Laundry symbols & washing labels explained
We’ve all been there before: we go to pop something in the washing machine, check the label, and haven’t got the foggiest idea as to what any of the laundry symbols mean.
Trying to decipher washing labels can feel like reading a page of ancient hieroglyphics. However, they’re well worth paying attention to so you can avoid laundry mishaps!
Translate those washing labels with ease by using our useful guide to laundry symbols.
Machine washing symbols
Symbols of tubs with water mean that the item is machine washable.
The number relates to the highest temperature to wash at, and is sometimes shown with dots – more dots, higher temperature.
Lines underneath the tub relate to a specific cycle: one line should be washed on a synthetics cycle, and two lines means a gentle or wool wash cycle.
If the tub has a cross through it, the item is not machine washable. Don’t risk it!
Hand washing symbols
Some fabrics – like wool, cashmere, or silk – are best washed by hand or the ‘delicates’ cycle on your washing machine to avoid shrinking, stretching, or snagging.
If there’s a tub symbol with a hand in it, the item should be hand washed at a maximum of 40°.
Fill a sink with tepid water and a small amount of laundry detergent. Gently agitate the garment before draining the water and rinsing with clean water.
Once washed and rinsed, the best way to dry the item is by rolling it up in a towel before unrolling and hanging out to dry. This makes sure the item dries quicker and doesn’t leave pools of water on the floor.
Some labels have symbols advising whether you can wring the item dry or not, but we find the towel technique is more effective – and less risky.
Air drying symbols
Most of your everyday items can be hung out to dry as normal, though some fabrics don’t like this so much.
Wool knits and delicate fabrics are prone to being misshapen if hung normally, so if you see a box with a horizontal line, you should dry the item flat, not on an airer.
Lay the item on a towel in its original shape and leave until fully dry. Easy!
Tumble drying symbols
Tumble dryers are great for things like bedsheets and towels. You won’t have to deal with the infuriating task of drying duvet covers over doorframes, or scratchy towels.
With clothing, exercise a little bit of caution and pay attention to the label, specifically which temperature to dry at.
Make sure you pay attention to the recommended temperature for tumble drying. Too many t-shirts have been destined for the bin after coming out of the dryer the same size as doll’s clothes!
Love it or hate it, ironing is a necessary part of laundry.
Check the label for guidance on whether an item should be ironed. Just like machine washing, more dots mean higher temperature.
Some materials are a bit fussy and don’t like steam, but they’ll always tell you on the label.
For garments that are non-iron, you can steam them to remove wrinkles. Simply hang on a clothes hanger and use the steam function on your iron (or a dedicated clothes steamer) to apply steam.
Alternatively, you can hang the garment in the bathroom while you take a shower. This will naturally soften any wrinkles or creases.
Dry cleaning symbols
Certain items can only be dry cleaned through your local dry-cleaning service. You’ll know this if there is a circular symbol, sometimes with letters.
Other than checking whether it should be dry cleaned or not, you shouldn’t need to worry about other dry cleaning laundry symbols, as these are guidance for the dry cleaners themselves.
Bleach can be used to bring some dazzle back to your whites.
Before you go reaching for that bottle, double check the label for any laundry symbols relating to bleach. This is an easy one as it pretty much always either says ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
If your whites need refreshing and you don’t want to use bleach, a good whitening powder in your wash is a safer bet.
Now we’ve cleared the muddy waters of laundry symbols, getting the washing right should be a doddle.