Gracie’s Consumer’s Guide to Dry Cleaning and Garment Care

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to help make your clothes last longer, look their best and help you get the best service from your dry cleaner. This information will also help you choose the best dry cleaner for your needs. Many people aren’t sure what to look for in a competent, quality dry cleaner. Over the years, many people have told me that their experience with their dry cleaner has been less then pleasant. And some have had very negative experience- their clothes were permanently ruined, without proper compensation. Unfortunately when this happens, the whole industry gets a bad image. To improve our profession, I’ve dedicated our business to educating the public. The only way you can make intelligent choices about dry cleaning and ensure a pleasant experience is to have all the facts you need.

I will be sharing with you six costly misconceptions about dry cleaning and 4 steps to choosing the right dry cleaner for your situation. I’ve also listed 8 important questions you should ask your dry cleaner, before you allow them to clean any of your garments. Finally, I have included 10 tips for making your clothes last longer and helping your dry cleaner give you the best service possible.

Misconception #1: Frequent Dry Cleaning Shortens the Life of Your Garments.

No, on the contrary, frequent prolongs the life Not only to stains set with age, making the garment unwearable, but ground-in dirt and soil act as an abrasive, like sand paper, causing rapid wear of fibers. Also, insects love soiled clothes and will cause further damage. A study conducted by North Carolina State University showed no negative effect on fabrics from regular dry cleaning. And for sensitive fabrics, dry cleaning is gentler and the recommended method. In addition, your clothes, drapes, bed spreads and pillows harbors hundreds of thousands of dust mites. Why should you care about dust mites? Because more then 50 million Americans suffer from allergies causing almost 10% of all doctor visits. According to Georgetown University Medical Center, the number one enemy of an allergy sufferer is the dust mite. These microscopic creatures can double their numbers in 10 hours and feed off human skin flakes. That means that your clothing, drapes, bedding and pillows are a dust-mite nursery! In fact, on-tenth of the weight of your 2 year old pillow is dust mite feces!

Dust mite feces is responsible for the coughing, sneezing, headaches and iching symptoms common to allergies. Unlike pollen, dust mite allergens attack all year. That’s why frequent, extensive cleaning of your clothes, blankets, drapes, bedding and pillows is recommended. Numerous studies have shown that dry cleaning is the simplest, least expensive and most effective means to reduce dust-mite allergens and relive allergy and asthma symptoms! The studies found that , in most cases, laundering only killed a few of the dust-mites, while dry cleaning killed most, if not all of the mites. Of course, your dry cleaner should determine if your blankets, comforters and drapes are colorfast, before processing.

Misconception #2: The Only Reason To Have Your Clothes Dry Cleaned is To Get Out The Dirt and Dust Mites.

No. As you probably know, air contains fungus, bacteria, pollens, air pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and hundreds of other chemicals. these chemicals get carried on your skin and in your clothes.

If you have allergies, asthma, emphysema or other breathing problems, the source cold be breathing pollutants trapped on your clothes.

In addition, tobacco smoke contains over 4000 different chemical compounds, 43 of which can cause cancer. And if you don’t smoke, you pass through air that has secondary smoke residue.

So, One other reason for dry cleaning more often is to get rid of these pollutants.

Misconception #3: Dry Cleaning Means No Liquids Are Used in the Process.

No. Dry cleaning uses fluids to remove soil and stains form fabric. In fact, the terms “dry cleaning” is misleading: It’s called dry cleaning because the fluid contains little or no water and does not penetrate the fibers as water does. Among the advantages of dry cleaning is its ability to dissolve grease and oil in a way that water can not. Natural fibers, such as wools and silks, dry clean beautifully, but can shrink, distort, or loose color when washed in water. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, also respond well to dry cleaning, while they can retain oily stains after washing. Dry cleaning helps to return garments to a “like-new” condition, Using precautions to prevent shrinkage, loss of color and fabric distortion.

The dry cleaning process begins with the pretreatment of spots and stains, using special cleaning agents. The garments are then loaded into a machine resembling an oversized front loading home washer. It’s mechanical action loosens embedded dirt. Throughout the cleaning process, the fluid is filtered or distilled to ensure it’s clarity.

Misconception #4: One Method of Dry Cleaning is As Good As Another.

No, There are several primary methods.

The following is a list of most common methods of dry cleaning machines:

1 2 3 Perc Petroleum Wetcleaning

Most cleaners will tell you that one method is better then the other (of course touting the method that they use), but in actuality, each process has advantages and disadvantages. That is why we utilize all of these methods, enabling us to get your clothing as clean as possible while at the same time prolonging their life.

Perc: Perc is the most common “Dry Cleaning” process used, and is safe to use for all “Dry Clean only” garments

Petroleum: Petroleum is used on very delicate garments that would get damaged in a perc machine. Garments that have delicate beading or lace, leather and sued would need to be cleaned in a pertroleum machine.

Wetcleaning: The newest of the three processes, wetcleaning is the most effective for getting certain types of garments clean. In addition, many garments that are “Dry Clean only”, are now able to be Wetcleaned in these new machiens. This allows to remove stains that Perc Machines are unable to get out.

Having all three machines, combined with the knowledge of which process to use when, is what differenciates us from everyone else -which brings us to our next point.

Misconception #5: Having the Right Equipment is All a Dry Cleaner Needs to Clean Your Garments Properly.

Not true. The company may own good equipment, but the employees may not use the equipment correctly. Knowledgeable counter staff and expert stain removal and pressing technicians are absolutely key to high quality cleaning. That’s why it’s important that you choose your cleaner carefully.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

Spot and stain removal is an art. That’s why I prefer to think of myself as a fabric expert, rather than a dry cleaner. If a dry cleaner uses the wrong kind of stain removal on a garment, or the wrong stain remover for that particular kind of stain, they will ruin the garment permanently.

There are three basic types of stains, and each  kind must be treated differently. Also different fabrics must be treated differently or they may be ruined. Too add chaos to an already tricky situation, you can’t rely on the labels sewn into garments anymore. In more instances that I can count, I’ve seen labels that stated the fabric was a cotton blend, when it was actually silk, and labels that stated “Hand Wash Only”, that were simply incorrect. How does this happen? In the factories where clothes are made, workers have quotas and must work at a fast pace, or risk losing their job. Unfortunately, sometimes the workers sew in whatever garment label is handy at the time. How do I know this? It is well known and documents AND a friend that works in that industry gave me the scoop.

If the employee who is identifying stains and fabrics is not highly experienced and trained in this area, you can end up with a garment that is permanently ruined. My technicians regularly attend schools sponsored by the International Fabricare Institute on spot and stain removal.

We test and distill our cleaning our cleaning solution before every single load, If we didn’t your clothes wouldn’t come out as bright or fresh smelling, and the odors would come back quickly. Plus, your clothes would smell of solvent.

Testing and distilling the solvent with every load takes time and costs money. Unfortunately, some dry cleaners don’t do it every load. In fact, some may do it as little as once a week. The worst part is that solvent that isn’t frequently purified is very harsh and DESTROYS the fibers in the garments, shortening their life. Given the high price of clothes today, it is critical that your dry cleaner takes the steps necessary to ensure that your clothes last as long as possible.

Misconception #6: The Company that Offers the Lowest Price is the Company You Should Use.

Maybe-not necessarily. Here are several important points to consider.

When a company advertises low dry cleaning prices, you must ask yourself if something is being left out, or a short-cut is being taken. Be careful when choosing your dry cleaner solely on the lowest price. The price you see advertised may not be for the services you really want

Believe it or not, some dry cleaners do not add soap to their cleaning solutions! That leaves a harsh feel to the clothes. Why do some dry cleaners not use soap? Well it is very expensive, about $26 a gallon.

Another thing some dry cleaners skip is “sizing” after garments are cleaned. Without sizing your clothes look limp, instead of having the crisp look people expect from a quality dry cleaner.

Everyone knows you get what you pay for. If a cleaner cuts the price so low they seem almost too good to be true, they may be! In order to stay in business, the cleaner may be forced to cut corners. Though price is a consideration, you should be more concerned with VALUE- that is, getting the highest quality of work for your money. Look for a dry cleaner who will do what is necessary to ensure your clothes last as long as possible and are bright, crisp and odor free. You should be sure that they pay attention to how your clothes are pressed, so that there are no double creases or creases where they do not belong. We press all sleeves by hand, to ensure we leave no creases in them,

Now, here are 10 things you can do to get the best service possible from your dry cleaner and make your clothes last as long as possible.

1. Tell your cleaner everything you know about a stain.

Even if the stain is obvious, tell your dry cleaner anything you know about it, including the staining substance, home stain removal attempts, and how long ago the stain occurred. Drycleaners use several different procedures to remove stains, depending on the fabric and type of stain. Fruit juices, oily stains, soda, coffee and other substances are difficult to remove and require special attention.

2. Don’t allow a stain to set in.

The sooner the garment is cleaned, the more likely the stain will be removed. Do not iron stained or soiled clothes; it will scent the stains and drive the soil deeper into the fabric. It is not recommended to try home remedies on dry clean-only garments. Be sure to always blot a stain, not rub. Also, never buy the spot and stain removers advertised on late night infomercials. The International Fabricare Institute has tested and found that these products will ruin your clothes. The manufactures have many suits against them.

3. Take note of invisible stains and tell your cleaner.

Sometimes stains seem to disappear when they dry. It’s important to point out ALL stains to your cleaner. They’ll know how to treat the “invisible” or lightly stained areas prior to cleaning. If they aren’t aware of the stain, the heat of drying and finishing may set the stain permanently. Watch out for stains from white wine, soft drinks and sugary substances, as these tend to become “invisible”.

4. Never remove a care label.

Care labels are permanently attached to your garments for both you and your dry cleaner. Even if you never plan on having your garment dry cleaned, the care label is valuable information that will be helpful to you.

5. Don’t store your clothes in a plastic bag.

The plastic bag your dry cleaner uses is only to protect your garments on the way home. The plastic causes humidity in the bag, weakening the fibers. Garments should be stored in cool, dry places. Have items cleaned prior to storing them and do not keep them in places where there is excessive heat or moisture, such as attics or in basements.

6. Prevent prolonged exposure to light.

Many white garments are treated with optical brighteners that yellow when exposed to heat or light. Be sure not to leave these garments on direct sunlight for long periods of time.

7. Have matching pieces cleaned together.

Matching pieces in suits, skirts and even drapes and bedspreads should be cleaned at the same time. Normal fading may occur that the drycleaner cannot control. Even a slight change can ruin the set.

8. Protect your clothing

Avoid contact with perspiration, perfume and hair products, especially on silk items. The alcohol in these products can affect some dyes as well as cause stains. Allow them to dry before you dress. Body oils and perspiration can also create a permanent yellow discoloration and weaken the fabric. Use garment shields when possible to avoid body contact. And don’t delay taking clothes with types of stains to the cleaners.

9. Check for tears, rips and loose buttons.

Your drycleaner will look over the garment for these flaws, but two sets of eyes are better then one.

10. Work with your drycleaner.

Don’t expect same day service to be as high quality as normal turn around. It should be used only for emergencies. Realize that if a garment bleeds, shrinks, tears or is ruined in any way after dry cleaning, there could be a number of causes, including manufacturer defect. Keep a good line of communication open with your cleaner to find the cause and possible solutions. There are industry procedures to follow if a garment is ruined. I’ll be happy to give you details, just call me. Before you let any drycleaner touch your garments, I strongly suggest you take the following 4 steps.

Action #1: The way you learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to answers. Here are the questions I suggest you ask.:

1. What dry cleaning method do you use? 2. How often do you test and purify your cleaning solutions? 3. Who does your spot removal and what training and certification do they have? 4. Are you a member of any trade associations, and if so, which ones? 5. What quality standards do you use when pressing clothes? 6. Do you use sizing? 7. What do you use to make sure clothes stay crisp and uncreased when I take them home? 8. What percent of the time do you ruin a garment, and what will you do for me if that should happen? Action #2: Check with your local Better Business Bureau and other consumer agencies to determine the dry cleaners reputation and find out if they have any complaints or law suits files against them by unhappy costumers

Action #3: Ask the dry cleaner for the names of at least two customers you can talk to. This is the best way to verify the quality of the dry cleaners service, as well as thier attitude.

Action #4: Finally, find out if the dry cleaners guarantees, in writing, all of their work. We do.

Our promise is to you: “If you don’t feel that our dry cleaning is the best, most thorough, and professional you’ve ever had we will clean it again for free.” You take no chances. What could be more fair?

Finally, make a commitment to yourself not to put off cleaning your clothes. The longer they remain dirty, the sooner they will wear out. Plus, the longer you have to breathe all the pollens, fungus, chemicals and dust mites that are in your garments. By following these steps, you’ll gain all the information you’ll need to make an informed decision. If you want a quick, cheap cleaning, many companies can help you. But if you want a thorough cleaning, and professional pressing, designed to restore your clothes to like-new and make them last as long as possible, then I invite you to call us.

Thanks very much for reading. I hope you’ve found this consumer report helpful. If you have any questions of comments, please call us.

On behalf of Gracie Cleaners, I thank you for your interest.

Please call us to find out if we pick up in your neighborhood!