Dry Cleaning Symbols: A Guide to Caring for Your Clothes

Written by: Hardik Jethva

Last Updated: June 7, 2023

dry cleaning symbols
Different dry cleaning symbols.

When it comes to taking care of our clothes, many of us rely on the convenience of dry cleaning. However, the process can be confusing due to the myriad of symbols found on clothing labels. Have you ever wondered what those mysterious shapes and icons actually mean? Fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we will demystify the world of dry cleaning symbols, empowering you to make informed decisions about how to care for your garments and keep them looking their best.

1Understanding the Basics

Before diving into the specific symbols, it’s important to understand the fundamental concepts behind dry cleaning. Dry cleaning is a professional cleaning method that uses non-water-based solvents to remove dirt, stains, and odors from clothing. This process is particularly useful for delicate fabrics that may be damaged or distorted by traditional washing methods.

2Cracking the Code: Common Dry Cleaning Symbols

The Circle

The circle symbol is one of the most frequently encountered dry cleaning symbols. It represents the use of professional cleaning methods. The letters or symbols within the circle provide further instructions for dry cleaning.

Forbidden dry cleaning clothes symbol.

3Letters and Symbols Within the Circle

letters and symbols
Set of laundry services symbols.


The letter “P” inside the circle stands for perchloroethylene, a commonly used solvent in dry cleaning. This symbol indicates that the garment should be cleaned by a professional dry cleaner.


The letter “F” inside the circle represents the use of petroleum-based solvents in dry cleaning. Similar to “P,” this symbol signifies that professional dry cleaning is recommended.


The letter “W” inside the circle indicates that the garment can be washed with water. However, it is essential to pay attention to other symbols or instructions on the label to determine any specific requirements, such as temperature or hand-washing instructions.


The letter “A” inside the circle signifies that the garment can be cleaned using solvents other than perchloroethylene or petroleum-based solvents. This symbol is commonly seen on labels of delicate fabrics like silk or wool.


The letter “X” inside the circle denotes that the garment should not be dry cleaned and must be handled with care. This symbol indicates that the fabric is extremely delicate and requires special attention, such as spot cleaning or professional wet cleaning.

4Additional Dry Cleaning Symbols

In addition to the circle symbols, there are several other symbols you may encounter on clothing labels that provide further instructions for dry cleaning. Let’s explore some of the most common ones:

Lines Underneath the Circle

If you notice lines underneath the circle symbol, it signifies a more gentle or reduced cleaning process. One line suggests a mild process, two lines indicate an even milder process, and three lines imply an extremely gentle cleaning procedure.


The triangle symbolizes the use of bleach. If the triangle is empty, it means the garment can be bleached. On the other hand, if the triangle contains diagonal lines, it suggests that only non-chlorine bleach should be used.


The square symbolizes drying instructions. A square with a circle inside indicates that the garment can be machine dried, while a square with a horizontal line through it means the garment should be dried flat.


The iron symbol provides guidelines for ironing the garment. If the iron symbol has one dot, it suggests low heat, two dots indicate medium heat, and three dots represent high heat.

5Decoding Care Labels

decoding care labels
Guide to laundry service symbols.

Understanding the dry cleaning symbols is one thing, but comprehending the accompanying care labels is equally important. These labels provide specific instructions and recommendations for caring for your garments. Let’s explore some common care labels:

"Dry Clean Only"

The “Dry Clean Only” label is straightforward and indicates that the garment must be taken to a professional dry cleaner. Ignoring this label can lead to irreversible damage to the fabric.

"Dry Clean"

The “Dry Clean” label suggests that the garment can be dry cleaned, but it can also be washed with water. However, exercise caution and follow any additional instructions provided on the care label.

"Hand Wash"

The “Hand Wash” label signifies that the garment should be washed by hand, using mild detergent and cold water. Gently agitate the fabric, rinse thoroughly, and lay it flat to dry.

"Machine Wash"

The “Machine Wash” label indicates that the garment can be safely washed in a washing machine. However, check the temperature settings and any specific instructions mentioned to ensure proper care.

6Tips for Dry Cleaning at Home

dry cleaning at home
Laundry room with washing machine with washed clothes on drying rack.

While it is generally recommended to seek professional dry cleaning services for delicate or complicated garments, there are certain items that can be successfully dry cleaned at home. Consider the following tips if you decide to give it a try:

Spot Test

Before proceeding with dry cleaning at home, always perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area of the garment to ensure it doesn’t adversely react to the cleaning solution.

Use a Home Dry Cleaning Kit

Home dry cleaning kits are readily available and often contain cleaning sheets or wipes that can be used in a clothes dryer. These kits are suitable for refreshing lightly soiled garments between professional cleanings.

Follow Instructions

Carefully read and follow the instructions provided with the home dry cleaning kit to ensure optimal results.


Understanding dry cleaning symbols and care labels is essential for properly maintaining your garments and extending their lifespan. By decoding these symbols, you can confidently make decisions about the cleaning and care of your clothes. Remember, when in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional dry cleaning services to ensure your garments receive the best care possible.

With this newfound knowledge, you can navigate the world of dry cleaning with ease, keeping your clothes looking fresh and fabulous for years to come. Also, check out our blog on how to remove rust stains from clothes easily.

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About This Article

Hardik Jethva
Written by: Hardik Jethva author

Hardik Jethva is an experienced author of the BestCheck family. Working from scratch, he has developed an amazing interest in testing and writing about different products in a transparent manner. His writing skills got more audience for BestCheck. Apart from his professional life, Hardik has his eyes on travelling, meditation, eating healthy food, socializing with people, and car rides.

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Updated: June 7, 2023
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