Laundry symbols explained

What shape represents bleach on a standard laundry tag and what do the other laundry symbols mean? In this article we will explain what those small tags inside your clothes mean helping you better understand how to wash your fitness apparel.
One of the key factors to keep your clothes looking fresh for a long time is how you take care of them. This is where the laundry wash symbols on the care tag come in handy. Who would’ve known the care label is there for a reason other than making my back itch?
Laundry care symbols or just care symbols are small pictograms on the care label tag of a garment. These icons show washing, drying, ironing, and other instructions that help you tend to your clothes correctly. 
Let’s go through laundry symbols and what they mean, one by one!

Washing symbols:

machine wash symbol
Machine Wash
Golden rule: a tub of water represents a washing machine. This care label symbol means you can wash your clothes in the washing machine in normal, standard settings.
machine wash temperature symbol
Machine Wash (with temperature)
Machine wash symbol with degrees inside of it means you should wash your garments in the washing machine at the temperature shown.
machine wash permanent press symbol
Machine Wash (Permanent Press)
This symbol with a tub and a line under it signifies that you should use the permanent press setting on your washing machine. This setting means that your clothes are washed gently to prevent wrinkling. Your washer does this by washing the clothing with warm water on a slow spin cycle. This cycle is usually best for synthetic and blended fabrics.
machine wash delicate gentle symbol
Machine Wash (Delicate/Gentle)
Another rule to remember: the more bars under the tub, the more gentle the washing cycle should be. A tub with two bars under it means you should set your washer to a delicate or gentle washing cycle. This cycle is used for fragile items such as lace underwear, wool clothing, and blouses.
machine wash temperature setting symbol
Machine Wash (with temperature settings)
The washing machine symbol with one or multiple dots inside indicates how hot or cold the water temperature should be (when not indicated with numbers).
  • 1 dot =  65°F–85°F (18°C–29°C)
  • 2 dots =  105°F (40°C)
  • 3 dots = 120°F (49°C)
  • 4 dots = 140°F (60°C)
  • 5 dots = 160°F (71°C)
  • 6 dots = 200°F (93°C)
hand wash symbol
Hand Wash
A symbol of a tub and a hand in it means this item should be hand-washed. Some washing machines have a Hand Wash cycle setting, however, it’s not suitable for all garments with the Hand Wash symbol on the care tag. You shouldn’t machine-wash your clothing on this setting if the item is vintage or antique, heavily embellished or embroidered, is woven and can tangle with itself, and if your item can be misshaped if stretched. This cycle is usually okay for synthetic blend fabrics, small pieces of clothing made from natural wool fibers, like socks and gloves, and also big items like sweaters. 
do not wash symbol
Do Not Wash
This care label symbol with a crossed-out tub means you shouldn’t wash your garment at home and it has to be professionally dry cleaned.
Bleaching symbols
any bleach symbol
Any Bleach
All triangle symbols refer to bleaching instructions. A simple triangle like this one means your clothing item can be bleached with any bleach. 
non chlorine bleach symbol
Non-Chlorine Bleach Only
A triangle pictogram with diagonal lines means you can bleach your garment, but only with a bleach that doesn’t contain any chlorine. Usually, you’ll see this symbol on clothing that’s made out of materials like spandex, wool, silk, mohair, and leather. Chlorine bleach can break down the fabric of such clothing. 
do not bleach symbol
Do Not Bleach
A solid black, crossed-out triangle means your garment isn’t suitable for bleaching. 
Drying symbols
tumble dry symbol

Tumble Dry (Normal)

This square symbol with a circle inside means you can tumble dry your clothes on normal, standard settings in your dryer. 

tumble dry permanent press and delicate gentle symbol

Tumble Dry (Permanent Press and Delicate/Gentle)

Similar to washing symbols, lines under the Tumble Dry symbol represent the cycles you should dry your garms in. One line is for the Permanent Press cycle and two lines are for the Delicate/Gentle cycle setting.

tumble dry heat setting symbol

Tumble Dry Heat Setting (Low, Medium, and High)

Is it just me or as we go on, these symbols start to make more and more sense? The dots inside the Tumble Dry symbol indicate the heat setting you should use when drying the specific item. Accordingly, 1 dot is for low heat, 2 dots for medium heat, and 3 dots for high heat. 

tumble dry no heat symbol

Tumble Dry (No Heat)

This Tumble Dry symbol with a filled circle in the middle means that your clothes can be tumble dried, however, you shouldn’t use any heat in the process.

line dry symbol

Line Dry

A square symbol with a semicircle at the top indicates that your clothing item should be line-dried. It means you shouldn’t use an electric dryer, but smoothen out and shape your garments before hanging them to air-dry instead. This method also saves a lot of electricity, therefore, is a more eco-friendly way to dry your clothes. 

drip dry symbol

Drip Dry

This square symbol with 3 vertical lines symbolizes drip drying. The item can be hung in the shower, and you should let the excess water drip down naturally. The difference between line-drying and drip-drying is that you don’t shape or smoothen out your item before leaving it to drip-dry.

dry in shade

Dry in Shade

2 parallel lines in the upper corner of the symbol on the care label mean your piece of clothing needs to be dried in shade. You might see this tag on dark items because drying your clothes in direct sunlight can lead to colors fading.

Ironing symbols

iron symbol
Iron (Any Temperature, Steam, or Dry)
Ironing symbols are quite easy. This flat iron character means you can iron your tee, sweater, or pants at any temperature you want. The same goes for steaming and drying it with an iron.
iron temperature symbol
Iron (Low, Medium, and High Temperatures)
As we’ve seen above, more dots mean higher temperature or heat. 1 dot inside an iron represents low temperature (230°F), 2 dots—medium temperature (290°F), and 3 dots—high temperature (300°F). You should iron your clothing at the temperature shown on the label. 
do not steam symbol
Do Not Steam
An icon showing crossed-out steam coming from a flat iron means you shouldn’t steam your favorite blouse or shirt because you might ruin it if you do. This technique is great for eliminating wrinkles, however, it’s not suitable for all fabrics. 
do not iron symbol
Do Not Iron
A crossed-out flat iron character signifies that you shouldn’t iron your garm at all. 
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