Best Tips On How To Read Laundry Symbols

Even though the symbols on the tags of your clothing may seem confusing at first, they are easy to learn. It’s important to take note of them so that your clothes are kept in good condition. The symbols are a ‘how to’ for all things washing, drying, bleaching, and ironing. Once learned, laundry symbols become your best friend in making laundry a breeze, and not just a tag on the back of your clothes anymore. 

Laundry symbols have been around since the late 1950s, yet, as time passes and technological advancements are made, they become more and more vital in the upkeep of clothing. Today they can be found on almost every item of clothing, and while there are slight differences between versions from different countries, most laundry icons on clothing tags are universal. If you are an expert on laundry symbols but need help with other cleaning tips and services, book a SweepStar and choose from the vast array of cleaning services we offer.

The first step is learning the difference between symbols as a whole:

  • Bucket of water – instructions for washing
  • Triangle – instructions for bleaching
  • Circle – instructions for dry-cleaning
  • Square with a circle in the centre – instructions for machine drying
  • Square without a circle in the centre – non-machine drying
  • Iron-looking symbol – instructions for ironing

Laundry Symbols Chart: What Each Symbol Means

Laundry Symbols

Following on from this, the laundry symbols get broken down into more detailed icons with further instructions.

Washing Instruction Symbols

Washing Method Symbols

  • Machine Wash (broken down into different cycles and temperatures)
  • Do Not Wash
  • Hand Wash

Washing Cycle Symbols

  • Normal Cycle
  • Permanent Press Cycle
  • Delicate/Gentle Cycle

Machine Washing Temperature Symbols

  • Symbols stipulate the difference between the following temperatures: 30℃, 40℃, 50℃, 60℃, 70℃, and 95℃

Following the temperature and wash cycle instructions is essential for clean, fresh-smelling laundry, and for maintaining the quality of your clothes. Although most can handle it, some clothing isn’t strong enough to be washed in the machine and could get damaged if done so. Different fabrics require different methods of cleaning to keep them looking newer for longer, so take note of and be sure to follow the instructions on your clothing tags as soon as you buy them. If you find that your clothes are still not being washed properly even when you’re following the exact instructions on your laundry symbols, you may need to clean your washing machine.

Bleaching Laundry Symbols

  • Bleach When Needed
  • Use Non-Chlorine Bleach When Needed
  • Do Not Bleach

Chlorine bleach can do a lot of damage to clothing that is either not meant to be bleached, or clothing that should only be exposed to non-chlorine bleach. If you choose to use bleach, it’s important to look at your clothing’s fabric care label to see if there is a bleach symbol, and what exactly that symbol says. 

Dry Cleaning Laundry Symbols

Solvent Symbols

  • Any Solvent
  • Any Solvent Except Trichloroethylene
  • Petroleum Solvent Only
  • Do Not Dry Clean

Dry-Clean Cycle Symbols

  • Short Cycle
  • Low Heat
  • Reduce Moisture
  • No Steam Finishing

If a clothing tag has a “Dry clean only” symbol on it, it means exactly that. Washing this type of clothing in a machine will damage it. “Professionally dry clean” means that the dry cleaning process must include the following instructions amongst others: using a certain solvent, reducing the cleaning time, and adding or eliminating steam to press the garment. Although these instructions are better suited to your dry cleaner, they are also useful for you to know.

Drying Laundry Symbols

Tumble-Drying Method Symbols

  • Tumble Drying Allowed
  • Do Not Tumble Dry

Tumble-Drying Cycle Symbols

  • Normal Cycle
  • Permanent Press Cycle
  • Delicate/Gentle Cycle

Tumble-Drying Temperature Symbols

  • No Heat/Air
  • Low Heat
  • Medium Heat
  • High Heat

Non-Machine Drying Symbols

  • Line Dry
  • Drip Dry
  • Dry Flat (on a flat surface)
  • Dry In Shade
  • Do Not Dry
  • Do Not Wring

Drying is an especially vital part of keeping your clothes fitting well. Oftentimes, well-fitted clothing gets ruined and no longer fits because of an incorrect drying method used. Understanding drying symbols can help your favourite clothing fit better for longer.

Ironing Laundry Symbols

  • Do Not Iron
  • Iron at Any Temperature
  • Do Not Steam

Ironing Temperature Symbols

  • Symbols stipulate the difference between the following temperatures: 110℃ (Low), 150℃ (Medium), and 200℃ (High)

Some fabrics, like cotton and linen, are meant to be ironed. Others, like delicates made with synthetics, can easily get damaged if ironed. Wool and silk fall into the category of clothing that can be ironed, as long as no steam is used. To make life easier, many modern iron brands include temperature settings for popular fabrics. Even if you do have a modern iron, take note of the ironing symbols on your clothing labels and follow the instructions carefully.

When it comes to instructions for detergents, laundry labels don’t have any because modern washing machines can use cold water to get most laundry clean. Most laundry detergents contain enzymes that can clean in temperatures as low as 15,5℃. Cold water is enough for most clothes, towels, blankets, and other machine-washable laundry, but make sure to read the label for certainty. 

Taking care of your clothes is not only dependent on where and how you wear them, but also on the approach you take in cleaning them. Take a few seconds to read the laundry symbols on your clothing to see and feel the difference everyday. 

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