The tiny labels on your clothes, indicating how they should be washed and dried, can often look confusing and daunting. Deciphering what they mean can be the difference between fresh laundry or a pile of shrunken clothes coming out of the machine.

Here is a quick guide to understand the basic symbols and what they mean.

Washing and Spinning Symbolswashing symbols

The temperature your garment can be washed at is indicated by a number or a dot

  • A number within the tub icon shows the maximum temperature that item of clothing can be washed at.
  • A dot also indicates the maximum temperature the garment can be washed at; One Dot = 30 degrees, Two Dots = 40 degrees, Three Dots = 50 degrees, Four Dots = 60 degrees, Five Dots = 70 degrees, Six Dots = 95 degrees

If there’s a cross through the tub, that item should not be  washed and will probably need to be dry cleaned.

The bars underneath refer to rinsing and spinning.

Some garments need to be washed with reduced agitation. If there are no bars, the garment can be spun and rinsed as normal.

  • One bar indicates that the spin speed should be reduced.
  • Two bars means the clothes need a mild wash action, but can be spun and rinsed normally.

Handwash symbol

If this symbol is on your clothes you should wash the item by hand at 40°C or lower.

However, many washing machines have a handwash program. This is for delicate garments such as cashmere or silk, and washes more gently than the normal setting to prevent clothes snagging or shrinking.

Ironing symbols 

The dots on ironing symbols correspond to the dots on an iron’s temperature: the more dots there are, the more heat can be applied.

  • If the iron symbol doesn’t have any dots, the garment can be ironed at any temperature.
  • If the symbol has two lines protruding from the bottom of the symbol with a cross over it, this means you must dry iron and not steam iron.
  • If the iron symbol has a cross through it, that garment is not suitable to be ironed.

Tumble drying symbols

A circle inside a square means you can tumble dry the garment.

  • If there are dots within the circle they indicate  temperature – one for lower heat, two for higher heat.
  • A cross over the symbol means you shouldn’t tumble dry the garment.

Dry cleaning symbol

Some clothes can, or should, be dry cleaned.

  • A circle means the garment is suitable for dry cleaning.
  • If there’s a letter inside the circle, it’s to tell the dry cleaner which chemical wash and method to use.
  • If the circle has a cross over it, it shouldn’t be dry cleaned.

Bleaching symbols

  • A triangle means you can safely use a cold, dilute solution of  bleach.
  • If the triangle has two stripes, only a non-chlorine, colour-safe bleach should be used.
  • If the triangle has a cross over it, the item can’t be bleached.

Here are some downloadable PDFs, print them, and put above your washing machine – so you’ll never get it wrong again.



Textile Affairs 

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