-use poly, how complicated could that be past making available a variety of colors? What we’ve learned since is that there is an almost infinite variety of ways the bags can be implemented into a drycleaner’s production process. So the sale and implementation of our products does, at times, require analysis on how best to benefit our customers.

Drycleaning in general is a lot more sophisticated than the average consumer knows. A few years ago The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, DLI, was talking about investing in a campaign to educate consumers on the needs and benefits of using a quality dry cleaner. I think that a continued effort would be a great idea.

I’m not alone in my previous lack of understanding as to what separated a good drycleaner from a bad one. From what I can tell, millions of consumers grade drycleaners on just three factors: did they get their clothes back, was it on time, and was it pressed. If their drycleaner doesn’t get a spot out, they assume that no drycleaner would have gotten the spot out. They have no idea whether the processes used are healthy or unhealthy, either for them or their garments, thinking ‘environmentally friendly’ drycleaning is little more than a marketing technique.

I want your input… what do you think makes a good drycleaner? What do you want consumers to know about the differences between a ‘down and dirty’ cleaner and a quality operator, and what kind of customer should choose couture drycleaners?

Please send me your thoughts; e-mail. I look forward to sharing (and learning) what the community believes differentiate better cleaners from the rest. I think this is perhaps the most important question for the industry moving forward; I hope you choose to participate in this effort.