- The Art of Manliness - http://www.artofmanliness.com -
A Man’s Guide to Dry Cleaning
Posted By Antonio On November 5, 2009 @ 10:27 pm In Dress & Grooming,Style | 30 Comments
Image from Millie Motts 
Dry cleaning is a cleansing process that uses a solvent called perchlorethylene or DF2000 to clean clothing. The perc (as it’s called in the industry) is run through the garment and then extracted along with dislodged oils, food, dust, and other unwanted dirt particles. Since soap & water are not used in the process, it’s called “dry” cleaning.
The dry cleaning process starts when you drop your clothing off; first it’s tagged and then sorted by whether it needs to be dry cleaned, laundered, pressed, or altered. At this point the clothing is often moved to another location; in fact, it’s not uncommon for all the dry cleaners in an area to use the same contractor or be owned by a few companies. This is why many cannot offer same day service or when “they” lose a garment you’re out of luck because the garment is lost in a much larger system than just the facility you dropped it off at. Also, despite two cleaners charging different prices for the same service, if they use the same master cleaning facility, you are receiving no added benefit despite paying more. I always look to use cleaners who do their work in house – I like knowing my garments are kept right where I dropped them off and handled by the person I gave them to.
Back to the process – after the drop-off stains are pre-treated (note – it’s very important you point out stains and label what the stain is so that it is treated properly) and the clothing is loaded into large machines where they sit in baskets and rotate in perchlorethylene – the perc is then drained using centrifugal force (shirts and other cotton garments are more often simply laundered with water and soap – it’s less expensive and does the job without damaging the fabric). A good cleaning facility will then inspect clothing for any remaining soiled spots and post-treat if necessary. Next the clothing is lightly steamed, pressed, and ironed where applicable. Finally, garments are sorted out, shipped if necessary, and then stored for pick-up.
Most of us dry clean our delicate clothing way too much; more often than not simply brushing your wool sports jacket and hanging it in a well ventilated area will eliminate odors caused by light smoke or food. If you spill food or drink on the garment, simply spot clean it as necessary by gently blotting the cotton or wool fabric with clean water. Stains that require quick attention such as mustard or red wine, especially on light colored or silk fabrics, should be taken to the cleaners the next morning. Immediate action after the spill should be to change the garment if possible, slip it off in the case of a tie, or carry on as if it doesn’t bother you. Avoid home remedies such as club soda and salt and never rub a stain or put water on a fabric that can’t be washed in water (ties especially) – you’re just as likely to damage the fabric, especially if it’s fragile.
There is no right answer here; an architect who wears a sports jacket to the job site in Orlando is going to soil his jacket much faster than a computer engineer wearing the same jacket in the Bay Area. My guidance here is when brushing, spot cleaning, and airing out no longer do the trick….take the wool garment into a quality cleaner. Dry clean when you must, not on a set schedule that will strip and weaken the wool fibers  and damage their ability to crimp, thus unnecessarily aging the garment.
Selecting a dry cleaner is very similar to selecting a tailor – click here for my seven rules  on that process. In addition to the 7 tips on how to select a tailor, use the five rules below to significantly reduce the likelihood of disappointment at the dry cleaners.
Do your homework. Do a Google search and locate any online reviews – what are others saying about how the dry cleaner reacted when something went wrong? Now realize a customer’s view is only one side of the story and an upset customer is more likely to report a problem than a satisfied one is to give praise – so don’t let a single review scare you off. But don’t ignore it either. Give them a call and ask a few questions – are they friendly and competent or rude and unhelpful? Are they on America’s Best Cleaners list ?
Maintain your records. Ensure that when you drop off your clothing you receive a detailed receipt. It should have a legible description of what you dropped off, when it was dropped off, who it was left with, and what you asked to have done. For most shops this isn’t standard, and may be met with a frown, especially at rush hour. But without it it’s your word vs. theirs if something goes wrong. Also, you should have photographs or video of all your valuable clothing – the great part here is that this can also be used for your home insurance records as well.
Foster a relationship of trust. The best way to protect yourself is to create a long term relationship with a merchant that builds trust between both parties. The men and women in the dry cleaning industry are like anyone else, and will often bend over backwards for a customer they like. You have to understand the margins in this industry are paper thin, and many of these companies would go out of business if it wasn’t for family members pitching in. However, they often do realize a long-term relationship isn’t about a single sale and are very interested in building loyalty and repeat business. So strike up a conversation, tip if the service warrants, learn their names and ask about their family – because when you lose that receipt, and they lose the garment, more often than not an agreeable settlement will be reached.
A big thank you to Martin and Tanya Martin of Martin’s 1 hour cleaners in Shawano, WI  for the images. I’d also like to point out one of our commentors improved upon this write-up with her own dry cleaning article  at Geek in Heels  – it’s great so check it out!
President, A Tailored Suit 
Free Men’s Style & Custom Clothing Advice 
Join our Facebook Page for Custom Clothing Giveaways 
Article printed from The Art of Manliness: http://www.artofmanliness.com
URL to article: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/11/05/dry_cleaning_guide/
URLs in this post:
 Millie Motts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/milliemotts/2711093098/
 wool fibers: http://knol.google.com/k/antonio-centeno/wool-fabric/27cl1pj4s2ovi/3#
 selecting a tailor – click here for my seven rules: http://www.atailoredsuit.com/how-to-choose-tailor(a).html
 International Fabricare Institute’s Fair Claims Guide: http://www.kmccleaners.com/policies/FairClaims.pdf
 cause cancer in humans.: http://www.epa.gov/chemfact/f_perchl.txt
 chemical free cleaning process that involves CO2: http://drycleaningtips.com/?p=565
 America’s Best Cleaners list: http://www.americasbestcleaners.com/?action=locationMap
 Martin’s 1 hour cleaners in Shawano, WI: http://web3.userinstinct.com/48453113-martins-1-hour-cleaners.htm
 dry cleaning article: http://www.geekinheels.com/blog/2009/11/8/dry-cleaning-from-an-insiders-perspective-part-1.html
 Geek in Heels: http://www.geekinheels.com/
 A Tailored Suit: http://www.atailoredsuit.com/index.html
 Free Men’s Style & Custom Clothing Advice: http://www.atailoredsuit.com/mens-style-guide-tailored-suit.html
 Join our Facebook Page for Custom Clothing Giveaways: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Tailored-Suit-Quality-Custom-Clothing-wwwatailoredsuitcom/17075259102?ref=s
Copyright 2010 The Art of Manliness. All rights reserved.