Women are paying up to three-and-a-half times more to have their shirts laundered at the dry cleaners compared to their male counterparts, a Steele on Your Side investigation has uncovered.

Lynda Steele took two virtually identical button-down white shirts into three downtown dry-cleaners to see if they charge different prices based on whether it's a men's or women's shirt.

At Sperles Cleaners the price quoted for the men's shirt was $2.35, while it would cost $5.25 – more than double the price – to clean the women's shirt.

At Vanity Cleaners staff said it would cost $2.35 for the men's shirt and $8.49 for the women's – three-and-a-half times more.

Polo Cleaners also wanted to charge 25 per cent more.

Nav Bains, the head of the BC Fabricare Association of Professional Cleaners, says the price difference is justified because pressing machines are specifically made with a man's shirt in mind.

"Men's shirts are extremely uniform. They're like a square box. The pressing machines are designed for that style of shirt," he said.

The pressing machine takes 60 seconds to press a man's shirt, but Bains said you can't put a woman's shirt on the machine at all.

"It won't press the shirt to a good satisfactory condition," he said. "The machine doesn't take into consideration of all the slim fitted, the darts that are present on women's blouses. There's a lot more style differences in women's blouses than in men's."

Bains says the woman's shirt needs to be hand-pressed, a process that takes five times as long.

Realtor Diane Birk says she isn't buying the reasoning and thinks women are facing major gender-based price discrimination at the cleaners.

"I hardly ever buy clothes that need dry-cleaning, because we get ripped off," she said.

"I feel that women are not treated fairly at the dry-cleaner. I feel there should be more transparency. I'm willing to pay for a good job but I want to know what the price is up front."

Some municipalities in the U.S. have laws prohibiting dry-cleaners from charging different rates based on gender.

Interestingly, many modern slim-fit men's dress shirts don't fit on the traditional pressing machine either. That means men have to pay higher prices now too.

It's estimated that Canadian women pay 30 to 50 per cent more for many goods and services, from cars to items at the cosmetics counter.

Watch CTV News for a full report from Lynda Steele about price gouging at the dry-cleaners. And watch CTV News Thursday for the second part of our series on gender-based price gouging.

Have your say: What do you think of different dry-clean pricing for men and women?