Fabric Guide: To Dry Clean or Not to Dry Clean

Clothing care labels

Fabric Guide: To Dry Clean or Not to Dry Clean

You recently purchased an amazing shirt that fits perfectly and looks great. When it comes time to wash it, you hesitate and wonder does this need to be dry cleaned?

While clothing instructions often indicate that dry cleaning is needed, many people think they can get away with a gentle wash and air drying their clothing item.

Today, McMahan Cleaners in Denver shares a super quick fabric guide on what garments need dry cleaning. Hopefully, this will help you understand when and why dry-cleaning is truly a necessity.


Linen does not do well in a washing machine. This fabric is composed of flax fibers. You can hand wash linen in cold water, but it will need ironing, sometimes a great deal of ironing. If washed incorrectly, linen can shrink and can lose its crisp, fresh feeling.

Fabric Guide Verdict: Dry cleaning is often best to keep your linen looking like you just bought it.


Rayon is considered a semi-synthetic fabric made from cellulose fiber and can be a very tricky fabric to wash. Rayon can shrink and bleed when washed in warm water. It also has difficulties maintaining its shape. You can hand wash it with mild detergent in cold water but even this can cause issues depending on the rayon.

Fabric Guide Verdict: It is best dry clean rayon garments to avoid unexpected issues.


Silk is known to be a luxurious fabric. Dry cleaning this fabric is a good way to help the fabric maintain its silky, soft feeling. It can also avoid problems with color bleeding which tends to be an issue. Much like rayon, silk can be hand washed in cold water with a mild detergent. Unfortunately, you may not be satisfied with the result. Silk should also not be dried in a dryer.

Fabric Guide Verdict: Step away from the washing machine and visit McMahan Cleaners.


Wool should be dry cleaned whenever possible. It will shrink in warm or hot water. You can hand wash it, but wool has a tendency to lose some softness, even its shape, when washed with water. If you hand wash wool, it will need to be air-dried. Even then, it may feel stiff and lose its coziness.

Fabric Guide Verdict: Unless you want a sweater for ants, always dry clean wool.


Generally, cotton is not one of the fabrics that need dry cleaning. You can machine wash cotton in warm or cold water with similar colors. Most cotton these days is pre-shrunk, so you can use the dryer for your favorite cotton t-shirt. However, if you have a cotton button-down that you want cleaned, pressed and looking brand new, dry cleaning is the right call.

Fabric Guide Verdict: Casual togs get a pass, but office wear should be dry cleaned.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics include polyester, spandex, acrylic, nylon, and acetate. These fabrics also won’t shrink, so washing them in your wash machine will generally work well. Be sure to take them out promptly when drying them in the dryer. Some of these fabrics can have issues with permanent wrinkles if dried on a high heat setting. Set your dryer to gentle or low for the best results. 

Fabric Guide Verdict: These items can be machine washed but check the care label for details!

Now that you know more about fabrics that absolutely need to be dry cleaned, come see us here at McMahan Cleaners in Denver for your dry cleaning needs. We know proper fabric care and will make sure we return items to you looking brand new.

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