Washing Symbols – What do they mean?

Washing symbols meaning

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Washing symbols – you have seen them on your clothes, but do you really know what they mean?

Don’t worry if you don’t. Check out today’s article to find out more about what the washing symbols on our clothes mean, and how to better care of your clothes.

Washing symbols – what are they?

Washing symbols - what are they

All of our clothes have labels for a reason: they indicate how a particular piece of clothing should be cleaned and cared for.

These are known as care labels or care tags.

These washing care labels have symbols that represent how a piece of clothing should be washed, dry-cleaned and/or ironed. They can also include information on the type and composition of the material.

Travel hack: You can wash clothes from any country, even if you don’t speak the language, using these symbols. So they can be really handy if you ever get clothes during your travels.

There are five main types of washing symbols:

  • Wash symbols
  • Ironing guidelines
  • Drying symbols
  • Bleaching guidelines
  • Dry cleaning symbols

Continue reading to find out what all these washing symbols stand for.


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Wash symbols

Have you seen that looks like a bucket filled with water (see above)? That’s the wash symbol. It tells you what temperature or machine setting you should use to wash the item of clothing.

The number of dots inside the ‘Normal Wash’ indicates the temperature range of the water.

  • One dot = 30 degrees Celsius
  • Two dots = 40 degrees Celsius
  • Three dots = 50 degrees Celsius
  • Four dots = 60 degrees Celsius
  • Five dots = 70 degrees Celsius
  • Six dots = 95 degrees Celsius

Here are four more wash related symbols to know about:

  1. Permanent Press symbol is a bucket with a horizontal line below it. Permanent press clothes have fabrics that are chemically treated to resist wrinkles and maintain their original shape. This means that ironing is not needed.
  2. A bucket with 2 horizontal lines underneath is the Gentle Cycle symbol. This means items of clothing, such as sequined tops, tights or Lycra, can be damaged by vigorous washing. Clothes with delicate fibers like silk and wool need to be washed gently.
  3. A hand inside the bucket is the Hand Wash symbol. This implies don’t use a washing machine and instead wash garments in a sink or small tub, using your hands.
  4. The Do Not Wash symbol is a crossed out bucket, which means you do not wash the item at all – it’s dry clean only.

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Ironing Guidelines

When you are considering ironing your clothes, check out the ironing guidelines. This will look like, you guessed it, an iron!

The number of dots inside the iron tells you about the ideal ironing temperature for the particular piece of clothing.

  • One dot = it should be ironed on low heat
  • Two dots = it should be ironed on medium heat
  • Three dots = it should be ironed on high heat

Drying symbols

The typical tumble dryer symbol is a square with a circle inside it (see above).

A line below the tumble dry symbol means that a Permanent Press setting should be used.

Double lines beneath the tumble dry symbol mean the delicate setting should be used.

Sometimes, inside the drying symbol, there are dots, which indicate the heat setting for your tumble dryer.

  • One dot = tumble dry on low
  • Two dots = tumble dry on medium
  • Three dots = tumble dry on high

Here are a few more drying symbols to note:

  • A tumble dryer symbol with a shaded circle means dry the clothes with no heat.
  • Do Not Tumble Dry symbol is marked by a dryer symbol with a cross through it. This means you should air dry only.
  • The symbol that looks like an envelope is Line dry. This means it is best to dry the clothes on a clothesline.
  • A square with three vertical lines in the middle is Drip dry. This is usually done on a drying rack.
  • A square with one horizontal line in the middle means you should lay it flat to dry.

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Bleaching guidelines

If bleaching your clothes, here are the three symbols to keep an eye out for:

  • A blank triangle means that any kind of bleach can be used when needed.
  • A triangle filled with 2 diagonal lines means to use non-chlorine bleach.
  • A solid black triangle with a cross on it means Do Not Bleach.

Dry cleaning symbols

The Dry Cleaning symbol is a circle. The letter inside tells you about the type of solvent that should be used.

  • No letter or letter “A” inside the circle means any type of solvent works
  • “P” also means any type of solvent can be used (P stands for perchloroethylene)
  • “F” stands for flammable, hence to use petroleum solvent only
  • Circle with a diagonal line on top of it means dry-clean the clothes (without steam)
  • Crossed-out circle means do not dry clean

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Last words

If you have ever been baffled by the washing symbols, now you have a guide to help you decipher them. So the next time you have a special piece of clothing that needs to be washed, but you are not entirely sure about the best way to care for it, use this guide to help you.

Here is to a longer life for your clothes.

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