Top 10 Dirty Secrets Of Dry Cleaning


I once spent the summer performing at a dry cleaner’s, and what I witnessed there has stayed with me forever. Who knew that a process that mainly deals with the removal of bodily fluids could trigger such extremes in human behavior?

Maybe people feel vulnerable because they’re actually airing their dirty linen publicly. but, what really happens within the steamy depths of the rear room can seem mysterious.

Of course, most dry cleaners are honest business people just trying to form a living. The industry has changed since my student days, but here are my recollections of being a cleaner. The incidents still make me shudder.

10 The Sealed Bag

My first lesson was the sealed bag. A customer will arrive looking flustered and tell you they’re during a hurry. They quickly leave their details and head out the door after dropping a plastic sack onto the counter. The sack is usually tied or sealed shut.

The first time this happened to me was the worst. I had no fear and wore no gloves as I opened the bag and unleashed a pulsating Petri dish of human DNA. this is often usually a mixture of vomit, urine, clothing, and bedsheets.[1]

By the time you realize what you’ve received, the customer is perhaps driving home, safe within the knowledge that somebody else is now handling their problem. If you’re wise, you’ll only let this happen to you once.

9 The Guilty Secret Stain

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The next sort of customer is that the owner of the “guilty secret” stain. Their approach is overly friendly and warm. they’re going to engage you in conversation, ask about your day, throw their clothes on the counter, then casually inquire:

“Hey, umm . . . not sure what this stain is. Do you think you can remove it?”

A painful silence hangs within the air. The customer needs you to erase all traces of their misbehavior. As for the mystery stain, remember the dress that Monica Lewinsky didn’t get dry-cleaned? It’s often along those lines, although it is often lipstick marks, perfume, or maybe cigarette smoke that the customer needs you to affect discreetly.[2]

Dry cleaners have seen it all, and that they may even be keeping a couple of guilty secrets of their own. Before cleaning, we check all the pockets in clothes. Alongside the breath mints and crumpled receipts, you’ll find a surprising amount of loose change.

We’re fine with keeping your secrets.

8 Certifications do not equal quality

It doesn’t always mean quality. | LeventKonuk/iStock/Getty Images

To operate a cleaning business, certain certifications are typically required. as an example, the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute provides their stamp of approval via a passing grade on an exam. Certified Professional cleaner (CPD), Certified Professional Wetcleaner (CPW), and authorized Environmental cleaner (CED) are all important but don’t always imply that the cleaner provides quality care and customer service.

7 Stain Braggers

Much more fun are the stain braggers. I’ve had customers tell me the precise vintage of the wine stain on their tie and await my reaction. One customer believed I should know that it had been a splash of borscht from a famous gourmet restaurant on his shirt.

A minimum-wage employee has no thoughts on this. they’re just food stains. Although it does help your cleaner if you’ll identify the stain, we actually don’t get to skills much it cost you.[4]

Interestingly, the foremost difficult stain to shift isn’t caused by food in the least. It’s good old-fashioned ink. And there are some stains, mostly oil-based, that just can’t be removed.

6 Precious Owners

Precious clothes owners arrive cradling their item sort of a newborn. The issue specific instructions on how their garment must be treated differently (with a fragile touch) and stored separately. It’s always best to smile and nod as they reluctantly abandoning of their prized piece like it’s a toddler on his first day of faculty.

The truth is, all the garments enter one large machine together. So your darling garment will rub shoulders with a sweaty sports kit. All clothes are equal within the dry-cleaning world.

Precious people may additionally be shocked to find out that the solvent wont to clean their clothes may be a carcinogen called perchloroethylene (aka “perc”). This delightful substance is very toxic to humans and therefore the environment.[5]

Dry-cleaning staff who are constantly exposed to perc vapors can experience side effects like dizziness, nausea, and skin irritation. Long-term exposure can cause certain sorts of cancer also as damage to the central systema nervosum. It certainly causes you to consider before you inhale the scent of your freshly dry-cleaned clothes.

5 Smoke And Mirrors

Running a dry-cleaning business isn’t cheap. There’s expensive machinery to take care of and plenty of overhead. this suggests they really need to get creative with their terminology and boost the favored myths surrounding the business.

For starters, the method isn’t dry in the least. Your clothes are going to be still be drenched—but with toxic perc rather than water—and then thrown into the machine. the method cleans the surface of the garments. But without water, it can’t soak deep enough into the fibers to shift those nasty sweat stains.

Now consider the constantly recycled wire hangers which will are in and out of other customers’ wardrobes. Then there’s the cardboard liners for pressed pants that we sometimes fish out of the bin to reuse. once you break it all down, it’s an extended way from the fresh scent of a spring meadow.[6]

4 Ugly Wedding Dresses

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Every bride seems like a princess on her day, but a number of their dresses are truly hideous. Once your big day is over, you send your dream dress to the dry cleaners. If it’s really ugly, bored employees will spot it and laugh. Sometimes, they’re going to try it on and laugh some more.

The same applies to bridesmaids’ dresses and ball gowns. If you’re into historical reenactments or themed events, an employee has almost certainly slipped your costume on and should even have the photos to prove it.[7]

If you own a police uniform or a doctor’s whites, someone has probably pranced about in these things, too. It helps to pass the time and explains why the cleaner sometimes smirks once you devour your clothes.

3 Nonreturners

Then there’s the mystery of the nonreturners. for a few reason, customers will drop off an item—which can sometimes be expensive or unique—and they never, ever return for it.

Some people ditch the article or lose their ticket. Other times, life gets too busy. The saddest legacy of the nonreturner is that the “lonely bridal gown,” an unwelcome reminder to its owner of a broken marriage.[8]

State laws differ, but most specify that dry cleaners should keep unclaimed items for a maximum of six months. Then the dry cleaners are expected to contact the customer to tell the person who they’re going to be removing that individual’s property.

The clothes are eventually donated to charity or a landfill (depending on their value). Once they need finally been off-loaded, it’s a secure bet that the first owners will appear at the counter to demand the return of their ancient items. this is often why each cleaner features a disclaimer tacked to their wall. they will silently point to the disclaimer because the customer begins to yell.

2 Lost Property

Dry cleaners are only human. From time to time, mistakes happen. Maybe a customer is given someone else’s garment and decides to stay it because it is far nicer than their own. Tickets can get switched and pinned to the incorrect item. Clothing is often damaged by the tough chemical change. When this happens, the customer is protected by law—but only thus far.

According to the Fair Claims Guide published by the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, the industry standard is to supply the present value of the item and not the first price paid. Generally, for an item that’s one year old, you’ll receive 40 percent of its value. For an item over five years old, you’ll receive only 15 percent of what you paid.[9]

Some dry cleaners might not even admit liability. Instead, they prefer to shift the blame onto the manufacturer. It really pays to be nice to your dry cleaner.

1 The Worst

Here comes the worst part, the one that everybody secretly suspects. Sometimes, if the shop has been really busy and therefore the customer is waiting, we don’t clean your clothes in the least. It’s amazing how an attempt of steam and a pristine plastic cover can create the illusion of freshly cleaned clothes.

But don’t boycott your local cleaner just yet as they’ll not be there forever. Fast fashion and therefore the popularity of casual office wear has left the industry struggling.[10]to all or any dry-cleaning customers everywhere, a number of these may have happened to you. But maybe not. Support your local cleaner.

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  1. You certainly did not learn much from your summer working in a dry Cleaning establishment or worked for the worst Dry Cleaner I have ever heard of. As a second generation dry cleaner who just retired after 42 years of full time work, 12 years part time, and winning awards as one of the top 5 dry cleaners in the USA for the last 16 years, my experience is a bit more than your summer experience.
    If you worked in customer service, which I am sure you did, you should have been fired. Your comments about perc holds a bit of truth but there are so many restrictions on the use and the upgrades to the machines to prevent that from happening over the last 25 years makes it almost impossible as an employee and impossible as a customer to get cancer from perc unless you are very careless. The smell from dry cleaning clothes with perc is usually due to not changing filters or water in the machine, not the chemical. By the way there are at least 5 different dry cleaning solvents so calling them all perc is irresponsible, from your lack of knowledge, or poor quality due diligence. Trying on customers clothes , your should be fired immediately. Laughing at customers or their clothes you should be fired. Thinking a customer bad because he or she cares for a garment, you should be thrilled the customer is trusting their garment that they paid a lot of their hard earned money for to you. It is a sign of respect. I could go on and on about how little you know about the dry cleaning industry and customer service.
    In addition I also started and owned a very high end Men’s Clothing Store, a Shoe Store, and lots of commercial real estate but it all started with my Dad’s Dry Cleaners. Because of my knowledge in retail clothes at the high end blended with my dry cleaning knowledge, I can safely say I do know clothes, materials, customer service, and how to service them. But, I will end with in the future you should do more due diligence before you write anything.

    • Well said. I worked at a place that was rather unpopular and mismanaged, but I loved the type of work so I just plugged along and ignored the negativity. This ensured my employment because I not only outlasted everyone but became the go-to guy for training. I never kissed butt, I just liked my job because I was really good at it.

    • His story was way more interesting, you have failed to entertain me. Did i come here to hear some snobby crybaby whine about all the little nuances of the article and high horse about what are probably made up stories involving wearing customer clothing and such, after all who wants to hear your version of the “top 10 completely normal things about dry cleaning: total melvin edition”. Get a life dude. I feel i’m sinking to a new low even telling you this. At least you can take pride in being a useless puke who wasted his life away washing other peoples dirty laundry (literally). Try again, but this time, reword everything and in fact, just throw the whole theme of your comment out the window and start from scratch. Make something that another human being other than yourself is gonna actually bother to finish reading and not feel like they’re getting lectured by some crusty old hoot.

    • Thank you for taking the time to correct this false information that would undoubtedly have a negative affect on someone’s business.


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