We all hope to keep our favourite items of clothing in immaculate condition and looking their best. The most effective way to achieve long-lasting garments is to spend time understanding their requirements and care guidelines. All items, regardless of their type, include an inner care label that lists precise instructions when washing, drying, ironing, dry cleaning and bleaching.
While we are all familiar with the purpose of the care label, many would find it somewhat tricky to identify the difference in washing instruction symbols and pinpoint their exact meaning. With this in mind, we have devised a comprehensive guide to answer the common question of, “what do cleaning symbols mean?”.
What Do Washing Instruction Symbols Mean?
When purchasing a new item of clothing, it is vitally important to ensure that you take a quick look at the care label before attempting to wash it for the first time. Not all items can be refreshed as quickly as popping in the washing machine, followed by the tumble dryer. More delicate materials such as silk and cashmere require meticulous care and must be taken to reputable dry cleaners in Milton Keynes.
To avoid incorrect care of your garments, we suggest taking a browse through our quick and easy guide to the meaning behind the various cleaning symbols.
- Clothes Washing Symbols
- Laundry Symbols Meaning For Dry Cleaning
- Triangle Symbol Meaning Washing Instructions
- Drying Guidelines For Your Clothing
- Ironing Symbols
Taking a look at your clothes washing symbols can help you to determine things such as what temperature to put your wash on as well as what cycle. Many new washing machines have multiple settings on them for delicates, wool materials and even bedding, making it even easier for you to know which cycle to pop it on. However, to make sure that you are putting your garments in at the right temperature and wash cycle, be sure to take a look at the care label.
- Machine Washable
- Wash Cold
- Wash Warm
- Wash Hot
- Synthetics Cycle
- Gentle Wash Cycle
- Hand Wash
- Do Not Wash
- Do Not Wring
Machine washable is the most common washing label and is a simple bucket filled with water. In this case, it means that the item can be placed in a normal machine wash at any temperature using any detergent. If you are a little unsure of the best detergents to suit your requirements, we suggest taking a look at Expert Reviews.
Temperature instructions differ based on the manufacturer and will be determined either by dots or numbers. Garments that require a cold wash will again, feature a bucket filled with water but inside will be either one dot or 30˚, indicating the ideal water temperature of this particular item.
Any labels that feature a bucket filled with water and includes two dots or 40˚ require a warm wash at 40˚C.
The last temperature symbol is for those that require a hot water wash. There are, again, two ways in which you can determine ‘wash hot’ items; you will see either three dots or 60˚.
Fabrics that have been made using synthetic materials are commonly derived from plastic, which means that washing items at a high temperature can risk melting the fibres. A lower temperature will be required to protect garments from irreparable damage. You can spot a synthetic item through a symbol that features a water-filled bucket with one line drawn underneath. More information on how to wash synthetics can be found on Sew Dynamic Fabrics.
The gentle wash cycle symbol is incredibly similar to synthetic wash, but instead, there will be two lines underneath the bucket. A gentle wash cycle is for delicate items such as those made using wool. They require a short, cold wash with slow tumbling and spinning.
The hand wash symbol is pretty self-explanatory and features again the bucket filled with water, but this time, with a hand reaching into the water. While some modern washing machines do have a hand wash programme, we recommend sticking to the traditional methods using a little elbow grease. If you’re yet to attempt to hand wash an item, we suggest taking a look at Better Homes and Gardens for a super easy to follow guide!
Some items can only be dry cleaned and are not suitable for the washing machine or hand washing. This symbol is easy to decipher and features a cross through the bucket of water. If your clothing features this symbol, then please contact our team for laundry service in Milton Keynes.
Any clothing labels that include what looks like twisted fabric with a large cross through means that you should not wring the item. Wringing is commonly done when handwashing and means that the material is twisted and compressed. If the label states that you cannot do this, instead, opt for allowing the item to drip-dry.
Now we move on to laundry symbols meaning, which follows nicely from washing your garments. After putting your clothing in your washing machine, it is then time to dry the clothing, but depending on the materials used, this may have to be completed in a specific way. Take a look below at the different laundry symbols and their meanings.
- Do Not Dry Clean Symbol
- Dry Clean Only
- Any Solvent
- Any Solvent Except Trichloroethylene
- Petroleum Solvent Only
A circle with a large cross through the middle means that the clothing cannot be dry cleaned; this may be because the items are too delicate to withstand the chemicals that dry cleaners use.
Dry cleaning symbols always feature a circle. Care labels that include an empty circle indicate that the item can be dry cleaned without the need for any specialist treatments to preserve the condition of the garment.
If you notice the circle above, but it has an ‘A’ inside, then it means that when taking the item to the dry cleaners, any solvent can be used when cleaning. The solvent is used to soak the clothing to remove stains thoroughly.
A circle with a ‘P’ inside means that your chosen dry cleaner must not use trichloroethylene during any steps of the cleaning process. Trichloroethylene is a colourless liquid chemical that can be damaging to delicate items of clothing. They will instead use safer solvent alternatives.
Any care labels that feature a circle with an ‘F’ inside indicate that the garment can only be dry cleaned using a petroleum solvent. Petroleum solvent is used instead of water to clean the item.
Your care label may include a triangle washing symbol, which indicates whether you can bleach the garment not. Here is the triangle symbol meaning for washing instructions:
Bleaching symbols are always triangle-shaped, making them easy to spot. Items that cannot be bleached simply feature a triangle with a cross through the middle.
A triangle with diagonal lines inside in the right-hand corner means that the garment can only be bleached using non-chlorine products. Non-chlorine bleach is considerably less harsh and does not include chlorine as an oxidising agent. Alternatively, a gentler oxidiser is used, such as hydrogen peroxide. You can pick up non-chlorine bleach from Ecover.
An empty triangle means that the item is safe to be bleached with any product type.
Not every garment can be placed into the tumble dryer. The reason for this is that some materials can shrink. Some of your garments may need to be air-dried, so be sure to double-check the care label before throwing it straight into your tumble dryer.
- Tumble Dry Allowed
- Tumble Dry On A Low Heat
- Tumble Dry On A High Heat
- Permanent Press Synthetics
- Do Not Tumble Dry
- Drip Dry
- Dry Flat
- Hang To Dry
The most common type of tumble dry symbol is a square with a circle inside to replicate the appearance of a tumble dryer. However, in some cases, it may just be a circle. If you notice either of these and there is nothing extra inside the circle, the item is safe to be tumble dried on any setting.
Any care labels that feature the above shapes, but there is one dot inside the circle indicating that the garment must be tumble dried on low heat. In doing this, you will minimise the risk of shrinking the clothing or misshaping its seams.
Again, this symbol is the same as when drying on low heat, but instead, the circle will feature two dots. Two dots mean that you can wash the item at medium or high heat without shrinking or misshaping.
The permanent press/synthetics symbol features a circle, surrounded by a square with one line underneath. It means that the wash will be mild and on a lower temperature. The permanent press/synthetic cycle is ideal for perfecting a balance for items that do not need the agitation of a normal cycle but would crease too much on a delicate cycle.
If you notice the same symbol as above, but there are two lines underneath the square, then the item must be washed on a delicate/gentle cycle. During a delicate or gentle cycle, there will be a slower degree of agitation and a slow spin cycle.
A symbol featuring the same circle inside a square, but with a large cross over the top indicates that the garment cannot be tumble dried. Usually, items that cannot be tumble dried are susceptible to fading when exposed to regular drying using heat. Instead, opt for hanging the item out to dry.
Any care labels that include a square with three vertical lines inside mean that the item must be drip-dried. The garment can be dried by hanging them up and allowing the water to soak up naturally – this method will not require ironing afterwards.
A square with one horizontal line in the middle indicates that the garment must be dried flat. Once washed, the item must be laid flat on either a smooth surface or drying rack to avoid the weight of the material from misshaping the clothing. Kitted jumpers are often dried using this method.
The hang to dry symbol looks similar to an envelope and features a square with a drooped line inside along the top. This relates to items that must be dried in shape using a hanger, most commonly those made from cotton. Clothing that is hung to dry can be placed on the washing line.
If you are ironing your garments after they have been washed, then there will also be instructions on how to do this with your item of clothing. Much like the washing machine and tumble dryer, your iron can damage clothing if it is too hot or if the item is not made for ironing at all.
Ironing symbols are super easy to spot as they are shaped exactly like an iron. If you notice an iron symbol with one dot inside, it means that the garment must be ironed cool. Cool temperatures must not be any more than 110˚C as exceeding this limit risk burning delicate clothing.
Any ironing symbols that feature two dots relate to items that must be ironed on maximum heat of 150˚C.
The last temperature instruction is iron hot. This symbol includes an iron with three dots placed inside and means that you can use any heat up to 200˚C. Items in this category are rarely damaged by heat.
Just as simple as the other ironing symbols, any items of clothing that cannot be ironed will feature an iron icon with a large cross through the middle.
Some items of clothing cannot be steamed because they are prone to melting. These will feature a more complex symbol on their care label. It will include an iron icon with two lines shooting from the bottom; the lines will have a cross through them.
Take Care When Cleaning Items
While the huge amount of cleaning symbols may seem somewhat overwhelming, they have been created to be as straightforward as possible to make them super easy to remember. Always remember to familiarise yourself with care instructions for new items of clothing, as this can help you to prevent damaging the item.