The Complete Laundry Symbols Guide

If you frequently visit our diary, the most common laundry advice you could probably read is to “follow your garment’s fabric care label.” And it is indeed necessary to follow these guides if you want to give the best care to your clothing. Manufacturers include clothes washing symbols in their tags to ensure that the garment’s appearance is maintained after washing. But these washing instruction symbols can look abstract most of the time.

These laundry symbols are even more complicated nowadays as more and more fabric types are being developed. Each of them has their own specific needs. Your washing machine and dryer may also have special settings. If you find yourself scratching your head while checking your garments’ tags, here’s a complete guide on how to read washing symbols.

Want a copy of Tidy Diary’s complete laundry symbol guide?

    US Standard of Laundry Care Symbols

    Your clothes’ washing symbols, care symbols, or laundry symbols are pictograms that suggest how to machine wash, dry, dry clean, or iron your garment. You can find these symbols on your clothes’ fabric care tags. Clothes manufacturers include these instructions to ensure that your garments receive the best care it needs.

    In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued the Care Labeling Rule in 1971. This rule requires manufacturers to include safe cleaning procedures upon purchase. Clothes used to have written laundry instructions on their labels until 1997. After that, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) developed symbols to serve as laundry guides. In 2018, the ASTM released a new set of these symbols called ASTM D5489-18. They are now more aligned to laundry symbols used by the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

    The laundry symbols guide by the ASTM includes washing instructions, drying, bleaching, ironing, and even professional laundry care symbols, which include dry cleaning. Manufacturers may also add some words to clarify the pictograms given by the ASTM.

    Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, China, and European countries also have their own fabric care label recommendations or laundry symbols.

    How To Use The Laundry Symbols Guide

    Before you toss a newly bought blouse in the washing machine or dryer, it’s best to read the labels first. It will be easy to read these laundry symbols if you familiarize yourself with the meaning of the basic shapes. Here’s how to read laundry symbols to improve your laundry game.

    WASHING SYMBOLS

    General

    machine wash symbol image

    Machine Wash

    hand wash symbol image

    Hand Wash

    do not wash symbol image

    Do Not Wash

    dry clean only symbol image

    Dry Clean Only

    do not dry clean symbol image

    Do Not Dry Clean

    Temperature

    wash cold symbol image

    Wash Cold

    wash warm symbol image

    Wash Warm

    wash hot symbol image

    Wash Hot

    Machine Cycles

    machine wash symbol image

    Normal Cycle

    permanent press cycle symbol for washer image

    Permanent Press Cycle

    delicate or gentle cycle symbol for washer image

    Delicate / Gentle Cycle

    Washing Symbols

    If you see laundry symbols that look like a washing tub, it tells you how to wash your clothing. These washing symbols indicate the temperature and wash cycle that suits your garment.

    General Washing Symbols

    A washing tub. A washing tub symbol in the care tag means you can use a washing machine to wash the item using a normal cycle.

    Hand reaching inside the tub. This sign shows you that the garment you are holding is hand wash only.

    An “X” mark on the tub. The “X” on the tub means you cannot hand wash or machine wash the garment.

    A circle. When you see a circle on the care tag, it means the item is dry clean only.

    A circle with an “X” mark. The “X” on the circle means the garment should not be dry cleaned. 

    Washing Machine Temperature Setting

    The dots inside the washtub drawing shows the proper water temperature your garment needs.

    One dot in the washtub. A single dot inside the washtub means you should machine wash the item using cold water.

    Two dots in the washtub. This drawing indicates that it’s best to machine wash the item with warm water.

    Three dots in the washtub. If you noticed three dots in the washtub symbol, it means you should use hot water to wash the garment.

    Wash Cycle Symbols

    A washing tub. This symbol indicates that a normal wash cycle should be used.

    A line under the washtub. A single line under the washtub drawing indicates a permanent press machine wash for your clothing.

    Two lines under the washtub. This tells you that the item needs a gentle cycle machine wash.

    BLEACHING SYMBOLS

    bleaching allowed symbol image

    Bleaching Allowed

    do not bleach symbol image

    Do Not Bleach

    use non chlorine bleach symbol image

    Use Non-Chlorine Bleach

    Bleaching Symbols

    Not all care tags have a bleach symbol in them. The triangle marks on garments’ care labels are bleaching symbols.

    A clear triangle. A clear triangle on the care label means you may use either chlorine or non-chlorine bleach on the garment.

    An “X” on the triangle. If you see an “X” on the triangle, it means you should not bleach the fabric.

    A triangle with two slanted lines inside. This symbol indicates that you may use non-chlorine bleach to wash the clothing.

    No triangle mark but the garment states “no chlorine bleach”. This tells you that you may use non-chlorine bleach to wash the item.

    DRYING SYMBOLS

    General

    tumble drying allowed symbol image

    Tumble Drying Allowed

    do not tumble dry symbol image

    Do Not Tumble Dry

    hang to dry symbol image

    Hang To Dry

    dry flat symbol image

    Dry Flat

    do not wring symbol image

    Do Not Wring

    Temperature

    any heat symbol image

    Any Heat

    low heat symbol image

    Low Heat

    medium heat symbol image

    Medium Heat

    high heat symbol image

    High Heat

    no heat or air symbol image

    No Heat / Air

    Tumble Dry Cycles

    normal cycle symbol for dryer image

    Normal Cycle

    permanent press cycle symbol for dryer image

    Permanent Press Cycle

    delicate or gentle cycle symbol for dryer image

    Delicate / Gentle Cycle

    Drying Symbols

    Drying is a vital step in the laundry routine. There are many tumble drying stories out there, most of them involving shrinking clothes. That is why clothes manufacturers also made drying symbols to prevent you from damaging your clothes as they dry. 

    A square in the clothing label advises you on how to dry your garment. Most care labels include tumble drying cycles and heat settings.

    General drying symbols

    A square with a circle inside. This symbol tells you that you can tumble dry the garment.

    An “X” mark on the square with a circle inside. When there is an “X” on the square with a circle inside, it suggests that the item should not be tumble dried.

    A square that resembles an envelope. When you see a drawing of a square that looks like an envelope, the care tag suggests that you should not tumble dry the item. Instead, you can hang them out to dry.

    A square with a horizontal line at the center. A single horizontal line inside the drawing of a square tells you that you should dry the garment on a flat surface.

    A candy-looking symbol with an “X” mark. A candy-looking symbol with an “X” mark means that you should not wring out the garment to get rid of excess water.

    Tumble Dry Heat Setting

    A square with a circle inside. When you see that the care tag has a picture of a square with a circle inside, it means you can dry the garment using any heat temperature.

    Clothing labels also show you the proper dryer temperature to dry your clothes in the clothes dryer. The dots inside the circle indicate the heat settings the garment needs.

    One dot inside a circle contained in a square. This symbol indicates that you need to use a low heat setting on the dryer.

    Two dots inside a circle contained in a square. When you see this symbol on a fabric care label, it advises you to turn the dryer temperature to medium for the fabric to dry completely.

    Three dots inside a circle contained in a square. This means that the garment can handle high heat in the dryer.

    A square with a solid circle at the center. A solid circle inside the square indicates that you can tumble dry the item but you cannot use heat during the process.

    Tumble dry cycle symbols

    A square with a circle inside. This drying symbol indicates that a normal dry cycle should be used.

    A single line under the square with a circle. When you see a line under the square, it means you should select a permanent press cycle.

    Two lines under the square with a circle. A delicate cycle should be used when there are two lines under the square symbol.

    IRONING SYMBOLS

    iron low symbol image

    Iron Low

    iron medium symbol image

    Iron Medium

    iron high symbol image

    Iron High

    do not iron symbol image

    Do Not Iron

    no steam added to iron symbol image

    No Steam Added To Iron

    Ironing Symbols

    A symbol that looks like iron on a garment’s fabric care label shows how you should iron your clothing.

    One dot inside the iron. A dot inside the iron indicates that you can iron the item using low heat.

    Two dots inside the iron. A medium heat setting is required to iron a garment whose care label has this symbol.

    Three dots inside the iron. This symbol means that you should iron your apparel on high heat. 

    An “X” on the iron symbol. Your garment should not be ironed when you see an “X” mark on the iron symbol.

    An “X” mark on the bottom of the iron. When you see the “X” mark below the picture of the dryer, this suggests that you should not use steam to iron the fabric.

    DRY CLEANING SYMBOLS

    Any Solvent

    Any Solvent Except Trichloroethylene

    Petroleum Solvent Only

    Dry Cleaning Symbols

    Some garments use fabrics that cannot be washed at home and should be taken to the dry cleaner. A circle on the clothing label indicates that you should dry clean the item. The care tag also serves as a guide for professional dry cleaners to use the correct solvent for the apparel.

    Circle with the letter “A”. When you see this sign, it means that the dry cleaner may use any solvent to clean the garment. 

    Circle with the letter “P”. The letter “P” inside the circle suggests professional dry cleaners use any solvent except Trichloroethylene.

    Circle with the letter “F”. If you see this symbol, it means that only petroleum-based solvent should be used for the apparel.

    Get Your Free Printable Laundry Symbols Guide

    A garment’s fabric care label is a handy tool that you should look into when washing, drying, bleaching, ironing, or dry cleaning your clothes. Clothes manufacturers take the time to indicate these symbols to help you wash and clean your clothes safely. You can give the best care for your garments by learning these basic laundry symbols. You may download our complete laundry symbol guide here. 

    Don’t forget to bookmark this page and follow us on our social media accounts for more laundry and cleaning advice!