Meaning of laundry symbols on clothing

How to Read Laundry Symbols

Laundry symbols seem like another language, but the washing instruction symbols on your garments’ care labels tell you exactly how to do the washing and drying, as well as give extra information on bleaching and ironing. Read on for our quick guide to what the symbols mean, or download and print your own laundry symbols chart to refer to when you see a symbol you don’t recognize.

Washing Symbols

Getting the temperature and wash cycle right is important for seeing great laundry results, and can even prevent damage to your clothes. The clothes washing symbols below can give you an idea for temperature, indicated by the number of dots in the tub of water symbol, whereas different cycle types are represented by a tub with one or two lines drawn under it.

Washing cycle symbols

Washing temperature symbols

Washing machine symbols

Important: Don't forget to look out for dry clean signs, given by a circle, or hand wash symbols, indicated by a tub of water with a hand sign, so you'll know when to avoid putting garments in the washing machine.

Drying Symbols

Drying is an important part of the clothing care process, but we’ve all heard those scary stories of cashmere sweaters that come out of the wash three sizes too small.

Knowing your dryer symbols, like the square with a circle in the middle that indicates tumble drying allowed, can help you avoid putting the wrong garment in the tumble dryer. Other symbols can give you additional information, such as a square with a horizontal line in the middle means you should dry the item flat, or the crossed-out twisted symbol, which tells you not to wring the garment. The temperature is given by the increasing number of dots inside a circle.

General drying symbols

Drying temperature symbols

Tumble dry laundry symbols

Bleaching symbols

If you want to use bleach, you’ll want to take a look at your garment’s fabric care label to see if there is a bleach symbol, given by a triangle ormore importantly a do not bleach symbol, a triangle crossed out. Recognizing these signs can save your garment from getting permanently damaged by chlorine bleach.

Bleaching symbols

Ironing Symbols

Some fabrics look great after ironing but others, like more delicate materials, can be damaged. There are even some fabrics that simply need special care when ironing.

For example, if you want to iron your new dress shirt and you want to know if it can be ironed safely, lookout for the iron symbol on your garment, represented by a little iron symbol with dots in the middle that denote the temperature setting, like those shown below.

Ironing symbols

Download Your Laundry Symbols Guide

Don’t let laundry symbols confuse you. Get this printable laundry symbols guide and keep it to hand the next time you do the laundry. Once you download this laundry symbols pdf you’ll be a pro when it comes to doing your laundry. Download now

Laundry symbols are there to guide you, so your clothes get the care they deserve. Make sure you use the right laundry detergent for the wash cycle you pick, like Tide Plus Coldwater Clean for cold washes, or use a detergent like Tide PODS® that’s suitable for any temperature. Get the best out of your laundry, with a little help from Tide, and if you need more detailed information, visit our comprehensive guide on how to do laundry.

Your Guide to Laundry Symbols (Plus a Handy Washing Symbols Chart!)

You know those hieroglyphic-like laundry symbols on clothing labels? They relay important cleaning information. Here's what they mean and how to use them.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it’s more confusing than text. That goes double when it’s one of the many laundry symbols found on the care label of your clothes. What are all those circles, squares, and triangles—and why should you care about them?

Clothing manufacturers use washing symbols to help you extend the life of your clothes. Sure, you may think you know how to wash clothes, how to use a washing machine, how to separate laundry, and how to put liquid fabric softener in the fabric softener dispenser. You might even use the best laundry detergent and take the time to set the washing machine temperature just right. But that doesn’t guarantee your clothing will stay in the same condition, color, or size.

“You risk destroying your clothes by not following the laundry care instructions,” says Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean. “What might happen if you put a dry-clean-only garment in a washing machine? The garment could shrink—not just a little, but significantly. Garments made of wool can shrink two to three sizes or more, and drapes can shrink to half their size.” Instead of making it a guessing game—no, that’s not an envelope, suggesting you send the item to your mom to clean; it’s the sign for “hang to dry”—we asked the experts to decipher the most common washing instruction symbols. Here’s your comprehensive laundry symbols guide, complete with laundry symbols charts., Getty Images

What are international laundry care symbols?

Because people do laundry all around the world, the industry has created a standard of five basic symbols that form a kind of universal language. To make it even easier, laundry symbols are always featured in the same order on a label. From left to right, they are:

“As you go through the five basic international symbols, you’ll start to see a pattern,” said Annette Grant and Sarah Karakaian, full-time short-term rental managers and hosts of the “Thanks for Visiting” podcast. “It’s like its own language where, for example, two lines under an icon or three dots inside an icon always mean the same thing. Once you learn these, you’ll be fluent in care tags in no time.”

According to fashion stylist Leena Alsulaiman, one of the most important symbols to pay attention to is a large X. “When a symbol is crossed out,” she warns, “that’s your sign not to do that thing.”

Laundry symbols for how to machine wash clothes

The washtub symbol indicates instructions for every step of the washing process, whether you’re using a traditional or HE washer. If the garment is machine washable, you’ll see either dots or numbers inside it, representing the recommended maximum water temperature.

Lines under the washtub signify that the garment needs to be washed on a special cycle.

“Just remember, the more lines under the washtub, the more careful you should be,” says Alsulaiman. And finally, if your washtub has an X through it, back away from the washing machine. This means “do not wash.”, Getty Images

Laundry symbols for how to hand-wash clothes

If you see a hand reaching into the washtub, that means your garment should be hand-washed only. Do not put it in the washing machine. There’s another washing symbol that indicates how to hand-wash clothes: If you see an icon that looks like a wrapped, hard candy with an X through it, don’t wring or twist the garment. Gently squeeze the water out after hand-washing it., Getty Images

Laundry symbols for how to bleach clothes

The triangle tells you everything you need to know about bleaching an item. Here’s how to decipher the symbols:


com, Getty Images

Laundry symbols for how to dry clothes

Everything you need to know about how to dry an item can be found in the square on the care label. Be sure to check this before tossing your clothing in the wash to avoid shrinkage—unless, of course, you’re trying to shrink clothes. First, look for a circle in the square, which tells you it’s okay to dry the item in the dryer. If your square has both a circle in its center and an X through it, do not put the item in the dryer.

Just like with the washtub, the number of dots signifies the maximum temperature to be used:

You may also notice lines beneath the square. As with the washtub icon, these indicate the proper dryer settings to use.

All of that explains how to machine dry an item (and if you should). But if your square doesn’t have a circle at all, it should air-dry. Here’s how to interpret the various air-dry laundry symbols:, Getty Images

Laundry symbols for how to iron clothes

With the abundance of wrinkle-free garments options, you might not spend much time wondering how to get wrinkles out of clothes. But there comes a time when your clothes really need to be ironed. The iron is the most self-explanatory of all the clothes-washing symbols. Once again, the number of dots signifies the maximum temperature that can be used.

And, of course, an X means don’t iron it at all. When it comes to wrinkles, the steamer vs. iron debate comes down to fabric—and therefore the laundry symbols you see on your clothing tag. The following symbols relate to whether or not you should use steam on a garment. (P.S.—here’s how to clean an iron so your clothes don’t get damaged.), Getty Images

Laundry symbols for dry cleaning clothes

You can try your hand at dry cleaning at home, but chances are you’ll want to leave it to the pros, so pay attention to the clothing label. The symbol for dry cleaning is a circle, and if it doesn’t have an X through it, it means you can take it to the dry cleaner. If the label specifies “dry clean only,” you should definitely take it to the dry cleaner. An item with this label is one of the things that should never end up in your washing machine.

Sometimes there are letters inside the circle, but don’t worry about those. They indicate the kinds of chemicals that can be used on a garment and are meant for professionals. Your dry cleaner will understand., Getty Images


Explanation of icons on clothes labels

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Do you wonder what the icons on clothes mean when you load your washing machine and select a wash cycle? Have you ever regretted a damaged item due to the wrong water temperature, or thought about how to cover a burnt hole in your clothes because the iron was too hot? If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, then you will surely need our guide on what are the symbols for washing, ironing and drying clothes and at what temperature you should wash, iron and dry your favorite things.

What if there are no wash symbols?

First, let's figure out where to find the icons on clothes for washing. Usually they are all located on a label on the inside of things. If you accidentally cut off the label or the manufacturer did not take care to place the washing symbols on the inside, you can be guided by the color and type of fabric from which a particular item is made.

For example, things made of cotton or linen can be washed and ironed at a fairly high temperature. Clothes made of silk wool or cashmere , washed either by hand or on the most delicate setting in the washing machine with a choice of the most gentle detergents. Colored items should be sorted from whites and washed with similar colors to avoid staining in an unexpectedly different shade.

Below are the main washing symbols and their explanation. Save this handy table for yourself and use it when necessary.

Meaning of washing and dry cleaning symbols

Washing allowed.

Do not wash.

Gentle wash with precise water temperature without strong mechanical action and slow spin.

Delicate cycle with plenty of water and minimal mechanical impact. You need to rinse the thing on the fastest setting.

Gentle washing with precise water temperature up to 30 degrees and without strong mechanical impact. Gradual transition of rinsing from warm temperature to cold. If the thing is wrung out in the machine, select the lowest drum rotation mode.

Delicate cycle with plenty of water and minimal mechanical impact. You need to rinse the thing on the fastest setting.

Hand wash only, no wringing or wiping stains at a maximum temperature of 40 degrees. Cannot be washed in a washing machine.

Washable and boilable up to 95 degrees.

Washing at a maximum temperature of 50 degrees (colours).

Washing at a maximum temperature of 60 degrees (colours).

Washable in warm water up to 30 degrees.

Spinning and twisting prohibited.

Dry cleaning approved.

Dry cleaning approved by any means.

Dry cleaning not permitted.

Item to be bleached.

Item must not be bleached.

We figured out how to read the icons on clothes for washing and drying, and now let's move on to what are the symbols for ironing things, and at what temperature should or should not iron things. We always recommend choosing only the highest quality irons for ironing your clothes, which have many modes for temperature control or automatically adjust the temperature of ironing and steaming, such as steam generators PerfectCare Elite Plus from Philips with intelligent automatic steam generation without the risk of burning the fabric and without the need to regulate the temperature. So you will avoid frustration about the incorrectly chosen temperature regime and inadvertently damaged things.

What the icons on the clothes mean: ironing

High temperature drying is allowed.

Drying allowed at medium temperature.

Drying allowed at low temperature.

Can be dried in a vertical position without spinning.

Can be dried on a flat, horizontal surface.

Drying permitted.

Do not dry.

Do not tumble dry or tumble dry.

May be tumble dried and tumble dried.

Air drying on a line is allowed.

Air drying only allowed in the shade.

We figured out how to read the icons on clothes for washing and drying, and now let's move on to what are the symbols for ironing things, and at what temperature should or should not iron things. We always recommend choosing only the highest quality irons for the process of ironing your clothes, in which there are many modes for temperature control or the temperature of ironing and steaming is automatically adjusted, such as in steam generators PerfectCare Elite Plus by Philips with intelligent automatic steam without the risk of burning the fabric and without the need to regulate the temperature. So you will avoid frustration about the incorrectly chosen temperature regime and inadvertently damaged things.

What the icons on clothes mean: ironing

Ironing is allowed.

Ironing up to 200 degrees (high temperature): linen and cotton.

Ironing up to 140 degrees (medium temperature).

Ironing up to 130 degrees (medium-low temperature): silk, wool, polyester, viscose.

It is allowed to iron only with a slightly heated iron at a temperature of up to 120 degrees (low temperature): nylon, polyamide, polyacryl, acetate, viscose.

Do not steam.

Do not iron.

Proper care of your wardrobe is a guarantee of excellent appearance and presentability of clothes. And frustration about things damaged by improper washing, drying or ironing can be avoided if you know how to read the washing symbols. We hope that you will find our interpretation of the symbols for washing, drying and ironing useful, and simple tips will help you figure out what the icons on clothes mean and choose the best mode for washing, drying and ironing them. If you want to know how to properly care for certain wardrobe items, such as your favorite jeans, we have discussed this topic in detail in our separate article.

Tips and inspiration

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Symbols on the label - explanation of the symbols on the clothes label

How to properly care for clothes, bed linen and other fabrics, what do the symbols for washing, drying, cleaning clothes mean? Bonus: how ordinary people perceive these symbols.

In order for a thing to last as long as possible, you need to properly care for it. How exactly, the clothes care symbols placed on a special label (ribbon) on almost any item will best tell you. They can be woven, embroidered or printed. These signs are duplicated on a paper label. Everything is important: washing temperature, type of washing, drying method and other indicators. When buying new clothes, study them and try to follow these micro-instructions.

Clothing care symbols are regulated by the international standard GOST ISO 3758-2014 (this is an adaptation of the international ISO 3758:2012).

Can you tell right off the bat what a circle means and what a triangle means?

A survey conducted among subscribers of Roskachestvo social networks showed that only the icons associated with the temperature regime of washing and ironing do not cause difficulties. None of the respondents could identify some other signs.

“Square”, “bricked pig”, “cyclops” - this is how our respondents defined some symbols of drying.

In the tables below, we provide not only a complete decoding of the meanings of symbols, but also how ordinary people perceive these designations! We have selected the most interesting answers from those presented. If you have your own version, you can write it in the comments to this material.

What do the symbols on clothing labels mean?

There are only five basic, basic characters.

In addition to the basic five, additional symbols are used: one or two lines, dots (numbers) and the cross of St. Andrew.

Symbols on laundry labels

The symbols on laundry labels are the easiest to understand. The number on the "Water basin" symbol indicates the maximum allowable water temperature for washing. As a rule, the number varies from 30°C to 95°C.

Drying and spinning

The square image indicates the drying process. The symbols will tell you whether the clothes can be wrung out and dried directly in the washing machine, or only normal drying is possible.

If there is no circle in the square, this indicates that clothes should be dried in natural conditions, not in a typewriter.

The image of a circle inscribed in a square indicates tumble drying after the washing process, the maximum temperature being indicated by one or more dots placed inside the symbol.


The image of an iron indicates domestic ironing and pressing processes with or without the use of steam, the maximum temperature levels are indicated by one, two or three dots inside the symbol.

Important. If there is one dot on the iron symbol, then ironing should be done without steam. Steam ironing can cause permanent damage.

Whitening and professional cleaning

The triangle on the label indicates bleaching requirements, and the circle indicates professional cleaning (dry cleaning) requirements. Professional cleaning includes wet cleaning (with the exception of washing in a washing machine) and dry cleaning with various solvents.

Learn more