There are some drycleaners around whose customers have no doubt that their treasured possessions will be cleaned and finished to the highest standards; that their clothes will be ready when promised; at a price that represents value for money; served by knowledgeable, friendly people; in pleasant surroundings.

It’s fairly easy to get one or two of these elements right, but if you are seeking excellence, meeting these criteria will need to become a way of life.

Simple tests A few simple tests may help determine if you have the type of personality needed to build an exceptional business reputation. How do feel when you see a biro mark on the counter, hear a phone ringing unanswered, see a poorly set lapel or a loose trouser crease? Do they annoy you so much that you must do something about them straight away? Can you walk past a safety pin on the floor without picking it up? If you don’t notice or don’t particularly care about such details, it is very unlikely that you will be able raise the level of your performance above the mediocre.

Excellence is an area where the size of a company is not important. In fact being small can be a major advantage because the larger you get, the harder it becomes to instill and maintain a quality ethos throughout the whole of your business. In last month’s issue we looked in considerable detail at the signals that your company sends out and the impression that these form in the minds of potential customers.

If you found it hard to believe that drycleaning businesses could be so neglected, you may have a sound base on which to make further improvement.

For the purpose of this article let’s assume that your shop premises are attractive, well designed, well maintained inside and out, and that they convey cleanliness, order and dependability.

Customers’ clothes

Earlier I used the expression ‘treasured possessions.’ This was carefully chosen to show the mindset your receptionist should have when handling articles. Your customer may have spent some time finding just the right outfit and matching accessories or the outfit may have been a special gift or it is a perfect fit which means that customers can feel very strongly about their clothes. For these reasons the clothes deserve due respect.

They should be gently opened out and carefully turned over to enable a judgment to be made about the best cleansing method. Listen carefully to the owner’s requirements and explain the various service options you have available. Give reassurance about the anticipated result and agree a mutually convenient time for collection. The whole essence is to take the time needed to give the customer proper attention, such that they leave your shop with confidence that you will fulfil your promises.

As well as numerical identification, a foolproof system is needed to ensure that information on the selected service, stains, repairs, special instructions and time due, accompanies the garment throughout processing. Clearly the tagging of garments must be undertaken in such a way to ensure that there is no possibility of pins or other fixing devices damaging the fabric or, increasingly important these days, the manufacturer’s label. Subsequent handling of the article should continue in the same manner. Barrows of dirty clothes or piles on floors are taboo, so hang all soiled items on suitably shaped and padded hangers. Hanging soiled garments facilitates the textbook classification of loads and enables a much clearer overview of production needs than traditional bin-type sorting.

Assuming that you have a properly maintained machine, use proprietary detergents, select cleaning programmes appropriate to the load and housekeeping is systematic. Quality of cleaning is, to a large extent, determined by classification. The basic objective of classification is to make up loads for cleaning of a similar colour, texture and soiling level to prevent the occurrence of cross contamination from dyes, lint or dirt.

Minimum categories to be adopted should include; dark suitings; medium suitings; dark woollens, reds, dark and light acrylics, pastels, whites, silks, rainwear and overalls. Brushing out pockets and turn-ups, checking linings for pens, determination of the soundness of the fabric and the protection or removal of buttons, trimmings, beading and embroidery are essential to achieving excellence.


Whilst modern drycleaning detergents are extremely efficient, there are some stains such as albumen, certain glues, paints and vegetable dyes, where adhesion increases as a result of the warmth and moisture of the cleaning process. For optimum results these should be removed beforehand.

Cleaners who clean everything first, then soap and re-clean any garments with marks remaining, then as a last resort attempt chemical spotting, are not demonstrating craft skills. The objective is to ensure that the garment is only subjected to mechanical action from one machine cycle.

With the exception of a few types of staining such as perfume, dyes and bleach, which effectively change or strip colour, an expert spotter should be able to remove stains whilst retaining the original appearance and texture of the fabric. Testing reagents on hidden areas will be standard practice. It may be necessary to employ masking techniques, re-tinting or thread replacement to restore valuable garments.

Pre and post spotting areas should be separated and surfaces routinely cleaned between treatments. Brushes of different colour, size and bristle texture should be available. Proper assessments will have been made of hazardous substances and appropriate measures to control risks in place. Lighting and ventilation, balancing worker comfort with optimum performance are essential.

Sharp edges

Finishing, in the drycleaning context, means to restore the appearance of an article or garment to as near as possible to its original condition. Well-pressed articles have a smooth even finish, with straight sharp edges. There should be no glaze, trap marks, vacuum marks or impressions of inner seams and linings. Bagginess should be removed and the shape should be restored to waistbands, sleeves and lapels. The skilled finisher seeks to use just sufficient moisture, pressure and heat to obtain the desired result without changing the appearance or texture of the fabric.

Correctly adjusted equipment, with properly fitted, resilient covers and an efficient vacuum is essential. The use of steam to cushion pressure and minimise glaze and sleeve formers in conjunction with bottom steam to remove crease break marks will be standard practice. Finishing is the aspect of dry cleaning that generates most customer complaints. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the best cleaners often have the best finishers.

Returning the garment to the customer provides another opportunity to reinforce the level of care that the item has received.

Ideally the garment should be hung on a display hook whilst the customer is served. Alternatively, with one hand holding the hanger and the other supporting the weight, gently lay the garment flat on the counter. Presentation is crucial, the sleeves, shoulders and collars of delicate garments should be protected from crushing with tissue paper. Correctly sized, shaped and padded hangers should support garments in a firm, crease free manner. Good quality packaging should keep them clean and aid carrying home if folding is required.

The attention to detail and customer service levels I have described will command premium pricing. By setting your prices at a point that provides you with a fair return and the customer with fair value, will ensure that your business flourishes.