Revised and updated January 3, 2019.
Everybody needs to clean their clothes, but not everyone has a washer and dryer to get the job done. And there’s still a market for dry cleaning as well, though it’s significantly smaller than it used to be. But entrepreneurs who want to make money from helping others clean their dirty laundry have a great set of options to explore on this list of the top 8 dry cleaning and laundry franchises of 2020.
While the two oldest and largest dry cleaning companies on this list have seen declining numbers of locations for well over a decade, the other four (all founded within the last 25 years) are growing quite robustly. The dry cleaners adapting to the present offer more services, make it more convenient for customers, have new pricing models, or are focused on eco-friendly dry cleaning. The older chains need to adapt in these ways if they’re going to survive.
Overall the dry cleaning market is still worth $9 billion. The laundromat industry is worth $5 billion, although 54% of the nearly 30,000 businesses in it are single-store operations. Most laundromats focus on just two services: self-serve coin-operated washers/dryers and drop-off wash-dry-fold services.
As long as there are people who don’t have washers and dryers, or don’t want to do their own laundry, there will continue to be a market for both laundromats and dry cleaners. Here are the 8 best dry cleaning and laundry franchises of 2020:
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 385 locations, of which 44 are company-owned and 371 are located outside the US (311 in Europe and 60 in China). So far there are only 14 locations in the US (nine in Texas, five in Georgia) and they are all company-owned.
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 steadily declining in recent years years from 512 in 2008 to the current total of 369 (a loss of 5 units from the previous year’s total of 364), only one of which is company-owned and 175 of which are located outside the US.
3. 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 declining in recent years from 261 in 2010 to the current total of 152 (a loss of 11 units from the previous year’s total of 163), none of which are company-owned and five of which are 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 has tripled in recent years from 33 in 2008 to the current total of 99, none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the US.
5. 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 in recent years to the current total of 145 (a gain of 52 units from the previous year’s total of 93), of which nine are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. 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 has more than doubled in recent years from 24 in 2008 to the current total of 65 (a gain of eight units from the previous year’s total of 57), of which four are company-owned and 10 are located outside the US.
7. 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. Unlike other companies, ZIPS only does dry cleaning – not all the other extra services others offer. 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 has steadily expanded in recent years from 24 in 2010 to the current total of 62 (a gain of seven units from the previous year’s total of 55), of which two are company-owned and all are located in 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 stands at seven, of which one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
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.