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What Do Laundry Symbols Mean?

What Do Laundry Symbols Mean?

Clothing label

Have you ever wondered about those illustrations on your clothing tags? They’re care instructions, and they are there to help you take good care of your clothes. Read on to find out what the most common laundry symbols mean. (See the chart at the end of the article for a complete list.)

Machine wash symbolWashing Symbols

If you see a symbol that looks like a bucket with water in it, it’s okay to wash that item in the washing machine. If there is one dot in the middle of the icon, use cold water. Two dots in the middle of the bucket mean warm water is the way to go. Three dots mean hot water is best.

A bucket of water with an X through it means you shouldn’t wash that item in the washer — handwashing or dry cleaning (indicated by an open circle) is typically best. Wool, linen, and washable silk are usually safe for handwashing, but check the label to be certain.

Here’s your quick reference for each washing symbol:

  • Wash icon with 1 dot: Machine wash in cold water
  • Wash icon with 2 dots: Machine wash in warm water
  • Wash icon with 3+ dots: Machine wash in hot water (the more dots, the higher the temperature)
  • Wash icon with hand: Hand wash

RACC311-0104_Blog-Sept_LaundryIcons-DryDrying Symbols

A square represents the best way to dry your clothing. Not following the instructions indicated by this icon could lead to the stretching or shrinking of your most beloved fabrics.

One dot inside the square means the article of clothing should be tumble-dried on low heat. Two dots mean medium heat, and three dots mean high heat. If you see a square around a fully colored-in circle, it’s okay to tumble dry — but don’t use heat. If you see a square with a circle that’s blank with an X through both: skip the dryer altogether and line dry (this symbol looks like an envelope), or lay the item flat to dry (a square with what looks like a minus sign through it).

  • Drying icon with 1 dot: tumble dry on low heat
  • Drying icon with 2 dots: tumble dry on medium heat
  • Drying icon with 3 dots: tumble dry on high heat
  • Drying icon with blank white circle: tumble dry with any heat setting
  • Drying icon with black circle: tumble dry without heat

RACC311-0104_Blog-Sept_LaundryIcons-BleachBleach Symbols

An open triangle means the item is safe to bleach. A triangle with two diagonal lines means you should use non-chlorine bleach. Non-chlorine bleach is generally safe for colors. For triangles with an X across them, avoid using bleach at all costs. Doing so could result in the fading or discoloration of your clothing.

RACC311-0104_Blog-Sept_LaundryIcons-IronIroning Symbols

When ironing clothing, you need to use the right heat setting for any given fabric. Some materials can be damaged by very high heat; other fabrics won’t let go of wrinkles without it. As with washing and drying symbols, the number of dots inside an iron icon tells you the amount of heat to use on clothing.

  • Ironing symbol with one dot: low heat
  • Ironing symbol with two dots: medium heat
  • Ironing symbol with three dots: high heat

Other Symbols

There are quite a few other laundry symbols you may see from time to time. This handy chart will help you decipher them — and help you keep your clothes looking their best.

Icon set of laundry symbols

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