Laundry care symbols: explained

woman holding folded clothing

Ever wondered what some of the symbols on your clothing label mean? You probably know enough to get by, but many of us have lost a favourite item of clothing at some point because we didn’t follow the washing instructions.

So read on for our guide to each symbol, and why not test yourself and see how many you know?

We’ll start easy…


40 degrees washing symbol

Yep, this means you shouldn’t wash the clothing on a temperature higher than 40 degrees. If you wash it on higher than the recommended temperature, it could lead to shrinking. You can usually select your wash cycle first and then adjust the temperature. You might also see this symbol with different numbers – they always refer to the maximum wash temperature.


tumble dry laundry care symbol

This is a common one on clothing labels and means that the garment is suitable for tumble drying. If you see the same symbol with a cross through it, that means don’t tumble dry and again, the clothing could shrink if you ignore the warning.


hand wash laundry care symbol

Another easy one. Hopefully you all knew that this symbol means hand wash. If you didn’t, it’s a pretty simple one to remember from now on!


cool iron laundry care symbol

The keen-eyed among you will notice this symbol is the shape of an iron. If you also knew that the lone dot in the middle means that you should iron on a cool temperature, you’re absolutely right. This iron symbol can be shown with one, two or three dots inside, referring to the temperature you should set the iron to. It can also be shown with a cross through, which means you should absolutely not iron the material, unless you want to melt a hole in it!

Ok, now let’s try some that are a little harder…


40 degrees mild wash laundry care symbol

We know from earlier that this symbol means you should wash the clothing at 40 degrees, but what do the lines underneath mean? These lines refer to the intensity of the wash and can be seen on a variety of different laundry care symbols. One line underneath means you should choose a mild wash cycle, such as ‘wash as synthetics’. Two lines underneath indicate it’s only suitable for a very mild cycle, such as ‘wash as wool’.


dry hanging laundry care symbol

This symbol doesn’t give much to guess at – either you know it or you don’t. Give up? Ok, it means that you should dry your clothes by hanging them! See it now? No, me either…


dry flat laundry care symbol

With that logic, what do you think this one means? Yep, it means you should dry this clothing flat.


dry clean laundry care symbol

Seen this one before? It’s not such an important one for you to remember because the dry cleaners should check that this symbol is on the label before they take your garment in. Yep, that’s right, this means the item of clothing is suitable for dry cleaning – the ‘P’ stands for ‘professional’. You can also find this symbol with a cross through it, meaning it can’t be dry cleaned.


don't bleach laundry care symbol

Ok last one, and this may well be the hardest. The cross obviously means ‘don’t’ but what about the triangle? This one means ‘don’t bleach’.

So how did you do? Comment your score out of 9 below!