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On Your Side: Testing dry cleaners

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Have you ever ended up wearing something you were trying to eat? It happens. You could try to tackle the stain yourself, but our expert does not recommend it.

Eddie Burg of Vogue Cleaners has been in the business 35 years. He says if your idea of cleaning a stain involves club soda, treatment spray or plain water, depending on the fabric, you may want to think twice.

"You really shouldn't do that for two reasons. Some fabrics are fragile and you can take the color out of them doing that and then, once you wet a stain and then it dries, it can make it more difficult to remove."

Burg says there are all kinds of stains: water-based, oil-based or a combination of the two. He says removing them the right way takes a lot of practice, training and skill.

Our Call for Action office gets dozens of complaints each month about stains that didn't come out, so we set out to find out if a couple of businesses we randomly picked would be able to handle the task.

We grabbed four khaki shorts and four white shirts. We added our stains: nail polish, spaghetti sauce, permanent marker and mustard. Then, we dropped them off at four local dry cleaning companies.

Our expert gave us the dirt on these common stains.

Mustard is the hardest and, according to Burg, the permanent marker may take a few tries.

"It doesn't mean you can't get something out the second time because certainly you can."

He says the nail polish is tough.

"Very difficult to remove this and get garment back to its original shape. It can be done, but you got to know what you are doing."

As for the spaghetti sauce...

"It's usually a fairly easy stain to get out if you use the right procedure to remove it; you can usually get it out."

Time now to find out if the four places we chose got rid of the stains:

Flamingo Cleaners would not even try.

Colonnade Cleaners got out the spaghetti sauce, but that's about it.

Valley Cleaners managed to get out everything but the nail polish.

Smith Cleaners tackled all the spots and got rid of them.

I reached out to all the companies mentioned. Smith Cleaners was pretty happy with the results. Two places, Valley and Colonnade, did not return my calls and remember the place where the employees didn't try? The owner of Flamingo Cleaners issued this statement:

"I apologize for the way the situation was handled. I have only owned the business for two months and I am still in the process of evaluating our employees and the service they are providing our customers. I am glad it was brought to my attention and will do my best to make sure our customers receive quality cleaning and excellent customer service in the future."

Each place charged $10 to $12 for the service. Burg says if you ever feel like you were taken to the cleaners because you're not happy with the results, don't be afraid to speak up.

"If you're not happy with the clothes when you get them, you should take them back," Burg said. "Sometimes another shot works."

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