The wetcleaning business – is it right for you?

26 March 2024

This is the first of several articles which I hope will be of particular interest to those new to wetcleaning or those entrepreneurs who are contemplating opening a retail wetcleaning business. Here, we take a look at the problems faced by many new to the industry who have found that while it can deliver excellent cleaning results there can also be problems associated with cleaning and particularly finishing that only became apparent later on. This has been a very steep learnIng curve for some who have found out to their considerable cost that cleaning using water is not quite as straightforward as many believed it would be.

Since the development of modern wetcleaning systems the cleaning industry has come a long way with the latest machine and detergent technology providing superior cleaning results together with the fresh odour that customers associate with a clean garment. Many experienced drycleaners have now invested in wetcleaning equipment that has enabled them to benefit from a huge increase in flexibility, allowing them to easily process a wide range of garments with extensive water-based stains that had previously been a problem. It is fair to say that well trained experienced drycleaners, due to their knowledge of textile pproperties and their hands on finishing skills, have little difficulty in moving much of their workload to waterbased processing and benefitting from the best of both worlds.

Some of the difficulties that those with no experience should be aware of

  1. Very limited availability of independent, accredited and industry qualified trainers.
  2. Garment care labelling is a minefield of inadequate and misleading information.
  3. In depth knowledge of textile properties is needed to safely clean garments using water.
  4. In depth knowledge of stains and specific textile properties are needed to safely remove stains from a wide range of textiles.
  5. Very extensive practical skills need to be developed in order to finish garments to a high standard following wetcleaning.


Historically, of the three training bodies capable of delivering accredited dry/ wetcleaning courses, delivered by independant training services to the industry in the UK, The Guild of Cleaners & Launderers, the FCRA and SATRA: of these The Guild alone now remains in existence.

The difficulty for those new to the industry is that wetcleanig a broad range of personal wear items demands a much greater knowledge base and higher skill sets than those necessary for drycleaning. In the short term this can be a real problem as, in spite of the sophisticated finishing equipment now available, the hands on skills in particular can take some time to develop. Bearing this in mind, working hands on with an established wetcleaner from another area for say six to eight weeks before opening your own business would go a very long way to helping you develop some of the knowledge and understanding needed by those new to the business.

Care labelling

Garments are made and manufactured world-wide and while many carry reliable aftercare symbols and information others do not. A good example of this is items tha have been home made which are unlikely to carry either fibre content or care labels. It is also the case that manufactures seconds may have had their labels removed. High value and Designer garments, in spite of their high cost and exclusive nature, often present the cleaner with items that are inadequately or wrongly labelled (see February 2024, WWW). There are also garments that have been imported from abroard or purchased by the customer while on holiday that carry aftertercare symbols that are not frequently seen in the U.K.

Coping with this plethora of aftercare symbols and information can be difficult particularly for those businesses located in areas popular with holiday makers from abroard, who may see foreign care labelling on a regular basis. If those new to the industry are to avoid costly mistakes. understanding care label information and being able to recognise incorrect aftercare labels is critical.

GUILD TRAINING: Students attending a Guild training course
GOLD ROBBERY: This polyester dress had a gold coating surface printed onto the fabric. Pre-spotted prior to wetcleaning, the chemical locally removed the gold coating. The cleaner is normally considered responsible for this type of problem

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