Are We Really Moving Forward? By Kenney Slatten

Sometimes I wonder where we are heading in this industry. Not to be accused of being less than progressive, I write my comments carefully and with full understanding that we must move forward to survive. I question how forward we are really moving. Some things in this industry are pretty exciting if you have attended any of the shows last year. Undoubtedly we have made inroads on finishing machines and dry/wet cleaning machines. Solvents? Eh, not so sure just yet. Some have promise and can clean pretty well. Add to that, the reluctance of operators to properly maintain their cleaning systems and you have a solvent that now cleans even less. I guess it’s not an issue if your neighborhood has slightly soiled clothes. But really nasty ones that stink and have a bucket full of set stains in them? Different story I’m afraid.

So you say we will prespot more, if needed. Nice thing to do but hate to see talented progressive cleaners scrub stains all day on the spotting board. But that takes us into a whole new category of professionalism that requires training. I shudder at the thought of those who say they “learned on the job”. My experience has shown that most of what they learned was bogus. Is it really so farfetched to think that proper schooling is necessary to deliver a clean stain free garment? Jeff Schwarz of A.L. Wilson is fond of saying that millions of “sorry but” tags are sold because the cleaner is ignorant on advanced stain removal/proper soaking. Top that with sales being down on all spotting products everywhere and you witness the reason some cleaners put out shoddy work.

“Technology Can’t Replace 

The Human Touch”

Technology won’t deliver the quality our parents once delivered at our shops. We have grown with our mass efforts of marketing and that has played well but service always takes a back seat to saving money. Don’t ignore it, watch it and deal with it. Poor quality and service will be the death of any business. Too much emphasis on fragrance and softeners gripe me. Personally, I want some “body” in my clothes. Soft finishing sets well with the upper crust customers but all styles eventually change. What will we do when folks start wanting hard creases in clothes again and some body applied by a good sizing in the cleaning system?

“Progress Is Never A Bargain, You Have To Pay For It”

Yes, you have heard me say it many times before but by crackie it’s true! If you want to move ahead in one direction you dang well better be careful because something will have to be subtracted from the sum of it all in order to gain progress. Is running a lean machine of labor percentage under what the industry recommends going to be called progress? I think not. DLI knows and has studied the effects of what it takes to produce quality garments and you cannot do it by constantly lowering your labor costs. I realize it is your highest expense, but we must acknowledge and accept that we work in an industry like no other. Hand work, touch and feel costs time and time is our biggest labor enemy. Or is it? Why don’t we acknowledge it for what it is and accept the facts. Ya gotta have the labor! Any productive labor below a minimum of 30% will effect quality.

History has long taught us that by studying the past, we learn the future. Not everything old is bad. Not everything new is bad. A decent mix somewhere in the middle will give us the balance we all seek in our work and our lives. I know so many cleaners that do such a wonderful job. They know their limitations, usually dictated by their prices and  locations. Most of us do wonderful work but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the barrel. This is what gives our wonderful industry a black eye. “Don’t ever let anyone think you are taking them to the cleaners.”  Endeavor to persevere in your quality and service. Nuff said!

I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!


Kenney Slatten is in his 35th year as a writer and trainer. He has written hundreds of articles and spotting and restoration books. He can help you with on the job training and advice. Reach the old cowboy at (800) 429-3990; e-mail:; web site:

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