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Dry cleaning 

Is the dry cleaner responsible? 

Dry cleaners are a necessary service provided in most suburbs and towns across Australia. As with any service, on most occasions the service provided is excellent. However, occasionally things go wrong. In the event of a problem occurring with a garment or item left with a dry cleaner the first thing that must be determined is, if possible, 'is the dry cleaner responsible?'

All clothing and most textile items sold in Australia must have a label attached detailing the care instructions for the garment. These instructions should include: 

  • prohibited treatments and warnings;
  • washing instructions;
  • drying instructions;
  • ironing instructions; and
  • dry cleaning instructions.

In submitting any article for dry cleaning, the customer and dry cleaner should make special note of any manufacturer’s instructions with respect to the cleaning of the article.

Of course it may be that a manufacturing fault or failure of a component, for example incorrect stitching, faulty dyes, faulty or broken buttons etc, has caused the dry cleaning process to damage the garment, in which case the garment should be referred to the retailer or manufacturer for their assistance. If this is the case the dry cleaner should provide the customer with a report so that the matter can be followed up with the correct party.

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What can I do to prevent a problem from occurring? 

There are a few things that both the customer and dry cleaner can do to ensure that problems do not occur:

  • make sure that cleaning is done in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions;
  • in the event that a customer insists that cleaning should take place against the advice of the dry cleaner, the dry cleaner should note on their docket the circumstances and  recommendation and, if possible have the customer acknowledge it. In accepting an article for cleaning, the dry cleaner is accepting responsibility for it based on their knowledge and skills in the industry and, depending on the circumstances, may be responsible if it is damaged;
  • prior to dropping in the garment, all pockets should be checked to ensure that there are no foreign objects that may spoil the cleaning process;
  • the article should be fully examined by the customer and dry cleaner and any damages, cloth blemishes, fading, tears etc noted on the docket;
  • customers should keep their dockets and dry cleaners should maintain good records in case a problem occurs in future.

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What if my garment is damaged or lost? 

If the dry cleaner has damaged your garment or article, subject to the above, in general terms he/she will reasonably compensate you for it. This is not to say that you are entitled to new for old replacement. The extent of compensation will be based on the age and condition of the article and a fair settlement should be made.

It may be, however, that the pants from a pants and top set are damaged, or a curtain from a set of curtains. Depending on the circumstances, in this case it may be that the dry cleaner would need to replace the full set as a reasonable settlement.

On occasions garments are lost or incorrectly given to the wrong party. If the article cannot be recovered the dry cleaner will be responsible to reasonably compensate the consumer on similar terms to the above.

When collecting garments the docket should be produced. If it is not, the dry cleaner should have a process in place in the business to 'sign out' the garment so that there is a record in the event of a future dispute.

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Resolving disputes 

In most cases, in the event of a dispute the parties can generally come to a satisfactory arrangement. However, on occasions this doesn’t happen. If a dispute arises the customer should in the first instance contact the Dry Cleaning Institute (DIA) on 1300 134 511. The DIA will handle consumer disputes for member companies, and will give advice to all callers. The DIA does not conduct any testing of garments, however will provide contact numbers for garment testing if necessary.

In the event that the dry cleaner is not a member of the Institute, or a consumer is not happy with the response, please contact your nearest Fair Trading Centre on telephone 13 32 20 for information on the options available to you.

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