How to Read Laundry Symbols – Icons & Characters Guide For Washing Clothes

How often do you do the laundry? Every week? Every few days? In any case, keep it up! Whether we like it or not, it’s just one of those chores that we have to do. The last thing that we’d want is to run out of things to wear! Not only that, but there’s the issue of odors as well. That’s right, leave a pile of dirty clothes out in a pile and they’re bound to smell after a while. Let’s face it—nobody wants to deal with that!

Given that, it’s important that you wash your garments regularly. While it’s perfectly fine to do the laundry weekly, there are a few items that you want to “wait on.” Take your workout clothes, for instance—it’s probably a good idea to wash them once you get home from the gym. After all, they’re probably sweaty. Even if you don’t have time to wash them, you should air them out. You wouldn’t want bacteria to start growing on the fabric, would you?

Doing the Laundry Properly

This goes without saying but you always want to make sure that you’re washing an item properly. What does this mean? This means paying attention to the fabric, and how you should wash it. In other words, don’t just empty your hamper into the washing machine. Believe it or not but it’s actually very easy to ruin something in the laundry—one wrong step is all that it takes!

Not sure how to wash a certain item? Don’t worry—the manufacturer always includes instructions in the form of a care tag label. Generally speaking, it can be found on the inside of the garment (towards the side). If anything, you should always take a look at it before doing the laundry—this is particularly true if you’re washing something for the first time. How else would you know how to wash it?

Keep in mind, however, that there won’t be a whole lot of writing on the care tag label. Instead of text, there are usually the same set of symbols, icons, characters, marks, logos… you get the picture. Ultimately, it’s these symbols that let you know how to wash a certain item. Considering that, it only makes sense to familiarize yourself with them! So now you can stop asking “what does the X on my clothes mean for washing or ironing?”

As a matter of fact, that’s what we’re here to talk about. By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll be familiar with all the different laundry symbols! Without further adieu, let’s take a look at them.

The Different Laundry Symbols

Here are some of the most common character icons and their specific meanings!

This icon depicts a bucket filled with water. If anything, it’s probably one of the most common ones that you’ll come across. As indicated below the icon, it means that a certain item is machine washable—aka you can put it into the washing machine.

This icon is similar to the wash symbol except that it is filled with dot(s). Ultimately, it lets you know what temperature you should wash your garment at. From the left to right is “machine wash, cold (temperature should not exceed 30C/85F)”, “machine wash, warm (temperature should not exceed 40C/105F)”, and “machine wash, hot. (temperature should not exceed 50C/120F)”.

This symbol depicts a bucket of water that’s crossed out. As you might be able to guess, it means that the garment should not be laundered (this includes machine washing and hand washing). Instead, it should be dry cleaned.

This symbol means that your garment should be washed with the permanent press cycle. What sets it apart from the other settings? It’s meant to remove wrinkles from your clothes—especially button-down shirts. Instead of cold water, warm water will be used to relax the creases. Couple that with a slow spin and you won’t have to worry about any wrinkles.

This symbol means that your garment should be washed with a gentle or delicate setting. Not only will the agitation be gentler, but the wash cycle will also be shorter. Generally speaking, it is used for undergarments and other items such as activewear.

This icon depicts a bucket of water with a hand at the top. If you see this, it means that your garment should be washed by hand. Do not put it in the washer as it might not be able to hold up against the agitation. Instead, wash the item in the sink or a bucket with soap or mild detergent.

This triangle means that bleach can safely be used on your garment. Avoid using these types of products if you don’t see this symbol on the care tag label.

This triangle is different from the one above in that it is black and crossed out. If you see this, it means that your garment is not compatible with bleach products. Do not use any as it can damage the item.

This symbol consists of a square with a circle in the center. If you see this, it means that the item can safely be put in the tumble dryer (certain fabrics will not be able to tolerate the high heat).

This symbol consists of a square with a circle in the center. If you see this, it means that the item can safely be put in the tumble dryer (certain fabrics will not be able to tolerate the high heat). In some cases, it might specify a specific program setting. 

This icon is similar to the tumble dry symbol but the circle is black and there is a cross through it. Do not put your garment in the dryer if you see this on the care tag label. Instead, let it drip or air dry on a drying rack or clothesline.

Do not confuse the dry clean icon with the tumble dry icon. While both consist of a square with a circle in the center, the former has two horizontal lines at the bottom. If you see it, it means that your garment is not suitable for laundering at home. Instead, you should bring it to the dry cleaners.

This symbol consists of a crossed-out square with a circle in the middle. It means that the garment should not be dry cleaned—do not confuse it with the tumble dry icon (notice how it doesn’t have the two horizontal lines at the bottom).

These two symbols let you know how the garment should be dried. The left icon means to line it dry (e.g. on a clothesline) while the right one means that you should lay it flat to dry (on a clean surface).

The iron is easy to recognize as it’s shaped like a traditional iron. If you see this on the care tag label, it means that the garment can be ironed safely.

These symbols indicate the setting that should be used when ironing. As with the wash and tumble dry icons, it uses the same dot system to indicate heat levels. One dot means that it should be ironed on “low”, two dots means that it should be ironed on “medium”, and three dots mean that it should be ironed on “high.”

This icon is similar to the “iron” symbol except that it is crossed out. It means that the garment cannot be ironed safely.

This icon depicts an iron with steam at the bottom that is crossed out. It means that you shouldn’t use the steam setting with your iron.

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