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Clothes washing symbols explained! A guide to washing instruction labels

Clothes washing symbols explained! A guide to washing instruction labels


So you want to keep your clothes in tip top shape do you? Say goodbye to shrunk woolly jumpers and discoloured shirts. Let us explain what all those hieroglyphics means on your clothing care labels.


Clothing care symbols

Clothing care labels will tell you what fabric your garment is made from and include at least 4 symbols to give guidance on washing, bleaching, drying and ironing (in that order). They will normally come with a recommended washing temperature as well.

There are lots of different symbols but they can be grouped into 5 main categories:

  • Washing tub Symbols: relates to all things washing related, including hand washing
  • Triangles: will tell you if you can use bleach and if so, what type
  • Squares: indicate how an item should be dried and is further split into:
    • Tumble drying
    • : The temp ranged and cycles that should be used.
    • Air drying
    • : Where a garment should be dried and its orientation.
  • Iron Symbols: what irons settings are most appropriate for your garment
  • Circles: For professional use only - gives instructions relating to dry cleaning

If any of the symbols have a big X through them like this:

Cross - Do not carry out action

It means DON'T carry out that action.


Washing Tub Symbols - Washing Machine Instructions

Washing machine instructions - Washing tub icon - Garment can be machine washed

Washing tub icon - On its own this symbol indicates that your garment can be washed in a washing machine on a standard cycle.

Washing machine instructions - Washing tun icon with a single bar underneath - Garment can be machine washed on gentle cycle

Washing tun icon with a single bar underneath - The bar is a warning that this garment needs gentler treatment. This normally means a washing cycle with less agitation and lower spin speeds.

Washing machine instructions - Washing tub icon with a double bar underneath - Garment can be machine washed on delicate cycle

Washing tub icon with a double bar underneath - Two bars indicate even more gentle washing is required. It is usually present on delicate garments made from wool or silk and items that may be damaged if they go through a higher speed cycle, such as a sequined top.

Washing machine instructions - Washing tub icon with number inside - Garment can be machine washed upto temperature indicated

Washing tub icon with number inside - The number indicates the MAX temperature that you should wash the garment at. The temperature range normally goes from 30℃ all the way up to 95℃.

Washing machine instructions - Washing tub icon with a hand - Garment should be hand washed only

Washing tub icon with a hand - Signifies that the garment should be hand washed only. It also means that a garment shouldn't be washing in water over 40℃, not that you would want to go much over this temp if you are sticking your hands in!

Washing machine instructions - Washing symbol with a cross - Garemtn should not be machine washed

Washing symbol with a cross - Do not wash this garment in you washing machine, it needs to be taken to a professional and dry cleaned.


Triangles - Bleaching Instructions

Bleaching instructions - Triangle Symbol - Safe to use bleach on garment

Triangle - means it is safe to use bleach on the garment as long as it had been diluted in room temperature water.

Bleaching instructions - Triangle Symbol with two lines - Safe to use non-chlorine bleach on garment

Triangle with two lines - Only a non-chlorine bleach should be used. The bleach container will have the ingredients listed on the back and inform you if chlorine is present or not.

Bleaching instructions - Triangle Symbol with a cross - Do not use bleach on garment

Triangle with a cross - Do not use bleach on this item of clothing.


Squares - Tumble Drying Instructions

Tumble Drying Instructions - Circle inside a square - Garment can be tumble dryed

Circle inside a square - It is safe to place this item in a tumble dryer.

Tumble Drying Instructions - Circle inside a square and a single bar underneath - Garment can be tumble dryed on gentle cycle

Circle inside a square and a single bar underneath - The bar is a warning that this garment needs gentler treatment. This normally means a drying cycle with less heat and lower spin speeds.

Tumble Drying Instructions - Circle inside a square and two bars underneath - Garment can be tumble dryed on delicate cycle

Circle inside a square and two bars underneath - The extra bar warns that this garment needs even gentler treatment. This normally means selecting a delicate cycle with even less heat and lower spin speeds.

Tumble Drying Instructions - Solid circle inside a square - Garment can be tumble dryed with no heat

Solid circle inside a square - You can tumble dry the garment but do not apply heat. There is normally a setting on your machine for this, or it could be indicated as "air only".

Tumble Drying Instructions - Circle inside a square with a cross - Do not tumble dry

Circle inside a square with a cross - Do not place the garment in a tumble dryer. It needs to drip dry only.


Squares - Air Drying Instructions

Air Drying Instructions - Semi-circle inside a square - Garment should be line dryed

Semi-circle inside a square - You should dry your garments outside on a clothes line.

Air Drying Instructions - Square with 2 diagonal lines in the corner - Garment should dryed in the shade

Square with 2 diagonal lines in the corner - Your garment should be hung in the shade and out of the way of direct sunlight.

Air Drying Instructions - Square with horizontal line inside - Garment should dryed flat

Square with horizontal line inside - Indicates that you should lay your garment flat, doing so will help it to keep wrinkles and creases to a minimum.

Air Drying Instructions - Square with 3 vertical lines inside - Garment can be dryed on clothes horse

Square with 3 vertical lines inside - It is safe to drip dry your garments on a simple clothes horse/dryer.


Iron Symbols - Ironing instructions

Ironing Instructions - Iron Symbol with one dot inside - Garment can be ironed with low heat

Iron symbol, one dot - Use the low temperature setting on your iron, normally around 110C. Delicate garments like wool or silk will have this symbol.

Ironing Instructions - Iron Symbol with two dots inside - Garment can be ironed with medium heat

Iron symbol, two dots - You can increase the temperate to around 150-180C which will be the medium setting on your iron. Commonly seen on garments made of synthetic material.

Ironing Instructions - Iron Symbol with three dots inside - Garment can be ironed with high heat

Iron symbol, three dots - The highest temperature can be used on these garments (200C), normally found on garmetns made from cotton and linen.

Ironing Instructions - Iron Symbol with a cross - Garment can not be ironed

Iron symbol with a cross - Do not use an iron on this garment.


Circles - Dry Cleaning Instructions

Dry Cleaning Instructions - Circle - Garment should be dry cleaned

Circle - This garment is dry clean only.

Dry Cleaning Instructions - Iron with a cross - Garment should not be dry cleaned

Circle with a cross - Do not dry clean this garment

Dry Cleaning Instructions - Circle with letters or lines in bottom corners - For professional use

Circles with letters or lines in the bottom corner - For use by professional dry cleaners, indicates the type of chemicals and heat ranges to use on the garments.


Andy Smith
Andy Smith

Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks