Why are women’s blouses more expensive to clean than men’s business shirts?

The reason cleaners charge more for women’s blouses than men’s business shirts is because they are passing along their increased cost of production to their customers. Depending on the cleaner’s equipment, it costs them between three and four times the labor expense to properly “finish” a women’s blouse compared to a men’s shirt. Here’s why…

The biggest production cost for a cleaner is their labor expense, the money they pay their employees. Most of their labor goes into the “finishing” of a garment. Finishing is a combination of machine pressing and hand ironing. Most garments require a combination of machine pressing and hand ironing to achieve the desired finish. Many cleaners have special “assembly line style” machines that can finish the typical men’s business shirts without any hand ironing. These machines greatly reduce the time and labor needed to finish a shirt compared to a women’s blouse which sometimes requires as much as 100% hand ironing to achieve the proper finish. Depending on their equipment and the skill of the presser, most cleaners can finish three to four men’s business shirts in the same time it takes to finish one women’s blouse.

You may be thinking, why not make similar machines for finishing women’s blouses? Well, I’m sure they would if they could. The problem is that women’s blouses come in an extremely wide variety and combination of different patterns, fabric types, trims and ornamentation. Plus, these variations can change dramatically from season to season with the latest changes in fashion. This prevents the machine manufacturers from developing presses that will fit the majority of women’s blouses. Where as men’s shirts have basically looked exactly the same for more than 100 years and they’re almost always made of 100% cotton or a cotton/poly blend. This stability in style has enabled the machine manufacturers to develop shirt presses that will fit the majority of men’s business shirts. The classic men’s business shirt is called a Pin Point Oxford and has the common features in the diagram below…


Here is an educational video on how to press shirts, courtesy of YouTube and produced by The DryCleaning & Laundry Institute. It shows these machines in operation and the proper way to use them. Sorry, I couldn’t find a video showing how to hand finish a women’s blouse, but it is very similar to the way you would do hand ironing at home.

Most models of shirt machines are limited in the range of sizes that will fit on them. The standard range is medium through extra large. Shirts outside of this range, i.e. small and double X shirts, require extra hand finishing. A shirt that doesn’t fit on these machines is typically charged the same price as a women’s blouse. There is a women’s version of the Pin Point Oxford business shirt, but they rarely fit on the machines. If a women’s shirt will fit on the machines, the cleaner should charge her the same price as they charge for a men’s business shirt.

Diagram courtesy of Visual Dictionary

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3 Comments on “Why are women’s blouses more expensive to clean than men’s business shirts?”

  1. Ellen Roedl Says:

    Good question! I have often wondered why women’s clothing cost so much more to dryclean. Great explanation. I will try not to complain so much in the future.

  2. Christine Says:

    I got mad at my dry cleaner today for this- had two shirts laundered. Mine looks just like a men’s shirt, plain cotton, and cost $6.50 and not $2.35 for a man’s. I talked them down to $4.50 at first, but now they were trying to charge me $8 extra (thinking they charged me only $2.35). I got upset at the poor guy working there and he called the owner who said – okay, fine. I am NOT paying $13 + tax to wash my shirts! Since so many women work now, they should make small machines.

    • Darrell New Says:

      Good news! The latest generation of shirt machines are now able to accomodate a much wider range of shirt sizes. I recommend shopping around for a cleaner that has machines that can handle your smaller sized shirts.

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