Dry Cleaning Test: Do you get what you pay for?

Putting dry cleaners to the test

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Each of us wants to save money where we can.  Dry cleaning is one thing some people feel they can't do without, but they don't want to spend too much money on it.

Some dry cleaners will advertise a men's shirt, clean and pressed, for as little as $1. Rob Armstrong has seen those signs.

"I've wondered if it is going to be as clean as one I may pay a little more to clean," Armstrong said.

We wondered that too. That's why we put some area dry cleaners to the test.

We bought six of the exact same shirt and stained each in the exact same way. We applied a ketchup stain on the front and an ink stain on the sleeve.  Then we put the names of hundreds of Charlotte-area dry cleaners into a big laundry basket and randomly chose six to put to the test.  They were spread across the city of Charlotte and to the south. The prices to have the shirts cleaned ranged from $2.25 to $6.00 each. We didn't make the cleaners aware of what we were doing.

A few days later we went around town and picked them all up.

All six cleaners were easily able to get the ketchup out.  Several had warned us they wouldn't be able to get the ink out, and in most cases that was true.  However, some seemed to use a little extra elbow grease on that.

You could hardly see the ink on the shirt that cost $3 to be cleaned, but it appeared there was no attempt to remove the ink on the shirt that cost $6 to be cleaned.

"We get 90% of the stains out, we try our best and we see," said Robert Arroba.  He and his wife Ximena own Carolina Cleaners, one of those we put to the test. For $2.49 they did a good job with the ink and they agreed to talk with us for this story after we told them about our investigation.

Arroba tells us the price you pay for your cleaning has less to do with the cleaning process itself than you might think.

"You should look at the wrapping of the clothes.  The paper, the fancy cardboard in the collar, nicer hangers, it can add up," Arroba said.  He indicated that cost can be passed on to the customer.

He also said you should ask if the cleaning is done on the premises or sent out to a cleaning warehouse. Often the cost of transporting the clothes and paying another vendor to do the work can impact how much you pay.  Keeping it simple, he says, is best.

"That saves a lot of money.  It saves the customer a lot," Arroba said.

There is something about the textiles used in the clothes we wear today that are presenting a new challenge for cleaners.  Watch our web exclusive video to find out what that is.

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