Have you ever seen care labels on clothing or other pieces of fabric and wondered what the different laundry symbols mean? In this article, we will explain proper care based on each symbol so that you can tackle laundry day with confidence.
It is essential that you understand what each symbol means so that you can ensure that you are taking good care of your fabrics. If you ignore the various symbols, you will cause yourself a lot of stress and frustration, not to mention lost money as a result of ruining garments due to improper laundering.
The laundry symbols include washing symbols, drying symbols, ironing symbols, bleaching symbols, and dry cleaning symbols. It is essential that you read laundry symbols and follow them closely. This laundry symbols guide is designed to help you do so.
Table of Contents
First, let’s analyze the various washing symbols you may encounter. The washing instruction symbols let you know how you can safely launder the item. Each symbol means something different. Clothes washing symbols let you know the ideal temperature and wash cycle to use, as well as if hand washing is needed.
Machine Wash: Wash basin
This symbol indicates that it is safe to use a washing machine to clean the item. You can machine wash like normal for this item.
Machine Wash Permanent Press: Wash basin with a horizontal line underneath
It is safe to wash the item in the washing machine, but you should use the permanent press setting. Using the permanent press cycle will help minimize wrinkling. It uses warm or hot water to relax the creases and a slow spin. Check your owner’s manual if you are not sure how to use the permanent press cycle on your specific washing machine, but the setting is usually easily available.
Machine Wash Delicate: Wash basin with two horizontal lines underneath it
Use the delicate cycle setting on your washing machine for this item. The delicate cycle will use a short, cold water wash and slow tumbling and spinning. On garments care labels that have this icon you can still use your washing machine to launder the item, just ensure you utilize the correct setting.
Do Not Wash: Wash basin crossed out with an X
If you see a laundry symbol with a washing symbol that is crossed out, that means you should not wash the item in a washing machine. Instead, you will have to have the item dry cleaned. Taking an item to the dry cleaner is a relatively quick process to laundering your fabrics that cannot be washed in a traditional washing machine.
Hand Wash: Wash basin with a hand inside the water
Do not use a washing machine to clean this piece of clothing. It should be hand washed instead. If the clothing label has this icon, you will need to set the item aside and wash it by hand individually. Tossing it in the washing machine will likely ruin the article of clothing.
Hard candy wrapper with an X through it
The do not wring icon looks like a wrapper of a piece of hard candy that is crossed out. If you see this, you should not twist the clothing to squeeze out the water. Instead, you should gently squeeze the water out of the item after it is washed.
Washing temperature symbols
When reviewing care instruction tags, you may also come across wash basin symbols with numbers in them. These indicate the ideal water temperature to use when washing the fabric. Washing certain fabrics with high-temperature water can cause damage. Therefore, it is essential that you follow the instructions printed on the care label concerning how hot the water should be.
It is unlikely that you will see two of the options listed below on the same tag. Instead, you will likely see one or the other. Either the number will be listed in the water basin icon or a dot will be. Either can be used to indicate the same thing – the water temperature needed.
Water Temperature 30 degrees: Water basin with 30 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 30 degrees Celsius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 40 degrees: Water basin with 40 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 40 degrees Celsius or 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 50 degrees: Water basin with 50 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 50 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 60 degrees: Water basin with 60 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 70 degrees: Water basin with 70 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 70 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 95 degrees: Water basin with 95 degrees inside
The water used to wash the item should be 95 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 30 C or 80 F: Wash tub symbol with one dot inside
You may also see a wash tub symbol that has one dot inside of it. This means that you should wash the item in water with a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 40 C or 105 F: Wash tub symbol with two dots inside
If there are two dots inside the wash symbol, that means the water temperature should be 40 degrees Celsius or 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 50 C or 120 F: Wash tub symbol with three dots inside
The three dots indicate an optimal water temperature of 50 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 60 C or 140 F: Wash tub symbol with four dots inside
If there are four dots, the water temperature should be 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 70 C or 160 F: Wash tub symbol with five dots inside
Five dots inside the wash tub symbol means that the water should be 70 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water Temperature 95 C or 200 F: Wash tub symbol with six dots inside
Finally, if you see six dots inside, the water temperature should be 95 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bleaching symbols are triangular and will let you know if an item can safely be bleached and if a specific type of bleach needs to be used. Some items cannot be bleached at all, while others can be if you use non-chlorine bleach. Bleaching instructions are very important to check on. Bleach has lasting effects on fabrics, so it is essential that you use the correct type as called for on the garment care label.
Bleach if needed: Empty triangle
If the triangle is empty on the inside, that means you can bleach it if you need to.
Chlorine bleach if needed: Triangle with CL inside
If the letters CL are located inside the triangle, you should use chlorine bleach if the items need to be washed with bleach.
Non-chlorine bleach if needed: Triangle with two lines inside
If you see a care label symbol that has a triangle with two parallel lines inside it, that means you can clean the item with bleach, but you should use non-chlorine bleach.
Non-chlorine bleach if needed: Triangle with CL inside crossed out
If you see the CL inside the triangle, but the entire icon is crossed out, that means you should use non-chlorine bleach. In other words, do not use chlorine bleach.
Do not bleach: A solid black triangle crossed out
A solid black triangle that is crossed out indicates that the item should not be bleached at all, regardless of the type of bleach.
Do not bleach: Empty triangle crossed out
Similarly, if the triangle is empty but crossed out, you should not use bleach on the item.
The ironing symbols have an iron icon with either dots inside or three lines coming out of the iron symbol. These let you know whether you can iron an item, if it is safe to use steam on them, and the maximum temperature that should be used.
Iron any temperature: Iron symbol
If you see this generic symbol, you can iron the item at any temperature and choose whether you want to use steam too.
Do not iron: Iron symbol crossed out
If the iron symbol is crossed out, the garment cannot be ironed. Failure to abide by this care guideline will likely ruin your fabric.
Steam iron: Iron symbol with three lines at the bottom
If you see this symbol, you should use steam when you are ironing the item.
Do not steam: Iron symbol with three lines at the bottom completely crossed out
This symbol lets you know that it is not safe to iron the item with steam.
Iron between 110C or 230F: Iron symbol with one dot inside
If there is only one dot inside the iron, you can safely iron the item up to a maximum temperature of 110 degrees Celsius or 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Max iron Temperature 150C or 300F: Iron symbol with two dots inside
If you see two dots inside the iron on the ironing symbols tag, you can iron the item up to a maximum temperature of 150 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Max iron Temperature 150C or 300F: Iron symbol with three dots inside
The three dots let you know that the maximum temperature that you can iron at is 200 degrees Celsius or 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dry cleaning symbols
Laundry symbols also include dry cleaning instructions. These laundry care symbols are circles.
Dry clean: Empty circle
The empty circle indicates that the item should be dry cleaned.
Do not dry clean: Circle crossed out
If the empty circle is crossed out, the fabric should not be dry cleaned.
Any solvent: Circle with an A inside
If you see the letter A inside the circle, the item can be cleaned with any solvent.
Any solvent except tetrachlorethylene: Circle with a P inside
The letter P inside the circle lets you know that you can use any solvent except tetrachlorethylene.
Petroleum solvent only: Circle with an F inside
If a tag has a circle with an F inside of it, you should only use a petroleum solvent on the item.
Wet Cleaning: Circle with a W inside
The W inside the circle informs you that you should clean the article utilizing wet cleaning.
Tumble dry cleaning symbols
The drying symbols are squares with different icons inside to indicate how you should use tumble drying after washing the items.
Sate to dry: Blank square
A blank square indicates that it is safe to dry the item.
Tumble dry: Square with a circle inside
If there is a circle inside the square, this is the tumble dry symbol.
Dry normal low heat: Square with a circle inside with one dot in the circle
The one dot in the middle of the symbol means that you can dry the item normally on low heat.
Dry normal medium heat: Square with a circle inside with two dots in the circle
The two dots denote that you should dry the item normally on medium heat.
Dry normal high heat:Square with a circle inside with three dots in the circle
The three dots let you know that you can dry the item normally on high heat.
Do not tumble dry: Square with a circle inside crossed out
If the square icon with a circle inside is crossed out with an x, you should not tumble dry the fabric.
Do not dry: Square crossed out
If you are checking the laundry symbols on your garment’s fabric care label and you see a square that is crossed out, you should not use the dryer to dry the garment.
Drip dry: Square with three vertical lines inside
The three vertical lines inside the square let you know that you should drip dry this item.
Dry in the shade: Square with two diagonal parallel lines in the top left corner
If you see two diagonal lines inside the square on the top left corner, you should dry the item in the shade.
Hang to dry: Square with a half circle at the top
This symbol means that the garment should be hung to dry.
Dry flat: Square with one horizontal line in the center
The horizontal line in the center of the square lets you know to dry this item flat.
Dry normal no heat: Square with a solid black circle inside
Finally, the solid black circle inside the square means that you can dry it normally but no heat should be used.
Now that you understand the symbols you may find on the garment tags or care labels, your laundry process should go smoother without problems arising from improper laundering of clothes or fabrics. Instead of trying to memorize all of these laundry care instructions, you can print a copy of the laundry symbols guide and keep it in your laundry room for quick reference.
Free Download: Laundry Symbols Guide and Meanings
Make sure to download our free laundry symbols guide using the form below. Print out this free pdf printable and pop it by your laundry machine so you know how to take care of your garments properly.