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.

Most shops were within 20 percent above or below the all-shop average. But there were a few at the extremes: The scores indicate that some shops charge prices that are more than double what others charge.

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.

You can 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 such as suedes that even drycleaners find difficult to clean. Avoid items that drycleaners 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. 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.
  • When storing out-of-season clothes, put them in bags containing mothballs, but don’t allow mothballs to come into direct contact with clothes. Place the mothballs in a separate paper or cloth bag.
  • Perspiration can harm your clothes, but so can deodorants and perfumes. When applying deodorant, perfume, or body lotion, let it dry before dressing. Underarm shields are recommended for silk, which is readily stained by perspiration.
  • 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.