Dealing with Missing Buttons: What to Do When Your Shirts Come Back Without Buttons

buttonsDress shirts sent for professional cleaning are typically water-washed with soap, starched, and then pressed on a 3-part (collar/cuffs, sleeves and body) shirt steam/pressing machine. Shirt buttons can break while cleaning, when pressing, or just when trying to button your dress shirt.  While not a catastrophic event, it can be bothersome if you happen to be on a business trip and your important meeting is in an hour.

So, what to do? Here are a few things you can try both before and after your button’s gone missing at the cleaners.

  • There’s a possibility the button was missing before you dropped your shirts and blouses off at the dry cleaner. Take a quick look at your garments before leaving them at the cleaners and point this out to the attendant when dropping the off.  If you can’t remember to do this, place a safety pin where the button belongs and that should get the dry cleaner’s attention.
  • Top-notch dry cleaning services (including Marky’s Cleaners here in the Denton, Texas area) will make the time to check for missing buttons before and after the dry cleaning process is completed, so only take your clothing to a reputable location. Though even the best service will occasionally miss one, you should use someone who makes the effort and replaces the missing buttons before returning the garment to you.
  • You can request that your cotton and cotton-blend shirts and blouses be dry cleaned rather than laundered. This leaves a softer feel on your shirts and blouses and is especially appropriate for delicate items. Shirt creases are not as sharp.  Expect to pay more for this option, as it requires more labor.
  • It’s possible the buttons come off because the thread is loose. Try sewing your buttons back on with professional grade thread or even dental floss, which is incredibly strong.  But make sure the thread color used is the same as for the rest of the buttons.As for that button you need replaced for the meeting? Check the inside of the garment to make sure there isn’t a spare, usually on a side seam near the bottom of the shirt. Use your travel sewing kit or ask for one at the front desk. Those little kits usually include one or two buttons that will do in a pinch, and most people will not notice your buttons don’t match. You can also try taking a button from the part of the shirt that gets tucked in and move it to the visible location.A good dry cleaning service will often replace your shirt buttons free of charge as part of their services. Some dry cleaners will even give you a discount on future dry cleaning services if you have to return for button replacement. Don’t be afraid to ask – reputable dry cleaners want to earn your trust and keep your business.

Why Do Shirts Lose Their Buttons At The Shirt Laundry?

Does someone at the dry cleaners go around smashing buttons on all the shirts they clean…or is there another reason shirts come home without buttons?

It’s not exactly a question for the ages, but it’s certainly one that puzzles many Dry Cleaning regulars.  Like many of life’s great mysteries, this particular mystery has several answers.

 Why do shirts lose buttons?

First of all, buttons fall off clothing all the time, not just at the shirt laundry. For example, I find that whenever I buy a dress shirt from a certain retailer, I lose buttons the first or second time I wear the shirt and mumble under my breath that I’ll never shop there again as I sew the button back on. These manufacturers simply don’t sew buttons on very well. I also lose buttons over time as the thread wears down or I catch my shirt on something.

But it is true that the shirt laundry does cause buttons to break, crack or come off. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, shirt presses press the entire placket of the shirt at once, including the buttons. The presses have pads to soften and protect the buttons, but button loss can still occur. Also, if a dry cleaner doesn’t change these pads regularly, they become hard and are more likely to break or damage buttons. The pressing step of the shirt laundry could also exacerbate already damaged thread, being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The standard machine used to press the collars and cuffs of dress shirts:

  • The peachy pads act as shock absorbers and help protect buttons as long as the pads are changed often.
  • The top metal part comes straight down on a hinge and applies heat to the cuffs and collars giving them a sharp, crisp finish.
  • Occasionally buttons are already cracked or weakened from age or from the cleaning process and the button comes off.  A reputable Dry Cleaners will check for missing buttons and replace them.

Substandard thread in the manufacturing process is also a factor in the missing buttons epidemic.  Here at Comet Cleaners of Denton, we check each shirt individually and replace each missing button for free.  This isn’t just for dress shirts either, but we also hand inspect every pair of pants, every ladies blouse, etc…

Reputable dry cleaners will replace for free any buttons broken, cracked or lost during the shirt laundry process. We know lost buttons happen and we do what we can to prevent this loss. But as in life, a little rain will fall and you will lose buttons off your dress shirts at the shirt laundry.

Now to tackle another of life’s great mysteries — how to pick the winning lottery number.