Sheet showing laundry care symbols and an explanation of their meaning for washing, drying and stains
kair 101

Decoding laundry care symbols

We’ve all been there: looking perplexed at the cryptic symbols on the tag of the latest addition to our wardrobe, not being able to decipher the tiny written instructions and wondering how on earth to wash your piece.

To help you out, here’s our guide to quickly decoding care labels, so you need never be confused again.

Machine Wash, Hand Wash & Do Not Wash

Laundry Care Symbols: L-R Machine Wash, Machine Wash Permanent, Machine Wash Delicates, Hand Wash, Do Not Wash

If your care label has this symbol, it means the item can be machine washed. The number on the tub indicated the maximum temperature that can be used. The bars underneath the tub indicate a reduction of spinning and rinsing. No bar = the piece can be spun and rinsed as normal, one bar = spin  speed should be reduced, two bars = mild wash but can be spun and rinsed as normal. This tub with a hand means your item can be hand washed or put in a delicate cycle of 40°C/104°F, or lower

Dry Cleaning

Laundry Care Symbol - Dry Clean

This means the garment is suitable for dry cleaning. The letter inside the circle indicates which chemical wash and method should be used. If there are bars underneath the circle, this indicates the level of precaution needed. If there’s a cross over the entire circle, the item shouldn’t be dry cleaned.


Laundry Care Symbol - Do Not Wring

Wringing out your clothes is possibly the most common mistake made during hand washing or drying clothes without a dryer. Twisting the fabric by hand can seriously damage your favourite item of clothing. If you're not sure whether to wring out the excess water by hand, look out for this symbol on your clothing label. If there’s a cross through it do not attempt to wring!


Laundry Care Symbols L-R: Dry, Dry Flat, Drip Dry, Dry In The Shade, Do Not Dry

Drying your clothes can be where it all goes wrong and you either end up stretching your favourite wool jumper or shrinking your best top. If the square has one drooping line, this means you can hang your clothes to dry on a washing line outside. If the square has three vertical lines in it, this means drip dry your clothes on a rack indoors. If the square has one horizontal line, this means dry the garment flat to keep its shape.

Tumble Drying

Laundry Care Symbols L-R: Tumble Dry, Tumble Dry Low Heat, Tumble Dry Medium Heat, Tumble Dry Medium Heat

This symbol means your item can be tumble dried. The dots inside the symbol suggest the temperature of heat that can be applied. Three dots = high temperature, two dots = medium and one dot = low. If there is a cross over the symbol, you should not tumble dry the item.


Laundry Care Symbols L-R: Iron, Iron Low Heat, Iron Medium Heat, Iron High Heat, Do Not Iron

The dots on ironing symbols correspond to the dots on an iron’s temperature settings: the more dots there are, the more heat can be applied. Three dots are for linen and cotton, two dots are for synthetics, one dot is for the most delicate items such as wool and silk.

It’s a lot to take in and even more to remember, so we’ll keep our handy little guide right here so you can check back anytime you need it.


Cover Image via PennyandHorse 

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