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Dry Cleaning Worker Job Description, Career as a Dry Cleaning Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: None

Salary: Median—$8.28 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Dry cleaning workers clean, repair, and press clothes, linens, and other fabric items that cannot be cleaned in water. Dry cleaning involves the use of a variety of chemicals to clean fabrics. Most of the workers in this industry are employed by dry cleaning plants. Some workers have their own businesses.

There are many different kinds of jobs in the dry cleaning industry. Route workers pick up and deliver clothing at customers' homes and collect money from them. They often solicit new customers along their routes. Counter clerks receive soiled clothing from customers, give them receipts, and collect money when customers pick up the cleaned clothing. Markers tag or mark the soiled clothing so that it can be returned to the right customer. They are responsible for removing loose buttons and articles left in pockets. Dry cleaners sort the clothing according to its color and fabric type. They weigh the clothing and operate the cleaning machines. When the clothing is finished, they dry it in a tumbler or in a hot air cabinet. Spotters remove stubborn stains by using chemicals, brushes, sponges, and other equipment. They may do this either before or after items are dry cleaned.

Finishers place some of the clean clothing in steam tunnels to remove wrinkles. They press other clothing by using special steam irons and presses. Some finishers specialize in delicate clothing, and others may do only sturdy clothing, such as suits or coats. Inspectors check the finished clothing and decide whether it needs recleaning or refinishing. If necessary they send it to a mender for hand or machine sewing. Assemblers sort the clothing by matching it to the invoices. They put the clothing and invoices together so that the items can be returned to the proper customer. Finally, baggers place bags over the clothing and attach the invoices. Sometimes one person does more than one of these jobs. Other workers employed in this industry include office workers, plant managers, mechanics, and maintenance workers.

There are several different types of dry cleaning workers. This counter clerk receives soiled clothing from customers, gives them receipts, and charges customers when they pick up the cleaned clothing. (© Don Mason/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

There are no educational requirements for many dry cleaning jobs. However, some employers prefer high school graduates for some positions. Although most dry cleaning workers learn on the job, some trade schools and vocational schools offer courses in dry cleaning, finishing, and spotting. Home study courses are also available. Some jobs take only a few days to learn, whereas others require a full year of on-the-job experience.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can get a job in this field by applying directly to dry cleaning plants. Candidates may find a job opening by reading the classifieds in newspapers or by checking Internet job banks. State and private employment agencies can also give job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Some dry cleaning workers advance to more difficult jobs that pay higher wages. They can learn these jobs either on the job or by taking special courses organized by the International Fabricare Institute. These courses last from two to four weeks. They are designed to upgrade or expand a worker's skills or to provide a refresher course. Some dry cleaning workers become supervisors or managers.

Dry cleaners and spotters sometimes start their own businesses. An initial investment is needed to set up a small dry cleaning plant, and loans are available to qualified people. Some get started by renting equipment or buying used equipment.

The total number of jobs in the dry cleaning field is expected to decline through the year 2014. New methods and machinery used for dry cleaning will eliminate some jobs. There will be openings to replace workers who leave the field.

Working Conditions

Dry cleaning workers usually work forty hours a week. Hours may increase during busy seasons, which vary depending on the climate. There may also be slow seasons with reduced hours.

Modern dry cleaning plants are usually clean and well lighted. Workers may be uncomfortable, however, because of the heat and odors created by the dry cleaning process. Many dry cleaning tasks are repetitive. Workers have to stand for long periods. There is some danger of injury from hot irons, presses, and chemicals. Some workers belong to unions.

Where to Go for More Information

International Drycleaners Congress
4 W. Central Ave.
Oxford, OH 45056
(513) 523-4121

International Fabricare Institute
14700 Sweitzer Ln.
Laurel, MD 20707
(800) 638-2627

Earnings and Benefits

Dry cleaning workers earn a median wage of $8.28 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers often offer benefits that include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

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