This category includes establishments primarily engaged in dry-cleaning or dyeing apparel and household fabrics other than rugs. Press shops and agents for dry cleaners are classified in SIC 7212: Garment Pressing, and Agents for Laundries and Dry Cleaners. Establishments primarily engaged in cleaning rugs are classified in SIC 7217: Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning.
Dry Cleaning Plants
Most companies in this industry provide general dry cleaning, although some specialize in treating drapery, carpeting, or fire-damaged materials. The majority of dry-cleaning plants are single-proprietor firms that gross an average of less than $200,000 annually and have five to nine employees. Based on a U.S. Bureau of the Census report, an estimated 27,066 plants were expected to be in operation in the United States during 2002. This figure, however, indicated a decline in the number of firms in this industry, following a peak in 1997 when 27,989 establishments were in operation. Revenues, on the other hand, maintained a steady upward trend, with $7.75 billion reported in 2002, up from just over $7 billion in 1997.
Regarded as a mature industry, dry cleaning has proven resilient in difficult economic times, benefiting from the tendency of patrons to care for old clothes rather than purchase new ones in such periods.
The closing decades of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century witnessed the introduction of legislation that shaped the industry. The Care Labeling Rule, instituted by the Federal Trade Commission in 1972, made it easier for dry cleaning establishments to determine the proper mode of clothing care. Additionally, in September of 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued national regulations to control possibly harmful air emissions from dry cleaners due to perchloroethylene, a dry-cleaning chemical suspected to cause ill health effects to those who came in contact with it. As a result, the industry was forced to change the traditional dry-cleaning method known as the transfer system, which involved washing clothes in perchloroethylene inside a machine and then transferring them to a separate dryer. In response, chemical companies raced to develop new, less toxic cleaning formulas. Meanwhile, five states...