Researchers at checkbook.org want to help you find the best dry cleaners. They asked thousands of local customers to weigh in, and got feedback on nearly 150 dry cleaners throughout the Puget Sound area. The research turned up several notable trends.
For starters, a Checkbook price comparison for a variety of garments found huge price differences for the same service on the same garment. They found some cleaners charge as mush as $10 below the average price for a garment, while others charge nearly $10 more. The report, published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook, found no correlation between price and customer satisfaction with service quality.
"There are big differences in quality from shop to shop," said Executive Editor Kevin Brasler. "Forty one of the cleaners were rated superior for doing service properly, by 90 percent of their customers. But not all shops rated well. Some shops got superior ratings from fewer than 60 percent of their customers."
Brasler says another big trend in the dry cleaning industry is so-called "green" cleaning that's promoted as more eco-friendly.
"A lot of these shops, what they're claiming, is that they're not using PERC (Perchloroethylene) as their dry cleaning solvent anymore. They're using other solutions," he said.
PERC is a toxic solvent. The emissions are considered both a hazardous air pollutant and likely human carcinogen. More and more dry cleaners are reducing their PERC emission levels and many are switching to something else.
"What you need to ask, is what's the something else?" Brasler said.
The most common PERC alternatives are wet cleaning with water-based solutions, liquid carbon dioxide solutions, liquid silicone solutions, and hydrocarbon solutions -- which are petroleum based. Each alternative has its pros and cons.
Brasler says if you really care about Green dry cleaning, it's important to know what green means from one cleaner to the next.
"If you're looking for a green solution to cleaning clothes, you probably don't want something that's petroleum based," he added.
Checkbook.org says the other positive dry cleaning trend is not as many dry complaints as you might expect. Researchers still found the common complaints of broken buttons, and stains that are not properly cleaned. But most customers who find a cleaner they like- are sticking with that cleaner, regardless of price.
Of the 148 dry cleaners evaluated in the survey, 42 got Checkbook's top ratings for quality, 35 got top ratings for price and only 13 got top ratings for both.
Checkbook.org is a non-profit, subscriber-based consumer rating service. As a courtesy to KOMO News viewers, the full report on local dry cleaners will be available on this website until Tuesday September 2nd.