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What Do Laundry Symbols Mean? The Complete Guide You’ve Been Waiting For!

Laundry symbols are frustrating. Reading machine and clothes labels often feel like interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphics. We at The Washroom Laundry Service wanted to help clear up the confusion by putting together the ultimate guide on “what do laundry symbols mean.” Understanding the symbols on care labels is essential to extending the lifetime of your clothes.

Grasping the meaning of these “hieroglyphics” will help you avoid common laundry mistakes and thus making your favorite shirt last longer. Keep reading to find out more on how to read laundry symbols correctly.

What Do Laundry Symbols Mean?

You’re most likely to encounter laundry symbols on:

  • Clothes tags
  • Washing machines
  • Dryers

These symbols guide you on where to put laundry detergent or fabric softener in your washer, how to control the temperature of your dryer, etc. Today we will focus on clothes symbols.

Clothes labels give you specific instructions on how to care for a certain fabric, dye, or garments. Let’s discuss the following categories of laundry symbols:

  • Machine Washing Symbols
  • Clothes Drying Symbols
  • Ironing Symbols
  • Bleaching Symbols
  • Dry Clean Symbols on Clothes

Here’s a Comprehensive Laundry Symbols Chart.

MachineWash Symbols

There are three categories of machine washing symbols, including:

  • Wash Cycle: The wash cycle symbols indicate specific instructions with a washtub and an extra symbol overlayed on top of it.
  • Type of Wash Cycle: The symbol indicates the type of wash cycle with either no lines, one line, or two lines underneath the tub of water.
  • Temperature: The symbols represent temperature with a tub of water and dots in the tub.

MachineWash Cycle

If you see a simple washtub symbol, you can wash the clothing on a normal cycle. If the same symbol has an X through it, don’t machine wash the garment. If the symbol is a hand dipping into a tub, hand wash the garment.

You may also see a symbol that looks like a circular candy in a twist wrapper with an X through it, indicating you should not wring out the fabric.

Type of Wash Cycle

If you see a tub with a single horizontal line under it, it indicates a permanent press cycle. If there are two horizontal lines under the tub of water, wash the garment on a gentle/delicate cycle.


Sometimes the tub of water will indicate a number of degrees. Be careful, as they tend to list the temperature in Celsius. If the care label has a tub with one dot in it, you should wash the garment cold (below 85F).

If the tub shows two dots, wash the piece of clothing at a medium temperature (not above 40C or 105F). If the label has three dots, wash it hot at 50C or 120F or below. More than three dots indicate that you can wash the garment at high heat.

Clothes Drying Symbols

A drying symbol is represented with a box. There are four general symbols:

  • Box with a circle inside: Tumble dry the garment.
  • A circle inside and X on top: Avoid tumble drying.
  • The concave line at the top: Let the clothes hang to air dry.
  • A horizontal line through the middle or vertical lines inside: Air dry the garment by laying it flat.

In regard to heat, you should see a box with a circle inside of it:

  • Black circle: Don’t dry the garment with heat.
  • Horizontal line under box: Use the permanent press drying cycle.
  • Two horizontal lines underneath: Dry on a gentle or delicate cycle.

Like the wash cycle symbols, if you see a box with a circle inside and dots inside the circle, they indicate heat levels. One dot indicates low heat, two dots medium heat, and three dots high heat.

Ironing Symbols

They represent ironing symbols with an abstract iron. Dots inside indicate temperature: One dot is low ironing temperature, two dots medium, and three dots high.

If you see an abstract iron with an X, do not iron the garment. If you see an X through slanted lines coming from underneath the iron, you cannot steam the piece of clothing.

Bleaching Symbols

Symbols that represent bleach are shown with a triangle. There are three:

  • Triangle: Whiten with chlorine bleach as needed.
  • Triangle with X: You can’t bleach the garment.
  • Triangle with two slanted lines inside: Only use non-chlorine bleach for the garment.

Dry Clean Symbols on Clothes

The dry clean symbol is represented with an empty circle. If it is a normal circle, you should only dry clean the garment. If there is a circle with an X through it, don’t dry clean it.

Laundry Service in Charlotte, NC

We hope that our guide has answered the common question, “What do laundry symbols mean?”

Feeling overwhelmed by laundry? The Washroom Laundry Service is here to help! We offer dry cleaning, wash and fold, and residential and commercial laundry delivery services to make your life easier. Plus, we offer free pickup and delivery so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Let us take care of your laundry for you – it’s what we do best! You can trust us to get the job done quickly and efficiently so you can focus on the things that matter most to you. Contact us today at 704-967-9237 or schedule an online pickup today!

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