How to read the laundry symbols on clothing labels

How to read the laundry symbols on clothing labels

If you’ve never paid heed to laundry symbols on clothes labels, you should: in the long run they could wind up saving you big bucks. To help you understand them, here’s an overview.

How to read the laundry symbols on clothing labels
How to read the laundry symbols on clothing labels

The basics

The four basic clothing symbols are as follows:

  • Tank (wash).
  • Triangle (bleaching).
  • Circle within a square (drying).
  • Iron (ironing/pressing).

If there are other symbols, this means additional maintenance is required by a professional dry cleaner.


The different colours represent the same thing as traffic lights.

  • Green means that almost everything is allowed.
  • Yellow means the temperature and cycle must be more gentle.
  • Red signifies either a very delicate cycle or to avoid machine washing altogether.

Why are there little dots in the symbols?

These signs determine the temperature with which you can treat your clothes.

  • Washing: Temperature values are measured between one to six dots. The temperatures range from 30°C to 95°C, (almost to the boiling point). One dot represents cold water and six dots means the temperature is steaming. If there aren’t any dots, then the temperature doesn’t matter.
  • Drying: Can be measured between one to three dots. The temperatures are low, medium or high. If the circle is white without a dot, the temperature doesn’t matter. If the circle is black, it must air dry (this cycle is available on your dryer machine).
  • Ironing / pressing: Also valued between one to three dots: 110°C, 150°C and 200°C. If a fabric is delicate, then a lower temperature should be used.

Why are there lines underneath the icons?

Lines under the symbols let you know which cycle to set your washing machine to before washing and drying.

  • If there isn’t a line, that means to set it as a normal cycle.
  • One line means to select permanent press.
  • A double line indicates that the machine must be set to a delicate cycle.

Specific icons for washing

If there is an icon in the shape of a hand, it means that you hand wash the garment.

  • Double check the black dots on the label to know if you must use cold, warm or hot water.

Specific icons for drying

  • A symbol with a curved line above it means that it should dry on a clothes line.
  • A line in the centre of the square means that the fabric should lay flat to dry.
  • Three vertical lines means that the garment should drip dry.
  • The icon with a hatch in the upper left corner means to avoid drying in direct sunlight.

Specific icons for bleaching

Bleaching is simple. A white triangle gives you carte blanche, while the hatched icon indicates that colour-safe or non-chlorine bleach should be used to whiten the garment.

  • Always remember that a black “X” over a symbol means you should not do something. So if there is an “X” over the icon make sure you don’t wash, dry, bleach or iron the garment.

Knowing how to read the label on your clothing can not only help you remove stains from fabric, but can help you keep your clothing in great shape for years.

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