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Sector Spotlight: Dry Cleaning

A glance Canada's dry cleaning industry

The last decade has seen a shift in customers using dry cleaning services in Canada.

A continuing trend for casual clothing has restricted growth in the dry cleaning industry, alongside increasing popularity for cleaning alternatives such as at-home laundering machines.

These factors have pushed the industry into decline, however the sector has taken steps to rectify the situation.

Industry outlook

According to IBISWorld Industry Analyst, Britanny Carter, the dry cleaning market in Canada has 'a revenue of around $2bn, while annual growth from ’09 – ’14 is at -1.6%'.

Despite the fact that the economy is said to be re-bounding, with employment figures increasing, the move away from formal attire has meant that the sector is likely to remain in decline for the next few years at least.

However, there have been attempts by the industry to continue profitability despite the fall in demand.

Dry cleaning businesses have enforced price increases over the last five years which, according to data from Statistics Canada, will be expected to increase the consumer price index at an average annual rate of 3.9% per year.

And the general rise in employment will present an opportunity if dry-cleaners offer alternative services, “As consumers return to work, industry players will increasingly rely on other services, such as wash-and-fold laundering, to leverage increasingly busy schedules.” says Carter.

It is also expected that there will be a surge in popularity for eco-friendly dry cleaning services, due to an implementation of environmentally-based regulations. In turn, many dry cleaners will be required to purchase machines that are more environmentally-friendly (i.e. water-based solvent and hydrocarbon).

Rise of the eco-friendly dry cleaner

Rising awareness of the potential harm that perchloroethylene, a solvent traditionally used in dry cleaning, can do to the environment has caused consumers and dry cleaners alike to look for alternative green methods.

Perchloroethylene, also known as ‘perc,’ was classified in 1979 as a possible carcinogen and was confirmed toxic in 1997. Here are some other processes that have been developed to avoid the use of this solvent:

Wet cleaning: This process involves the use of water through careful monitoring of the mechanical action, temperature and time with relation to the fabric type.

CO₂ methods: While there is an expensive upfront cost attached to this due to the machinery needed, it isn’t toxic.

EcoSolv: This is a much more popular choice for dry cleaners in Canada, and if often used as an alternative to perc. Made by Chevron Philips Chemical Co., EcoSolv is a hydrocarbon solvent – though isn’t regarded as entirely eco-friendly due to it being petroleum-based.

Silicone-based solvent: Green Earth Cleaning have recently developed a silicone-based solvent that has been implemented in some dry cleaning businesses. Enviroclean Drycleaners, in McMurray, are one of the more recent businesses to use the product exclusively. One of the reasons is that the GreenEarth chemicals biodegrade into silica, water and carbon dioxide, which are not considered toxic.

Approximately 2,000 dry cleaners are equipped with GreenEarth in Canada.

Additional services and the rise of technology in dry cleaning

Along with the changes dry cleaners have made have made with clean tech, many are offering an adapted experience such as:

Short turnaround: Businesses are offering one and two hour services after bringing machinery in house

Home and office pickup and dropoff: This is playing to the more affluent and those short of time. 

Online booking system: Along with the pickup and dropoff service, companies such as Toronto based Clean it online offer an end to end web based service (apart form the cleaning part)

Alterations: Though it's been a mainstay for many dry cleaners in the past, more dry cleaners are able to make minor garment alterations on site.

Day-to-day in the dry cleaning sector

In operating a dry cleaning business, there are various tasks involved. Service Canada revealed a list of work completed in the industry:

- Assembling
- Bagging
- Machine operating
- Drapery cleaning
- Dry cleaning
- Dyeing
- Fur cleaning
- Inspecting
- Leather cleaning
- Spotting
- Spraying (leather or suede)
- Suede cleaning

Feel you're ready to take a jump and buy an established dry cleaner? Check out our Canadian Dry Cleaner listings here.

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Rose Hill

About the author

Rose Hill is an in-house journalist and writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.