How to Find the Best Dry Cleaner

Don't Get Taken at the Dry Cleaners

Finding a good dry cleaner in your area can not only save you money but is one of your best clothing investments. Good quality clothes are expensive and we need them to last as long as possible. That will only happen if the clothes are cleaned correctly every time after they are worn. When you find that  reliable cleaner, you've found your best clothing care partner. Use these four tips to select the best dry cleaner for your budget and clothing needs.

  • 01 of 04

    Drop in and Ask Some Questions

    Dry Cleaning Neon Sign
    Bill Boch/Getty Images

    Before you settle on the shop that will be your dry cleaner of choice, you should start by asking these four questions:

    1. Where is the actual cleaning done?

    Most dry cleaners in the United States fall into one of two types: dry stores with a central dry cleaning plant or package stores that do the cleaning on-site.

    A dry store is just a drop off. The clothes are transported to a remote location for cleaning. Ask how many dry stores feed into the central plant. Is the central plant servicing only that chain of dry cleaners or others in the area? Large plants aim to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. Your clothes may not get personalized attention and you won't get the best results for your dollar.

    The package stores own their own equipment and do the cleaning on-site. These cleaners tend to be smaller operations and have personnel who can answer questions about fabric care and listen to your clothing concerns.

    2. What kind of dry cleaning solvent does the cleaner use?

    There are different kinds of cleaning solvents and techniques, some more environmentally safe than others. Some dry cleaners also recirculate their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.

    3. What type of equipment is used for pressing?

    Garment pressing can be done by hand or by a machine. Machine pressing is often done by simply blowing hot steam through a garment to remove large wrinkles. The force of the steam can be harsh and cause garments to lose their shape. Machine pressing does not create crisp edges and seams where desired.

    Hand pressing is best for delicate fabrics, especially those with embellishments. 

    4. How is responsibility for damaged garments handled?

    Every dry cleaner makes mistakes. Things happen. But you should ask in advance who will be responsible for damaged items and how claims are handled. Ask what happens if a garment is lost. A reputable cleaner should compensate you for the value of the item.

  • 02 of 04

    Recommendations and Word of Mouth

    Woman with Dry Cleaning
    Paul Simcock/Getty Images

    Good and bad news travels fast. Listen to word of mouth experiences about local dry cleaners. Your friends can help you avoid a world of trouble. If they’ve had a bad experience with a dry cleaner, they’re probably not the only one.

    Also, ask several people at work or in your neighborhood who always look sharp and you’ll soon hear a certain dry cleaning shop’s name rise to the top.

    Check online reviews and local consumer protection bureaus for recommendations. 

  • 03 of 04

    Ask About Professional Certifications and Affiiations

    Green Dry Cleaning
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Before you turn over your favorite dress to the front counter attendant, ask if there is a certified professional dry cleaner on staff. The attendant may not know, but you can then ask the manager on duty.

    There are professional certifications for environmental dry cleaning, wet, and dry cleaning. The certifications show that the dry cleaner hires profressionals who take their craft seriously.

    Also ask if the dry cleaner is affiliated with a professional association, such as the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute or the International Fabricare Institute. These groups offer ongoing training and members should follow specific customer-service or ethical standards.

  • 04 of 04

    Observe Employee Professionalism

    Dry Cleaning Clerk
    sturti/Getty Images

    When you enter the cleaner, is the counter clerk helpful? A good counter clerk inspects the garments carefully and asks about stains and special care. Indifference is not a good trait in dry cleaning!

    Is there a fabric care professional on-site who can answer your questions and offer advice? 

    Of course, you have some responsibilities as well in getting the best results from a cleaner. Bring in clothes as soon as possible after a stain occurs.Take time to point out stains and identify them, if possible. Even the best cleaners are not mind readers.