Washing machine and tumble dryer care symbols

Chances are you’re not washing a whole building’s worth of linen at once. At most you’ll have the family wash, so you won’t be too concerned with anything more than separating light materials and dark materials.

We’ve all seen the different symbols which are on the tags in our clothes, so what do they mean? For many clothing items, getting the right kind of wash could prevent the item from being damaged. In this this article we’ll look at the different types of symbols you can currently find in your clothes, telling you what they mean and whether the instructions should be followed. This is only to serve as a basic guide, should you require direct instructions you should contact the garment manufacturer.

 Symbol Description
cotton washes
Cotton Washes (Normal)

This symbol is used for a whole variety of standard, cotton wash programs. There are several variants including:

  • crossed through, meaning do not wash
  • 90°, 60°, 40° and 30, indicating the max temperature the garment can be washed at.

The 40° wash probably the most common wash type, with people using this temperature for their load as a compromise. Higher temperatures are usually used to kill off mites from bedding or towels.

synthetic washes
Synthetic Washes

Similar to the cotton wash symbol, synthetic items will usually feature this symbol with a line beneath it. Again, there are different variances of this symbol, mostly directing you on temperature, but the cross through the basin still applies as a “do not wash” sign.

Whether you have cotton/acrylics, cotton/nylon polyesters or even wool blends, the added line on this symbol indicates a slightly more delicate item. Very few synthetics will recommend a wash any hotter than 50°.

delicate washes
Delicate Washes

If the synthetic symbol has a line which means items are more delicate, two lines must indicate even greater delicacy. With this in mind you may want to separate these items out where possible. This wash usually applies to items made of silk, wool or viscose.

Another symbol which indicates delicate items such as these is the basin with a hand reaching in. This means you should avoid washing in a machine and hand wash the item – some machines however, will have a special function to tackle this symbol.

bleaching symbols
Bleaching Symbols

The triangle for bleaching has many variants and relates to whether you can wash an item with a detergent containing bleach – a normal, blank triangle means the item is safe to wash with a bleach product. A filled, crossed out triangle means no bleach products can be used. Oxygen bleaching is allowed where you see a triangle with two parallel diagonal lines inside. Some now obsolete icons include a CL inside the triangle (chlorine bleaching allowed) and a regular crossed out triangle (do not bleach).

natural drying
Tumble Drying Icons

Many items will also give you instructions on how to tumble dry them, these usually come in the form of a circle inside of a square – this blank circle means an item can be dried at any temperature. A cross through this symbol means do not tumble dry, a single dot in the circle means the garment should be tumble dried at a low heat only, while two dots means you can dry this item at a normal heat.

natural dryingnatural dryingnatural drying
Natural Drying

A box with a cross through it means the garment should not be tumbled or line dried.

Looking almost like a sweet wrapper, this crossed out symbol means you shouldn’t wring the item out.

This symbol indicates items should be lined dried and not tumble dried, two diagonal lines inside the box means the item should be dried in the shade.

ironing directions
Ironing Directions

The Iron symbol will appear on most garments and has a few different variations, including the following:

  • with a cross through – this means “do not iron”
  • with a cross beneath the iron – this means “do not steam iron”
  • with a single dot – this means iron on a low heat
  • with two dots – this means iron on a medium heat
  • with three dots – this means iron on a high heat
dry and wet cleaning
Dry & Wet Cleaning

This circle is used to show the directions for dry and wet cleaning. Here are what the different letters inside the circles mean:

  • F, dry clean with a hydrocarbon solvent
  • P, dry clean with perchloroethylene
  • W, wet cleaning by professionals only

When a circle is crossed through it means the garment cannot be dry cleaned, the same symbol shaded in means the garment cannot be wet cleaned. As with all the other symbols we’ve been through, the addition of a line or two lines beneath the symbol indicates differing levels of delicacy required.

It pays to be cautious with your clothing if you’re unsure of it’s washing requirements. Always check the label and use your best judgement. Beware of labels on clothes from other countries as they may use a different set of symbols – there is, unfortunately, not universal symbol system.

If you have the right wash set for your clothes but are still finding them to be damaged, it could mean you washing machine or tumble dryer is damaged. If you’d like a visit from one of our professional engineers at Domex please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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