Laundry Symbols – Best Guide to Washing

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Laundry symbols, or care tags, come with a new garment to assist with helping to wash and care for the item you have bought.  Don’t make the mistake of just throwing your clothes into the washing machine.  Check the care labels and lengthen the life of you clothing.  Care labels will help you stop shrinking, color running, bunching and creasing of fabrics. 

Laundry SymbolsPinLaundry Symbols

There are some basic care label laundry symbols and then each of these has additional figures for temperature or cross out marks to indicate a ‘do not’ command.  Pay attention to washing instructions because they will make all the difference to your clothing.

Here are the common laundry symbols and their meaning.


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Washing Laundry Symbols

The tub with the wavy line means the item is machine washable.  Temperatures in the tub ranging from 30o and higher are there to indicate the temperature from cold to warm to hot.The tub with a single line underneath indicates a synthetics cycle on your machine The tub with a double line underneath means a gentle, delicate or wool wash.The tub with a hand pointing into the water means hand wash. This is used for delicate items such as silk that should not be put in the washing machine. The tub with a cross drawn across the entire tub means do not wash. It may be used in conjunction with a dry clean symbol or some fabrics such as leather can not be easily cleaned. The twisted piece of fabric with a cross over it means do not wring. Some fabrics can mark or stretch out if they are wrung tightly.

More About Washing

There is value in pre-washing any new fabric to check for color running.  A quick dip into a basin of water, at the temperature you plan to use for washing, could help save the garment and the other pieces of fabric that may be in the same washing cycle.  Take a little extra time to do this pre-washing preparation.  Once you know all the laundry symbols and get to know your fabrics this will be an easy routine to follow.

Now you are familiar with the laundry symbols and the temperature values additional knowledge of the washing machine options will add more wisdom to your choices of washing cycle.  Washing machines will have a dial and a program to choose.  What is the best cycle to do the job of washing different fabrics effectively?

Here are different washing cycle options:

Normal – This is an all-aroundoption used for cotton, linens, towels and sheets not needing a heavy wash.Delicate – As the name suggests this is for items that are sensitive to a heavy-duty wash.  Delicates like silk, lingerie, hand wash items, and fabric needing a gentle wash will be best done on the delicate cycle.Colors/Darks – Any fabric with dark colors or colors that may bleed from the fabric fall into this category.Permanent Press – This cycle is best suited to synthetic fabrics. The gentle cycle preserves the wrinkle-free fabric and prevents crushing.  It is a good choice for office wear, dress shirts, silk, linen and loose weave fabrics.Brilliant Whites – A strong cycle that you can add bleach to if necessary.  It washes all your whites, especially t-shirts, linen, undies and tableware too.Heavy-Duty – This cycle takes large loads of soiled items like blankets, comforters and rugs.  It is a good idea not to overload this cycle.  The items are heavy and the washing needs to be able to turn in the machine and get washed effectively.Fast Cycle – This cycle is also known as quick or super speed. It is best suited to lightly soiled items. The fast cycle gives garments and soft fabrics a quick, light wash.Spin – The spin setting is not a wash setting, but is there to drain off excess water should there be a need for further draining of moisture.  A hand washed item can be popped into the spin cycle to drain off excess water too.Laundry Symbols - WashingLaundry Symbols - WashingPinLaundry Symbols – Washing

Temperature Laundry Symbols

The different temperature laundry symbols refer to machine washing.  A hand wash symbol will have the hand in the symbolic tub and no given temperature, and a do not wash will have a tub crossed out. 

Why is the temperature important you may ask? 

The temperature of the water not only affects the fabric in different ways but also affects the detergent.  Since the detergent is actually made of chemicals they can have reactions to different heat values.

These are the common temperatures used in washing cycles from 300  to 900 Celsius.

30oC (80F)-The temperature laundry symbols start at 30o Celsius. This is basically a cold wash. This temperature is suited to wools, silks, strongly dyed fabrics and fabrics that may shrink.  A cold wash is good for dark colors and will not affect elasticity like a hot wash would do.40oC(105F) – The next temperature level is 40o Celsius. and this is considered to be a warm wash.  It is a good temperature to use for a general wash.  It is well suited to everyday clothing.50oC(120F)– Setting the machine at 500 Celsius is a temperature that suits cottons and linens perfectly. 60oC(140F) – A setting at 600 Celsius allows for the washing of bed linen and towels.  A slightly heavier wash requires a heavier setting.95oC(200F) – Finally 950 Celsius is the hottest setting on your machine and should be kept to wash whites and for removing bad stains from linen and cotton.  This temperature should be used with caution because it can cause damage to the fibres of the fabric.  The highest temperature takes far more power to operate and therefore is not very cost effective.Laundry Symbols - Temperatures for Machine WashesLaundry Symbols - Temperatures for Machine WashesPinLaundry Symbols – Temperatures for Machine Washes

Bleaching LAUNDRY Symbols

Triangles are used for bleaching laundry symbols. Bleach can damage some fibers and cause fading or streaking in colored clothing.

A triangle with a cross over it means no bleaching.The triangle with two diagonal lines in the corner indicates that a non-chlorine bleach is suitable. It can also be shown with a CL crossed out.An empty triangle shows bleach is allowed.Laundry Symbols - BleachLaundry Symbols - BleachPinLaundry Symbols – Bleach

Drying Laundry Symbols

Squares are used for drying laundry symbols.  Many have circles inside.

A square with one circle with no marks inside indicates tumble drying is permitted. This is usually for natural fibers that won`t shrink or fade with heat. A square with one circle and a cross means do not tumble dry. Instead, air dry either on a line or flat in the shade according to further instructions. A square with one circle and one dot in the middle means tumble dry on low heat.A square with one circle and two dots in the middle means tumble dry on low heat.A square with one circle and three dots in the middle indicates a high heat for tumble drying.A square with a solid circle indicates to dry normally with no heat. Synthetics and delicate fabrics will often have this symbol. A square with a curved line indicates you should dry the item on a line hanging up. A square with three straight vertical lines in the symbol tells you to drip dry that item.A square with a single vertical line in the center is indicating the item should be dried on a flat surface. This is common for sweaters which may stretch out of shape if they are dried on a line. A square with 2 diagonal lines in the top corner means dry in the shade. This is for items that may fade when exposed to sunlight. A square with a cross through the item means do not dry. This is rarely used.Laundry Symbols - DryingLaundry Symbols - DryingPinLaundry Symbols – Drying

Ironing LAUNDRY Symbols

A iron laundry symbol indicates some ironing is required.

An iron with a cross over the iron means no ironing is recommended. This is common for synthetic fabrics which may melt with the heat. An iron with one dot means a cool iron, maximum temperature 1100C (230F).An iron with two and three dots go up in temperature from 150o C (300F) to a maximum of 200oC (390F).  This is for medium to hot irons. Hotter temperatures are used for natural fibers such as cotton and linen. An iron with two lines pointing out from under the iron and a cross over them indicates no steam is allowed. Steam can water damage some fabrics such as silk. Laundry Symbols - IroningLaundry Symbols - IroningPinLaundry Symbols – Ironing

Dry cleaning Laundry symbols

Dry cleaning laundry symbols are indicated by circles.

A circle with no laundry symbol indicates dry clean only. This is for items that are delicate and may be damaged by hand or machine washing. A circle with a cross over the entire circle means do not dry clean. Some fabrics can be damaged by the solvents and chemicals used in dry cleaning. Circles with letter laundry symbols indicate different dry cleaning solvents could be used. A means any solvent can be used.P means any solvent except Trichloroethylene can be used.F means petroleum solvents only should be used.A circle with a short, straight line at the bottom left side indicates a short cycle should be used to dry clean.A circle with a short straight line at the top right side means dry cleaning should be done with reduced moisture.A circle with a straight line at the bottom right meanslow heat must be used.A circle with a short line at the top left side is a sign of no steam is allowed.Laundry Symbols - Dry CleaningLaundry Symbols - Dry CleaningPinLaundry Symbols – Dry Cleaningwhat is dry cleaningwhat is dry cleaningPin

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Laundry Symbols – In Conclusion

Armed with all this information you should be able to launder any item of clothing or the fabrics you buy.  Laundry symbols just help create a good relationship between you and your beautifully made clothing.  Caring for clothing makes sound economic sense.

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