The Ultimate Guide to Dry Cleaning Symbols

The Ultimate Guide to Dry Cleaning Symbols | Burke Cleaners

We all want to preserve our clothes, maintaining their quality and durability and looking their best for as long as possible. Laundry labels (wash care labels) are a vital part of this. Unfortunately, laundry labels and their corresponding symbols are extensive, and they cover all types of cleaning, from washing, drying, ironing, dry cleaning, bleach methods, and professional instructions. It can be overwhelming, but the experts at Burke Cleaners are here to help! 

Read on for our deep dive into dry cleaning symbols and what they mean for your clothes.

Why You Should Know Dry Cleaning Symbols 

You may or may not know this, but clothes require great care when being cleaned if you want them to remain in good condition for many years. Fortunately, almost every piece of clothing comes with a tag that is simply the Rosetta Stone of laundry care. You’ve probably seen printed symbols on your clothing tags and have no idea what they mean; they are, in fact, precise directions on how to wash your clothes properly. 

If you don’t pay attention to these symbols, you’ll likely wash your clothes incorrectly, leading to all types of damage, such as color loss, shrinkage, thread tears, and more. Broadly speaking, triangle symbols refer to bleaching directions, circles to dry cleaning, and squares to non-machine drying. 

You can wash many clothing fibers using water, although some synthetic fibers (viscose, lyocell, modal, cupro, and others) react poorly and should thus be dry cleaned. Dry cleaning symbols typically guide professionals who provide dry cleaning services. Here's an explanation of the various symbols you may find on your garments and their meanings. 

Dry Cleaning Symbols


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Our first symbol is a standard circle, indicating that you should dry clean this piece of clothing and not use your normal washing machine. If the circle is alone without any variant, it’s safe to say that it can be dry cleaned without any of the particulars that follow below. 

Now that you know a circle indicates the necessity of dry cleaning, you can probably guess that a circle with a big ‘X’ across it means you should NOT dry clean this particular piece of clothing. Dry cleaning clothes that should not be dry cleaned can lead to the breakdown of the fibers, often because of the chemicals or solvents used in the cleaning process.


A circle with the letter 'A' inside indicates that you may use any solvent during dry cleaning. Dry cleaning, you may be surprised to learn, still involves liquid. However, instead of using water like in normal washing machines, dry cleaning will include some form of a water-free liquid solvent. 

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A circle with the letter ‘P’ within its boundaries indicates that a piece of clothing should be dry cleaned using solvents but should not use tetrachlorethylene. Tetrachlorethylene is also named perchloroethylene (known in the industry as “perc”), which is the reason why it somewhat confusingly has the letter P. Tetrachlorethylene (used since the 1930s) is the most common solvent used in dry cleaning, but in some cases, it should not be used, which is why this symbol is important. 

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If there's a circle with an 'F' inside it on a garment, it means you must use a petroleum solvent for dry cleaning. Furthermore, an ‘F’ indicates that this article of clothing can not be machine dry cleaned as it is likely a fine or delicate fabric that will probably be damaged if done through standard dry cleaning methods. 

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The following four symbols are tricky because they’re similar yet mean entirely different things. A circle with a diagonal line to the lower left indicates a short cycle. A short cycle refers to clothing needing a shorter period soaked in a solvent. 

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A circle with a diagonal line to the top left indicates clothing optimally cleaned using less overall moisture than the standard dry cleaning process. 

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A circle with a diagonal line to the bottom right indicates clothing that should be dry cleaned using reduced heat during its cleaning cycles. Too much heat can damage certain fibers. 

A typical final step in the dry cleaning process is steam finishing. However, a circle with a diagonal line to the top right indicates no steam finishing is necessary.

Northern Colorado Cleaning Experts

We understand you want to look your best, which extends to your clothes' quality and durability. There’s much to know about cleaning clothes in optimal conditions - it takes experience, skill, and knowledge - which is no less accurate with dry cleaning. 
Keep peace of mind and know your clothes will be cleaned and cared for to the highest professional standards. Contact the experts at Burke Cleaners with any questions, or visit one of our six convenient locations across Northern Colorado today to get the help you need!

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