DLI Helps Cleaners Focus on Positives Following ABC News Coverage

Staff Writer |

LAUREL, Md. — In March, ABC News gave dry cleaners a “thoroughly sensationalistic trashing” on Good Morning America, 20/20, and, says the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), and in order to help members respond to questions from employees and customers, DLI issued a set of talking points.

“Foremost, don’t panic,” says DLI CEO Mary Scalco. “Sadly, this is business as usual in the media today. But happily, this item is already yesterday’s news and another target will be along shortly.”

Though the ABC News coverage is indeed yesterday’s news, DLI’s tips are evergreen. The most important thing to remember is to avoid reinforcing the negative and accentuate the positive. That rule will help in just about any PR situation, DLI says. Here are its talking points:


Reassure your customers (and remind your staff) that your investments in training and professional knowledge separate your business from those cleaners who give the industry a bad name.

Dry cleaners who are members of 107-year-old DLI regularly receive the latest industry information and enjoy unlimited resources and educational opportunities, the association says. Anyone in management or on staff holding DLI certificates or diplomas are additional aces to be played.


The 20/20 report misrepresented the cleaning process by suggesting that customers’ clothes are cleaned in black, dirty still sludge, DLI says. Reassure customers that their clothes are not cleaned in black sludge, for if this were true every piece of light-colored clothing would turn black after cleaning.

In fact, in the drycleaning process, solvent is filtered and distilled so it remains clear and clean while the clothes are being washed. The black sludge shown on the 20/20 report actually proves that soils and impurities are removed from the solvent and not left on your customers’ garments, DLI says.

Offer to give customers a tour of your drycleaning facility so they can see the condition of your process for themselves.


This was new even to seasoned industry veterans who thought they’d heard it all twice, DLI says. Reassure customers that the care of their garments and their satisfaction is of utmost importance; do not repeat the statement made in the show when explaining your case, as it would only give credibility to the statement and make you appear to be on the defensive, DLI says.

Instead, accentuate the positive, such as: “Here at DLI Cleaners, our customers are the most important people in the world. We always greet you with a smile and are always glad to see you.”


Tell your customer that some stains are extremely difficult to remove but identifying the stain is half the battle. Have counter staff ask customers if they know of any stains on the garments. Let the customer know your team will do their best to remove any stains.

Again, highlighting professional affiliation and training can help you respond to any inquiries in a positive way, DLI says.


One bit of advice from the 20/20 segment is actually not so bad, according to DLI. Customers should choose a dry cleaner they feel comfortable entrusting with their garments as well as any forgotten items, such as cash or bills.


Care labels recommend just one appropriate method of care, even when several methods of cleaning are acceptable. Customers may not know that care labels can sometimes be wrong and that following them can lead to damage.

DLI suggests telling them, “When you see ‘Dryclean Only,’ you may or may not be able to home-wash the garment without shrinkage, color loss or distortion. Our years of experience and understanding of fibers, fabrics and chemistry help us make a professional judgment on how to care for each garment. After testing, we may decide to wet clean, launder, or even hand-wash a garment rather than dry clean it. We do this all day every day.”

The 20/20 segment that prompted the DLI response aired March 7 and can be found through this link:


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