Make sure you’re paying fair prices—our undercover shoppers found huge shop-to-shop price variation among local cleaners.

Our Ratings Tables show our price comparison score, which will help you find businesses that won’t commandeer your entire clothing budget for drycleaning. In our price comparison, our undercover shoppers checked prices on 12 items. The resulting scores show how each shop’s prices compared to the average prices of all shops’ prices for the items. We adjusted the scores so that the average of all shops equals $100. A score of $125, for example, means a shop’s prices were 25 percent above the all-shop average; a score of $75 means a shop’s prices were 25 percent below average.

As you can see, most shops were within 20 percent above or below the all-shop average. But there were some at the extremes: Some area shops charge prices that are more than three times higher than others.

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay a high price to get high-quality work. We found no correlation between price and customer satisfaction with service quality.

If you want to get a feel for price levels at a cleaner not listed on our Ratings Tables, use the prices reported below, which shows the average prices for the 12 cleaning jobs, for comparison.

You can also reduce drycleaning bills and keep your clothing looking good by:

Before purchasing a garment, check the care label. You’ll save money if you can wash it yourself.

Be wary of purchasing items in materials (suedes, sequined fabric, feather-trimmed anything) that even drycleaners find difficult to clean. Avoid items that they consider unserviceable—for example, garments that require the body to be cleaned one way and the trim another way.

Store your clothes carefully. Don’t just cram them into your closet or dresser. To maintain their shape and freshness, clothes need room to “breathe.” Never hang sweaters over hangers as you would shirts; their weight can stretch them out of shape. Instead, store them folded. Let a damp or wet coat dry before hanging it in your closet.

When your clothes come back from a drycleaner, don’t store them in their plastic bags, which can degrade and stain clothing. Let them air out.

Hang clothes properly. Hang jackets unbuttoned on wooden or plastic “wishbone” hangers rather than on wire ones. Remove bulky or heavy items from the pockets; these can pull the garment out of shape.

Brush your clothes frequently but gently with a soft-bristle brush or light-colored sponge. This helps keep dirt from settling into the fabric.

Never press clothes that are dirty or stained. The ironing can set some stains and further embed dirt in the fibers.

Store out-of-season clothing made of wool, cashmere, or alpaca fibers in fabric bags (the zippered kind you can purchase at The Container Store, big-box outlets, or from scads of online sellers) to keep bugs out. Clean sweaters, coats, and other woolies before putting them away for the season by drycleaning or, for delicate knits, handwashing.

Perspiration can harm your clothes, but so can deodorants and perfumes. When applying deodorant, perfume, or body lotion, let it dry before getting dressed. You can even buy underarm shields for silk blouses or dresses.

Don’t leave your garments in sunlight or other direct light for long periods. It can cause fading.

Although good home care can reduce trips to the cleaners, be sure to have your clothes cleaned when they are dirty. Stains set with age, and ground-in dirt causes fibers to wear. Also, fabric-damaging insects are attracted to
dirty garments.

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