10 Mistakes Your Dry Cleaner Wishes You’d Stop Making
10 Mistakes Your Dry Cleaner Wishes You’d Stop Making
If clothes could talk, they’d probably have a lot to say about how you should be treating them (take one look at the crumply pile of pants and dresses on your bedroom chair and you’ll nod your head yes). But since, you know, they’re clothes (alas, mute by nature), we asked a few dry cleaners to spill the most common garment-care slip ups they see time and time again – and how you can avoid them:
1. YOU TAKE RISKS WITH TRICKY STAINS.
It’s a lesson worth repeating: If you’re not sure how to treat a stain, hand it off to a professional. This is especially true for dry-clean-only fabrics, which might be too delicate to stand up to DIY stain remedies. Stop yourself before you try to scrub out a stain with, say, lemon juice or hairspray (which doesn’t work, by the way). “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a client come in with a stain that they tried to get out with bleach or some other stain remover,” says Dan Miller of Mulberry’s Cleaners in Minneapolis. “And by the time it comes to us, it’s already ruined.” And don’t be afraid to ask your dry cleaner for intel on garment gray areas. “Even when a label says, ‘do not dry clean,’ bring it into us and we will decide how to properly clean it,” says Bonnie Engler of Pilgrim Dry Cleaners in Minneapolis.
2. YOU DON’T INSPECT YOUR CLOTHES AFTER YOU WEAR THEM.
“Time is the worst thing you can give a stain,” says Jospeh Lee of J’s Cleaners in New York City. “Even the simplest stain can become difficult to work with when it has time to oxidize into the garment.”
And sure, you’ll easily spot the spaghetti sauce that fell in your lap at dinner, but sometimes stains go unnoticed – and then get hung back in your closet for weeks. “Here’s a common issue we see – someone will go to a party, spill alcohol on a suit or dress, not notice it, and then hang it up,” says Miller. “Over time, that alcohol could cause the fabric color to change.” So here’s your simple call to action: before you hang your favorite dress back in your closet, give it a quick glance up and down.
3. AND YOU PROBABLY DON’T NOTICE THE “INVISIBLE DAMAGE” YOU REGULARLY DO TO YOUR CLOTHES.
Everyday habits that don’t seem like a big deal can mean trouble for your clothes over time. “Avoid spraying perfumes or hairspray, or putting on deodorant after you get dressed,” says Engler. The same goes for body lotion or sunscreen: “The alcohols and oils in these stains can pull color away when removed,” says Lee. “It’s a chemical change that can’t be reversed – the most common spot we see it is on the collar.”
Even perspiration building up over time can have effects that are hard to reverse (yep, that lovely yellow tinge!), so clean your pieces a bit more often to ensure you get as much wear out of them as possible.
4. YOU FORGET THAT IT’S NOT JUST STAINS THAT CAUSE DAMAGE.
“Watch out for jewelry, watches, and pocketbooks rubbing up against clothes as you wear them,” says David Kistner, founder of Green Apple Cleaners in New York City. “They could wear the garments out.” And you likely won’t notice the hard-to-fix damage (like a hole in a sweater’s weave or discolored leather) before it’s too late.
5. YOU DON’T TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OUT OF THE DRY CLEANING BAG.
The bags ensure your clothes won’t get dirty on the way home from the cleaner, but a couple of our experts reminded us that they’re not meant for storage. The plastic bags can trap moisture against your garments, which could lead to mildew, discoloring, and odors (yuck!).
6. YOU HANG HEAVY STUFF ON WIRE HANGERS.
Miller says this is a mistake he sees all the time: “Wire hangers don’t provide the structural integrity to support heavier garments,” he says. “Sweaters or silks hung on a wire hanger for a while can get marks in the shoulders that can be permanent.” This is also why you’ll see your sweaters folded over hangers when you get them back from the cleaners – they do that so they’re ready to be placed on a shelf when you get home.
7. YOU DON’T CONSIDER THE PRICE OF MAINTAINING CLOTHES WHEN YOU BUY THEM.
It’s a little counter-intuitive to shop in favor of pieces with “dry-clean only” on the tag, but consider how dry cleaning can extend the life of your clothes, and actually save you money over time. “Dry cleaning a garment costs less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” says Engler. “And dry cleaners take great care inspecting, cleaning, pressing, and packaging your items. Look at dry cleaning as protecting your investment in your clothing.”
Second, consider the hidden price of tending to a cheap garment. “A poorly made, $40 pleated skirt could cost you another $40 to press the pleats back in – and that’s every time you wash it,” says Kistner.
8. YOU OVER-DRY YOUR CLOTHES.
Yes, dry cleaners even have something to teach you about doing laundry at home! Many people give lots of thought to the washing process (which detergent? which stain remover?) but don’t take the same care when it comes to drying – and it’s a little more nuanced than just tossing clothes in the dryer and hitting the start button.
“Over-drying can cause colors to fade, or even shrinkage or other damage,” says Miller. And Kevin Kneafsey of Green Street Cleaners in San Francisco prefers the dry cleaner’s drying process for his shirts: “Dry cleaners don’t tumble dry your shirts – they press them wet,” he says. “It’s incredible how much more life you get out of a shirt without exposing it to a dryer.”
But since we’re not about to recommend you take everything you own to the cleaners, just engage in a little trial and error next time you dry a load. Stop the machine earlier than you normally would, check the dryness, and adjust the timing as necessary. You might be surprised to find that your clothes can dry in less time than you thought.
9. YOU STORE YOUR CLOTHES IN TOO MUCH LIGHT.
“Store your clothes in your closet – but make sure you don’t leave the light on,” says Kneafsey. “Light can discolor the fabric. You’d be surprised how often we see this happen – we can always tell because it usually affects the shoulder area most.”
10. YOU DON’T CHECK YOUR POCKETS BEFORE YOU DROP YOUR CLOTHES OFF.
This sounds like common sense, but every dry cleaner we spoke to for this story lamented that they constantly find “treasures” in the pockets of their customers’ garments. And that’s especially problematic when the item is something that could stain – like lipstick or a marker. “Please – please! – take your pens out of your pockets,” pleads Kistner.