On Dry Cleaning


My dry cleaner seemed uncharacteristically cheerful Wednesday morning. She engaged me in small talk. The weather, the weekend, the usual stuff. For the first time, I believed the pre-printed "We (Heart) Our Customers" message attached to the hangers. There would never be a better chance to ask the million-dollar question.

"So, how does dry cleaning really work?"

The cheerfulness subsided. I had crossed the line. All of a sudden "“ despite multiple signs promising next-day service "“ my garments wouldn't be ready until the middle of next week. Whatever they do, they were going to take their sweet ass time doing it. I know this: she will ignore my choice of starch.

Lucky for me, the dark industry secrets have already been exposed. The good people at HowStuffWorks "“ specifically Nate Marks and Debra Luhring "“ crawled into the shady underbelly of the dry cleaning world and filed a full report.

The Process
When you drop your clothes off at the cleaners, the employees follow a pattern that holds true at just about any dry-cleaning operation running today. Your clothes go through the following steps:

1. Tagging and inspection - Some method, whether it is small paper tags or little labels written on a shirt collar, is used to identify your clothes so they don't get mixed up with everyone else's. Clothes are also examined for missing buttons, tears, etc. that the dry cleaner might get blamed for otherwise.

2. Pre-treatment - The cleaner looks for stains on your clothes and treats them to make removal easier and more complete.

3. Dry cleaning - The clothes are put in a machine and cleaned with a solvent.

4. Post-spotting - Any lingering stains are removed.

5. Finishing - This includes pressing, folding, packaging and other finishing touches.

That's just the outline.  Let me send you over to Howstuffworks for the full explanation.