Best specialty cleaners
Whether you need something prepared for storage or spruced up for spring, these specialists handle tricky jobs with care.
Fri Apr 22 2011
Many dry cleaners tackle curtains and drapes, but few will dismantle and rehang them for you. Cleantex, which gets referrals from custom-window-treatment wizards Martin Albert Interiors and deals with the voluminous stage curtains for Alice Tully Hall, can handle the trickiest jobs. Founded in 1928, the firm has been run by the Mollaoglu family for 25 years. Unless your drapes are visibly grimy, the straight-talking John Mollaoglu recommends cleaning them every three years. "New York City window treatments do get soiled faster than other areas," he concedes, "but most people don't open their windows that much." More delicate sheer curtains may require annual cleaning. Because fabric becomes fragile after constant exposure to sunlight, Cleantex uses a mineral solvent that is milder than the common dry-cleaning fluid, perchloroethylene. Some synthetic or cotton curtains can be washed—using cold water to prevent shrinkage—but if nonwashable fabrics such as silk become stained, his technicians resort to spot-cleaning. "You have to work with a Q-tip sometimes," says Mollaoglu. "It's a detailed operation." 2335 Twelfth Ave at 133rd St (212-283-1200). Curtain cleaning starts at $20 for an unlined 48" x 96" panel ($75 minimum for pickup/delivery; extra $13--$15 per 48" width or $50 minimum for takedown and rehang). Mention TONY to receive 10 percent off through May 11.
Down comforter: The Down Quilt Shop
Your down comforter may have a label that says dry clean only, but according to Tracey Morse, manager of the Down Quilt Shop, it's the worst thing you can do. Not only will harsh chemicals flatten the fibers, "the down will absorb the pungent smell of the dry-cleaning fluid." This specialist bedding store started offering a washing service in response to customer demand; because a quilt must be dried at a low temperature to avoid shrinking the cotton shell, this stage can take up to five hours. "It's like a good pot roast that's in a slow cooker—this is a slow dryer," says Morse, who runs the shop with owner Beth Scholten. Leaving it damp can lead to permanent flattening and clumps, Morse stresses, but if you use a duvet cover, it should need to be washed only once or twice in its lifetime. First, your comforter is examined to assess quality—it's probably not worth cleaning cheap down—and checked for holes: Even a pinprick will disqualify it from the service, which takes about a week. It's then washed in a special soap that won't strip the down's oils, another flattening pitfall. It's also too mild to remove certain set-in stains, but with a cover on it, who's to know? 518 Columbus Ave at 85th St (212-496-8980). Cleaning is $79 for a twin comforter, $89 for a double/queen and $99 for a king. Mention TONY to receive $20 off through May 11.
Fine fabrics: Meurice Garment Care
"We have people working for us as finishers who remember me as a child," says president and CEO Wayne Edelman. Recommended by upscale retailers, including Inhabit (for delicate knitwear) and Joseph (for suede and shearling), the company prides itself on attention to detail: Every piece of knitwear is carefully measured before cleaning, then reshaped by hand to those precise measurements. While Meurice dry-cleans most knitwear using a hydrocarbon process, which substitutes a gentler petroleum-based solvent for the traditional perchloroethylene, items can be wet-cleaned on request—special conditioners added to the water counteract swelling and subsequent shrinkage. (Meurice has even had good results wet-cleaning Chanel suits.) Very delicate fabrics, including vintage items and shearlings, are hand-cleaned; the latter are wiped down before the nap—the skin's downy surface—is restored with a variety of brushes. In some cases, in which a garment mixes different materials, it will be taken apart, cleaned separately and stitched back together. "Haute couture used to be unreachable for most people, but it has kind of entered the mainstream," says Edelman. "These garments were never really intended to be cleaned; they were manufactured to be worn once, but now we're faced with cleaning them." 31 University Pl between 8th and 9th Sts (212-475-2778) * 245 E 57th St between Second and Third Aves (212-759-9057) * garmentcare.com. Dry-cleaning starts at $15 for a skirt; leather and suede starts at $135. Mention TONY to receive 15 percent off through May 11.
Footwear: Leather Spa
After Snowmageddon, your boots are probably as salt-encrusted as a piece of bacalhau. Although you can remove the stains with a special product—or a little diluted white vinegar, according to David Mesquita, co-owner of Leather Spa—it might be worth paying for professional treatment. At its Long Island City facility, the cleaning department's six full-time employees can handle the most delicate material or tricky finish. Because they undertake repairs for labels such as Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, they're familiar with current trends—for example, suede that's been given a distressed effect by application of a wax. "When you clean that material everything comes off, so then it has to be reapplied," says Mesquita. "Certain shops wouldn't be aware of that." Worn-to-death Uggs are rejuvenated using steam and compressed air to break down heavily accumulated soil. Leather Spa also cleans sneakers, but the clientele is more Louis Vuitton than Keds. "If you spend $800 on a pair of sneakers, you don't want to throw them in the wash," notes Mesquita. Many sneakers combine materials, including patent leather and suede, which makes cleaning complicated: "If we have to clean the suede part, we cover the other parts to avoid affecting the textures." Turnaround takes four to six days. 10 W 55th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-262-4823) * The Plaza Shops, 1 W 58th St at Fifth Ave (212-527-9944) * leatherspa.com. Cleaning starts at $35 for shoes, $45 for boots.
Leather: Modern Leather Goods
If your investment bag has seen too many restaurant floors, take it to this sexagenarian repair shop, recommended by top design houses such as Gucci and Marc Jacobs. The seven on-site craftsmen devoted to cleaning have nearly 100 years of combined experience, according to Tony Pecorella, who, together with his brother-in-law, runs the business his father founded. "They look at a stain and know exactly what to use," says Pecorella, who notes that it might be a mixture of chemicals or even something as simple as Windex. But it's not just about getting rid of dirt: Because leather is tanned and dyed, removing a mark will probably take out some color, too, and with the variety of shades and finishes on designer bags, restoring it takes considerable skill. "They're artists," says Pecorella. "They take the colors and mix them together to create the shades they need." If you want to simply refresh your bag, the "cleaning and polishing" service touches up worn edges and covers minor imperfections. Leather garments are cleaned by hand in the same way, and the inside is disinfected to remove odors. Items are usually ready in two weeks or less. 2 W 32nd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway, fourth floor (212-947-7770, modernleathergoods.com). Cleaning starts at $60 for bags and about $90 for leather garments. Mention TONY to receive 10 percent off through May 31.
Rugs: Eco Carpet Service
Eco Carpet Service is trying to give the industry a better image. "If people aren't completely satisfied, we don't charge them anything," says manager Joe Anderson. "It's that simple." The company, which launched in 2008, gets excellent results using plant-based, pH-neutral products, including a gel that harnesses citrus extracts to remove stains like coffee, pet urine, and even ink, tar and nail polish. Area rugs are collected from your home and cleaned in the company's facilities in Brooklyn or Teaneck, New Jersey. First they're shaken mechanically—essential, because even the tiniest particles of grit can become embedded in a rug's foundation and wear it from the inside, says Anderson—before an inconspicuous area on the back is tested to ensure the colors won't bleed. This is a risk with some Moroccan rugs and kilims made with vegetable dyes; if the dyes are unstable, the rug is premisted with a vinegar solution to lock in the color. Antique and tribal rugs are hand-washed, then dried in a climate-controlled room. The service generally takes five to six business days. If a rug is faded from the sun or a previous cleaning, Eco Carpet Service employs a third-generation Persian craftsman skilled at color-matching (restoration and repairs start at $100). (800-380-9152, ecocarpetservice.com). Area rug cleaning $3 per square foot to $5 per square foot for hand-washing ($100 minimum). Mention TONY to receive 30 percent off, plus a free bottle of nontoxic spot remover, through July 30.
Tough stains: Ernest Winzer Cleaners
If you think you sweat it out at work, imagine the state of a Radio City Rockette's faux-fur--trimmed jacket after a week of high-kicking in the Christmas Spectacular. Ernest Winzer Cleaners, established in 1908, keeps the Rockettes and up to 80 percent of the shows on Broadway clean. "There's beaded stuff, there's sweaty stuff, there's a lot of makeup to deal with," says owner Bruce Barish, whose grandfather bought the business from Winzer in 1952. "Obviously it's got to get done right and it's got to get to them on time." Winzer undertakes everything from wedding gowns to leather jackets in its 15,000-square-foot Bronx facility. Stain removal is a particular forte—Barish recalls salvaging a blood-soaked Armani suit—and the cleaner has three processes in its arsenal: the standard perchloroethylene (commonly known as perc), a less-aggressive petroleum-based solvent and wet-cleaning. Although perc has lately been maligned in favor of greener methods, Barish isn't ready to give up on it yet: "It's the best at getting out grease and oily stains," he says. "Stains come out the way they go in, so if it's solvent or oil-based, you're going to need some sort of solvent to get it out." 1828 Cedar Ave between Major Deegan Expy and 179th St, Bronx (877-946-9371, winzercleaners.com). Dry-cleaning starts at $9 for a shirt (free pickup and delivery). Mention TONY to receive 10 percent off through May 11.
Vintage clothing: Jeeves
"It really makes me angry when I walk past a cleaner and I notice that little cardboard sign behind their counter saying not responsible for beads, buttons, etc.," says Gerald von Pozniak, the U.S. license holder for Jeeves, a luxury cleaner established in London that tends to Prince Charles's wardrobe. "If you're a professional, you are responsible and you have to find a way to clean the garment without damaging it." Pozniak, who is entrusted with the lavish costumes for the Metropolitan Opera and has prepared vintage couture pieces for display in the Louvre, says he will never refuse to clean a garment, even if it needs to be done entirely by hand. Jeeves is one of the few dry cleaners in NYC to employ the Green CO2 method, which uses liquid carbon dioxide mixed with a biodegradable detergent instead of petrochemicals, and can be gentler on vintage pieces (but is not suitable for all, including garments made of acetate). Details commonly found on vintage items, such as beads and sequins, are potential pitfalls as cleaning fluids may cause them to discolor or melt; they're also frequently sewn together with a chain stitch, says Pozniak, so if one section breaks, you'll lose the whole row. In case a garment is so soiled that it must be machine-cleaned, decorations are protected with cheesecloth panels. 39 E 65th St between Madison and Park Aves (212-570-9130, jeevesny.com). Dry-cleaning starts at $30, hand-cleaning at $80.
Wedding gown: Madame Paulette
Recommended by top bridal designers including Vera Wang, Madame Paulette has catered to such high-profile brides as Chelsea Clinton, Alicia Keys and Melania Trump. Each gown is examined under an ultraviolet light for "invisible" stains that could oxidize and set during the cleaning process, and embellishments are tested to ensure they can withstand the solutions. Individual stains are painstakingly removed by hand, using specifically targeted products. Among the most common splotches are makeup and red wine, but don't worry if you've really mucked up your wedding dress. "People go horseback riding," says president John Mahdessian, great-nephew of the couple who founded this premier cleaning company in 1959. "It sounds romantic, but now I've got all this horse matter to remove from the gown." Cleaning takes from one day to 12 weeks, depending on the condition. Once it's spotless, the gown is swathed in acid-free tissue paper and boxed by the white-gloved staff. But cleaning isn't confined to after the ceremony. "A lot of people are buying gowns at sample sales," says Mahdessian. "We can take a $10,000 gown that's selling for $2,500 because it's not in great shape and make that thing look brand new." 1255 Second Ave at 66th St (212-838-6827, madamepaulette.com). Dry-cleaning starts at $22 for a shirt (wedding gowns start at $400). Mention TONY to receive 10 percent off wedding dress cleaning and alterations, and 20 percent off basic dry-cleaning (excluding interiors and restoration) through May 11.