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.

Different laundry symbols

Washing cycle symbols

Washing cycle symbols: machine wash, hand wash, do not wash, dry clean only, do not dry clean

 

 

Washing temperature symbols

Washing temperature symbols: wash cold on temperatures between 65 and 85F, wash warm on temperatures at max. 105F, wash hot on temperatures at max. 12

 

 

Washing machine symbols

Washing machine symbols: normal cycle, permanent press cycle, delicate / gentle cycle

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.

Different drying symbols

General drying symbols

General drying symbols: tumble drying allowed, do not tumble dry, hang to dry, dry flat, do not wring

 

 

Drying temperature symbols

Drying temperature symbols: tumble dry, low heat, medium heat, high heat, no heat / air

 

 

Tumble dry laundry symbols

Tumble dry laundry symbols: normal cycle, permanent press cycle, delicate / gentle cycle

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.

Different bleaching symbols

Bleaching symbols

Bleaching symbols: bleaching allowed, do not bleach, use non-chlorine bleach

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.

Different ironing symbols

Ironing symbols

Ironing symbols: iron low, iron medium, iron high, do not iron, no steam added to iron

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.

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