Do the washing symbols on your new clothing tag look like hieroglyphics? Have you ever turned a load of washing pink, ignored the clothes tags and shrunk your favourite woolly jumper or used too hot an iron and melted your blouse?

Understanding the meaning of a few standard clothing drawings will help you care properly for your new clothes and avoid costly laundry calamity!

The Knowhow:

Your new clothing has required labeling with symbols that show the care that is recommended for the fabric, based on its individual characteristics.

Six simple line drawings form the basis of most all instruction.

First, it's important to know that any one of these can have an X through it, meaning that you should NOT do it (ie: do not put in dryer or do not use bleach or do not wash - ie: only dryclean)

St. Andrew's Cross = Do Not

Washing: The wash tub symbol hearkens back to the days when clothes were washed in a tub. The temperature numerals or number of dots in the tub will indicate the heat of the water that can be used. A hand in the tub will indicate that the article should be hand washed. Lines underneath indicate that the wash should be gentle or permanent press.

Washing Tub = Wash by Machine or Hand


 = Recommended temperature (30, 40, 50, 60, or 95 degrees Centigrade)

 = Cotton wash

 = Permanent press

 = Wool wash

 = Hand wash only

 = Do not wash

The triangle indicates how bleach can or cannot be used


= Chlorine bleach can be used

= Do not bleach

= Use only oxygen bleach or non-chlorine bleach

Ironing: A symbol that actually looks like it is! The more dots in the body of the iron, the hotter you can set the temperature with lower temperatures for softer fabrics or higher ones that respond to that crisp, clean look.

Iron = Ironing


 = Low heat

 = Medium heat

 = High heat

 = Do not iron

Drying: The square is the symbol for the best way to dry this piece of clothing. Most commonly, you will see a circle in a square which means that this article can be tumble dried. Or, if there's a cross through it, tumble drying is not recommended.

Circle in Square = Tumble Drying after Washing


= Tumble dry on low

= Tumble dry high

= Do not put in dryer

= Drip dry

= Hang dry or line dry

= Dry flat

Dry Cleaning: The circle symbolises that the best cleaning solution for this piece of clothing will be dry cleaning. The circle will have a letter inside which describes the kind of dry cleaning solvent that can be used. An underscore means that it should be treated delicately.

Circle = Dry Cleaning


Dry clean - use any solvent

Dry clean - use petroleum solvent

Dry clean petroleum - delicate

Dry clean - perchloroethylene R113, R11 & petroleum solvent

With attention to this basic guide on how to wash, bleach, dry, iron, dry clean or when NOT to do these, you can understand how to keep your favourite clothes in tip top condition and interpret the fine print!

Updated On:

Dec 07, 2011

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