Friday, August 1, 2008

A Sea Change In Dry Cleaning

New blog but under to assure continuity. From here onwards, there will be no reference to Geo and Corporate political issues. Subject matter will be strictly business and relevant to our business plan which is long overdue.

A Sea Change In Dry Cleaning

The following is CCCC International’s answers in Italics and bold to Which? Investigations of April, 2008:

1) A dirty business

Indeed. Almost the entire clarification that Which is seeking for is in the three word sentence in 1) above. Dry cleaning is not clean. It has never cleaned anything, and it never will unless one a fresh look is taken from outside the box.

Ideally, a book needs be written on the subject based on CCCC’s 14 years hands on experiences at commercial level using 6 high street prototypes in London and Surrey. Until then, these investigations will have to suffice to explain to Which? readers how CCCC predecessors will have coped with their assigned skirt, had our test bed been ready to receive the test piece.

CCCC predecessors cleaned dry cleaning – literally. The industry has a standard (though don’t recognise it as a vital standard and quality parameter)) for the degree of cleaning: The retention of 20 microns (20,000 nano metres) soiling left in textiles. No matter what solvent and technology is used, the soil removal efficiency remains the same. 20 microns soil retention is dirty – in fact very dirty.

We reduced this soil retention to a mere 4 nano metres and the results were so incredible that it turned dry cleaning philosophies, and practises on their head. What you read below is our experiences after successful commercial operations of more than 20,000 hours using 6 different Perc machines with innovative operational modifications (IP).

4 nano metres efficiency meant that we maintained a solvent clarity comparable to tap water to see if we could emulate laundry results or standards close to them. To do this, we ‘segregated’ dry cleaning (IP)into garment and non garment sectors and selected to concentrate on the former group, leaving the rest for others to deal with as they have done since commercial dry cleaning began.

One shocking revelation was that in the industry-led dry cleaning, the whole garment is covered in one huge stain! Every square mm of it! All of what the best qualified professional dry cleaner does is to uniformly distribute the 20 microns soiling so that no marks appear in the post treatment of the stained area.

In reality, the post treated area becomes the only cleaner patch on the garment, while the rest of it is covered in a huge stain north to south and east to west, if you will.

Try this test whether you are a customer conducting the test at home or a professional dry cleaner in the back of your shop: Take the best cleaned skirt (a Which? test peace), chose a small patch of 25-50 mm and imagine there is a stain there. Lay it flat on a table (or a spotting table) and place a few drops of water on the patch. Let it dry and you will end up with a water mark or a stain. Water, probably through the action of surface tension transports the already loosened soiling (suspended in the 20 microns rinse solvent) as far as it could, depending on the quantity of water you used. You just created a cleaner patch (ironically called the stain) on a dirty skirt - covered in a huge stain. Try the same test on a laundered piece, and you won’t get a water mark, because the skirt is CLEAN. We tried the test on our 4 nano metre sample, and we didn’t get a stain (according to the customer) or a drink mark (according to the dry cleaner) on our work.

In the above analysis, we may have just proven Which?’s statement that dry cleaning is indeed ‘A dirty business’ as they so rightly, but coincidentally claim. Can one imagine how dry cleaning expertise, industry guidelines, standards and everything else fall down like a house of cards, and become irrelevant? This example will drive the point home: Why should you clean matching outfits together? Our 4 nano efficient dry cleaning cleaned a Jaeger silk dress, not knowing the customer had retained the shortened piece of the hem for making a belt to go with the dress. We cleaned the loose piece weeks later and the straw colours matched!

Which experts, the industry, the chains, and the independents may bear in mind that at any given hour of any day there are some 5,000 differing varieties of solvents in as many machine tanks in the UK, producing 5,000 varieties of cleaning on 5,000 skirts identical to Which?’s test pieces.

We at CCCC International are in the process of writing our business for our investor to invest seed capital for a test bed or a production unit where we can again practice what we preached for in excess of 20,000 man hours and over a 14 year period.

We see Which?’s investigations as a godsend to make a point or two, and append this Q & A as a vital appendix to our business plan. Analysis here will also begin our new blog ‘ A Sea Change in Dry Cleaning’ shortly for all to contribute for offering consumers a service fit for purpose, and for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

2) You might think a professional dry cleaner would be able to get simple every day stains off your clothes and return them to you in good condition. Well, think again. We stained 48 identical skirts with red wine, double cream and vinaigrette and took them to chain and independent dry cleaners across the UK to be cleaned. These stains come from the three main groups (vegetable, protein and fatty) and are the most common marks found on clothes. Treating them is part of the exam syllabus for dry cleaners and our experts said they were ‘easily removable’. The results were unbelievably poor.

We cleared our shelves of all the industry’s approved stains removal kit and developed 3 of our own that removed most stains except those that cannot be removed such as ink, paint etc. The most invaluable commercial asset of our innovations was that we removed the need for stains identification, it’s history and origins.

This facet of our innovations renders customer participation in the shop totally unnecessary. During our 3 years association with Jaeger (93-95), we served their customers through some of their 100 plus free standing shops, concessions at Harrods, Fenwicks, Selfridges, Army & Navy, Peter Jones, Europe (Germany and Belgium), and a customer in San Francisco.
We offered the service through shop serve, home serve (collection and delivery van), and postal service. Jaeger shops at Regent Street, Sloane Square, Brompton Road, Kings Road Chelsea, Kensington High Street, and Wimbledon were our receiving units and dozens of staff worked for us free after being trained by us.
Our business plan for our test bed will outline the mechanics of service using our Jaeger association as a model. Our services will be offered to over 100 fashion designers, garment manufacturers and Saville Row.
Our marketing and publicity partners will approach the customers relations departments of these establishments and invite them to recommend our services to their customers wherever they are.
A list of our approved designers and manufacturers whose designs we cleaned successfully in the past can be noted below:

CCCC friendly care labels, updated 29/3/8
Revised Sunday 27/3/8

Agnes B
Alexander McQueen
Amanda Wakeley
Ann Demeulemeester
Alberta Ferretti
Anne Klein
Austin Reed
Banana Republic (GAP)
Betsey Johnson
Betty Jackson
Bruce Oldfield
Calvin Klein
Caroline Charles
Child & Sons Wandsworth High Street, London
Christian Dior
Christian Lacroix
Coco Chanel
Concessions at Harrods
" " Harvey Nichols
" " Peter Jones
" " Selfridges
" " House of Fraser
" " Army & Navy
" " Debenhams
“ “ Fenwicks
DAKS Simpson of Piccadilly
Dior Homme
Dolce & Gabana
Donna Karan
Donatella Versace
Dorothy Perkins
Edina Ronay (if any has survived)
Emporio Armani
Ermenegildo Zegna
Emanuel Ungaro
Gharani & Strok
Gianfranco Ferré
Gianni Versace
Giorgio Armani
Giorgio Armani Priv
Givenchy Homme
Hardy Aimes
Harris Tweed by others
Harrod's own label
Helmut Lang
Hugo Boss
Hunter (of the sixties?) even F clean labels, if any
Hussein Chalayan
Jeff Banks
Issey Miyake
Jasper Conran
Jean Muir
Jean-Paul Gaultiere
Joe Blog Jeans
John Galliano
John Richmond
John Smedley
Julien Macdonald
Katherine Hamnett
Karl Lagerfeld
Lacost dry cleanables
Lee Cooper Jeans
Levi Strauss
Louis Feraud
Lucy Barnes
Manolo Blahnik
Marc Jacobs
Marks and Spencer
Mary Quant
Matches of Wimbledon (brands sold)
Matthew Williamson
Max Mara
Moschino Cheap & Chic
Nicole Farhi
Oscar Jacobson
Oswald Boateng
Paul Costelloe
Paul Smith, Sir
Patricia Lester, OBE By arrangements with the designer
Pier Cardin
Pringle of Scotland
Ralph Lauren
Richard Shops
Rifaat Ozbek
River Island
Saville Row (all of them)
Stella McCartney
State of Montana (By Claude Montana)
Ted Baker
Top Man
Tom Ford
Tommy Nutter and other Saville no longer there
Top Shop
Valentino Uomo
Yves St Laurent
Vivienne Westwood
Warehouse by Jeff Banks
Wayne Hemmingway (discontinued and moved on to other entrepreneurial fields and social responsibility projects)
Wrangler Jeans

Kaz 29/3/8 139 labels plus Saville Row

With this approach of having full agreement with the above approved list – by us, we introduce another major Sea Change in dry cleaning. While the industry, the chains, and independents bicker with fashion designers and garment manufacturers on the care label issues, on occasions, CCCC International Limited will have no problems in servicing products by our own approved list.

3) Which?'s findings:

• Just four out of 48 dry cleaners returned the skirts in an acceptable condition.
The four dry cleaners results may have appeared acceptable until and if the customer spills just plain water on the skirts. The skirts will become stained in the affected area. Our results didn’t in the past nor will they in future once we start production in our test bed and offer the service to a wide catchment area.
• Thirty one failed to clean off all the stains
It is difficult to remove stains by post spotting in the 20 microns conventional practice whether offered through using Perc, Hydrocarbon, GreenEarth or liquid CO2. One needs 4 nano efficiency for effective and acceptable post spotting.
• Nine shrank or stretched the skirts (known as distortion) by an unacceptable amount, but removed the stains
It is difficult to comment on the shrinkage because of lack of information on fabric composition of the skirts. Generally, shrinkage is caused by the unacceptable amount of water in the cleaning solvent – specifically Perc.

Taken to the Cleaners
Which?'s investigation uncovers alarmingly poor standards at dry cleaners across the UK
CCCC found through extensive empirical trials that traditionally, the top to bottom design philosophies and service practices have never meant to clean anything. Hence, poor standards will continue to be the norm, no matter what the long awaited response, if any, from the industry, the chains and the independents is in reply to Which’s investigations of April. Practises and the existence of an adequate number of professional dry cleaners possibly up to early 80s produced acceptable results when the Consumer Association files were not jam packed with customers’ dry cleaning complaints. There onwards, standards continually went on a downhill slide with today’s investigations placing dry cleaning at its worst since records began.

Long before Which?’s investigation, we have posed some of the following curiosities to the industry captains and the press, when we had a look at dry cleaning from outside the box – in a bottom to top approach. We took the consumer side after a 2 year ‘over the counter’ survey, wondered about and questioned:
• Why do shop publicity campaigns, whether in leaflets, Yellow Pages and elsewhere avoid the term ‘cleaning’? How clean is their cleaning? Shop names are superlatives of exotic experiences, and although eye catching, but have nothing to do with cleaning. Consider these fictitious ones: ‘Cloud Nine Dry Cleaners’, ‘Gently, Gently Dry Cleaners’, ‘absolutely pressed in time Dry Cleaning’, etc. That is why we call ourselves CleanestClean Clothes Care (CCCC) International Limited to emphasise that, that is exactly what we do – Clean clothes really well. We registered the name with Companies House on 4/7/7 to protect it
• Why lure the customers with cheap shirt service, other laundry offers, and wedding dresses to give shops some day to day cleaning work (bread and butter) such as suits, skirts, ties, jumpers, coats and jackets? Why do they down rate their core work by offering to clean 5 items for £10? Could this approach tell customers that the cleaning standards on the bread and butter items are not up to scratch? We at CCCC will be far too busy dry cleaning for over 100 fashion designers and tailors to be able to cope with shirt service and laundry. Our business plan will target these 100 plus care label friendly establishments (customer relations) and give them a service they and their customers have wanted for over half a century but have not received
• Why does a chain offering the latest technology (GreenEarth) dedicate 75% of their sales area to the sale of home cleaning, duvets, batteries, umbrellas, curtains, carpets/rugs, films, cameras, luggage, locks, picture frames, photo albums, tumble drier sheets, anti bacterial wipes, flight socks, folding money belts, passport holders, etc. Tastefully decorated shop front with displays and posters for cheap shirt services give an indication that dry cleaning is a side line business only. What confidences will the customers gain from a dry cleaner so desperately short of core work that has turned his shop to a tourist accessory shop? Why should the independent dry cleaner buy the technology, if it needs propping up with sale of unrelated goods?

16 April 2008,

4) One shop gave Which? a skirt back with more stains on then we’d put on it.

Perhaps an accident with wet side post cleaning when more cleaner patches (known as stains) were exposed by accidental spillages of water?

• Four failed to press the skirt properly, though they did meet the acceptable standard on stain removal and distortion
Experienced and professional dry cleaners will know that to press means the exact opposite, at times – do not press. Avoid excess press buck pressure in order not to flatten the double seam lines (the handkerchief test to adjust buck pressure). A garment is a structure. Forces applied to it must respect the static equilibrium. Place on a skirt hanger and visually test results. Correct to equilibrium, if needed.
• One shop gave Which? back the skirt with more stains on than we’d put in it to be cleaned
Explained above
• A second shrank the waist band by almost 3.5 cm
Excess water in Perc solvent? Care labels do not apply to GreenEarth and Liquid CO2. Hence we cannot comment
• Which?'s experts said: ‘Its’ a serious concern that consumers are effectively being defrauded by cleaners that don’t deliver the service for which they are charging
We wouldn’t have thought the consumers are effectively defrauded. Dry cleaners have been given the wrong tools to do their job. Contaminated solvent (20 microns), lack of ‘segregation’ (clean industrial, domestic and Sunday bests in the same machine), and the absence of basic hygiene and public health practises. The latter if applied will result in better cleaning results and reduce the risk of cross infection at the spotting table

5) The Chains

The three main chains are
• Johnson Cleaners
• Morrison
• and Persil Service
Two branches of Persil produced acceptable results – the only branches of any on the three chains to pass the test.

However, other branches of Persil failed to impress. Eight failed to get rid of the stains; three also badly pressed the skirt.

Five branches of Johnson were good at getting the stains out (one was excellent). However, all five let themselves down by shrinking or stretching the skirt out of shape, or because of the poor quality of pressing. The six other branches of Johnson we visited failed to remove the stains, and half of these also distorted it.

All nine Morrison branches we visited were abysmal at tackling stains, although they were better at preventing the skirts from distortion.

If the industry continues not to consider a bottom to top approach such as we have, then there is no hope for the chains or indeed the independents to produce acceptable results. Perhaps proceedings here when published in a new blog and Wikipedia may draw a response from those concerned if Which?’s investigations continue to draw silences from all. We will have taken the debate to the wider world, when the industry will be compelled to enlighten us with their views.

6) Which? recommends: Time to take action

Which? told the dry-cleaning chains and Textile Services Association (which represents chains and independent cleaners) about our findings. The Association said they will carry out spot checks anonymously to tackle problems Which? have highlighted. Its’ also writing to members to stress the need to train staff who inspect the clean clothes.

We at CCCC agree that training needs to updated, but with the inclusion of the basics hygiene and public health principles to introduce the dry cleaner to real cleaning standards. New customer driven quality parameters need to augment the industry drawn ones to arrive at producing a service fit for purpose by the consumer, and approved by the fashion and garment industries. We see the roles of the latter as vital for the birth of a new dry cleaning industry that will work along side each other on grounds of agreeing on existing care labelling practises. CCCC will have in excess of 10 quality assurance guidelines that are customer driven. These will be spelled out in our business plan and widely publicised to attract additional investment, and development partners.

It’s Chief Executive, Murray Simpson, said it was difficult to talk in detail before seeing the report. But he said it did seem to show that the ‘usual high standard of customer care and stain removing skill’ of professional dry cleaners wasn’t achieved in all cases.

There are no standards fit for purpose that member dry cleaning should adhere to. CCCC will demonstrate this point when we publish our quality parameters in the business plan. It is high time the industry pondered about the possibility of existing dry cleaning as being unfit for purpose, and accepted alternative proposals from others outside the industry. It is hoped that efforts here will open up positive and constructive debate. CCCC will go ahead with encouraging our investor to put up the seed capital (about £200,000 for the purchase of the shop, marketing and publicity)towards opening up of our test bed in the not so distant future.

Johnson Cleaners, Morrison, and Persil Service said they were disappointed with the results and asked for further details.

Results from CCCC test bed will be put to the test by customers through the involvement of over a 100 designers and manufacturers through their customer relations departments. IP will then be patented and otherwise protected for selling the technology to the market, including the chains. One of the many Super markets may also be interested in buying the technology and offer it as a home shopping item, giving them an edge over their rivals for attracting more customers.

Each said they successfully clean millions of clothes a year. Johnson promised immediate and corrective action once it had more details, while Morrison and Persil said they would investigate further once they had more details.

The chains and others have had more than 3 months to reply to Which?. During recent telephone conversations, it came to light that Which? is not expecting any replies from anyone in the industry, the chains and independents. Instead, they will have a call in session on 11 September when some feedbacks may be received and views exchanged at Which? offices.

Which? says the dry-cleaning industry has vowed to clean up its act as a result of this report

Anyone can open dry cleaners. There is no law requiring staff to be trained or for service to be regularly inspected. We believe that this report has revealed the vital need for such training. The three chains and many independents are members of Textile Services Association (TSA), which may be best placed to see this happen.

The industry and the chains have a great opportunity in our view to unite and staff their shops with fully qualified industry trained staff to produce a service fit for purpose. May be then a repeat survey by Which? can produce better results, depending on the existance of suitably industry-drawn set of quality assurance specifications.

7) Which? says

• They bought 50 identical dry clean only skirts with labels that showed what they were made of and how to clean them. WHich? applied three small (25-50mm across) stains to each, and measured the skirt. We took 48 to dry cleaners, sent one to an independent cleaner the magazine experts knew followed the correct procedure, and kept one as a comparison.

• They had six tests of how well a skirt was cleaned: stain removal, distortion (how much the skirt shrank or stretched), pressing(whether it had bubbles, creases or wrinkles), drape (how clothes ‘hang’), odour, and matting and felting ( a hairy look from poor cleaning).

• Each test had a five-point scale from useless to excellent. A dry cleaner should achieve at least a three (acceptable). For stains removal, this meant stains were largely removed, and only a shadow left. Completely removing stains would score a five (excellent).

• The most common faults we found in our investigation were stain removal, distortion, pressing and drape.

CCCC International will encounter no problems with the removal of treatable stains short of blood on some cottons, ink, paint and similar that no known treatment can remove.

Odours were absent in our 20,000 hour trial period. We can attribute this only to the 4 nano metres solvent clarity affect and the absence of trade chemicals for removing stains. Our range of 3 (new IP) are odourless

8) Getting clothes cleaned properly

Which says: When a stain happens
Dab the garment with a clean, damp, white cloth. Never rub it or use a coloured cloth (the dyes can be more difficult to remove than a stain). Wetting the stain causes a water mark that can be difficult to remove.

Under the CCCC regime of public health orientated, segregated dry cleaning, we suggest nothing be done to the stained area. Our 3 new chemicals (new IP) and methodology (new instruction manuals for usage will be new IP)do not demand any pre dry cleaning processes by customers. Its best to let CCCC staff handle stains on receipt from garment retailers and fashion designers. Direct contact with consumers will be avoided as far as possible during the test period of 6 months to a year, for reasons beyond the scope of this study. .

Act as soon as possible
Old stains are harder to tackle. Make sure the cleaner knows where the stains are, what caused them and whether you have tried to remove them.

No action by the customer will be needed. Also, there will be no need for CCCC staff to know anything about stains and when and how they happened to land on clothes. This ability enables CCCC to launch its home shopping and do away with shop serve altogether in the testing and proof of concept stage. This is the toughest test that the new re engineered Perc technology can be put through, leaving all competing technologies behind.

CCCC will have no competition. Its market can be as wide as the UK or indeed the world (postal service success with Jaeger). With such a wide market place, the service will be offered on a first come first served basis.

Matching parts together
Clean both parts of a matching outfit together – changes in colour and texture occur during dry cleaning.

For the first time in dry cleaning history, customers can have their matching parts cleaned separately if the need arises.

Pockets and linings
Check these before you hand an item for cleaning.

Inspecting garment
Give the cleaner the chance to look for existing damage and issue any disclaimers in writing. If this isn’t done, a cleaner could claim damage caused by the cleaning was there when you brought it in.

CCCC test bed will receive the incoming work from customer relations departments of the 100 plus care label friendly designers and manufacturers listed above, and return the finished service to them for a prior inspection before passing the clothes on to their customers who had purchased the outfits from them. That way, we will have sought and obtained the approval (proof of concept for patents, and trade marks) of both the designers and their customers with no contact between CCCC and the dry cleaning customers.

Customer relations teams will be trained based on the service model with Jaeger between 1993 and 1995. Training procedure will be detailed in the business plan. With passing of the rigorous tests such as the one we have designed, the protected technology can then be sold to others to apply to existing Perc shops. New training manuals (IP) for operators will be issued then for shop owners/managers to resume servicing customers through newly revised shop serve practises as designed by CCCC in phase 2 (IP).

Give them enough time
A one-hour express service may not be enough to remove stains properly.

CCCC will require a few days to receive and return the cleaned items to customers through the designer/retailer outlet to dry customers. Normal quick service will be possible once shop serve is offered by the new CCCC licensed but already practising dry cleaners. Only some habits need to change, and training manual (new IP) followed.

If there is a problem

Complain as soon as possible. Send written complaints by recorded delivery. Keep copies. The Textiles Services Association offers an informal dispute resolution service if you can’t agree what caused the problem. If this fails, or the cleaner isn’t a TSA member, you may have to pay about £120 for an independent report. If the complaint remains unresolved, write to the cleaner repeating the issue and the steps you have taken. Say you are giving it 14 days to resolve the issue before considering legal action.

The new customer – designers’ customer relations – CCCC route of communication (and back) will obviate the need for all of the above. The service will be offered after strictly adhering to the customer driven quality criteria leaving no grounds for complains. Quality manuals (IP) will be issued to fashion designers and manufacturers/retailers for passing on to their customers when making their purchases.

When you get it back
Check the garment carefully. Take off the polythene cover and examine them in a good light, looking at the pressing, seams and any areas of double thickness.

Any hitches will have been ironed out between CCCC and fashion designers/retailers without the customers being made aware of anything unsavoury. Our model with Jaeger worked perfectly with only one complaint over the 3 year period and after processing 1000s of items.

Which?'s tips for making sure you get the service you want

9) The independents
Independent shops make up the bulk of the market. We visited 18 and found that 14 failed to get rid of stains or distorted the skirts shape. Another two did these well, but pressed the garment poorly. Two independents passed our test.

As Which? pointed out, and the industry suffers because any one can open up dry cleaning shops and follow their own standards. Therefore, it is not possible to know what the independents did to the skirts, in the absense of any training. At the same time, the chains who are reportedly members of the TSA and possibly the Guild did not exactly outshine the independents in the test Which? sat out for representative samples of both groups. So, the question is: Why should the independents become members of bodies who have not offered any benefit to their membership?

10) Problems – what problems?
Which? found that customer service was sometimes poor as well. The dry cleaner should examine the garment when you are in the shop and ask how the stain got there. This is best practice, according to the industry’s professional body, the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, and will help choose the best way to treat it. Three quarters of the shops did examine the skirt, but this appeared to have little impact on how well they cleaned it.

As mentioned above, we will not use trade chemicals and methodology to remove stains. Hence, the Sea Changes we will introduce upon the opening our test bed.

When giving back the garment, the shop should explain any problems that there were in cleaning it. Of the 31 that failed to remove the stains, just 10 told us about it. None of the shops mentioned the other problems that occurred during cleaning.

During our test period of 6 months to a year, customers will have their clothes serviced through the designers, manufacturers, and retailers where they did their purchases. Any hitches will have been smoothened between the establishement named and CCCC.

11) What they should have done
Which?'s experts said the results showed the poor standards of the industry in the UK. They said: ‘This shouldn’t have been a challenge for a competent dry cleaner.’ All the stains were easily removable when pre-treated with an off the shelf dry cleaning stain removal kit. Most cleaners didn’t do this or didn’t do it properly. Distortion was probably caused by the cleaner not using the right level of chemicals or trying to press the skirt using steam, despite its care label specifically advising against this. Which? gave an identical skirt with the same stains to a dry cleaner that was known to have followed the correct procedure. It cleaned the stains with no problem.

The successful cleaner probably removed the stains in the pre spotting stages prior to dry cleaning. However, the skirt remains unclean because the rinse solvent (and hence particulate matter left uniformly distributed throughout the skirt) will contain 20 microns soiling right across the board no matter where you get the skirt cleaned. Most machine manufacturers technical specification will confirm this claim.
4 nano metre cleaning does not exist commercially. Its use may be limited to test centres.

Note: This blog is now discontinued. The Sea Change above starts the new blog Please send in your comments to the new blog and follow the corresponding replies and dialogues there.

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