Explanation of laundry symbols | SELECTION (2023)

Cotton, silk, linen, wool, rayon, lycra - our clothes are made from a variety of different materials, and just as they have different properties, they also have different washing requirements.

But how do you know what to do to take better care of your new shirt or pants? The care instructions on the clothes tags will tell you, you just have to learn to read them.

This page:

  • Do you have to follow the laundry care symbols exactly?
  • Bleaching-Symbole
  • dry cleaning symbols
  • Air drying symbol
  • washing hands icon
  • hanger symbols
  • Synthetic and cotton icons
  • washing temperature symbols
  • Clothes dryer symbols
  • cheering symbols

In laundry care, symbols developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) were used instead of words to convey information independent of language.

While it sounds scary - there are over 50 of them - it really isn't, as all of the symbols are based on a handful of basic shapes that relate to a different aspect of laundry care: bleach (a triangle), wash (a tub of water), tumble dry (a square), wring (a wrung out garment), dry clean (a circle) and iron (an iron, as expected).

Then each symbol has modifiers that indicate a specific meaning, but the most common, an X or a cross, has a near-universal meaning: not.

Do you have to follow the laundry care symbols exactly?

Washing clothes properly is key to keeping them fresh and looking good for longer. Washing it wrong means it won't last long and you can completely destroy it even in one wash.

Most clothing manufacturers recommend the most conservative cleaning methods to minimize the risk of damaging your clothing; For example, a fabric that says "Dry Clean Only" is perfectly safe to hand wash, so you probably don't need to. care instructions.

But they shouldn't be ignored either: there's a risk of clothes fading, shrinking or getting damaged if you wash them poorly, especially when it comes to bleaching or drying. Paying attention to the material of your clothing can help you make an informed decision about how much (or little) slack you have.

So let's get down to business. See what the different washing symbols on your clothes mean.

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  • A triangle symbol refers to lye.
  • A light triangle means any type of bleach can be used on the fabric.
  • A triangle with two slanted lines means non-chlorine or oxygen-based bleach. Alternatively, the label may say "No Chlorine Bleach".
  • An X on a solid triangle means Do Not Bleach.

Not all clothes carry a bleach symbol, but that doesn't mean the season is open and you should never use bleach on wool, silk or leather items.

dry cleaning symbols

A circle symbol indicates dry cleaning.

Some garments don't stand up well to the rigors of the washing machine and can only be dry cleaned. And while we've said to take some of these care instructions with a pinch of salt, in general, you should just follow the dry-cleaning instructions. Some dry cleaning symbols are also beneficial for the laundry as they let them know what chemicals to use.

  • A circle means the item can be dry cleaned.
  • The letters inside the circle (e.g. A, P, F) tell the laundry what chemical and method to use.
  • An X or a cross over the circle indicates the garment should not be dry cleaned.
  • A diagonal line at the bottom left of the circle indicates a short cycle.
  • A diagonal line at the bottom right of the circle indicates low heat.

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Air drying symbol

A square refers to line drying.

While line drying is generally much safer for your clothes than using a tumble dryer, there are still a few things you need to know so you don't stretch, shrink or fade your favorite garment.

  • A descending line inside the square means you can hang your clothes outside to dry.
  • Three vertical lines within the square indicate drying indoors on a clothesline or rack.
  • A horizontal line indicates that you must lay the garment flat so that it will hold its shape as it dries.

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washing hands icon

The hand wash only symbol is unsurprisingly a hand.

This indicates that you should hand wash the garment at 40ºC or below. Alternatively, you can use your washing machine's hand wash program, if available; This is a gentle program suitable for delicate fabrics.

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hanger symbols

A stylized iron squared means, again unsurprisingly, ironing.

Remember the X means no. An X in the steam coming out of the bottom of the iron means there is no steam.

The number of dots on the iron indicates the temperature at which you can iron the garment. The more stitches, the higher the ironing temperature.

  • A point: low temperature (wool, silk and other delicate fabrics).
  • From the points: average temperature (synthetics).
  • Three points: high temperature (linen and cotton).
  • No stitches: iron at any temperature.
  • An X or a cross on the iron means the garment cannot be ironed.
  • An iron with two or three dashes below and an X or cross means dry press only, no steam iron.

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Synthetic and cotton icons

  • A simple tub of water indicates the intensity of washing, rinsing and spinning. Clothing with this symbol must not be wrung out by hand.
  • A single tub indicates that the laundry can be spun and rinsed normally.
  • A bar under the tub means a low spin speed.
  • Two bars under the tub means clothes need to be washed delicately, but can be spun and rinsed normally.
  • An X or a cross in the tub means the garment should not be washed and may need to be dry cleaned.

Explanation of laundry symbols | SELECTION (7)

washing temperature symbols

  • A basin icon with a number or dots indicates the maximum wash temperature.
  • A dot indicates a cold wash.
  • Colon denotes a hot wash.
  • Three dots indicate hot water.
  • A numbered vat provides more accurate temperature control and can range from 30 to 95°C. Remember that this is the maximum temperature: you can always wash with cold water (or even colder) and save on energy costs.

Clothes dryer symbols

A square with a circle indicates tumble dry safe.

This is important as improper use of the dryer is one of the leading causes of clothing damage and overuse of the dryer can result in huge energy costs.

The dots indicate the heat levels.

  • One point: use low heat.
  • Two points: use medium heat.
  • Three points: use high heat.
  • An X or a cross over the symbol means that the laundry is not suitable for tumble drying.
  • Have you ever ruined a beloved piece of clothing in the dryer? read about our10 Common Dryer Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them).

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cheering symbols

A twisted knot indicates a twisting of the hand.

Wringing clothes can help remove water, but can seriously damage the fibers of the fabric, so don't ignore the "do not wring" symbol.

  • A twisted knot icon means the garment can be twisted without damage.
  • An X or a cross over the symbol means that the garment is not suitable for wringing.

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