Last Updated on March 3, 2022
Have you ever asked yourself, “what do laundry symbols mean?”
Every time you prepare a fresh load of laundry, you might check the tag on your clothing and see a huge selection of washing symbols, dry cleaning symbols, bleaching symbols, and more. All of these little lines, circles, and shapes have a specific purpose, but most of us haven’t had laundry symbols explained to us properly before.
There are symbols on clothing items and washing labels to tell you everything you need to know about whether you can use tumble dryers at a high temperature, whether you need a professional to get a permanent press in your clothes, or whether you can use a high temperature in the washing machine.
Here’s your guide to laundry symbols and how you can begin to translate them the next time you have a fresh load of laundry to do.
Dry Cleaning Symbols
Before you start looking at other wash symbols and washing instructions, such as how to clean a washing machine and how to disconnect it, you’ll need to know whether you can wash this item of clothing yourself on laundry day. Delicate items may need a professional touch.
Dry cleaning symbols are common on a lot of garments. They indicate that you shouldn’t hand wash or machine wash the product but have a dry cleaner do the work for you. The chances are you’ll need to pass the item over to a professional if the care symbol has a circle on it. If there’s a letter inside the circle, this indicates the dry cleaner’s chemical when cleaning the item.
Sometimes, it will have a horizontal line or multiple lines underneath the symbol, meaning that the dry cleaning professional needs to take extra care. If there’s a cross or set of diagonal lines over the circle, it means you shouldn’t dry clean the item.
Knowing how to use your iron is an important part of looking after your clothing. The iron symbol often appears on a lot of clothing. If there’s a single iron symbol by itself on the item, this means that you can iron the product at any temperature.
The dots in the iron symbol indicate the temperature of heat, which you can apply to the item. The number of dots indicates the amount of caution you need to use. One dot is for delicate clothing, like silks and wool, while two dots is for synthetics, and three dots means you can use more heat for linen and cotton. If there’s a cross over the iron symbol, you shouldn’t iron it at all.
If you see three vertical lines or diagonal lines under the iron symbol on the clothing label, this means you can steam it. If there’s iron with the lines underneath crossed out, this means you should not steam it.
Drying or Tumble Dry Symbols
Drying or tumble dry symbols are often situated alongside other symbols for things like which synthetic cycle to use with your washing machine. They can tell you whether your item should hang to dry or not.
Tumble drying symbols often include a picture of a circle inside of a square. The standard tumble dry symbol means that you’re safe to place the item in the tumble dryer. If the tumble dryer symbol has one dot in it, this means you should use low heat to dry it. If you see two dots, you can use a medium temperature to get your items tumble dried. Three dots means you can use the maximum temperature in your tumble dryer.
If your garment’s fabric care label has a cross over the dry tumble symbol, this means that the item should not be tumble dried at all, even at a low temperature. If you cannot use a tumble dryer, you can hang the item out to drip dry instead.
Hand Washing Symbols
Some clothing requires you to hand wash it. If your item isn’t machine washable, this could be because it can’t handle high heat.
Handwashing symbols include an image of a hand in a basin of water. You can also see a handwashing symbol that looks like a twisted piece of material. This indicates that you shouldn’t wring the item out after you hand wash it.
If the symbols on your clothes include a hand wash symbol, it signifies that the item should be washed by hand. In some cases, you can also place the garment in some washing machines on a delicate wash. The care label might have more information to guide you.
If you see the twisted fabric image on the garment care label, this means you can wring the product out after you’re done hand washing it. If the cross is through the twisted garment on the care label, you should not wring it but lay the garment flat or hang it on a line to drip dry instead.
Synthetic Washing Symbols
Alongside bleaching symbols, tumble drying symbols, and ironing symbols, synthetic washing symbols are the most common. This symbol looks like a basin filled with water. By itself, the symbol means you can wash your item in the washing machine at any temperature. The synthetic washing symbols on garment labels can include dots inside the tub, one drooping line, multiple lines, and even indicators of whether to use a high heat wash.
If there’s a dot in the tub, the dot means you should be using a gentle cleaning strategy for the item, so stay away from the maximum temperature. You can check the additional information on the label for more guidance on what the dot means. A number on the tub symbol means you shouldn’t wash the item at a temperature higher than that number.
The two crossed diagonal lines on your clothing labels over the tub mean you shouldn’t use the washing machine at all. If the tub has one line underneath it, this means that you should reduce the spin speed. If the tub has two lines beneath it on the care labels, this means you should use a mild wash but can spin as normal.
If you have to dry clean your item, or there are some bars underneath the washing symbols ironing and other images on your garment, this is probably a sign you can’t bleach it.
Sometimes, to look after your garments, you’ll also need to check the care labels for guidance on how to use any bleach. Bleaching symbols look like a triangle on the care label. One of the most common symbols next to the one for your washing machine is the empty triangle. This means you are allowed to use bleach on the clothing.
The cross over the triangle means the item requires gentle cleaning with no bleach. Follow the clothes label instruction here, or you could risk damaging your item. If you see two lines diagonally through the triangle, this means you need to use non-chlorine bleach.
Learning Washing Symbols
Knowing how to use a washing machine properly includes being familiar with the washing symbols of your clothes. Washing symbols can be complicated, but once you know what a bucket filled with water means and how to determine whether an item is dry clean only or low-heat necessary, you’ll be on the right track.
With the tips above, you should tell what one horizontal line means, what diagonal lines mean, whether an item needs a low heat wash and whether you need to use non-chlorine bleach or get your item dry cleaned.