How To Read a Laundry Symbols Chart
Cleaning pros decipher the complete 'alphabet' of laundry tag symbols
After a few wears, it’s time to launder your new blouse and you’re unsure exactly how to wash and dry the delicate fabric. When you locate the tag inside the garment for its care instructions, you’re faced with a scramble of tiny symbols. Not only are the symbols hard to see, even with your reading glasses on, but they also aren’t always intuitive. And while the little ciphers may feel like a puzzle that’s impossible to solve, it’s important to persevere, encourages Ilya Ornatov, founder of Seattle-based cleaning company NW Maids. “The standardized symbols are universally recognized and provide important information on how to treat different materials during the laundry process.” Here, a complete guide to the laundry symbols chart.
That’s why we asked Ornatov and other laundry pros to break down the chart section by section so you can easily identify how to wash, iron, dry, dry clean and bleach even the trickiest of fabrics with just a quick glance at their care labels.
The symbols on the chart that resemble a water bucket denote washing instructions, including the appropriate washing methods, wash cycles and water temperatures for fabrics or garments.
“It is important to follow these symbols because materials have varying tolerances to heat and agitation,” notes Ornatov. “Adhering to the recommended water temperature and wash cycle can minimize the risk of damaging the fabric or causing color fading, shrinking or stretching.”
He adds that the chart is especially crucial to follow when washing delicate fabrics, linens, bedding and other items that require extra care.
These symbols are identified by a number of dots or degrees in Celcius, inside each bucket
The six iron-shaped icons indicate ironing directions and can be helpful when determining proper heat temperatures or steam settings for taking the creases out of different fabrics, says Ornatov.
While ironing can eliminate wrinkles and enhance the overall look of garments, it’s important not to use excessive heat or steam on delicate fabrics as it may lead to scorching, melting or permanent damage.
“By referring to the ironing symbols on the chart, you can ensure that you apply just enough heat and steam required while safeguarding your fabrics and achieving desired results,” he says.
The square symbols with circles inside typically refer to drying instructions and convey whether an item should be tumble-dried, line dried or laid flat to dry.
“Proper drying preserves the integrity and shape of your garments, while improper drying techniques can result in shrinkage, distortion or excessive wrinkling,” says Ornatov.
Not only will you avoid shrinking items so small that they could be worn by the little ones in your life, but you’ll also help prolong the lifespan of your clothes and maintain their original appearance.
The circular symbols are for dry cleaning and are often better left to be utilized by the professionals. “Dry-clean only instructions indicate that an item should not be washed with water, and instead be professionally dry cleaned,” says Ornatov. “It involves using special solvents to remove stains and clean delicate or sensitive fabrics that may not withstand traditional water-based washing methods.”
Instead of taking the matter into your own hands, it is best to send dry-clean only items to the dry cleaners to prevent potential damage to the fabrics and maintain their quality. But if you’re curious what to tell the dry cleaner, these will help.
The triangular symbols on the chart explain how to properly use chlorine and non-chlorine bleach on fabrics and garments. If you would like to use bleach on a particular item, be sure to check its care label before using to avoid unwanted splotches or holes in your fabrics.Bucket icon with just the wavy line at the topBucket icon with a line underneathBucket icon with two lines underneathBucket icon with hand insideBucket icon with an “X” over itTwisted towel with an “X” over itOne dot or “30º” insideTwo dots or “40º” insideThree dots or “50º” insideFour dots or “60º” meansFive dots or “70º” meansSix dots or “95º” meansIron icon with one dot insideIron icon with two dotsinsideIron icon with three dotsinside Iron icon with nothing insideIron icon with an “X” over itIron icon with an “X” below itSquare with just a circle inside Tumble dry icon with one dot in centerTumble dry icon with two dots in centerTumble dry icon with three dots in centerSquare with a horizontal line insideSquare with two slanted lines in top left corner Tumble dry icon with circle filled inTumble dry icon with one line underneathTumble dry icon with two lines underneathSquare with curved line inside Square with three vertical lines insideTumble dry icon with an “X” over it Circle with a line near the bottom leftCircle with a line near the top left Circle with a line near the bottom rightCircle with a line near the top right Circle with an “X” over it Circle filled in with an “X” over it Circle with an “A” inside Circle with a “P” insideCircle with an “F” insideCircle with a “W” inside A triangle with nothing inside A triangle with two angled lines insideA triangle with an “X” over it