Many of us love nice clothing made from delicate materials.
They feel great against the skin and look better than cheaper materials.
However, we have to justify the expense of not only the garment itself but also the cost of the dry cleaning bills we will accrue after we wear it.
If you aren’t familiar with the cost of dry cleaning already, you may be shocked when you see the costs associated with dry cleaning.
We will cover why dry cleaning is so expensive.
1. Cost Of Chemicals
Dry cleaning refers to its processes as “dry” since it uses chemicals instead of water to clean your garments.
Obviously, the cost of the chemicals is much more expensive than the cost of water.
The most common chemical used in dry cleaning is tetrachloroethylene, also sometimes referred to as perchloroethylene (“PERC”).
From one vendor, a 190-liter container of PERC costs $7,677.50, which reflects a discounted rate for buying in bulk.
Dangers Of Working With PERC
PERC is a toxic chemical.
Extended exposure to the chemicals can lead to numerous health concerns, including:
- Esophageal cancer
- Vision problems
- Parkinson’s disease
Dry cleaning professionals must learn how to work with the chemicals safely.
Safe handling of PERC includes wearing the proper protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, as well as safe storage.
To help ensure that dry cleaning staff doesn’t experience dangerous levels of exposure, there are strict regulations in place about how much PERC can be in a particular space.
To avoid the dangers of using PERC, some dry cleaners use safer alternatives.
- High-Flashpoint hydrocarbons
- Liquid Carbon Dioxide
- n-Propyl Bromide
Most of these alternatives provide comparable quality results, but they are not quite as good.
Most people prefer to get their clothing washed with PERC.
At-Home Dry Cleaning Kits
You can find kits that allow you to dry clean your own clothing at home with the proper chemicals.
This option costs far less than getting regular dry cleaning.
However, you need to read the labels on your clothing and the dry cleaning kit instructions very carefully.
If you don’t read all information in detail, you could unintentionally damage the clothing or expose yourself to hazardous chemicals.
If you do decide to dry clean your items at home, you should use the proper protective equipment and dry clean the clothes in a very well-ventilated room.
2. Dry Cleaning Equipment
Dry cleaning uses a specific type of equipment.
Large, commercial dry cleaning machines cost a lot of money.
A standard dry cleaning machine costs $40,000 to $50,000.
If you want an upgraded machine that uses carbon dioxide, it can cost as much as $150,000.
Owners of dry cleaning businesses need to buy a large enough machine to accommodate all of their business without paying for a larger machine than necessary.
As the business grows, they may need to buy an additional machine or upgrade the current machine.
During the dry cleaning process, the clothes still get a little wet thanks to the use of the chemicals.
However, they don’t get nearly as wet as when you clean your clothes with water.
In some cases, the dry cleaning machine also tumble dries the clothes.
In other cases, the dry cleaner must also provide dryers.
Since heat can damage some of the items brought into the cleaners, the dryers are usually only used on “no heat” settings.
The equipment isn’t the only expense the dry cleaner will incur.
The dry cleaner also needs to rent space and cover any utility costs not included in the rent, such as electricity and internet.
They will need hangers and garment bags as well as racks to store clean clothes.
They also need to set up a point-of-sale or POS system and hire employees.
In most cases, dry cleaners are mom-and-pop shops with limited resources.
They need to make enough to cover the expenses, so they charge as much as required.
We live in a fast-paced society.
Many people don’t have a lot of time to stop at the dry cleaners while they run around throughout their day.
To accommodate busy customers, many dry cleaners now offer delivery services.
Cleaners will come straight to your house to pick up your clothes and drop them off a couple of days later.
You will get the opportunity to have them drop off the clothing within a time frame that accommodates your schedule so that you know you’ll be home.
In order to provide pickup and delivery services, the dry cleaner will also need to invest in vans and hire extra employees to perform the runs.
3. Time It Takes To Dry Clean
The dry cleaning process takes a lot of time.
The longer an item takes to clean, the longer the dry cleaner needs to wait to start the next load.
You can expect the following times to retrieve your dry cleaning:
- Business attire: 1 to 2 days
- White dress: 2 to 3 days
- Coats: 2 to 3 days
- Linens: 3 to 4 days
- Prom dresses and gowns: 4 to 7 days
- Hats and gloves: 1 week
- Fur: 1 to 2 weeks
- Leather: 1 to 2 weeks
- Wedding dresses: 1 to 2 weeks
The largest portion of the process involves drying the garment.
The clothing you bring in takes up space in the store until someone finally comes to claim it.
If the dry cleaner doesn’t have space to store cleaned clothes, the clothes could potentially become dirty or damaged by the time they get back to the customer.
Dry cleaners will offer the opportunity for customers to pick up their clothes more quickly than the averages suggest.
For that reason, dry cleaners can only take so many items at a time.
They also must come up with a solution for clothes abandoned by their owners.
Some may charge extra for people who use the dry cleaner as storage for a particular garment for months at a time.
Laws about when the clothes are considered abandoned vary by state with many states giving customers up to six months to pick up their clothing.
Dry cleaning doesn’t only clean your clothes, but the cleaners also press your clothes for you, too.
Pressing refers to the process of getting wrinkles out of the garments without the use of an iron.
Instead, the process uses steam.
Steam can prevent fibers in delicate fabrics such as silk from being damaged by direct contact with the heat of the iron.
Many companies will use a shirt pressing machine, which requires a large upfront investment.
Alternatively, dry cleaners will need to individually press the clothes by hand.
Many cleaners will also press shirt collars and cuffs.
These extra steps take up a lot more time and money, and you will see that reflected in the cost of the services.
Some dry cleaners include pressing as part of their standard services while others charge extra for it.
Pressing Clothing Yourself
You may choose to press your own clothes in an attempt to save money.
You should always take special care to read about how to press that clothing item’s particular type of fabric.
If it’s a blend and you receive conflicting information, always err on the side of caution.
In most cases, you will steam the wrinkles out of your garments.
Steam works especially well for cotton, linen, and wool.
You do not want to use steam for silk, sheer fabric, rayon, and acetate.
For these fabrics, you will only use a dry iron.
5. Advantages Of No Water/Heat Cleaning Processes
Water can cause damage to a number of different materials that require dry cleaning.
Some fabrics may get water spots on them if they get wet.
When left wet for long periods of time, some clothes can even develop mold.
In addition to the water damage to the clothes, there’s already a substantial amount of water waste in the production of clothing, so it’s beneficial to not add to the problem by washing clothes in large amounts of water.
Naturally, heat can cause problems, too.
Heat can cause certain fabrics to shrink.
The heat can also fade the colors of your clothing or even damage the material.
If you plan on washing delicate items at home, you should do your best to use cold water and limited heat.
You should also limit the amount of water you use in the washing process if possible.
6. Large Items
Some of the items you need to send to the dry cleaner may be rather large, such as large living room curtains, winter blankets, and rugs.
Since these items take up so much space, the dry cleaner can’t fill that space with other clothes.
It costs them more to clean it, so they need to charge more for the services.
This is the average cost of dry cleaning services based on item (and size):
- Shirt: $2 to $4
- Pants: $5 to $8
- Dress: $10 to $18
- Suit $10 to $15
- Coat: $13 to $25
- Draperies: $17 per panel
- Blanket: $30 to $40
- Wedding Dress: $120+
Naturally, larger and more elaborate items cost more to clean.
The variation in cost depends on where the dry cleaner is located and the material of the garment.
A dry cleaner can size items by both weight and overall dimensions.
Naturally, they will charge by the method that produces the best results.
7. Knowledge About Stains
Dry cleaning professionals know how to remove every type of stain you can imagine.
Of course, one of the first things to consider is that the best way to treat a stain is to treat it as quickly as possible.
The quicker you bring the stained item into the dry cleaner, the more effectively they will be able to get the stains out of the clothes.
Stains are usually either water-based or oil-based.
Some common solutions for common stains include:
- Coffee: white vinegar and dish soap
- Grease: baking soda or cornstarch
- Red wine: hydrogen peroxide and dish soap
- Blood: white vinegar
- Ink: rubbing alcohol
- Organic material: natural enzymes
When these solutions don’t work, your dry cleaner will know what to do.
They can even salvage clothes you may have previously thought could not be salvaged.
Dry cleaners are especially effective at treating grease-based stains.
Bringing A Stained Item To The Cleaners
If you do have a stain on one of your favorite garments, you need to take the garment in as quickly as possible.
Rule #1 when it comes to treating a stain is to treat it immediately.
If you let it sit, the stain will only seep into the fabric and become more difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Always point out any known stains on your garments to the dry cleaner.
If you can remember what you did to cause the stain, you should provide the dry cleaner with that information, too.
8. Separation Of Different Materials
Dry cleaners take the time to separate different materials to ensure that all of the fabrics get the proper treatment for them.
Certain materials require different washing and drying times compared to others.
Some of the most common materials sent to the dry cleaners include:
- Leather (faux leather, too)
- Pure wool
It takes the dry cleaners time to sort the clothes properly since most people don’t think about doing it in advance.
You should separate items based on color as well.
You need to separate white clothing from dyed clothing so that the colors don’t accidentally seep onto the white clothes, discoloring them.
To help lower dry cleaning expenses for everyone, separate materials in advance.
9. Detailed Processes
Dry cleaning requires detailed operations and meticulous organization.
We will go over the detailed processes involved in getting a garment cleaned.
Step One: Every Item Is Tagged
The dry cleaner will tag every item once they get it so that it has an identification number.
One end of the tag goes to the customer.
In the past, if a customer lost their tag, it could cause a serious problem.
Nowadays, many dry cleaners have additional digital methods of finding tracking numbers and locating clothing.
Step Two: Garment Inspection
After the dry cleaner receives the garment, they will inspect it in front of the customer.
The dry cleaner is looking for stains, loose threads, and missing buttons.
If the garment has any stains or flaws, the dry cleaner will talk to the customer about realistic options and decide how to move forward.
It’s extremely important to do this step with the customer present to ensure that the customer can’t claim the dry cleaner caused a problem after the fact.
Step Three: Preparation
To prepare the clothing, the dry cleaner will pre-treat any stains with the appropriate solution.
They will also remove any items that could potentially become damaged or loose during the cleaning process.
Step Four: Cleaning
At this time, the clothes go into the washer.
In the washer, a solvent will be applied to the clothes.
The solvent will loosen any debris on the clothing.
The solvent will then be drained from the clothing, and any remaining solvent will be recycled for the next load.
Step Five: Final Spot Treatment
Once the clothes come out of the dry cleaning machine, the dry cleaner will take the time to treat stains with steam or chemical solvents.
Step Six: Pressing and Alterations
It’s not enough to simply clean the garment.
After it’s clean, the dry cleaner ensures that the garment looks great by pressing it to remove any wrinkles.
If there are any holes or loose threads/buttons, the dry cleaner will make those small alterations for you as well.
10. Great Results
When you get professional dry cleaning, you know that you will get great results in return thanks to their know-how.
The clothes will look better than if you tried to clean them yourself.
Specialized Care And Inspection
When you take a garment in for dry cleaning, not only can you get the garment cleaned, but you can also have it inspected for missing buttons and any minor deconstruction of the stitching.
Specialized care takes a lot of time and effort.
In some cases, there may be an additional charge for these services.
If you know of a damaged button or a particular problem, make the dry cleaner aware in advance so that you can manage expectations.
Maintain Integrity Of Your Clothing
You are not only paying for dry cleaning services when you go to the dry cleaner.
You are also paying to prolong the life of your garments.
If you spend a lot of money on certain clothing, you will do everything you can to prolong the life of your clothing.
The dry cleaners are gentle, so the cleaning process doesn’t deteriorate the clothing nearly as fast as using a traditional washing machine and dryer.
You also don’t need to wash your items after every time you wear them.
You can save money on dry cleaning expenses and buying new clothes by taking garments in for dry cleaning after two uses instead of one.
Dry cleaning requires a lot of time and effort, but it produces a great result.
While caring for your garments, the dry cleaner can’t clean other garments.
They charge as much as necessary to cover operations while still providing the high-quality results customers expect.
Some items require dry cleaning, or they will get damaged, so you should pay the price if you want to still enjoy wearing your clothes.
Otherwise, you will have to learn how to do it yourself.