It can be a confusing process not knowing how to wash all of your different garments. Care labels are sometimes in multiple languages, hard to understand and not clear to the untrained eye. Learning how to interpret laundry care symbols can ease this process and make washing your clothing more manageable. When you can recognize what each of the symbols represent and their varying details, you’ll be able to safely wash the different fabrics and keep your garments looking new.
There are 5 main symbols to look out for when reading a care label. Washing, bleaching, drying, ironing and dry cleaning. Each of these symbols contain varying symbols that mean different things.
When you see this symbol that looks like a basin filled with water, it refers to how this garment should be washed. It can include a temperature, or dots, that refer to the heat the water should be set to while washing. The lower the number or amount of dots, the colder the water should be when washing. A single line beneath the basin indicates it should be washed on Permanent Press setting, while two lines indicate it needs the Gentle Cycle. A hand immersed in the water indicates this garment should be hand washed, while an X going through the symbol means Do Not Wash. This is usually an indication that the garment needs to be professionally dry cleaned. Whether you are washing in the machine, or hand washing in a basin, be sure to check the care symbol before proceeding. Some fabrics may get ruined when immersed in water, or a certain temperature of water.
When you see the triangle symbol, it refers to bleaching. The symbols are easy to understand as there are only 3 varying details. The plain triangle means bleach if necessary, while the X going through the symbol means to do not bleach. If the triangle contains two lines or the letters CL with an X going through the symbol, it means non-chlorine bleach when necessary. Misusing bleach is a sure way to ruin your garment, so always do a small patch test for colorfastness before washing with bleach.
This symbol is especially important to look out for, as it’s in the machine dryer that the most damage can be done to garments. The square with a circle symbol indicates the garment may be tumble dried in the machine. Like the washing symbol, the dryer symbol can include dots,that refer to the heat the dryer should be set to. The lower the amount of dots, the cooler the temperature should be when drying. A solid black circle indicates no heat, and the Air Only setting should be used. A single line beneath the square indicates it should be dried on Permanent Press setting, while two lines indicate it needs the Gentle setting. a semi-circle at the top of the square means Line Dry, while one horizontal line means Dry Flat and three vertical lines means Drip Dry. Accompanying those settings can sometimes be a symbol with two diagonal lines in the left corner indicating to dry in the shade, away from direct sunlight. The X going through the symbol means Do Not Tumble Dry, and will include another method to dry the garment. As some garments can be mislabeled, it is always safer to air dry garments you’re not sure of putting in the dryer.
The ironing symbol is the most straightforward symbol of the 5, as it looks like an iron. The main symbol means that the garment can be ironed, at any temperature, with or without the use of steam. Again, the iron symbol can include dots,that refer to the heat the iron should be set to. The lower the amount of dots, the cooler the temperature should be when ironing. The X going through the symbol means Do Not Iron, while the X going through the steam at the bottom of the iron means Do Not Use Steam.
When you see the circle Dry Clean symbol, it usually indicates that the item cannot be cleaned by regular washing machine methods. This does not necessarily mean you need to have the garment professionally cleaned, but you do need to take care when cleaning it. If you are unsure and don’t want to risk ruining the item, take it in to be cleaned professionally. The symbols detailing the solvents that can be used to clean it are mostly for the use of the cleaner. The X going through the symbol means Do Not Dry Clean and you can definitely launder this at home yourself.
If you are still unsure, there are usually written cleaning instructions accompanying the symbols. Also you should use your judgement when it comes to different fabrics and embellishments on the piece. To keep your most beloved items clean and looking new, hand washing and air drying is mostly a safe option. Using Soak in a basin or in your washing machine will keep your clothes clean and looking great. Check out the Soak School section of our website for more detailed instructions on cleaning delicates.