Monday, June 07, 2010

How to Find a Good Dry Cleaner for Your Vintage Garments

My post last week about dry cleaning garnered a lot of reaction and a lot of questions from both sellers and buyers. The most frequent question was, "How can I find a dry cleaner I can trust with my vintage clothing?" Here are some tips to help you in your search.

This cleaner has been around since 1934!

1. Avoid franchise cleaners at all cost! Anyone can buy a machine and say they are a dry cleaner. Look for a small family-owned business that has been around for a long time, preferably one that has cleaned the type of garments you want to give them when they weren't considered vintage, but new! Ask if there is an expert dry cleaning technician on staff who has training in stain removal. A fancy storefront isn't necessary, but the premises should be neat and clean. Be sure to choose a cleaner who does the work in-house instead of sending your clothes out to be cleaned somewhere else.

2. Check with local vintage stores or dealers for a recommendation of a good dry cleaner that they use. If you live near a museum with a textile collection or a school with a fashion history course, try asking for a recommendation from someone on staff.

3. Once you've located a cleaner you want to try, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints about the dry cleaner. Also, check online review sites such as Yelp or Google for reviews from customers. Ask neighbors or friends who may have used the service.

4. Take a test garment to be cleaned. Choose a vintage garment that you haven't spent a lot of money on so you won't be out too much if it doesn't work out. Stick with something in wool or cotton, as these fibers are more forgiving, but choose something with a detail that will need attention. Don't choose a satin or taffeta garment for this first test. Evaluate the counter service. Tell the person this garment is vintage and ask if it can receive special care. Is the person at the counter knowledgeable? Even better, is it the owner? If not, did they ask for help from an on-staff expert or the owner? When you pick up the garment, check it thoroughly to be sure you are happy with the results. Does the garment hang correctly? Was the steaming/pressing done with care? Did any stains come out to your satisfaction?

5. If you're happy with the results, take a second test garment to be cleaned. This time, choose a fancier garment in satin or taffeta. Ask that it be steamed instead of pressed, as pressing can make impressions from the seams in these fabrics. The cleaner should be amenable to this request. If you are happy with the results, I think you've found a cleaner you can work with! If not, keep looking.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2012:  Due to new environmental laws, both at the federal and state levels, all dry cleaners in MA that operate in a building with shared residential or certain other business space will have to stop using Perchloroethylene (perc) by 2023.  These laws affected my favorite local dry cleaner, as their building is shared with both residential space and a pre-school.  They switched to one of the new environmentally safe cleaning systems earlier this year.  Sadly, I find that this new system does not work nearly as well in getting rid of stains and odors as the old perc cleaners do.  When searching for a dry cleaner, you will also want to ask what type of cleaning chemicals they use and keep in mind that the newer environmentally safe cleaners will not be as effective.


Alicia said...

Oh, yay! Thank you so much for posting this! I really appreciate the advice.

Shrinky Inky said...

really excellent tips. I live in a small town of 16K people so not only do we not have many dry cleaners but most of then send the work out elsewhere and I don't like that for any garments. it took me a few tries but i found one that works in-house. The counter people also knew what i was talking about since they do the work, as opposed to just any counter person taking orders at the other cleaners. I did the test with a less expensive cotton blouse and they did an excellent job, even working a few times on some old stains to get them out for me. I trust them now with what needs dry cleaning.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Excellent point, Shrinky. I've added that to the tips.

FairyFiligree said...

Thanks for your very sound advice. I also enjoyed reading the first in the series about dry cleaning. I have often found myself facing a dilemma when considering how to clean pre-1980's satin scarves whcih come with a pattern.

bunny-queen said...

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vintage fashion is my favorite!!

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Ligia Krás said...

So cool! I love it! Cheers from Brazil!

Tara's blogs said...

Oh wow, thanks so much!! I've yet to hear back from a place in London about my 40s gown. I guess I'll keep searching til I hear back. And will memorise this post! Thank you again!

Jen A. Miller said...

I've gotten really lucky with the drycleaner a block from me. They've been there forever, and do tailoring on site too. When I brought in my mother's vintage coat with fur trim, we talked for about 20 minutes on how to clean it (mostly: do we detach the collar or not?) They ended up sending it out to a service that worked with fur, confirming that they could handle a coat with both fur and wool. Great experience. Coat looks great.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone recommend a good cleaners in New York area?

village dry cleaners said...

I am a specialist dry cleaners in Manchester in little old UK. We are family run business since 1982 check out my website for tips.

Phyllis said...

Another resouces is an organization called "America's Best Cleaners" whose members have services for vintage textiles.

Holly Cleaners in Newton, MA is a member. They cleaned my grandmother's vintage cashmere coat and did a superb jobb.

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