Taken To The Cleaners

Q: I recently switched dry cleaners after a garment came back damaged. Every time a favorite garment needs cleaning, I hold my breath for the outcome. What should I expect from my dry cleaner?
–V. Dixon, Washington, D.C.

A: Like every other service you pay for, it is important to shop around. Ask for referrals from satisfied friends and relatives, but also find a dry cleaner with whom you feel comfortable. You should develop a relationship with your dry cleaner, suggests Steven P. Boorstein, author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing: Everything You Need to Know from Blue Jeans to Ball Gowns! (Boutique Books, $19.95). And that takes time–time to discuss the proper care of your clothes and to receive the dry cleaner’s recommendations. Remember to come armed with questions.

“Are they using nets to clean delicate fabrics? Are they de-pilling your clothes? A good dry cleaner will do those things,” says Boorstein. “Is he [or she] cognizant of what it will take to maintain garments that are prone to shine? You may want a cleaner that is doing a lot of hand ironing and soft steaming as opposed to machine pressing, which is death to a fabric like gabardine.”

If a garment is ruined at a dry cleaners, however, it may not be his fault, unless he failed to follow cleaning instructions. According to the Better Business Bureau, if the manufacturer issued the wrong cleaning instructions, or neglected to include information on how to clean a garment, liability falls on the manufacturer. If it is the dry cleaner’s fault, he is responsible for only the garment’s remaining life expectancy.

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