Choosing a Dry Cleaner Podcast Transcript



Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.

Today’s topic is: Choosing a Drycleaner.

The following is a list of suggestions that you may find useful when bringing your clothes to a dry cleaner. 

At the Cleaners

  • When you take your clothes to be cleaned, remove everything from all pockets and look over the garments carefully for stains.
  • If there are stains to be removed, point them out to the clerk and provide as much information about them as you can, including what caused the stain and how long it had been on the fabric.
  • Be sure to tell about any area of fabric on which there may be hidden spots—particularly where there has been a spill of a sugar-containing substance, such as a soft drink, white wine, or fruit juice.
  • The clerk should mark stains, noting what caused them and how long they've been there. In addition, you should tell the clerk about any stain removal methods you that have tried at home. 
  • The best approach is to pin a tag to the stain to ensure all the needed information is available.
  • Ask about costs. Find out if the amount includes any special services like waterproofing that you have not been told about and don't want. If a service isn't needed, ask that it not be done and that your bill be adjusted accordingly.
  • One-hour service usually includes only basic cleaning and should not be used for garments that require special attention.
  • In general, it's better not to ask for a faster-than-normal turnaround unless you absolutely must have the garment immediately.
  • Hang onto your ticket. In case something goes wrong, the ticket will be your proof of the items you brought in and the treatment you agreed to pay for. 
  • When you pick up your cleaned clothes, bring your ticket with you. Take a few minutes to look over your clothes, checking to see that they are pressed properly, including lapels and collars lying flat, and pleats are straight and crisp. Make sure the clothes aren't missing any buttons and are in overall good condition before you pay for the cleaning and leave the shop.  

If Things Go Wrong 

Sometimes clothes are damaged in the dry-cleaning process, and occasionally they are lost.  The remedy depends on who is responsible. Dry-cleaning problems may be caused by any of three sources:

  • The drycleaner - if damaged because a drycleaner uses a cleaning process not authorized by the care label, or doesn't use reasonable care (for instance, damages a garment in the pressing process), the damage is the drycleaner's fault.
  • The manufacturer of the garment, - If a garment is damaged through proper cleaning by a process authorized on the Care Labels, it is the manufacturer's fault
  • If a stain or other damage you've caused can't reasonably be expected to be cured, then it's your fault
  • If you believe your drycleaner is responsible for a problem, such as a missed stain or a new one, ask that the work be redone. A reputable shop will be happy to do it over at no cost.

The "Fair Claims Guide," published by the Dry-cleaning & Laundry Institute, or DLI, and widely used by drycleaners, consumers, and mediators, says a drycleaner is obliged to pay you the replacement cost of the garment only after adjustment for its condition, and based on the unused portion of its life expectancy. The guide includes life expectancy tables— for example two years for a tie and three years for a women's blouse.  

  • If the shop admits an error that resulted in permanent damage to your garment, the shop should pay you for the garment and should waive cleaning charges. 
  • If the drycleaner denies responsibility for a permanently damaged item, you can ask the shop to send the garment to DLI's Textile Analysis Laboratory for a determination of responsibility. You can't submit the garment yourself, but a drycleaner that is a member of DLI can submit it for a fee.
  • In many cases DLI is able to determine the cause of damage.  If DLI determines that the garment is defective or if its care label is incorrect, then you can take the garment, along with the laboratory report, to the store where you purchased the garment and ask for a refund. The store should reimburse you. The store can sometimes return the defective or mislabeled item to its manufacturer, but not always.
  • If DLI determines that the drycleaner is at fault, then DLI will notify the drycleaner. Drycleaners, especially if the dry cleaner is a DLI member, will usually cooperate with a DLI laboratory judgment and compensate you according to the "Fair Claims Guide." 
  • The DLI process is often helpful; however, the cleaner won't always be blamed even if it did a below-standard job. For example, if your garment comes back with a stain that the shop caused to be permanently set, DLI probably won't know whether the shop could have succeeded by using a better sequence of stain removal steps. Furthermore, even if the stain could have been removed by the optimum procedure, DLI may not be able or inclined to say that the procedure your shop used, and failed using it, was an unreasonable (negligent) approach. 
  • If you can't reach agreement with a shop, you can complain to a local government consumer agency or the Better Business Bureau. If a shop refuses to send a garment for analysis to DLI, these offices will help you submit the garment. 

Remember these points for using and keeping a drycleaner:

  • Do clerks thoroughly inquire about stains when you drop off garments and carefully note information you provide? 
  • Can clerks give coherent answers when you ask about the feasibility of removing difficult stains? 
  • Are your clothes ready when promised? 
  • Do the clothes look and smell clean? 
  • Were the clothes pressed properly?
  • Does the staff seem to have an efficient system for finding your garments when you come to pick them up? 

Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.



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