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Laundry Symbols and What They Mean

Laundry Symbols and What They Mean

Seldom do we take interest in laundry symbols and their meaning, which is surprising considering that they drop hints which have a crucial role to play in the maintenance of clothes.
HomeQuicks Staff
Laundry symbols, also referred to as 'care symbols', are graphic symbols in the form of pictures, which represent a particular concept related to the maintenance of clothes. These symbols are printed on labels attached to the clothes, known as the 'care labels'. Basically, they indicate the best way of cleaning clothes without harming the material. At times, these symbols are complemented by a set of written instructions.
Universal Laundry Symbols
Universal Laundry Symbols
Though they exist on almost all the clothes we wear, we are hardly aware of the presence of these symbols, or their meaning for that matter. These symbols are used to depict particular cleaning instructions. General symbols which are used on care labels universally include ...
  • Washing instructions, depicted by a bucket
  • Bleaching instructions, depicted by a triangle
  • Drying instructions, depicted by a square
  • Ironing instructions, depicted by the symbol of an iron
  • Dry cleaning instructions, depicted by a circle
Grasping these symbols will definitely make your laundry work less intricate.

The general symbols are further modified in order to depict the different methods of cleaning clothes. For instance, a bucket with a single black dot in the center means 'wash in cold water', while a bucket with three black dots means 'wash in hot water.'
Washing Instructions
Washing is symbolized by a 'bucket'. The dots in the bucket indicate the temperature of water, i.e., 1 dot indicates 30 °C, 2 dots indicate 40 °C, and 3 dots indicate 50 °C. At times, these dots are replaced by numbers which represent the temperature of water to wash that particular linen. A bucket with the number 50 would mean wash it in 50 °C water.
  • Bucket with 1 dot - Machine wash with cold water
  • Bucket with 2 dots - Machine wash with warm water
  • Bucket with 3 dots - Machine wash with hot water
  • Bucket with 1 dot and a horizontal line - Machine wash, cold water, permanent press
  • Bucket with 2 dots and a horizontal line - Machine wash, warm water, permanent press
  • Bucket with 3 dots and a horizontal line - Machine wash, hot water, permanent press
  • Bucket with 1 dot and 2 horizontal lines - Machine wash with cold water and gentle cycle
  • Bucket with 2 dots and 2 horizontal lines - Machine wash with warm water and gentle cycle
  • Bucket with 3 dots and 2 horizontal lines - Machine wash with hot water and gentle cycle
  • Bucket with a hand - Hand wash
  • Bucket with a cross - Do not wash
Bleaching Instructions
A 'triangle' is used to symbolize bleaching. It makes dull and gray textiles more lively, but it has to be used carefully. There are basically three laundry symbols for bleaching.
  • Triangle - Bleaching necessary
  • Triangle with slanting lines within - Use only non-chlorine bleach
  • Black triangle with cross - Do not bleach
Drying Instructions
Generally, a 'square' is used to show the correct method of drying. There are four methods of drying and hence, you will come across many drying symbols on care label.
  • Square with a black circle - Tumble dry without heat
  • Square with a circle and 1 dot - Tumble dry with low heat
  • Square with a circle and 2 dots - Tumble dry with medium heat
  • Square with a circle and 3 dots - Tumble dry with high heat
  • Square with a black circle and a horizontal line below - Tumble dry and permanent press without heat
  • Square with a circle, 1 dot and a horizontal line below - Tumble dry and permanent press with low heat
  • Square with a circle, 2 dots and a horizontal line below - Tumble dry and permanent press with medium heat
  • Square with a black circle and 2 horizontal lines below - Tumble dry and gentle cycle without heat
  • Square with a circle, 1 dot and 2 horizontal lines below - Tumble dry and gentle cycle with low heat
  • Square with a circle, 2 dots and 2 horizontal lines below - Tumble dry and gentle cycle with medium heat
  • Square with circle within and a cross - Do not tumble dry
  • Square resembling an envelope - Line dry
  • Square with 3 vertical lines within - Drip dry
  • Square with 1 horizontal line within - Flat dry
Ironing Instructions
Yet another significant part, ironing is symbolized by an 'iron'. The dots in the ironing symbol represents the temperature at which the material can be ironed. One has to be careful though, as not all the cloth materials can be ironed.
  • Iron with a cross - Do not iron
  • Iron with 1 dot - Iron, steam, or dry with low heat
  • Iron with 2 dots - Iron, steam, or dry with medium heat
  • Iron with 3 dots - Iron, steam, or dry with high heat
  • Iron with protruding line beneath and a cross on these lines - Do not iron with steam
Dry Cleaning Instructions
Dry cleaning is represented by a 'circle' on the care label. One should check the label before sending it to dry cleaners.
  • Circle - Dry clean (You will have to take it to professional dry cleaners.)
  • Circle with a cross - Do not dry clean
Being well-versed with these laundry symbols is of a great help when it comes to maintenance of your clothes. At the same time, you need to note that the treatment indicated by these care labels is 'the maximum permitted treatment' and not a necessarily a compulsion. Treatment forms milder than the ones recommended on the care labels can be used. For instance, if the symbol says wash with hot water, you can also wash it in cold water.