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Don’t tell me we didn’t tell you.
A trip to the dry cleaner is just a quick errand for you. But the people behind the counter take a great amount of pride in the time they spend on your priciest garments. You could easily extend the life of your wardrobe if you heed their advice. The problem? Most customers are in too much of a hurry to ask for it. Here’s what dry cleaners across the country would like to yell as you’re dashing out the door.
1. Stop trying to spot-treat your dry-clean-only clothes.
Every dry cleaner we spoke with asked us to pass along this message: Regardless of what you’ve spilled, commercial treatments, water, hairsprayor soap will not help get the stain out-in fact, they’ll probably do more harm than good. “Club soda works on your stomach, not your blouse,” says Charles Ickes, director of premium service at Dependable Cleaners in Boston. The best way to ensure a stain will be removed is to get it to the dry cleaner as quickly as possible.
2. Be honest about stains.
Your dry cleaner will treat a spot with any number of solutions depending on what was spilled. He’ll have a better chance of removing a stain if you tell him what caused it. Jason Platt, owner of Image Cleaners in New York City, recalls a customer who brought in his teenage daughter’s vomit-covered wool coat and insisted the spots were tomato sauce. You’re not doing yourself-or your clothes-any favors if you fib.
3. Your beauty products are ruining your clothes.
Don’t get dressed until you’re ready to go out the door. Antiperspirants, deodorants, hair products, lotions, perfume and teeth whiteners are “disastrous” on fabric, says Brian Butler of Dublin Cleaners in Columbus, Ohio. Depending on the product, it may contain alcohol, acid or bleaching agents. If you accidentally spray or spill toiletries, head to the dry cleaner as quickly as possible.
4. Always clean both pieces of a suit at the same time.
Sure, you take off your suit jacket as soon as you reach the office. But you still need to have it cleaned every time you bring the bottom half in, says Cheri Lipham, owner of Pressed4Time, a pickup and delivery dry cleaner in Arizona. If you repeatedly send in slacks without the jacket, over time, the shades may age differently.
5. Don’t treat us like your second closet.
When you drop off a bunch of items, come back for everything at once-don’t retrieve an order item by item. Platt has heard it all: “I only want my white pants and green sweater today. I’ll come back for the rest some other time.” Or, “I don’t have enough money to pick it all up today. I only want one thing.” A good dry cleaner won’t have room in his racks for long-term storage.
6. Never store your clothes in the dry cleaner’s bags.
Dry cleaners send your clothes home in plastic to ensure everything stays clean and dry in transit. Get rid of the bags before you hang your clothes, urges Craig Goulian of Emerson Dry Cleaners in Emerson, New Jersey. If you don’t, moisture from the air can get trapped inside and cause considerable damage. On a similar note, leave paper covers in place; they protect garments from dustbut still let them breathe.
7. Check your pockets before you drop off your clothes.
It’s easier on everyone if you retrieve your credit card and train pass before handing over your clothing. Items that get left behind might be dropped on the floor, damaged in the cleaning process or even become the cause of a major problem. “We hate to call your wife to tell her about the lovely earrings we found only to find out later that they were a gift to your girlfriend,” says Jerry Pozniak, owner of Cameo Cleaners of Gramercy Park in New York City.
8. Don’t blame us for every misplaced item of clothing.
Yes, dry cleaners occasionally lose clothes. But don’t make yours turn his shop upside down when you can’t find something. “Check all of your closets-including your husband’s and kids’-before you call us to look for your missing blouse,” requests Pozniak.
9. Store garments clean.
That dress you wore to a wedding probably looks clean, but don’t shove it in the back of your closet until your next black-tie affair. Perspiration and body oil can attract moths and other insects, says Andrew Rivkin of Embassy Cleaners in Larchmont, New York. Plus, over time, stains that are invisible to the naked eye (usually from a spilled drink or a splatter of sauce) can oxidize and turn brown.
10. Some spots are permanent.
If you’ve ironed over a deodorant streak, you may have permanently damaged the fabric, says Rivkin. There’s also little hope for oil stains-especially when the oil in question is suntan oil. And garments that have been sprayed with cat urine probably belong in the trash; even if the spot comes out, the scent will linger forever.