FAQ’s: Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve been in this business since 1987 and learned a lot along the way – now we’ll share some everyday situations with you.

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Here is a behind the scenes look at what happens after you drop off your clothing at a cleaners! We take pride in work involved in caring for your clothes! Have questions? Send us your thoughts on our “Contact Us” page.

Contrary to popular belief, dry cleaning does not mean your clothing tumbles around in a dry basket of air. Clothes are deep cleaned in a safe liquid solution, the solution is extracted out, and then your clothes are steam pressed. During the cleaning process your clothes are wet from our cleaning solution. Dry Cleaning is a great way to safely clean garments and remove stains such as oil and grease. It is great method for cleaning your specialty items or everyday wardrobe.

Commercial laundry is very different from doing laundry at home. Your laundry is washed with soap and starch of your preference, and then placed wet on our state of the art equipment to give them the absolute best press. 100% cotton is the safest material to process in commercial laundry. Anything else we recommend dry cleaning.

Yes and no. Although we’re the experts and have a good idea on how each item should be cleaned, there is no certainty without the care label. The Federal Trade Commission laws require clothing care labels to state exactly how the garment needs to be cleaned. Dry cleaners must assume that the garment as well as any extra decorations or attachments such as beads or sequins on the garment can be cleaned according to care label.

You’re probably right. However, there are many types of stains that are not visible prior to cleaning that can be activated during the dry clean process and can leave your garment with an easily noticeable stain. These are called “invisible stains.” Invisible stains are the most frequent problem we face at the dry cleaners. These stains are caused by a reaction between the heat of our drying/pressing process and a sugar-based or oil-based stain. Sugar based stains can caramelize from the heat (causing a difficult to remove brown stain) of the process and oil-based stains can oxidize; if either happens a “new” stain that wasn’t visible prior to cleaning appears. Remember to always let a Rick’s team member know if you spilled anything on your clothing so we may give it proper attention prior to cleaning.

Common sugar-based stains: Coffee, sodas, tea, beer, milk, fruits, etc.
Common oil-based stains: Hair Spray, cosmetics, lotions, etc.

Once stains either caramelize or oxidize, it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to reverse the effect. However, if you spot this on one of your items, we will try our best to remove it on a redo attempt.

Beads are typically held on by thread and over time those threads may come loose (just like they could in your washer at home). Sequins are typically fastened by an adhesive, or glue, which can weaken over time or even the first time sent through cleaning.

The Federal Trade Commission laws require clothing care labels to state how the garment needs to be cleaned. Any extra decorations or attachments such as beads or sequins must fall under the care label cleaning guidelines as well. However, there are often times when these add-ons are not able to withstand the dry cleaning process. There is also always a risk of the fastening adhesive or color of the sequins/beads transferring on surrounding areas of the garment. This is due to poor garment construction, and unfortunately, there is no way of being able to determine this outcome prior to cleaning. When dropping off garments with beads or sequins please inform a Rick’s team member at the counter. In order to process items with either we require consent from the customer due to the possibility of them coming off or not handling the heat of the process.

Remember: Requiring customer consent is not meant to scare you. We do thousands (literally) of items a day and most of the time there is never a problem. However, with any item there is always a risk of the unknown once an item is placed through cleaning.

What is Polyurethane:

Polyurethane, or “PU” is a synthetic leather (“pleather”) material that is commonly found in women’s fashion today. An entire garment can be made of PU, but the material is most commonly seen as a trim or decorative element around the neck, cuffs, lapels, and pocket trim.

Common Items That Contain Polyurethane: 

Faux leather garments, raincoats / outwear, inner linings of jackets / vests, and especailly common on decorative trim. Many major brands sell products with it such as Bebe, Zara, H&M, Cache, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and many more.

How to clean it:

The safest way to clean it is washing it inside out in cold water either by hand or on a delicate cycle and letting the garment hang dry.

**PLEASE NOTE: THIS CAN ONLY BE DONE IF the rest of the material on the item can be safely cleaned in water. For example: you would not want to clean it in water if the rest of the garment is silk. Always check your care label first.
When bringing any garment that contains Polyurethane or any other synthetic leather to the cleaners please bring it to the attention of our staff while you are dropping it off so that we may take proper precautions to clean it.

The potential hazards of dry cleaning it:

Many PU items will say “Dry Clean Only” on the care label, but if the special coating on the material to make it soft isn’t set properly by the manufacturer, the material can sometimes react poorly with standard dry cleaning solvent. A negative reaction will result in the material beginning to peel, flake, or crack. There is no way to test if there will be a possible reaction prior to cleaning the garment. Not all garments containing polyurethane become damaged from commercial dry cleaning, but if the damage occurs it is a manufacturer’s defect. See the graphic below for an actual example.

Polyurethane Warning
“Bugs in my house!? No way. I even have pest control!”
We are right there with you on this one, and hate these little guys for the damage they can bring to our garments. Clothing moths can cause considerable damage to materials containing wool, fur, or other animal derived products. Their larvae like to feed in dark protected areas making closets a nice landing spot. Damage from moth larvae occurs from feeding on the fibers and weakening the material. Unfortunately, the real damage is typically seen after dry cleaning a garment because the agitation of the cleaning process is enough to cause the weakened area to give out and results in small single hole (or often in clusters).
Here are a few tips to reduce or avoid moth problems:
-Thoroughly clean storage areas
-Store clothing in tightly sealed containers
-Deterrents such as cedar, mothballs, or sprays can be helpful, but won’t guarantee protection.

Dye transfer typically happens with garments containing high contrast or opposite colors. The most common occurrence is with black and white garments. If the darker dyes happen to be soluble in dry cleaning solvent, the dye will transfer onto the lighter fabric. There is no way for a dry cleaner to predict this happening because the dye transfer doesn’t occur until it is already in the dry clean machine. This problem is due to a manufacturer’s defect during production because the textile manufacturer is responsible for making sure the dyes used are colorfast (they should remain in place when cleaned). If this happens to your garment, we will do our absolute best to reverse the effect, but there is no guarantee of restoring the original look.

This is usually a result of something called fusible separation. After cleaning and pressing a garment, separation between the shell fabric (outer layer of clothing) and the interfacing (adhesive) used to hold it in place can become separated due to improper fusing (construction) or small amounts of shrinkage. This is most commonly seen with suit jackets. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the shell fabric is properly fused. If you see this on your jacket or any other garment, bring it back along with the original invoice, and we’ll do our best to make it look great again!

There are often times we come across marks on garments that look similar to burns, but are not actually burns. In commercial laundry a liquid called “sour” is deposited into the machine during the washing cycle. If the sour is not fully rinsed out during extraction, it can leave a brown ring that looks similar to a burn. Re-cleaning this item will remove the stain.

With dry cleaning, nothing in our cleaning facility is capable of burning or scorching a garment because only steam press units and steam irons are used. Our steam hand irons are completely different than an “at-home” iron and have a protective coating that enables them to glide smoothly over even the most delicate of fabrics. In fact, our steam presses even have padded covers that make them safe enough for the bare hand!

When you’re washing an item at home in the washer there is always a possibility that a thread may come loose over time and unravel. This can be a gradual process or can happen the first time an item is cleaned. The exact same logic should be applied when an item is sent to the dry cleaners. Once the cleaning process begins there is no way ensuring a loose hem/seam will hold its position. Common areas where the hem/seam may be affected are inner leg linings, underarms, or on the edges of items containing ruffles or layers.

Color changes will occur when an area of a garment comes in contact with a bleaching agent, alkaline, or acidic substance. The change is often not visible prior to cleaning, but the heat of the drying or steam finishing process accelerates the chemical reaction with the fabric dye. The reaction usually leaves a garment with a yellow or orange-like discoloration where the substance contacted the fabric, but the change can come in other colors as well. We do not have bleach or any products that could cause such a reaction in our dry clean facility. If you come in contact with any products that are acidic, alkaline, or contain bleaching agents, flush them immediately by rinsing with water (do not rub!) and get the item to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible.

Every day things that can cause these reactions include: hair spray, body lotion, facial products, deodorant, perspiration, salt, hand sanitizers, perfume/cologne, toothpaste, medications, juices, and sunlight exposure.

Over time buttons in commercial laundry may crack as a result of repeated pressing, old age, or threads coming loose. The combination of consumer wear and the heat of our press units can accelerate this change. Don’t worry though! Please notify our staff, and we’ll replace generic buttons through laundry free of charge!

Tip: Sending designer shirts with thicker than normal buttons or any shirt with pearl snap buttons is not recommended. There is an increased chance these will not withstand the commercial laundry press. Therefore, you should dry clean for best results.

Studies have shown that the average lifespan of a shirt/blouse through commercial laundry is 25 times. This number is not always the answer, but a very accurate estimate. Other factors that can determine the lifespan of a shirt/blouse are chemically treated shirts and consumer lifestyle.

The most common signs of age for a laundered shirt are wear around the cuffs, collar, and placket. Over time, they may begin to fray from the fibers breaking down. This should not happen immediately, but is usually seen over time.

Another common area a shirt gives out is in the forearm or elbow area. Developed over time, the damage can eventually occur from repeated abrasion and stress during wear on the same section of fabric (such as resting your forearms on your desk at work). After a period of time, the fabric becomes thin and threadbare. More often then not, damage only becomes evident after a cleaning cycle because the agitation disrupts the already thin or weak areas. This is not a result of improper cleaning, but rather a gradual degradation of the fabric finally giving out. See the example photo below:

torn elbow from stress

The Shirt / Starch Relationship

Starch and sizings are laundry additives that can increase the firmness of fabrics, particularly dress shirts. A study conducted by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, the Association of Professional Drycleaners showed starch and sizings can both protect and harm shirts at the same time.

Shirts undergo two types of abrasions. One type is called flat abrasion, and it refers to the abrasion that occurs when the shirt rubs against any other surface. The other type, flex abrasion, refers to the stretching of the fibers when the wearer bends an elbow, or otherwise stretches the material.

Starch adds protection to shirts, enabling them to withstand higher degrees of flat abrasion. However, since starch stiffens the fibers and makes them less flexible, it reduces the degree of flex abrasion a shirt can withstand.

Tensile strength is the measure of how well fabrics and fibers resist breaking under tension. Evaluation a Textile Testing laboratory found that shirts with medium starch and no starch had similar tensile strength. Variances in tensile strength were evident between shirts with no starch and shirts with heavy starch.

After 10 laundering cycles, the tensile strength results on the shirts with no starch was 29% higher than the results on the shirts with heavy starch. Even after 25 and 50 cycles, there was still about a 20% difference between the two groups of shirts.

Heavy starch and sizing can decrease the tensile strength of fabrics not by degrading the material directly, but by increasing its rigidity.

The major function of starch is to add body or stiffness to a fabric which in turn will produce little flexibility. This lack of flexibility causes the fabric to snap when tested rather than stretch, which decreases the fabric’s tensile strength. Starched and sized shirts were laundered to remove the starch and tensile strength was retested. The results indicated a significant increase (30%) in tensile strength after starch removal.

The life expectancy of a shirt is shortened by the use of starches and sizings by reducing its ability to bend, stretch, and straighten during use, according to the DLI study. Balancing out those negatives are the bonuses of having better whiteness retention, a crisper look, and increased resistance to staining.

After commercial laundry shirt pressing we sometimes encounter dark or discolored spots on the collar tips. During shirt manufacturing, your collars are constructed with two layers of fabric held together for shape and stability. This process is called interfacing. Interfacing requires an adhesive, or glue, to be applied between the layers to hold them in place prior to completed collar construction. If too much adhesive is used, the heat from the commercial laundry press will cause the excess bonding agent to soften and leave a permanent stain on the tips or surrounding area. There is no way to prevent or know of such instance prior to cleaning, and it can happen the first cleaning or after several years of cleaning an item. The shirt manufacturer can be held responsible for this type of adverse discoloration.

The best way to clean a comforter is by following the manufacturer’s care label. We clean many comforters a day and have the best prices in town. Cleaning comforters regularly is the best way to take proper care of them, but there are always problems that can arise due to manufacturer’s defects or consumer use. The most common concerns are the possibility of fading or the colors not being colorfast Colorfast simply means that the manufacturer has taken appropriate measures in to ensure the colors used on the comforter will stay in place if the comforter is cleaned. These problems are very rare and we don’t see them too often, however since there is no way for a dry cleaner to predict any of these issues prior to cleaning we require customer consent in order to process them.

Sometimes things need a second chance! We will gladly redo an item for any reason you can think of. Whether it is for stain removal, pressing, or anything you’re not happy with, we will redo your item free of charge. In order for us to process a redo we require the original receipt attached to clothing bag and the item needs to be brought back within 48 hours of pick-up.

At Rick’s we do our absolute best to ensure that 100% of your items are returned to you in better condition than they were received. In the event that something is ever lost or damaged please hold on to your original receipt for that specific order and contact our store manager. All claims and adjustments must be made within 48 hours of original pickup and be accompanied by an original receipt.