Your Decoding Guide to Wash Care Symbols on Clothing

There will always be one or two pieces of clothing that come of the drier shrunken or something gone wrong. You might then ask yourself what went wrong and stare blankly at the laundry symbols on the clothing tag. These symbols can send your head spinning. You’ve probably bought lots of clothing that likely wasn’t properly washed according to the care label symbols, or tossed a garment into the laundry basket promising a hand wash that never happens. Don’t worry, we are all guilty of speed reading the label and throwing our favorite items in the wash hoping that it will come out of the wash just okay, right?

Well, that doesn’t always go as planned.

The care labels on your clothing are special instructions to help you keep your clothing looking at its best and lasting longer. We have put together a guide to help you ensure you are doing the right steps and to maximize your clothing piece lifetime.

Remember that each label on the clothing states the fabric type and include four symbols. These symbols are washing, bleaching, drying, and ironing. The water temperature is also suggested as a guideline to follow.

Hand Washing

  • If there is a tub with a hand, your item can be hand washed or put on delicate cycle of 40 C or lower.
  • Hand washing is better for delicate items. Cashmere or silk are some examples. It helps prevent shrinking or snagging.
  • If the care label has a twisted symbol your item can be wrung.
  • If the care label cross over a twisted symbol, do not wring the item.

Synthetic Washing

  • A tub symbol indicates your item can be washed in the washing machine
  • A number on the tub means that is the maximum temperature that can be used.
  • The more bars underneath the tub means a reduction of spinning and rinsing.
    • No Bars: The item can be spun and rinsed as normal.
    • 1 Bar: Spin speed should be reduced.
    • 2 Bar: Mild wash but can be spun and rinsed as normal.
  • A cross over the tub symbol means you should not wash the item.


  • A bleaching symbol is a triangle.


  • The wash symbol of an iron is an iron.
  • Items can be ironed at any temperature if the iron symbol has no dots.
  • The more dots determine the temperature of heat that can be applied.
    • 1 Dot: Delicates, such as silk and wool.
    • 2 Dots:
    • 3 Dots: Linen and cotton
  • A cross over the iron indicates you should not ion the items.

Dry Cleaning

  • The care label of dry cleaning is a small circle.
  • A small circle with nothing in it means this item needs to be dry cleaned.
  • A letter in the circle means that a certain chemical to use.
  • The bars underneath the circle indicate the level of precaution the dry cleaner must take.
  • A cross over the circle means symbol should not be dry clean.


  • The drying label has a circle inside a square. This means the item can be tumble dried.
  • The more dots on the dry symbol suggests the temperature of heat that can be applied.
  • A cross over the tumble dry symbol means you should not tumble dry the item, but hand dry it.

Laundry Care Symbol Printables

To help you become familiar with these wash care symbols, print one of these free printables out and put it somewhere where you can easily access it when cleaning your clothes.

Printable from Clean Mama

Printable from One Good Thing by Jillee

Printable from Live Simply by Annie

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