Laundry Symbols Made Simple: Guide to Clothing Care

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
laundry care symbols on clothing tag

Laundry symbols help you avoid accidentally ruining a favorite article of clothing by washing, drying, or cleaning it the wrong way. A laundry symbol guide makes it easy to learn the proper laundry care for your garments and how to read the laundry symbols on clothing care labels.

Guide for How to Read Laundry Symbols on Clothing Labels

You can learn what all the laundry symbols mean with a chart. This guide for laundry symbols allows you to understand what the two dots washing symbol and square circle dot laundry symbol mean as well as many other symbols.

Washing Symbols Chart

A chart that describes each washing symbol for machine washing clothes and other household fabrics depicts a small bucket or pail of water. This is the first symbol on a care label. The 1-7 dots depicted inside the bucket represent the water temperature you should use. The more dots inside the bucket, the higher the water temperature should be. Numbers refer to the water temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit.

Washing

Normal wash symbol

A bucket of plain water with no lines underneath or dots inside means the garment can be machine washed on a normal setting with agitation, using any detergent and the hottest water available.

Cool / Cold wash symbol

A single dot inside the bucket indicates machine wash on cold, not exceeding 26.67°C or 80°F.

warm wash symbol

Two dots washing symbol indicates machine wash on warm, not exceeding 40°C or 105°F.

hot wash symbol

Three dots indicate machine wash on hot, not exceeding 50°C or 120°F.

hot wash symbol

Four dots indicate machine wash on hot, not exceeding 60°C or 140°F.

hot wash symbol

Five dots indicate machine wash on hot, not exceeding 70°C or 160°F.

hot wash symbol

Six dots indicate machine wash on hot, not exceeding 95°C or 200°F.

30°C wash symbol
30°C (86°F) There are two horizontal lines underneath the bucket. Very mild temperature for fine wash.
30°C wash symbol
30°C (86°F) There is one line underneath the bucket. Mild fine wash.
30°C wash symbol
30°C (86°F) This laundry symbol features just the bucket with 30 inside. It indicates a fine wash.
40°C wash symbol
40°C (104°F) The bucket has two horizontal lines underneath it. It indicates a very mild wash.
40°C wash symbol
40°C (104°F) The bucket has one horizontal line underneath it. It indicates a mild wash.
40°C wash symbol
40°C (104°F) This laundry symbol features just the bucket and 40 inside. It indicates the setting for colored wash.
60°C wash symbol
60°C (140°F) The bucket has one line underneath it. It indicates an Easy Care colored wash.
60°C wash symbol
60°C (140°F) This laundry symbol features just the bucket with the number 60 inside it. It indicates a colored wash.
70°C wash symbol
70°C (158°F) This laundry symbol features just the bucket with the number 70 inside it. It indicates a boil wash.
95°C wash symbol
95°C (203°F) This laundry symbol features just the bucket with the number 95 inside it. It indicates a boil wash.

Washing Machine Settings

Lines underneath the bucket of water tell you which machine cycle to use. More lines mean a more gentle cycle. Therefore, no lines means using the normal cycle.

Washing Machine

permanent press wash cycle

One line underneath the bucket indicates to use the permanent press cycle, with a cold rinse before the spin.

delicate gentle wash symbol

Two lines indicate to use the gentle or delicate cycle, with gentle machine agitation and a shorter wash cycle.

No Machine Washing

If you see the following symbols, do not put the garment in the washing machine.

No Washing Machine

hand wash symbol

A hand over or inside the bucket indicates you should hand wash the item with a gentle detergent and water.

do not wash symbol

A bucket that is crossed out means you shouldn't machine wash and is usually followed by dry cleaning or hand washing instructions.

Bleaching Symbols

The symbol used for bleach is a triangle. According to Textile Industry Affairs, about 98% of all washable textiles are safe in some type of bleach - usually color safe or oxygen bleach. If bleach is not mentioned or represented by a symbol, it may indicate any type of bleach can be used. However, to minimize the risk of damaging the garment, the American Cleaning Institute recommends doing a small patch test first.

Mix a small amount of bleach with water using the manufacturer recommended ratio. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and dab it onto an inside seam. If there is no change in color, it should be safe to use.

Bleaching

any bleach symbol

An empty triangle indicates to bleach when needed with any type of laundering bleach.

only non-chlorine bleach symbol

A triangle with diagonal lines inside indicates to use color safe, non-chlorine bleach only.

do not bleach symbol

A triangle that is crossed out means do not use any type of bleach. The garment is not colorfast, or the material is unable to hold up to bleach.

Drying Symbols

Both machine and air drying symbols are represented by a square. As with washing, temperature is indicated by the number of dots.

Dryer Cycles

low dry symbol

A square with circle inside symbol and a single dot indicates normal machine drying on a low setting.

medium dry symbol

A square with circle inside symbol that has two dots indicates normal machine drying on a medium setting.

high dry symbol

A square with circle inside symbol that has three dots indicates normal machine drying on the high setting.

no heat symbol

A square circle dot laundry symbol that features a large, solid or filled-in circle dot indicates normal machine drying with no heat or the air only cycle.

Dryer Machine Settings

Lines underneath the square instruct which cycle to use on a machine dryer:

Dryer Settings

dryer machine symbol
A square with a large, empty circle inside indicates tumble dry normal.
permanent press dry symbol

One line underneath a square with a large circle inside indicates to tumble dry on the permanent press setting.

delicate gentle dry symbol

Two lines underneath the square with a large circle inside indicate to tumble dry on the gentle cycle.

No Machine Drying

If you see the following symbols, do not put the garment in a machine dryer.

No Machine

do not tumble dry symbol

A square with a large circle inside that is crossed out means do not tumble dry.

do not dry symbol

A square that is crossed out means do not machine dry.

Air Drying

The following symbols instruct methods for air drying.

Air Drying

line dry symbol

A square with a semicircle at the top indicates to line dry either indoors or outdoors.

drip dry symbol

A square with three vertical lines inside indicates to drip dry, usually by hanging a dripping wet garment on a line.

dry flat symbol

A square with a single horizontal line indicates to lay the garment flat for drying.

dry in the shade symbol

A square with two diagonal lines in the upper corner indicates to dry the garment in the shade, out of direct sunlight.

do not wring symbol

A crossed out symbol of a twisted towel indicates you should not wring or twist the garment to remove excess water.

Ironing Symbols

An ironing symbol is represented by a small figure that looks like an iron with a handle on top. It also looks similar to a slightly flattened, square-shaped, lowercase "a."

iron with any heat symbol

An empty iron symbol indicates you can iron at any temperature, with or without steam.

low iron symbol

An iron with one dot indicates a low setting, 110°C or 230°F, with or without steam.

medium iron symbol

Two dots inside the iron indicate a medium setting, 150°C or 300°F, with or without steam.

high iron symbol

Three dots inside the iron indicate a high setting, 200°C or 390°F, with or without steam.

no steam iron symbol

An iron with crossed out lines underneath means do not use steam when ironing.

do not iron symbol

A crossed out iron means do not iron.

Dry-Cleaning Symbols

For home laundering, you only need to be concerned with the following two dry-cleaning symbols. Dry-cleaning symbols with letters tell professional cleaners which type of solvent to use and diagonal lines indicate when to use low heat, reduced moisture, the short cycle or no steam.

dry clean symbol

An empty circle indicates to dry clean only.

dry clean with any solvent symbol
A circle with an A means dry-clean with any solvent.
dry-clean symbol
A circle waith a P means dry-clean with any solvent except trichloroethylene.
dry-clean symbol
A circle with an F means dry-clean with petroleum solvent only,
do not dry clean symbol

An empty crossed out circle means do not dry clean.

dry clean short cycle symbol
A circle with a lower left diagonal line means short cycle.
dry clean low heat symbol
A circle with a lower right diagonal line means low heat.
dry clean reduce moisture symbol
A circle with an upper left diagonal line means reduce moisture.
dry clean no steam symbol
A circle with an upper right diagonal line means no steam.

Downloadable Laundry Symbols Chart

You can download the LoveToKnow Laundry Symbols Chart to print and keep in your laundry room or elsewhere for a convenient reference. You can the LoveToKnow guide for downloading Adobe printables.

Laundry Symbols Chart

Order of Clothing Care Symbols

Care labels must remain permanently attached to the textile item throughout its life expectancy. The Federal Trade Commission requires American care labels to present laundering symbols in a specific order:

  1. Washing instructions include temperature and machine cycle.
  2. Bleaching instructions include do not bleach or non-chlorine bleach only. No symbol is required if any type of bleach can be used.
  3. Drying instructions include temperature and machine cycle or the method for air drying.
  4. Ironing instructions include temperature and when not to steam or use the iron at all. The symbol is not required for items that are not usually ironed.
  5. Dry cleaning instructions include the cycle and solvent.

What To Do If Care Label Fails to Protect Garment

Safe cleaning methods shown on a care label act as a care warranty. If you follow the clothing care label's directions and the garment is damaged in the process of cleaning or drying, return it to the store where you purchased it and ask for a refund or exchange. If the store doesn't help, ask for the manufacturer's name and contact information. An explanation of the problem in writing should help resolve the issue.

Laundry Symbols Made Simple for Clothing Care

A guide that features the laundry symbols can make caring for your clothing simple. You can use a laundry symbol chart to decipher any care labels to ensure you protect your clothing and other textile items.

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Laundry Symbols Made Simple: Guide to Clothing Care