This annual list of the best dry cleaning and laundry franchises was revised and updated on March 21, 2023.
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While it’s become common to have a washer and dryer at home, not everybody has space for these, and no one has the facilities for specialist cleaning services like dry cleaning at home. This has kept the dry cleaning and laundry industry going decades after its peak and provided a space for franchises in this industry. It is an industry that currently employs over 128,000 people in the US, in more than 30,000 businesses.
These businesses generally offer three kinds of cleaning services: dry cleaning, full service laundry, and specialty cleaning for delicate garments and textiles. They have two main sources of business: households and commercial clients, especially restaurants and hotels. Households are more important to the industry, but commercial clients can provide a valuable hedge against falling revenues from households.
The dry cleaning industry has been in decline for years. Changes in the clothes people wear and the prevalence of washing machines at home have diminished demand, as have coin-operated laundromats. Laundry businesses are slowly becoming less relevant. As a result, the market had already been stagnant at best and declining at worst for several years when the Covid pandemic arrived in 2020. That year saw a huge drop in revenues, from $10.8 billion to $7.4 billion. People were spending less time in office environments and other formal settings, so making less use of clothes that needed specialized cleaning. They were also avoiding going out and trying to save money as the economy tightened, so switched to more at-home cleaning. The long-term shift accelerated, ruining a large part of the industry.
Dry cleaning saw almost no post-Covid bounce, and the industry is now worth $7.6 billion, with annualized growth of -6.7% and predicted growth for 2023 of 0.3%, more optimistic but hardly great growth for an industry that has lost billions.
Not only are revenues down, but profits are a smaller proportion of revenues, thanks to shrinking margins as cleaners, struggling to find new customers, instead fight each other for share of the existing market. Profits that were 8.8% of revenues in 2018 are now only 5.1%, and though this proportion is expected to grow slightly, it’s still not what it was.
While the established industry has been in decline, this comes partly because of the rise of franchises, which are taking business from the older operators. No single company has more than 5% of the market in this industry, and the lack of massive established companies has made it easier for franchised competitors to expand. The coin-operated businesses undermining some of their competitors are often the work of these franchises.
With its new economic level now established for several years, it seems improbable that the industry will ever see as much demand as before the pandemic. More people working from home, changing textiles, and a shift toward business casual mean that there’s less demand than ever for the specialist cleaning of work clothes. With an economic downturn on the cards, it’s less likely than ever that people will spend more money on this often unnecessary service.
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For those working within the dry cleaning industry, there are still opportunities to grow by offering services of interest to modern customers. The chemicals used in cleaning have raised environmental concerns, so using eco-friendly products and processes can help in attracting and retaining customers. Additional services, cheaper coin-operated options, and long opening hours have also allowed some franchised cleaning operations to grow.
These strategies all rely on competing for existing customers rather than finding a new customer base. With the industry’s popularity in decline, any strategy must be built largely on taking custom from competitors, rather than drawing in new customers. There is already high competition within the industry, and together with declining revenues, it’s a challenging one to enter.
The future for dry cleaning and laundry franchises lies in taking business from the existing industry, as non-franchised operators fail to adapt to changing demand. There will always be some need for cleaning businesses, both because of specialized services and because of people without washing machines, but franchises in this industry need to adapt to working in a shrinking market. It’s an industry in trouble, and so a very risky one to get into.
The Top Dry Cleaning and Laundry Franchises of 2023
1. Speed Queen Laundry
Speed Queen Laundry is a relatively new business from a long-standing and well-known brand name. Speed Queen has been making washers and dryers since 1908. Now the company has started its own chain of laundromats it positions as “A Better Place to Do Your Laundry.”
Like most laundromats, it offers both self-service coin-op washers and dryers and laundry services for customers who want their laundry washed, dried, and folded for them. Locations are bright and open in their design, include free high-speed WiFi, plenty of comfortable seating, and a kid-friendly lounge area that includes complimentary iPads to keep kids entertained with educational games and content.
According to the company website, there are currently 21 locations in the US, though it doesn’t say how many of those are company-owned stores. In Europe, there are 11 company-owned locations and more than 800 licensed locations.
2. Martinizing Dry Cleaning
Martinizing Dry Cleaning offers a range of services that includes dry cleaning, shirt laundry, alterations, wash-and-fold, bulk laundry, leather cleaning, wedding gown cleaning and preservation, and cleaning of bulky items such as comforters.
In addition to a wide array of services, the chain has also upped the convenience factor with free pick-up and delivery at home or work along with 24/7 locker service for after-hours drop-off and retrieval. Modern technology features include customers placing orders online or through the Martinizing mobile app. The company also features eco-friendly methods and solvents.
Founded by Henry Martin in Loveland, Ohio in 1949 and franchising since then, the number of locations has been declining in recent years from 458 in 2012 to the current total of 312 (down from the previously reported total of 315), of which none are company-owned and 171 are located outside the US.
3. Tide Dry Cleaners
Tide Dry Cleaners has a very recognizable brand name most are familiar with as a laundry detergent. As a recent entrant into the dry-cleaning industry, the chain is big on the convenience factor. It offers 24-hour drop-off using their drop boxes, and if customers can’t pick up their clean clothes during business hours, they can be accessed at any time through secured lockers. They also offer drive-thru service and/or curb-side valet where employees come out and get the clothes from customers. Home or office pick-up and delivery are available at some locations.
Services include dry cleaning, laundry (wash-dry-fold), cleaning of outerwear, special care fabrics, wedding dresses, bedding, and household items. Alteration and repair services are also offered. Tide Dry Cleaners uses GreenEarth eco-friendly solvents.
Founded in 2008 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has expanded rapidly from 15 in 2012 to the current total of 226 (down from the previously reported total of 228), of which 14 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
4. Comet Cleaners
Comet Cleaners remains the biggest dry-cleaning chain that is family-owned. Services include dry cleaning and laundry, wedding gown cleaning, cleaning for various specialty items including leather and fine linens, and alterations.
Comet is big on the convenience factor, offering 24-hour drop-off, same-day service (in by 9, out by 5), and Express Bag service – a reusable bag just the right size to fit through a car window. Why does that matter? Because many Comet locations have a drive-thru or, if there isn’t space for that, car-hop service.
Founded by R.L. “Jack” Godfrey in 1957 and franchising since 1967, the number of locations has been steadily declining in recent years from 246 in 2012 to the last known reported total of 152 in 2019, of which none were company-owned and five were located outside the US.
Lapels is a “green cleaner” using eco-friendly solvents for dry cleaning provided by the industry’s only green supplier: GreenEarth. This full-service chain provides same-day dry cleaning, shirt service, tailoring and alterations, shoe repair, wedding gown preservation, suede and leather processing, box storage, fur storage, rug cleaning, and shoe/boot cleaning (including UGGs).
Using the chain’s app, customers can schedule free pick-up and delivery to home or office. Franchising models include owning and running a dry-cleaning plant, a boutique retail store with the services rendered off-site at the nearest plant, or both.
Founded in 2000 and franchising since 2001, the number of locations rose steadily from 39 in 2012 to a peak of 99 in 2019 but has since declined to the current total of 80 (down from the previously reported total of 91), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. ZIPS Dry Cleaners
ZIPS Dry Cleaners has a pricing structure that’s hard for consumers to resist. It offers same-day (in by 9, out by 5) one-price dry cleaning. There is a single low price per item, no matter what it is – a shirt, a pair of pants, a necktie, and so on. This is a great approach for people who only have a few items that need to be dry cleaned. And their per-item single price is significantly lower than the national average.
The dry cleaning is also done on-site, unlike many places where the clothes have to be shuffled off to a nearby plant for cleaning. ZIPS also offers laundry, wash and fold, and alteration services. It does not use eco-friendly solvents, but does recycle hangers and use biodegradable garment bags.
Founded in 1996 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations was steadily expanding from 36 in 2012 to 70 in 2021 but has since dropped back to 66, of which three are company-owned and all are located in the US.
7. Oxxo Care Cleaners
Oxxo Care Cleaners is the only company on this list that has an ATM-style retrieval system. You can pick your clothes up 24/7 by using your special OXXO card at a large window for the conveyor to bring your order to the window.
This chain has a similar array of services to other companies on this list, including dry cleaning and laundry services, alterations, shoe repairs, and cleaning of gowns, comforters, rugs, leather and suede, cushions, and stuffed toys. Most locations also offer corporate, hotel, and couture services. The company is eco-friendly through GreenEarth equipment and solvents.
Founded in 2001 and franchising since 2002, the number of locations had been rising in recent years from 35 in 2012 to a peak of 65 in 2019 but has since dropped to the current total of 53 (no change from the previously reported total), of which four are company-owned and 10 are located outside the US.
8. WaveMax Laundry
WaveMax Laundry sets itself apart from other laundromats by emphasizing the quality of its washers and dryers. Their washers automatically weigh each load and then put in the exact amount of water needed for optimal cleaning. While many washing machines only extract water at 80G-100G force, WaveMax washers spin with 200G force, which means clothes come out less moist, which saves on drying costs. Its dryers track the dryness of clothes and automatically adjusts the temperature for optimal drying so clothes never get scorched.
Similar to other laundromats, locations offer both self-serve coin-op washers and dryers, as well as drop-off wash, dry, and fold services.
Founded in 2012 and franchising since 2016, the number of locations currently stands at 45 (up from the previously reported total of 26), of which one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
LaundroLab aims to elevate the laundromat concept to a 5-star experience. Locations feature high-efficiency Electrolux washers and dryers for maximum value, and amenities such as in-store staff, 24/7 surveillance, lounge areas, arcade games, and snack and laundry vending, and a mobile app for convenient payments and loyalty points.
They also go the extra mile with their Family Read, Play, and Learn spaces developed in partnership with the LaundryCares Foundation. This area in each store is designed to create a safe, fun, and engaging place for children and families and is equipped with literacy-rich materials to support children’s early brain and language development.
Customers can take advantage of full wash-dry-fold services (drop off by 10 a.m. and ready by 6 p.m. for pickup) or their flip service where store staff will move the laundry from washer to dryer.
Founded in 2016 and having just rolled out its franchising program in 2020, the company website currently lists eight locations with two in North Carolina, two in Florida, two in Texas, and one each in Georgia and South Carolina. Another 17 locations are listed as coming soon.
10. Zoom Express Laundry
Zoom Express Laundry features high-efficiency machines that can wash and dry clothes in only 60 minutes. Each location is equipped with modern machines with payment options including its rewards-generating app, card payments, or coins. Every Zoom Express location features full-time attendants (staffed 16 hours/day, seven days a week), vending machines, air-conditioning, comfortable lounge areas, big screen televisions, free WiFi, and charging stations for smart devices. Many locations also feature a children’s learning activity area.
Customers can also take advantage of wash-dry-fold services. When customers bring their laundry in (drop-off/pickup) it will be done within a 60-minute turnaround. They can also have their laundry picked up and delivered back home within a 24-hour turnaround. Finally, customers can start the washing machine(s) and then have store staff handle the rest with their dry-and-fold service. Dry cleaning services are also offered. Safety is ensured with a robust video surveillance system.
The company website currently lists three locations, with two in Michigan, one in Texas, and another four listed as coming soon.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.