Drycleaning dramas

CHOICE finds out the truth behind your drycleaning disasters and your rights when things go wrong.
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02.Drycleaning FAQs

What redress do I have if my clothes are damaged and the drycleaner said they followed the care instructions on the label?

You can ask the drycleaner for compensation, complain to the Drycleaning Institute of Australia or the Dry Cleaning Complaints Arbitration Board, who will investigate if it was really the drycleaner's fault or that the instructions on the care label were inaccurate. You can also take the damaged garment back to the retailer you bought it from and explain that the garment was damaged although care instructions were followed. You can demand a refund under your statutory rights. If this fails, you may lodge a complaint with the ACCC  and/or take your complaints to a consumer or small claims court in your state.

Can I make a claim for damage if I bought my garments or textiles second-hand?

Yes. Second-hand garments and textiles are excluded from the mandatory care labelling standard, but you may be able to make a claim for the damage of your garment. The catch is you may need to produce a receipt - which is not always possible when buying second-hand items - to make a claim. Go to the Drycleaning Institute of Australia's Fair Claims Guide (or the Dry Cleaning Complaints Arbitration Board's website for a comprehensive PDF copy) to find out the replacement value of your item.

Why doesn't the drycleaner return my garments after I've been compensated for the damage they caused?

It is the drycleaner's responsibility to remove the damaged garment from circulation as it is no longer serviceable.

Why is there such a wide range of pricing among drycleaners?

Pricing depends on location, competition and quality of service. Shop rentals mean a shopping mall drycleaner is likely to charge more than one located outside. Your local chemist or tailor may also double as commissioned agents for drycleaners, who leverage on them to build volume. These business owners benefit from drawing customers into their shop.

Why are men’s clothes cheaper than women’s to dryclean?

Men’s shirts are similar in size and fabric composition and new shirt-pressing equipment have been designed for this classification of clothes. Women’s shirts – often smaller and with more detailing – are not suitable for high-volume shirt presses.

Are Perc and GreenEarth environmentally friendly?

When released into the air, perchloroethylene (perc) can contribute to smog when it reacts with other volatile organic compounds (VOC). In Australia, drycleaners must use an approved transporter to remove perc waste and take it to an Environment Protection Agency-licensed facility. Hydrocarbon solvents are less aggressive than perc, but also contain VOCs that contribute to smog. Liquid silicone – the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions – is more environmentally friendly than perc and other hydrocarbons, and is odorless and non-toxic. “GreenEarth”, a silicone-based dry-cleaning solution patented by GreenEarth Cleaning, is not a VOC and degrades within days to silica and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide.

However, only a handful of drycleaners use this in Australia, as it costs more than double the price of perc and users must pay an annual fee to GreenEarth Cleaning.


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Drycleaning tips

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to ensuring your garments are returned in good condition after you've sent them for drycleaning. Here are some tips to help you minimise the risk of damage:

  • Find an experienced drycleaner - good fabric understanding comes from years of handling different types.
  • Check your garments thoroughly before handing them over to your drycleaner.
  • Remove belts and any other detachable adornments. Identify the nature and position of stains, loose stitching or fasteners.
  • Use a specialist drycleaner for beadings, sequins and other garment decorations, and take notes of the discussion about the best way to clean your garment.
  • Photograph expensive formal or designer wear and advise your drycleaner. Many drycleaners also have counter cameras to identify the number of garments handed back to the customer.
  • Point out concealed buttons, as a heat press may leave a shiny imprint on the fabric if they go unnoticed by the drycleaner.
  • Check the dryclean symbol on the care label.  An encircled “P” or “F” indicates which solvent should or may be used.
  • Find out if the drycleaner is a member of the Drycleaning Institute of Australia. The DIA will advise you too of its investigations and your options if the drycleaner you complained about is a member.
  • Keep drycleaning dockets and original purchase receipts for your expensive garments as textiles as proof for any damages claim.


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