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By Wunderlabel on 04/19/2024

Meaning of Laundry Symbols

The Meaning of Laundry Symbols - Washing Symbols Guide

The Wunderlabel comprehensive guide all laundry symbols explained.
Manufacturers use laundry symbols to inform consumers about the proper laundry care of their garments. By following the care instructions on the care tags, you can significantly prolong the life and quality of your textiles. It is therefore worth learning the meaning of laundry symbols that depict instructions for washing, bleaching, drying, ironing and professional cleaning.

1. Understanding and Meaning of Laundry Care Symbols

In the USA, there is a textile labeling law that specifies the order in which the 5 laundry labels, indicating Washing, Bleaching, Drying, Ironing, and Dry Cleaning, should be displayed, ensuring consumers understand the meaning of laundry symbols.

Meaning of Laundry Symbols

1.1. Wash Symbols -  The Tub

All wash symbols are depicted by a tub of water. The meaning of wash symbols:
The number of dots inside in the tub indicate the temperature and the dashes indicate the spin cycle. 
Warning symbols are represented by a cross.

1.1.1. General Washing Symbols

Washing Laundry Symbols

Machine wash: 
This wash tub symbol indicates that the machine can safely wash clothes at the specified temperature in degrees and wash cycle.
Do not wash: 
The cross on the tub indicates that garments and other textiles are not suitable for hand washing or machine washing.
This mainly applies to delicate clothing such as suits, wedding dresses and the like.
Hand wash:
The symbol with a hand in the tub indicates that the laundry may only be washed by hand.  

1.1.2. Water Temperature Symbols for washing your clothes in the washing machine

 Water Temperature Symbols

The dots in the tub determine the temperature of the water. The meaning of laundry symbols with temperature:
The more dots in the tub, the higher the water temperature. Wash the item on the appropriate heat setting.
1.Cold water: Clothes with this symbol (single dot) should be washed in cold water between 65°F and 85°F.
2. Warm water: Clothing with this symbol (two dots) should be washed in warm water with a maximum temperature of 105°F.
2. Hot water: Clothing with this symbol (three dots) should be washed in hot water with a maximum temperature of 120°F.
3. Hot water: Clothing with this symbol (four dots) should be washed in hot water with a maximum temperature of 140°F.
4. Hot water: Clothing with this symbol (five dots) should be washed in hot water with a maximum temperature of 160°F.
5. Hot water: Clothing with this symbol (six dots) should be washed in hot water with a maximum temperature of 200°F.

1.1.3. Wash Symbols for Spinning


The symbol represents spinning through a washing tub with no lines, one line, or two lines underneath the tub.

Wash Symbols for Spinning

The meaning of washing machine symbols:

Normal Cycle: This wash symbol is represented by a tub of water with no lines underneath. This means the washing machine is spinning at normal speed. It is used for more durable and sturdy pieces such as T-shirts, socks or jeans.
Permanent Press Cycle: The symbol for this cycle is a tub of water with a line underneath. This means that the continuous press cycle uses warmer water and slower spin speeds to loosen and reduce existing creases.
Delicate/Gentle Cycle: The symbol for this cycle is a water-filled container with two lines below it. It indicates the delicate wash cycle, which requires a gentle wash at a low temperature and spin speed.

1.2. Bleaching Symbols - The Triangle

Bleaching Symbols - The Triangle

Bleach symbols on laundry labels indicate if and how the garment can be bleached. 
The most common bleaching symbols are
1. Bleaching allowed: An empty triangle or a triangle with a square in it means that bleaching is allowed. 
2. Bleaching not allowed: A crossed-out triangle means that the garment must not be bleached. Do not use chlorine or oxygen bleach.
3. Bleach not allowed: A black triangle with an X inside is an obsolete symbol and means that bleaching is not allowed. 
4. Bleach allowed: A triangle with two diagonal lines allows the use of oxygen as a bleaching agent (non-chlorine bleach).
5. Chlorine bleach: A triangle with CL in the center means that the laundry may only be bleached with chlorine.

1.3. Dryer Symbols - The Square

The square with a circle in the middle of the square is the typical symbol for drying clothes. This symbol on a laundry label means that you can machine dry or air dry.
However, if the symbol has a cross through it, the garment is not suitable for tumble drying. Different variations of this dryer symbol give instructions on which drying programs and temperature settings (indicated by dots) you should use.

1.2.1. General Dryer Symbols

 General Dryer Symbols 
1. Tumble dry: A square with a circle on a care label means that the garment can be tumble dried. 
2. Do not tumble dry: A standard tumble dry symbol with an "X" means that the garment should not be tumble dried under any circumstances. 
3. Do not wring: The symbol of a twisted garment with an "X" means that you should not wring to remove excess water. 
4. Hang to dry: This symbol is a square with a curved line at the top. Items marked with this laundry symbol should be hung on a clothesline to dry. This drying method is gentler, saves energy, reduces creasing and odors.
5. Dry flat: The dry flat symbol with a horizontal line in the middle of the square means the clothing should be laid out to dry on a flat surface. This method is usually recommended for delicate fabrics such as wool, knitwear or fine silk to prevent loss of shape, shrinkage and other damage.

6. Drip Dry: The square filled with three vertical lines means that the dripping wet item should be hung on a washing line and left to drip dry. 

1.2.2. Symbols for Dryer Temperature

The dots in the square refer to the tumble dryer temperature.

Symbols for Dryer Temperature
1. Low temperature: The low temperature symbol is a square with a dot inside the circle. This indicates that the garment should be washed, dried or ironed at a low temperature.
4. Medium heat: A square with two dots inside a circle means medium heat in the dryer. 
5. High heat: The high heat symbol is a square with three dots inside a circle. This means you can wash, dry and iron clothes at a high temperature.
4. Tumble dry: The tumble-dry symbol is a square with a circle. This means that you can dry in a tumble dryer. 
5. No heat / air only: The symbol for "no heat" is a small square with a black circle. This means that you should tumble dry without heat.

1.2.3. Symbols for Drying in the Tumble Dryer

The lines under the square refer to the tumble dryer cycles.

 Symbols for Drying in the Tumble Dryer
1. Normal cycle: If the square has no line under it, you can dry your clothes using the normal settings. The normal cycle is suitable for drying items such as towels, bed linen, jeans, T-shirts and sweatpants. Use caution with natural fiber textiles as they are more susceptible to damage.
2. Permanent Press Cycle: If there is a line under the square with a circle, you should use a gentle drying program.
3. Delicate/Gentle Cycle
If there is a line under the square with a circle, you should use a special gentle program for delicate laundry when drying.

1.4. Ironing Symbols

Some fabrics look great after ironing, while others, such as delicate fabrics, are damaged. Other fabrics require special attention when ironing.

Ironing Symbols
Ironing symbols on clothing labels tell you how to iron and at what temperature it is safe to do so. Here are some of the most common ironing symbols and what they mean:
Ironing allowed: A plain iron symbol means you can iron your pieces. The lowest setting is recommended for the most delicate fabrics.
Low iron temperature: An ironing symbol with a dot in the middle indicates that you should iron at a low temperature. This is usually for delicate fabrics such as silk or acrylics, where damage can occur.
Medium iron temperature: Two dots in the ironing symbol indicate that the garment should be ironed at a medium temperature. Suitable for fabrics like polyester or wool.
High iron temperature: Three dots in the ironing symbol mean that the item should be ironed at a high temperature. Suitable for durable fabrics such as cotton or linen.
Do not iron: A crossed-out ironing symbol indicates that ironing is not recommended. Doing so may damage your textiles.

1.5. Chemical cleaning

The dry-cleaning symbol on clothing labels indicates that the garment has special cleaning and care requirements take it to a professional drying / professional cleaning service. Here are some common care symbols and meaning of these laundry symbols:

 Chemical cleaning Symbols
1. P - Professional cleaning required: The symbol "P" on the label indicates that the garment should only be cleaned by a professional dry-cleaner. This means that is not suitable for normal laundering. Special dry-cleaning procedures are required.
2. F - Liquid cleaning required: The symbol "F" indicates that the garment should be cleaned only with petroleum-based solvents.
This should be used frequently to clean delicate fabrics.
3. A - All Solvents: The symbol “A” means that you can use any solvents to clean the fabric.
4. W - Wet clean: The symbol with the circle and "W" in it stands for "Wet Clean". It indicates that the garment is suitable for wet cleaning. You should use water and special laundry detergents instead of conventional dry cleaning methods.
5. The "Do not dry clean" symbol is usually represented by a crossed-out circle. You should not dry clean.

2. Download Our Guide to Laundry Symbols

Download (pdf) and print the comprehensive Wunderlabel laundry symbols guide to help you understand what each care symbol means and how to best care for your clothes.
Download Our Guide to Laundry Symbols

The laundry symbols on our labels have been historical developed to be internationally standardized. They provide clear instructions for the correct care, regardless of the customer's language or country of origin.
Wunderlabel is a leading manufacturer of premium laundry labels. We offer the highest quality and a wide range of products. With many years of experience in the industry, we offer customized solutions for all your laundry labeling needs.
Find all care labels in the configurator or in the Wunderlabel store. They are clearly explained and you can design your own labels with different symbols under "care labels".
Always follow the laundry care instructions. Perfect clothing care gives you long lasting garments and is therefore even great for the environment.