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 labour 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 labour expense, the money they pay their employees. Most of their labour 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 labour 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.

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. Whereas 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

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.