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Buying a business: Dry cleaners

One opportunity where you could clean up

What is it? What does it involve?
Value added service Rules and regulations
Tips for success Useful contacts

To understand the tremendous growth the dry-cleaning industry has enjoyed for the past 20 years, and the growth it will certainly experience in the years to come, consider these factors:

  • Personal garments today contain more natural fibres – wools, cottons, linens and silks. These fabrics require professional cleaning and finishing.
  • There are 50% more women in the workforce today, and this percentage continues to grow.
  • Both men and women require the professional services of a dry-cleaner.
  • Today’s hectic lifestyle dictates that we do not have time to clean and finish our clothes at home.

Add to this a whole list of new and exotic and devastatingly horrible foods and drinks that make stains that only professional cleaners can remove – saffron, turmeric, sun-dried tomatoes, teriyaki sauce, extra virgin olive oil, red wine, and pesto – all feature in the ten most common stains left on clothes in 2001 according to a report by Johnsons Cleaners – and you can see why a dry-cleaning store can provide a nice income for the owner-operator, (alternatively it can be operated as an investment with absentee management). It is also an ideal business for the entrepreneur who wishes to expand into a multiple store operation.

What is it?

Although the invention of man made fabrics is largely thought of as the start of the dry-cleaning industry the dry-cleaning industry itself is actually a lot older than you think. Dry-cleaning was discovered by accident in Paris in 1825. A Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste Jolly knocked over a lamp, spilling spirits of turpentine onto the tablecloth. Jolly noticed that when the oil evaporated that the area of the cloth was cleaner. He subsequently immersed the whole tablecloth in a bath of turpentine. He was so impressed with the result that he decided to exploit his discovery. Jolly and his son-in-law decided they would start a dry-cleaning business.

However spirits of turpentine are flammable and this meant that precautions had to be taken to reduce the risks of fire. Whilst the discovery of dry-cleaning is accredited to Jolly, records show that turpentine had been used for spot cleaning oil type stains since 1720.

A wide range of solvents have been used for the process of dry-cleaning. However the major solvent used world-wide continues to be perchloroethylene which is sometimes referred to as “perc”.

Types of dry-cleaner

There are three different types of dry-cleaners. High street cleaners that operate a bureaux service and use a third party to do the cleaning and just handle the customers coming in. The second is cleaners who do the cleaning on-site using a single machine. The last is industrial cleaners which just deal with contract cleaning and who take dry-cleaning from high-street cleaners.

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